Genetic Engineering – Danger Along the Food Chain? Yucca nuke fight not over

Genetic Engineering – Danger Along the Food Chain? Yucca nuke fight not over

Thanks to the nuclear industry’s lobbying, the Senate gave President Bush the green light last month to proceed with plans for a nuclear waste dump at Yucca Mountain, near Las Vegas, Nevada.

Under the plan, some 77,000 tons of nuclear waste would be trucked to Yucca Mountain through communities all over the country.

The Yucca Mountain ProjectYucca Mountain, which is sacred to Native Americans, sits on an aquifer potentially important to the growing Las Vegas population. And the area is subject to earthquakes. Nevertheless, industry advertisements insist the waste will be safely contained for the next 10,000 years-more or less.

Most Democrats, along with Republicans, sided with the nuclear industry on the vote. But the plan still faces a long fight in the courts and by environmental forces.

In the July 1999 issue of Socialist Action, I wrote an article titled “Butterflies are Free,” which is reprinted in the pamphlet, “Whither Humanity” (available from Socialist Action Books, $2.50). Recent evidence has served to bolster the conclusions of that article about the dangers of genetically engineered plants.

In the 1999 article, I reported that, according to the journal Nature, the pollen from genetically engineered corn containing a toxin gene called Bt had killed 44 percent of the monarch butterfly caterpillars who fed on milkweed leaves dusted with it. Caterpillars fed with conventional pollen all survived.

Since nearly 25 percent of the U.S. corn crop now contains this gene and the Corn Belt states of the Midwest are where half of the monarch butterflies are produced each year, there is a distinct possibility that the number of monarchs will drastically decline.

Due to the unexpected results of the monarch butterfly study, scientists are beginning to question the potential environmental effects of scores of other genetically engineered crops being introduced into the agricultural fields.

In the earlier article, I raised the question: Why weren’t such studies done before introducing genetically engineered corn, soy, cotton, and other crops over millions of acres of farm land?

When it became public knowledge that Bt was killing butterflies, it may have seen harmless to human beings. Unfortunately, as untested genetically engineered products move up the food chain, they become more and more concentrated in the bodies of the animals that eat the animals that eat the corn.

The “body counts” from the untested Bt has now moved from butterflies to pigs. An article from Organic Consumers ( toxic/riddleonhogs.cfm) titled “Bt Corn Causes Breeding Problem in Pigs Bt Corn Linked to Hog Breeding Problems,” submitted by Jim Riddle for its April 29, 2002, edition, states: “The Iowa Farm Bureau Spokesman contained an alarming story on sow breeding problems related to the feeding of genetically engineered Bt corn.”

According to the article,” Riddle writes:

Shelby County, Iowa, farmer Jerry Rosman was alarmed when farrowing rates in his sow herd plummeted nearly 80 percent. Rosman, who has nearly 30 years of farrowing experience, checked and double-checked all of the usual suspect causes. He tested for diseases, verified his artificial insemination methods were being properly implemented, and poured over his nutritional program. But he found nothing out of the ordinary. Eventually, Rosman became aware of four other producers within a 15-mile radius of his farm whose herds had nearly identical pseudopregnancies. The herds had different management styles, different breeding methods and different swine genetics. A common denominator, Rosman says, is that all of the operations fed their herds the same Bt corn hybrids. Laboratory tests revealed their corn contained high levels of Fusarium mold. Rosman says researchers typed the Fusarium down to four strains, and two of them (Fusarium subglutinans and Fusarium moniliforme) were consistent in all of the producers’ samples. One of the producers subsequently switched back to regular non-Bt corn, and pseudopregnancy is no longer a problem within that herd. Rosman believes the problem manifested itself on his farm because he planted 100 percent of the same brand of genetically engineered Bt seed corn and fed 100 percent of that corn to his livestock. According to the article, Rosman isn’t sure whether or not he’ll be planting any corn on his land this year. An agronomist has told him that a regular rotation of corn and soybeans might not get rid of whatever gene has contaminated his corn ground.

    The “$1 million question” is what happens to humans who eat Bt corn or pork, beef, and other animals fed Bt corn? Since we are also mammals, can one really believe that it is not a danger to humans? Since humans take longer to mature, reproductive hazards could appear themselves in our children when they become adults.

    The deaths of butterflies should have been a forewarning, like the death of canaries are a warning to miners in a mine shaft. Any sane society would immediately take precautionary action.

    And yet, the government has taken no action to protect human lives-just precautions to protect chemical companies’ profits-allowing Monsanto, Dupont, and other corporations to knowingly poison the population and threaten humanity’s future.

Socialist Action /August 2002