Slides used for an educational event related to The California Right to Know Genetically Engineered Food Act. The event was held at the Rudolf Steiner College in Fair Oaks, California on March 23, 2012.
Science of Genetic Engineering as it relates to the California Initiative to Label GMOs
The Science of Genetically Engineering Plants As it Relates to: The California Right to Know Genetically Engineered Food Act March 23, 2012 Rudolf Steiner College
THE CALIFORNIA RIGHT TO KNOW GENETICALLY ENGINEERED FOOD ACT SECTION 1. FINDINGS AND DECLARATIONS(a) California consumers have the right to know whether the foods they purchase were produced using genetic engineering.Genetic engineering of plants and animals often causes unintended consequences.Manipulating genes and inserting them into organisms is an imprecise process. The results are not always predictable or controllable, and they can lead to adverse health or environmental consequences.
The Imprecision of Plant Genetic Engineering• Currently, inserting genes into plants using genetic engineering is not only imprecise but also mutagenic• The manipulated genes that are inserted into GE plants can also result in unintended consequences (e.g. StarLinkTM corn, Bt176)• Unintended consequences that affect e.g. allergenicity (StarLinkTM corn) or toxin levels (Bt176) could lead to adverse health or environmental consequences
THE CALIFORNIA RIGHT TO KNOW GENETICALLY ENGINEERED FOOD ACT SECTION 1. FINDINGS AND DECLARATIONS(b) Government scientists have stated that the artificial insertion of DNA into plants, a technique unique to genetic engineering, can cause a variety of significant problems with plant foods.Such genetic engineering can increase the levels of known toxicants in foods and introduce new toxicants and health concerns.
It is Possible for Genetic Engineering as well as Traditional Breeding to Adversely Affect Toxin Levels in Plants• Glycoalkaloids in potatoes and tomatoes for example• Only reported case of increased glycoalkaloids in a commercialized potato variety was the result of traditional breeding
THE CALIFORNIA RIGHT TO KNOW GENETICALLY ENGINEERED FOOD ACT SECTION 1. FINDINGS AND DECLARATIONS(d) No federal or California law requires that food producers identify whether foods were produced using genetic engineering.At the same time, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration does not require safety studies of such foods.Unless these foods contain a known allergen, the FDA does not even require developers of genetically engineered crops to consult with the agency.
FDA Regulation of Genetically Engineered Foods Needs to be Improved• FDA regulation is not currently required for a GE food unless…• The engineered gene originated in an organism known to be allergenic to humans OR• The food has increased levels of a known toxicant or decreased levels of a known nutrient OR• The food is substantially different than what consumers would expect for that food (e.g. oil fatty acid composition)
All Regulation of Commercialized Genetically Engineered Products Needs to be Improved• The commercial products of this powerful technology should be regulated on a case-by-case basis• It is currently possible to develop a GE product that can avoid any regulation by FDA, USDA or EPA• A precedent worth revisiting: The Flavr SavrTM tomato and regulation of GE proteins as food additives
THE CALIFORNIA RIGHT TO KNOW GENETICALLY ENGINEERED FOOD ACT SECTION 1. FINDINGS AND DECLARATIONS(h) The cultivation of genetically engineered crops can also cause serious impacts to the environment. For example, most genetically engineered crops are designed to withstand weed-killing pesticides known as herbicides. As a result, hundreds of millions of pounds of additional herbicides have been used on U.S. farms.Because of the massive use of such products, herbicide-resistant weeds have flourished—a problem that has resulted, in turn, in the use of increasingly toxic herbicides. These toxic herbicides damage our agricultural areas, impair our drinking water, and pose health risks to farm workers and consumers. California consumers should have the choice to avoid purchasing foods production of which can lead to such environmental harm.
Serious Impacts to the Environment can be Positive or NegativeNegative Impacts Positive Impacts• Herbicide-resistant weeds • No-till farming• Pesticide-resistant insects (corn • Organic farmers use Bt (Rachel root worm) Carson promoted it in Silent Spring)• Drugs and chemicals produced in GE crops (including corn and rice)• Possible harm to non-target organisms (Bt176 and monarch butterfly larvae)
Genetically Engineered Foods Should be Regulated and Labeled• There is U.S. precedent for it: the world’s first GE whole food, the Flavr SavrTM tomato, was regulated by the FDA and labeled by Calgene, the company that developed it• For scientific reasons, especially in light of the current regulatory system, but also…• Because that’s how capitalism is supposed to work (a company that believes in its products should label them as Calgene did with the Flavr SavrTM tomato)• Because that’s how democracy is supposed to work (NB: USDA COOL labeling)
World’s First Genetically Engineered Whole Food MacGregor’sR Tomatoes Grown from Flavr SavrTM Seeds were accompanied by tomato-shaped brochures like this one
“Grown From Genetically Modified Seeds” Right on the Sticker
Use of antibiotic-resistance protein explained Gene isolated from E. coli conferred resistance to the antibiotic kanamycin
1-800-34TOMATO in the accompanying brochure For consumers who wanted even more information