From Dolly to Dinner: Your Right to Know

In California, voters have a chance next month to take a stand for our right to know when our food has been genetically modified, whether in plants or animals, by voting YES on Prop 37, the Right to Know Genetically Engineered Food Act. GMO foods are currently found in 70% of packaged foods in conventional supermarkets, primarily due to ingredients made from GMO soy, corn, canola and sugar beets. The health risks from these untested GMOs are potentially serious, including unexpected allergies, toxicity in foods, altered nutritional levels and other unpredictable side effects of the gene tinkering process. That’s why voting to support Prop 37 is a vote to protect your family from GMOs.

In dozens of other countries GMO labeling is required, but here the FDA claims no authority to require GMO labels on these foods. Given the agency’s failure, California has no choice but to protect its citizens by mandating truthful GMO labeling.

Companies that make GMO foods say they can create healthier food with genetic tinkering, although no such GMO foods are currently on the market. But they do have high hopes. Earlier this month, for example, genetic researchers boldly announced they had successfully created a GMO cow to produce “hypoallergenic” milk. Given that milk allergies are a serious problem, especially for young children, this achievement was hailed widely by the worldwide press as a milestone for human health.

There are just a few small details (completely missed or severely underemphasized by most press accounts) that sour the claims about the new GMO wonder milk. Like, the fact that it won’t work and may cause even worse allergies than natural milk. And the fact that it relies on genetic technologies that are inherently cruel to animals and result in massive, unnecessary animal suffering.

Who says it won’t work? Not me – that’s the word from Dr. Hugh Sampson, Director of the Jaffe Food Allergy Institute at Mount Sinai Medical School, who when asked about the GMO cow said bluntly, “(T)hat’s not going to eliminate allergies.” The reason is that the GMO cow milk eliminates one kind of allergy-causing protein but increases levels of casein, another milk protein that can cause even more severe allergies. But don’t take his word for it – ask his colleague Dr. Scott Sicherer, Chief of the Division of Allergy & Immunology in the Department of Pediatrics at Mount Sinai. He says the casein-enriched GMO milk “would seem problematic” given that scientists believe that casein “causes most of the severe milk allergies.” Or check in with Dr. Robert Wood, the Director of the Division of Pediatric Allergy and Immunology at the Johns Hopkins Children’s Center, who said the GMO milk is “probably the worst-case scenario for most of our patients.”

Ironically, Dr. Woods’ statement was buried in a Los Angeles Times story about proponents of GMO foods who complain that the government isn’t approving foods from GMO animals fast enough. Because when you’ve got great products from GMO animals, like hyper-allergenic milk that could make even more kids sick and causes severe unnecessary animal suffering, why wouldn’t you want to rush these products to the market – especially in a country that has no required safety tests or labeling for GMO foods?

Who says creating food from GMO animals is risky and cruel? Not me – that’s what the world’s leading animal cloning scientists say. To create a GMO cow, scientists must first create a clone with the desired trait. But cloning means mass animal suffering. One cloning scientist recently told the New York Times about her failures to create a cloned monkey, referring to the “grotesquely abnormal embryos” as her “gallery of horrors.” But food animal clones like cows and pigs are different, right? Wrong. As Ian Wilmut, creator of Dolly the sheep, the first mammal clone told the Times, “cloning appears to create serious abnormalities in almost all embryos.” One review of the cloning literature listed just a few of the common problems found in cow clones:

(L)large offspring syndrome [a condition often fatal or debilitating to the clone and the surrogate mother cow] , diabetes, pulmonary hypertension, dilated cardiomyopathy, internal hemorrhaging umbilical artery, viral infection, dystocia, kidney problems, leg malformations, pneumonia, heart defects, liver fibrosis, osteoporosis, joint defects, anemia, and placental abnormalities.”

In pigs, this study found problems including “abnormal teat numbers, cleft lips, and malformed limbs,” and recently more pig cloning problems have come to light. In FDA’s 2007 review promoting the “safety” of cloned food, the agency admitted that success rates in pig cloning “are low even when compared to reports of cloning in other species.” But even for “successful” animal clones, life is nasty, poor, brutish and short. In one Franken-research project, 22 out of 35 “successfully” cloned pigs died within the first week of life (another five died at birth) after suffering numerous health problems, including cerebromeningitis, diarrhea, leg and face abnormalities, male pseudohermaphroditism, and others. The authors concluded blandly that their data showed that “the safety and long-term adverse biological effects of cloning must be further investigated.”

Allergy-free milk is hardly the first false promise from genetic food manipulators. Proponents of GMO animal foods include Canadian scientists who spent more than a decade to bring the phony “Enviropig” to market and the GMO salmon company Aqua Bounty, which has been promising unlabeled, untested GMO salmon for about as long. Other creepy researchers are attempting to bring GMO food from just about every food-animal species on the planet to market, whether consumers want this Frankenfood or not.

Labeling the current crop of GMO foods is important enough, but when we consider the potential GMO animal foods that industry wants to  bring to our dinner tables, untested and unlabeled, Prop37 is even more important. If you want the right to choose safe, natural, non-GMO food, vote YES on Prop 37!