To: NAH CSPI/Program/CSPI@CSPI
Subject: Congratulations and a complaint
Looking over your website I am very pleased with most of what you advocate.
As a cancer patient and advocate, I completely agree with your demands for a
'tax' on junk food. I personally would support advertising bans for a year
to see what happens.
But I am gravely concerned over the position you took on GM/GE foods. Again,
as a cancer patient who uses natural therapies and runs a popular website
offering information, advice, education and advocacy, I am concerned.
There is NO long-term evidence and precious little short-term evidence that
GM/GE foods are indeed safe. I am especially concerned for children. I
would be really glad to receive some information as to why you have taken the
position of supporting these foods and products.
Thank you for responding.
Ann Fonfa, Not a born cynic
The Annie Appleseed Project
CAM for cancer patients, family and friends
Make fully informed treatment decisions
Thanks for your email. Our Biotechnology Project Director responds to your
concerns as follows:
In our article, we tried to give a brief summary of a number of issues regarding
GE foods, pro and con. There are many reasons to be concerned about the
potential of GE foods to adversely impact human health and the environment.
However, several groups of independent (or mostly independent) scientists have
considered those issues and have not concluded that the current foods present a
human health concern. These groups include the National Academy of Sciences (in
a report on EPA GE regulations published last year) as well as several groups of
independent experts on the EPA's Scientific Advisory Panels over the last two
years (www.epa.gov/scipoly/sap, look for the reports on GE issues in 1999, 2000,
We have reviewed those reports and others as well as many of the
original sources of data. Those and other groups of scientists have often been
critical of current tests and requirements for GE safety, as is CSPI (we are
probably typically more critical), but the data and other scientific evidence
suggests that for the current foods, there is minimal risk.
In that we are
generally in agreement with several other consumer organizations, such as
Consumer's Union (who remark that there is no evidence that current GE foods are
unsafe in a 1999 article) or Union of Conserved Scientists (see interview with
Margaret Mellon of UCS in April 2001 issue of Scientific American).
However, that does not mean that there is no risk. Especially in the case of
long term testing, the current data are not what they should be. However, that
must be put in the context of current foods, both conventional and organic,
where potentially adverse changes due to conventional plant breeding can and
Two examples of that were given in our article. Currently, it
is unknown whether those kinds of unanticipated effects occur more or less
frequently in GE than conventional foods (where the latter currently do not
require any testing), and there need to be studies to examine that.
addition, most scientists agree that long term testing of the protein that the
GE gene produces is not always necessary. In particular, in cases where the
protein is readily broken down in the stomach, the possibility that the protein
will be toxic, short or long term, is extremely unlikely (because it never
reaches the intestines where it could be absorbed to do possible harm).
digestive stability of current GE foods has been tested, and all have been found
to be unstable except for StarLink, which was removed for commercial production.
In general, GE technology is in a very early stage of development, similar to
computers 20 years ago. Whether they are developed for the general good of
society or cause more harm than good will largely depend on making sure they are
well regulated, and increasing the amount of independent research looking at
risks and determining the most productive uses of the technology (i.e. using it
to help with really important social problems).
Right now, there is too much
control of the technology by large corporations and not enough independent
government research, as well as inadequate regulations, and all of these things
need to change. However, while GE is no panacea, with increasing world
population, we need all of the tools we can get to make sure that food is
abundant, inexpensive, and causes minimal environmental harm. That is why we
believe that GE should be carefully developed.
Co-Director, Biotechnology Project
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