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Food Fight: Dueling Perspectives from Proponents and Critics of GMO's

Compiled by CorpWatch
May 25th, 2000

The following quotes outline some of the basic differences between supporters and critics of genetically engineered food. We counter pose view points from industry and activists on environmental, health and political issues surrounding biotech agriculture. We'll let you decide who's right.


"As the world has changed, we have reinvented ourselves for each era."

-- William F. Kirk, Senior Vice President, DuPont
From speech at World Bank Meeting in Washington, DC
September 28, 1999



Biotechnology and the Environment

Proponents

Critics

Crops with built in pest resistance via modern biotechnology greatly reducethe need for pesticides. The simple fact is that current, so called "traditional" agricultural practices are polluting. In contrast, cultivation using biotechnology can reduce pollution.

Donald J. Johnston
Secretary General, Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development
OECD Observer, No. 216
March 1999

Contrary to biotech industry propaganda, recent studies have found that US farmers growing GE crops are using just as many toxic pesticides and herbicides as conventional farmers, and in some cases are using more.

Ronnie Cummins
Organic Consumers Association
"Hazards of Genetically Engineered Foods and Crops: Why We Need a Global Moratorium"




Food Safety and Nutrition

Proponents

Critics

While nothing in life is an absolute guarantee, the regulatory system in the U.S. has an excellent track record for a safe food supply.

Excerpted from Dupont's "Frequently Asked Questions About Biotechnology"


From years of research, we know that the benefits of food biotechnology are tremendous, with no additional risk...Current science shows that foods made from biotechnology are safe to consume, and safe for the environment. For this reason, FDA, USDA, EPA and a host of other regulatory agencies have determined that these products are safe to introduce to the food supply. While there is no such thing as "zero risk" for any food, consumers can be confident that foods produced using biotechnology meet the government's most stringent food safety standards. The future is never guaranteed, but years of research and the absence of harmful evidence indicates the benefits of agricultural biotechnology far outweigh any risks.

International Food Information Council Foundation
Myths and Facts About Food Biotechnology
August 1999

Under FDA law, unless a food is "generally regarded as safe" (GRAS), a legal determination, it must be thoroughly tested. Because biotech foods have been determined "GRAS," they undergo no independent safety testing. Instead, government regulators rely on biotech companies to do their own safety tests and also determine themselves if the product in question is GRAS.

Karen Charman
PR Watch, Winter 1999


In 1989 a genetically engineered brand of L-tryptophan, a common dietary supplement, killed 37 Americans and permanently disabled or afflicted more than 5,000 others with [the] blood disorder, eosinophilia myalgia syndrome (EMS), before it was recalled by the Food and Drug Administration. The manufacturer, Showa Denko, Japan's third largest chemical company, had for the first time in 1988-89 used GE bacteria to produce the over-the-counter supplement. It is believed that the bacteria somehow became contaminated during the recombinant DNA process. Showa Denko has already paid out over $2 billion in damages to EMS victims.

Ronnie Cummins
Organic Consumers Association
"Hazards of Genetically Engineered Foods and Crops: Why We Need a Global Moratorium"


The fact is, it is virtually impossible to even conceive of a testing procedure to assess the health effects of genetically engineered foods when introduced into the food chain, nor is there any valid nutritional or public interest reason for their introduction.

Professor Richard Lacey
Microbiologist, medical doctor, and professor of Food Safety at Leeds University, world famous for his accurate prediction of the dangers of " Mad cow disease".
Taken from "Quotes from Scientists"
BioDemocracy and Organic Consumers Association website
February 2, 1998




Biotechnology and The South

Proponents

Critics

Just as the Green Revolution has fed millions and served as the basis of economic transformation, we have to ensure that the gene revolution leads to a "doubly green revolution" in which increased productivity and natural resource management are in balance. The poor will thereby be enabled to begin their ascent from poverty.

Ismail Serageldin
Chairman of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research
Vice President of Special Programs, The World Bank
Economic Perspectives, Vol. 4, No. 4
October 1999


The benefit of "more food" is a difficult one to sell today in the midst of oversupply and historic low prices.

William F. Kirk, Senior Vice President, DuPont
Feast or Famine: Impact of Biotechnology on Global Food Markets/Trade
World Bank Meeting in Washington, DC
September 28, 1999

In June 1998 a number of African delegates to the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) issued a statement directly contradicting the central message of an advertising campaign by Monsanto. Called 'Let nature's harvest continue', the African representatives said that the promotion of GM crops would "destroy the diversity, the local knowledge and the sustainable agricultural systems that our farmers have developed for millennia and that it will thus undermine our capacity to feed ourselves". More than that, they denounced the attempt to use their poverty as a fig leaf for a system designed to maximise corporate profit, not public wellbeing.

Richard Dawkins
"Can Biotechnology Feed the World?"
Selling Suicide: farming, false promises and genetic engineering in developing countries
Christian Aid
May 1999




Biotech Corporations and You

Proponents

Critics

Since we tend to sell most of our products to other companies which, in turn, sell to the consumer, most people do not recognize that, everyday, the quality of their lives is improved in many ways through the use of our products. From the time people brush their teeth in the morning using a toothbrush with DuPont Tynex nylon bristles, to the time they go to sleep at night with their head on a pillow filled with DuPont Quallofil polyester, DuPont products have become an essential part of daily life. Each product is uniquely engineered for peak performance in its respective application.

Chad Holliday
Chairman and CEO, DuPont
Speech Biotechnology and Sustainable Growth
Boston Chief Executives Club
September 22, 1999


Monsanto should not have to vouchsafe the safety of biotech food. Our interest is in selling as much of it as possible. Assuring its safety is the F.D.A.'s job.

Phil Angell
Monsanto's Director of Corporate Communications.
Quoted by Michael Pollan in his article "Playing God in the Garden", New York Times Sunday Magazine
October 25, 1998

GE foods were never meant to eliminate hunger. The advertisements were about hunger. But, GE has been and will be always, a technology to generate profits for the handful of corporations that call themselves "life-sciences" corporations, which is an insult to life. I would rather call them "death-sciences" corporations.

Vandana Shiva
Director, Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Natural Resource Policy
Excerpted from "Stolen Harvest" Interview, CorpWatch
March 2000


Whenever possible corporations will require farmers to buy the company's brand of inputs and will forbid farmers from keeping or selling seed. By controlling germplasm from seed to sale, and by forcing farmers to pay inflated prices for seed-chemical packages, companies are determined to extract the most profit from their investment.

Peter Rosset, Executive Director, Institute for Food and Development Policy/Food First and Miguel A. Altieri, Professor, University of California, Berkeley
Ten Reasons Why Biotechnology Will Not Ensure Food Security, Protect the Environment and Reduce Poverty in the Developing World
Food First website
October 1999