Genetic Engineering – Safe or Sorry?

Written by Mothers for Natural Law, a non-profit educational organization

What Is Genetic Engineering?

A new technology is changing the face of American agriculture. It’s called genetic engineering. Touted as the most exciting scientific advancement of our time, the solution to world hunger, and the greatest invention of the decade, genetically engineered foods have made their way on to our grocery shelves. But a growing number of scientists, physicians, clergy, consumers, business leaders, and governments all over the world are voicing concerns over the proliferation of these foods into the market place.

What is genetic engineering and how does it work? Genetic engineering is a new technology that, according to its developers, was created to improve food production, reduce the use of pesticides and herbicides, and increase yields to feed our growing world. Though it has grabbed the support of our government, many scientists believe this technology reduces the nutritional value of our foods, perpetuates our international dependence on the chemical treadmill, and disrupts the flow of intelligence in the genetic sequence of our ecosystem.

Supporters assert that genetic engineering is a natural extension of traditional crossbreeding, where traits from the same or closely related species are interbred. In fact, it is radically different.

According to the Environmental Defense Fund, “Scientists can now readily shift genetic material from one species to virtually any other species. Genetic material can also be synthesized in the laboratory and then transferred into organisms. As a result, a virtually limitless number of genetically encoded substances … can now be added to organisms used as food.” Many of these substances have never been a part of the human food supply.

What are the Possible Dangers of Genetically Engineered Foods?

Hazardous Effects Will Continue for Generations to Come

Unlike chemical or nuclear contamination, gene pollution can never be cleaned up. New living organisms, bacteria and viruses will be released into the environment to reproduce, migrate and mutate. They will transfer their new characteristics to other organisms and can never be recalled or contained. The effects of genetic mistakes are irreversible and irretrievable.

Damage to the Ecosystem, Harm to Wildlife and Change in Natural Habitats

Our plant and animal species have evolved over millions of years. Introducing genetically engineered species upsets the delicate balance of our ecosystem with changes, which would not naturally occur. Insects, birds and wind can carry genetically altered seeds and pollen into neighboring fields and beyond, creating new species. These unpredicted and unknown species may endanger wildlife and alter essential ecological relationships between plants and animals. For example a genetically engineered bacterium developed to aid in the production of e

thanol, produced residues which rendered the land infertile. New corn crops planted on this soil grew three inches tall and fell over dead. (Ref. OSU Study Finds Genetic Altering of Bacterium Upsets Natural Order, Hill, H.R., The Oregonian, August 8, 1994)

Increased Pollution of Food and Water Supplies

Approximately 57% of the research of biotechnology companies is focused on the development of plants that can tolerate larger amounts of herbicides. It’s estimated that this will triple the amount of herbicides used on crops, resulting in even more chemicals in our food and water. (Ref: Environmental concerns with herbicide-tolerant plants; Goldberg, Weed Technology, 6, 1994)

Unsafe Track Record

In 1989, a genetically engineered form of the food supplement tryptophan, produced toxic contaminants. As a result, 37 people died, 1500 others were permanently disabled, and 5000 others became very ill. Who can guarantee that this kind of mistake won’t happen again? (Ref: Eosinophilia-myalgia syndrome and tryptophan production: a cautionary tale. Mayeno, A.N., Gleich, G.J. Tibtech, 12, 346-352, 1994)

Allergic Reactions

Genetic engineering may transfer new and unidentified proteins from one food into another triggering allergic reactions. Millions of Americans who are sensitive to allergens will have no way of identifying or protecting themselves from offending foods. Allergic reactions can cause more than simple discomfort-they can result in life-threatening anaphylactic shock. (Ref: Food and Drug Administration 57 Federal Register 22987)

Unpredictable, Permanent Changes in the Nature of our Food

The genetic structure of plants and animals has been nourishing the human race for millennia. Now that structure is being tampered with. Genes from bacteria, viruses and insects, which have never been part of the human diet, are being spliced into our food. No one really knows if they are safe. Genetic engineering is not an exact science. Scientists can unintentionally create changes in the genetic make-up of plants that result in new, unknown proteins with unknown results.

Harmful Effects May not be Discovered for Years

Changing the fundamental make-up of a food could cause new diseases, just as herbicides and pesticides have in the past. There are no long-term studies to prove the safety of genetically engineered foods. These products are not being thoroughly tested before they arrive on the grocery shelves. They are being tested on us.

New and Higher Levels of Toxins

Many plants naturally produce a variety of compounds that are toxic to humans or alter food quality. Generally, these are present at levels which do not cause problems. Combining plants and animal species in genetic engineering may create new and much higher levels of these toxins. Corn and potatoes engineered to produce toxins that kill insects, are now classified by the Environmental Protection Agency as pesticides, rather than vegetables. (Ref: Food and Drug Administration 57 Federal Register 22987, EPA Approves Bt Corn and Cotton with Conditions, The Gene Exchange, Dec., 1995)

Decreased Effectiveness of Antibiotics

Antibiotic-resistance genes are incorporated into nearly every genetically engineered organism as markers to indicate that an organism has been successfully engineered. Scientists expect these genes and their enzyme products, which inactivate antibiotics, to be present in engineered foods. (Ref: Food and Drug Administration 57 Federal Register 22988)

Sick and Suffering Livestock

In an early experiment, human growth hormone spliced into pigs resulted in crippled, blind and immuno-compromised animals. Cows injected with recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH), have shorter life expectancies and increased incidence of disease. In addition, since the diet of most domestic animals is dominated by one or two crops, e.g. corn, altering the composition of these crops can pose serious threats. (Ref: From The Editor’s Desk, The Gene Exchange, Dec., 1991, Food and Drug Administration 57 Federal Register 22988)

Deletion of Important Food Elements

Genetic engineers may intentionally remove or inactivate a substance they consider undesirable in a food. This substance may have an unknown but essential quality, such as natural cancer-inhibiting abilities. (Ref: M.W. Pariza, 1990, p. 170, Report 2, National Agricultural Biotechnology Council, Ithaca, N.Y.)

Counterfeit Freshness

Consumers rely on physical characteristics, like color and firmness of fruits and vegetables, to indicate freshness, nutritional quality and flavor. A luscious-looking, bright red tomato could be several weeks old and of little nutritional value, but we won’t know. With engineered traits we can’t accurately judge the quality of the produce we buy.

Infringement of Religious Freedom

Many Americans hold religious beliefs that include dietary restrictions. Many believe that transpecies genetic engineering violates the natural reproductive boundaries set in place by God. Others find the patenting of life forms blasphemous. Without product labels, these consumers will not be able to avoid foods that conflict with their religious and spiritual orientations.



  1. I just noticed on my cereal that it was partially produced with genetic engineering. It was bought in WalMart and is a store brand of honey nut cheerios. I got curious and started looking genetically engineered on the web. This is the first time I have ever seen this or heard of it. It was not boldly written but on the lid of the box like an exp. date. I will be more careful from now on and spread the word. They are not going to test this on me or my children. Thank you for your article.

    1. I just saw it written in very small letters on my Maxwell House International Suisse Mocha Coffee. I just threw out the can I had and I won’t be buying it again.

  2. I5-31-20 I just noticed I bought from Wal Mart – Cinnamon Toast Crunch Cereal and it has of the side of the box – Partially Produced with Genetic Engineering, I won’t be purchasing it again and I will advise all my friends and relatives about this.

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