SOME MORE GOOD REASONS
TO GROW YOUR OWN FOOD
ALLERGENS CAN BE HIDING WHERE YOU LEAST EXPECT
ANNA MAY KINNEY
Last weekend, I had the opportunity to visit with a few
friends who share my interest in healthy food. About half of our group are vegetarians,
many of us are able to grow a great deal of our own vegetables and purchase the balance
from certified organic sources.
Dependent on the organic food industry for a major part of our food, it shocked us to
learn that there was a 1998 USDA proposal to change the definition of organic, which was
only narrowly defeated after a massive public outcry.
If this proposal passed, organic food would have included such items as irradiated food,
genetically engineered organisms (GEOs), as well as vegetables grown in reprocessed human
Up until a few years ago, people who have food allergies had only to avoid the specific
food they were allergic to. This was not always so easy, especially for those who could
not tolerate peanuts. Labeling procedures were improved only after people died from eating
products that failed to list a peanut ingredient (such as peanut oil).
In the hopes of protecting the few amongst us that are super sensitive. We have seen
schools and airlines become peanut-free zones, while more proteins (the source of
allergens) are added to processed foods, food allergies have increased dramatically every
year. Anyone, anytime can develop an allergy.
If you have food allergies, read labels and feel you are safe, you have probably not heard
much about GEOs. They change forever the way we look at food.
To make genetically engineered organisms, scientists mix and match pieces of genetic
information, (genes) from one variety of organism to another. Technically referred to as
horizontal gene transfer, it is now possible to cross natural species boundaries and force
unrelated genes together into a single living organism. This newly created organism will
have traits that would have never occurred in nature.
With our short growing season, it might sound good to have tomato plants that have been
genetically engineered by adding an antifreeze protein gene from flounder, that will
protect the fruit from frost. The question is, will someone allergic to flounder have a
reaction after eating this GEO tomato?
Right now, there are chicken genes in potatoes to help resist disease. Chinese hamster
genes increasing sterol production in tobacco plants, trout genes in catfish and two plant
viruses and foreign genes are found in canola, cherry tomatoes, papaya and yellow
According to Natural Foods Merchandiser there are already 3,000 varieties of plants and
animals now containing genes from other species. As of 1996, testing was under way for
more than 40 different transgenic crops, including vegetables, grains, fruits and flowers.
Today, the farm acreage devoted to GEOs has increased dramatically to 12% of corn, 30% of
soybeans and 40% of cotton acreage.
Monsanto, the multibillion dollar agribusiness corporation, which brought us Agent Orange,
PCBs and bovine growth hormone is also leading in Transgene research. Roundup, a soybean
and corn pesticide that Monsanto developed in 1973 is responsible for 50% of its sales.
Recently Monsanto found a way to bioengineer a new soybean with an inherent resistance to
the damaging effect of Round-Up.
Farmers planting this new soybean are able to use more and more pesticides without
endangering their crops, this could mean doubling, even tripling the residual pesticides
in our water and food.
It is estimated that 93% of biotechnology research is devoted to creating plants that can
tolerate extensive amounts of pesticides, in producing large crops that can be easily
harvested and processed. While only 7% of the research is devoted to improving taste and
Some European governments are actually taking action to protect their citizens. Denmark
has required labeling since 1996 on all foods items containing GEOs. In 1997 Italy banned
all GEO corn crops. That same year France passed legislation that all GEO soybeans be
Another agribusiness, Novartis, sponsored a 1997 study that showed 93% of Americans favor
labeling and 54% prefer organic farming over genetically engineered crops and those that
A few months ago, Cornell entomologist John Losey and a group of scientists, jointly
published their shocking study in Nature magazine.
They found that pollen (a product that blows freely in the wind) from genetically
engineered corn has disastrous results when it falls on a milkweed plant.
Milkweed is the ONLY food for Monarch butterflies when they are at the larval stage.
Caterpillars who ate this particular milkweed had either their growth stunted or died.
If this is an early warning to man, shouldn't we be paying more attention to what goes
into our mouths? You never know, allergens can be hiding where you least expect.