Kaiser Permanente Issues Warning on Genetically Engineered Food
A health care institution is weighing in to warn people about potential dangers of genetically engineered (GE) food. On the heels of the American Academy of Pediatrics’ warning on pesticides, the nation’s largest nonprofit health care plan, Kaiser Permanente, has published in its print newsletter, Partners in Health, tips on limiting exposure to genetically engineered food. In the Fall 2012, Kaiser Permanente has published an article, “What you need to know about GMO: Limit exposure to genetically engineered organisms with these tips.”
This discussion in the health care sector is part of a growing involvement by health care practitioners in environmental health concerns related to pesticides and genetic engineering of the food supply. While Canadian medical groups have warned the public about the dangers of pesticides and supported phase-outs, institutions representing the medical community in the U.S. have been more reserved. In 2004, the Ontario College of Family Physicians (OCFP) in Canada strongly recommended that people reduce their exposure to pesticides wherever possible, after releasing a comprehensive review of research on the effects of pesticides on human health. OCFP’s Systematic Review of Pesticide Human Health Effects shows consistent pesticide links to serious illnesses such as cancer, reproductive problems and neurological diseases, among others. The study also shows that children are particularly vulnerable to pesticides.
In an interview with the Salem Weekly, an official with Kaiser indicated that the article does not represent Kaiser policy, but presents information that the plan thinks is important for its members to have. The official said, “Kaiser Permanente believes the ongoing research and debate on bioengineered foods, or genetically modified organisms (GMOs), is important. We also recognize there are important conversations about related initiatives and propositions. While we believe these are important scientific and political debates, we do not have policy positions on these subjects.”
In the piece that was written by a Kaiser nutritionist, readers are told, “Despite what the biotech industry might say, there is little research on the long-term effects of GMOs on human health, independent researchers have found that several varieties of GMO corn caused organ damage in rats. Other studies have found GMOs may lead to an inability in animals to reproduce.” The article suggests that eating USDA certified organic food can help limit exposure to GMOs.
Because of the widespread and growing allowance of genetically engineered crops contamination through genetic drift has become an increasing problem for non-GE and organic crops.
This summer before the release of AC21’s (Advisory Committee on Biotechnology and 21st Century Agriculture) report, Enhancing Coexistence: A Report of the AC21 to the Secretary of Agriculture, to the Secretary of Agriculture in November, Beyond Pesticides said, “Specifically, we suggest the inclusion of a phrase in the definition [of the coexistence of GE and non-GE agriculture] stipulating that all parties are entitled to assurances against trespass from genetic drift. Coexistence of any kind should include a shared understanding of boundaries and a requirement under the penalty of law to respect those boundaries. Without any guarantee that coexistence will ensure cultivation without trespass, organic and non-GE farmers will be at a significant disadvantage and “coexistence” will result in a severely imbalanced system. Where trespass occurs, operations that are trespassing should be prevented from doing so.” Because of the certainty of GE contamination of organic crops, the National Organic Coalition commented on the AC21 report, “At the bare minimum, USDA must stop approving additional GE crops, and prevent GE contamination by mandating pollution prevention measures, as well as make transgenic polluters, including GE technology owners, pay for their contamination.”
California’s Prop 37 was defeated at the polls in November. Had it been approved, California would have required labels for raw or processed food with GE ingredients and the state would have prohibited the labeling and advertising of foods using the misleading term “natural.”
Adding to the 4.2 million Californians who cast their ballots for the right to know what’s in their food, Beyond Pesticides, as a part of the Just Label It campaign, is asking supporters to do three things: sign the FDA petition for mandatory food labeling, tell friends and family to do the same, and urge your elected representatives to support GE labeling. Beyond Pesticides is a party to a petition seeking product disclosure of GE ingredients, which was written by attorneys at the Center for Food Safety and filed in October 2011 with U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.
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