Mystery Rice: Food trial exploits kids as guinea pigs
Max wants to know what he's eating.
I don't blame him.
Max, an HSI member, posed this question in a recent e-mail: "Is there cause to be aware of any of the genetically modified foods that are available, even if they are not labeled? There has been discussion on this and I was wondering about it."
You have good reason to wonder, Max. And the easy answer to your question is yes--there is cause to be aware. But it's tough to know the GM status of many foods on grocery shelves because the FDA doesn't require food producers to let customers know when GM ingredients are used.
The exception is fruit. If a fruit sticker has a five-digit number that starts with an 8, drop it and run. It's GM.
But how concerned should Max and you and me be about eating GM foods? Well, if scientists (who happen to be GM experts) are concerned, I think we have good reason for concern too.
Last year, a group of 22 international scientists sent a letter of protest to Tufts University School of Medicine to express their "shock and unequivocal denunciation of the experiments being conducted by your colleagues which involve the feeding of genetically modified golden rice to human subjects (adults and children.)"
According to the scientists, the Tufts experiments violate the Nuremberg code because they involve children as subjects (children can't legally give their consent), and because exactly zero animal trials have been conducted to establish the safety of golden rice.
And here's the capper: The experiments were administered and funded by the National Institutes of Health. That's right: U.S. tax dollars at work, driving down ethical standards for research on children.
If you'd like to read the section of the Nuremberg code that pertains to human experimentation, you can easily find it on the website for the Office of Human Subjects Research. Which happens to be a division of...yep--the National Institutes of Health.
Inadvertent and unpredictable
Golden rice is a good idea on paper. But in the real world, one big "if" still lingers.
In developing countries, thousands of children go blind every year due to a dietary deficiency of vitamin A. Golden rice was genetically engineered to produce a beta carotene- packed staple food in the hopes that impoverished children and adults might have abundant, easy access to vitamin A.
That's a compassionate idea. But what's wrong with this picture?
I'll let the scientists who sent the Tufts letter explain: "There is now a large body of evidence that shows that GM crop/food production is highly prone to inadvertent and unpredictable pleiotropic effects, which can result in health damaging effects when GM food products are fed to animals."
So it's hard to imagine why the Tufts program simply passed on the animal stage for testing golden rice. Here's how Dr. Adrian Dubock (Golden Rice Organization project manager) tried to justify the decision in an interview with the Daily Mail: "As humans are the designed beneficiaries of Golden Rice, animal testing could not answer the questions posed."
I think Dr. Dubock must be aware that his statement is pure, Grade A hogwash. But he has done us a favor--sort of. He's demonstrated that we can't count on pro-GM scientists to be careful and responsible when it comes to pressing ahead with their experiments on our food.
Several times I've shared this quote from Dr. Spreen because it's a favorite: "Whistle-blowers in the GM industry all say the same thing: One genetic modification ALWAYS causes more than just the desired change (and that's if you only modify one thing!)."
About the author
Jenny Thompson is the Director of the Health Sciences Institute and editor of the HSI e-Alert. Through HSI, she and her team uncover important health information and expose ridiculous health misinformation, most notably through the HSI e-Alert.
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