Genetic engineering causing increased antibiotic resistance.

PROTECTING OUR FOOD SUPPLY

Here are some excerpts from the book, Long Life Now: Strategies for Staying Alive.

The excerpt covers antibiotic resistance from g.e. foods as well as other food sources, the revolving door between the FDA and drug/biotech industry the necessity for citizens to ask questions to make things change.

The author, Lee Hitchcox, D.C., was trained in chemical warfare and has been a chiropractor for 10 years. His chemical background makes him a very effective speaker on this issue, and he gets a good response whereever he speaks. (Information about the book at the end of excepts.)

Infectious diseases are on a global rebound, killing thousands more and evolving into antibiotic-resistant strains. The U.S. death rate from infectious diseases rose 58% between 1980-1992, becoming the third-leading killer of Americans, according to the Centers for disease Control and Prevention.

Why is this happening? Much media attention focuses on doctors over prescribing antibiotics and the resulting boost in drug-resistant bacteria. However, such reports often overlook potentially more deadly sources, antibiotic residues in the U.S. food supply. Consider the following:

Half the U.S. antibiotics are given to livestock, either by food or injection. Most hamburger meat comes from dairy cows, the most heavily medicated farm animals. Up to 82 drugs are used in dairy cows, but the FDA only tests for four. U.S. milk may contain traces of 80 different antibiotics without disclosure. European countries have banned most U.S. beef, poultry and dairy products because of detectable levels of drugs.

And vegetarians are not immune. All North Americans may soon be forced to consume antibiotic-resistant genes contained in fruits and vegetables -- without disclosure -- through the bioengineering of food. For example, the first gene-altered food for sale in the U.S. (Calgene's Flavr Savr Tomato) contains a marker gene that confers resistance to the antibiotic kanamycin. The FDA admits that antibiotic-resistant genes can reduce the benefit of prescribed antibiotics. All bioengineered foods contain antibiotic-resistant genes -- currently without labeling.

Dozens of biotech companies (DuPont, Monsanto, Eli Lilly) are field-testing 678 gene-altered crops. Combinations include potatoes spliced with chicken genes, tomatoes spliced with fish genes, corn spliced with virus genes, and pigs spliced with human genes. Thousands of bacteria, insect and animal combinations are being planned. Bioengineering transgresses the species barrier, a boundary heretofore inviolate. The biotech industry holds the power to change forever the world's food supply.

In 1992, the FDA announced it would not regulate gene-altered foods. Manufacturers may sell bioengineered foods without safety testing or disclosure. With such potential for harm, the FDA's cavalier attitude is not in the interest of public health. Public policies which allow antibiotic-laced foods to be sold without disclosure show little regard for biological consequences. In light of the global threat posed by infectious diseases, such policies warrant reconsideration.

It's no secret that a revolving door exists between the FDA and the drug/biotech industry. FDA officials often emerge from pharmaceutical companies and return to them after leaving government service. In 1992, over 150 FDA officials owned stock in the drug companies they regulated. This may explain why bioengineered foods are sold without disclosure, despite public concern. The FDA official who recently approved bovine growth hormone in milk (without disclosure) was a former Monsanto attorney. Monsanto manufactures bovine growth hormone. Such an arrangement seems less than exemplary in serving the public interest.

A recent national survey found that 85% of consumers want genetically engineered foods to be labeled. labeling confers information and accountability, lack of labeling encourages abuse. The recent victory by consumers over the FDA proposal to restrict supplements demonstrates decisively the power that citizens hold.

Major industries know quite well that contentious issues are often adjudicated in the court of public opinion, and industry's greatest fear is for ordinary citizens to begin asking questions. Now well-oiled campaign machine, no matter how vast its resources, can defy an aroused electorate. Information and dialog accelerate reform.

WHAT YOU CAN DO

Talk to your elected representatives (local, state, federal) and demand full labeling of gene-altered foods.

Visit the produce manager of your grocery store. Express your concerns and request full disclosure. Remind them that you're a regular customer.

Ultimately the citizen decides which business practices will die off and which will flourish. (Consumers spent $524 billion dollars on food and beverages in 1993.) Each grocery dollar is an economic vote in determining the future of our country. History suggests our national institutions -- government, science, medicine -- have done little to protect us from degenerative disease. We must learn to protect ourselves.

The time has come to start building a new society where nursing homes and besetting infirmities are relics of the past, where humanity from medical disfigurement is taken for granted, where final years are savored without physical constraints. By seeking information and applying it before our time is up, this vision can become reality. Only then may we advance with confidence into the future, beckoned by the great wonders and adventures before us.

Excerpted from the recently published book Long Life Now: Strategies for Staying Alive by Lee, DC. Available through bookstores or by calling 800-841-BOOK (2665), Ten Speed Press, Berkeley, California


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