Greenpeace Cries “Wolf” Once Again
Biotechnology-improved Soybeans Are Safe
August 20, 2001
by Alex A. Avery
Greenpeace is claiming another danger from genetically-engineered soybeans, although even they can’t say exactly what the danger might be. Belgian scientists recently published a more detailed sequence of DNA in biotech Roundup Ready soybeans, including some bits of “junk” DNA that Greenpeace says represent “unknown” but potentially serious health and environmental hazards.
Greenpeace is wrong again. About 70 percent of the DNA in any soybean is non-coding “junk DNA.” The Belgian analysis of Roundup Ready soybean DNA is virtually identical to the DNA sequence of the beans given by Monsanto to Federal regulators years ago. These varieties--and this DNA--have been fully scrutinized through an extensive battery of health and environmental safety tests. There is no evidence of human health or environmental problems from any of it.
Moreover, it is natural and common to find non-coding DNA sequences where genetic rearrangements have occurred, including in natural DNA rearrangements such as cross breeding.
We must add this latest false biotech alarm to Greenpeace’s earlier cries of “wolf”: that genetic engineering of crops would cause new and dangerous food
allergies (it hasn’t) and that biotech corn would endanger the Monarch butterfly (Monarch’s are thriving, and field research say the biotech-protected
corn is much safer for Monarchs than the alternative of pesticide sprays).
The recent “discovery” of inactive genetic fragments in biotechnology-improved soybeans is no mystery. This is the language used by political activists who seek to create public fear to promote alternative agendas. The real mystery is why we continue to pay attention when activist groups cry, “wolf.”
Alex Avery is director of research and education for the Hudson Institute's Center for Global Food Issues.