Genetic engineering and infant foods
To Monsanto the mammoth monster of genetically manipulated foods nothing is sacred. Poised to dominate global food production, it is rapidly taking over farms in Asia and Africa to saturate the globe with rearranged soya beans. This year, according to a report in The Guardian Weekly, about 15 per cent of the soya bean crop is Monsantos Roundup Ready Beans. Roundup soya beans contain gene sequences from a virus, a bacterium and a petunia. As 60 to 70 per cent of processed food products contain soy these transgenic beans are rapidly finding their way to grocery shelves.
Where are the regulators?
Realizing that regulatory approval and consumer acceptance would be impossible given the immense tampering with the food system, and the colossal impact this may have on health, food accessibility and ability to grow food to meet global needs, it seems that Monsanto has been able to place its researchers and lawyers in key positions in the US Food and Drug Commission and that a Monsanto vice-president is reportedly a top candidate to become Commissioner.
Trade in these new monster products is also a necessity and through its European subsidiaries has been able to persuade the European Union to pass a directive repealing the ban of genetically altered maize in existence in a number of European countries. Not only that but last December it was able to convince the World Trade Organization to rule in its favour against European Union farmers wanting to keep out meat and milk from cattle treated with bovine growth hormone. Next on its big brother agenda is to forbid the labelling of genetically altered foods.
Infant foods have not been spared the genetically scrambled bean.
When the Whole Foods Market, a New York based natural foods supermarket, wanted to find out from its suppliers if their products contained the altered bean, most did not know. Peaking the interest of New York Times(1) columnist Marian Burros, she asked Genetic ID, a Fairfield, Iowa, company, to test four soya-based baby formulas: Isomil, Carnation Alsoy, Similac Neocare, and Enfalac Prosobee. They all tested positive. (Those of you who enjoy corn chips, chuck the Fritos, Tostitos and Doritosall positive.)
The presence of transgenic soy- beans in soy-based baby milks comes on the heals of information(2,3) that the daily exposure of infants to isoflavones in soy formulas is 6 to 11 fold higher on a body weight basis than the dose that has hormonal effects in adults who consume soy foods.
Circulating isoflavones in seven infant formulas tested were 13,000 - 22,000 times higher than plasma oestradiol concentrations in early life and may be sufficient to exert biological effects, whereas the contribution of isoflavones from breastmilk and cows milk is negligible. Some years ago Health Canada after testing the levels of aluminum in soy-based formulas reported(4) that infants fed these products ingested on average 1260µg/day compared to 2-3 µg/day for infants fed human milk.
Should soy formulas be self-selected on supermarket and pharmacy shelves? Researchers from New Zealand say no and that all routine sales of soy formulas should be stopped.
1. Marian Burros, Eating well. New York Times, May 21, 1997 BACK
2. Setchell, K.D.R. et al. Exposure of infants to phyto-oestrogens from soy-based infant formulas. Lancet 350:23-27, 1997 BACK
3. Irvine, C. The potential adverse effects of soybean phytoestrogens in infant feeding. New Zealand Medical Journal 108:208-209, 1995 BACK
4. Dabeka, R.W. Aluminium levels in Canadian infant formulae and estimation of aluminium intakes from formulae by infants 0 to 3 months old. Food Additives and Contaminants, 1989 BACK
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