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玉米養大的兒童

2000年04月26日
黃子晏譯;LiLing審校

作者Donella H. Meadows 1999-10-25

有關基因工程農作物的新聞突然快速的爆發出來,我們很難去跟得上資訊的腳步。對生物技術有所疑慮的人來說,最近大部分的新聞對他們而言是好消息。把一段外來的基因接到玉米、馬鈴薯、和大豆的公司,莽撞地推銷他們的產品,不止引起環境學者和消費者的警覺,也引起了農夫、超級市場供應鏈、嬰兒食物製造商、和投資者的關切。這些公司得把腳步緩下來了。

惡夢之田?(Photo 1)
照片:Warren Gretz, NREL/PIX

但是有一些新聞令人心神不寧。因為歐洲人和日本人拒絕吃基因轉殖食品(G M foods),這些農作物幾乎都被傾倒到美國市場販售,美國人逃避不了,但這些食品卻沒有特別標示,它們林林總總,從洋芋片到沙拉醬全都有。假如基因轉殖食品造成問題,美國人將會是第一個發現的,除非能拒絕作實驗室裡的天竺鼠。

首先,我們很快的回顧一下新聞。

你大概已經聽說過有關於蝴蝶的新聞,某一種基因工程玉米,接進了一段細菌上的基因,使它能殺死玉米害蟲,結果它也能殺死蝴蝶。這種生物科技玉米的花粉散佈到了的馬利筋屬植物的葉子上 (模擬每年夏季玉米花粉被風散佈到整個中西部),當帝王蝶幼蟲吃這些葉子時會導致死亡。

這已經發生在實驗室裡,而不是在自然界。然而還沒有人知道在自然界是否會發生,或發生在別種蝴蝶上,又或發生在別的無辜生物,只因為它們跑進了這些會產生殺蟲劑的玉米內。雖然是可能的,但重點並不是生物技術是否會殺死蝴蝶﹔生態學家幾年來秉持的觀點是,這些基因轉殖農作物以一窩蜂的速度散佈在數百萬英畝土地上,卻一點也不知道會有什麼效應。不受歡迎的出人意料影響幾乎是不可避免的。

吃含殺蟲劑的玉米 (還有含殺蟲劑的豆類產品和馬鈴薯)的生物中,人也是其中之一。引起爭議中的殺蟲劑是一種針對昆蟲幼蟲的毒素,它可能不會對人體造成危害,所以美國政府和一些歐洲政府已做了聲明。至於你是否相信,則取決於你能夠多麼信任你的政府。

不要信任牽引機(photo 2)

歐洲人最近聽到了他們的政府說,狂牛症已不再是健康上的威脅等等說法,他們的心裡並不十分信任﹔他們堅持基因轉殖食品至少必須標示,消費者才有能有所選擇是否要避免。供應商例如Archer Daniels Midland(ADM),號稱全世界的超級市場,說他們不可能把基因轉殖大豆或玉米和平常的分開,所以歐洲的消費者停止採購任何大豆或玉米,尤其是從美國進口的。這驚起了歐洲超級市場的注意,在數星期內,他們通知ADM和其他食品加工廠說,他們將不接受基因轉殖玉米糖漿、玉米、澱粉、玉米料理、大豆油、大豆蛋白質等食品。ADM公司終究發現,維持分開的生產供應線是可能的。現在一般的食品銷往歐洲,基因轉殖的東西則賣給美國人。

同時綠色和平組織成員已開始質疑Gerger公司,有關它的嬰兒食品中的基因轉殖成分,雖然Gerber是做基因轉殖的大公司之一,Novartis公司所擁有,它並沒有浪費時間。它宣稱將不只是刪除不能保證沒有基因轉殖食物的供應商,也將進一步使用有機原料。Heinz公司也加入了。另一家嬰兒食品製造商,Healthy Times Natural Food,不再使用菜籽油,canola是另一種經常被基因轉殖的農 作物,而且沒被分開或標示。

為了安心,使用有機的吧!(photo 3)

現在從華爾街到德意志銀行的分析員宣稱基因工程是項冒險的投資。去年春天時,種較貴的基因轉殖種子的農夫,正看著此類農作物的價格正在下滑。英國的經濟與社會科學研究委員會剛出爐的一份報告,指責政府沒頭沒腦地促銷基因轉殖食品,說道:「假如一般大眾有超越許多科學家和政策建議者之處,是他們有採取預防行動需求的本能。」

沒有任何警告,也沒有任何標示,極少的警訊,基因轉殖食品正傳送給美國人(除了嬰兒)。商場上普遍化的邏輯正告訴我們,美國人不在乎他們的食物是否有經過基因操作過。

我懷疑下一個意外將是對這種普遍邏輯的反撲,因為在歐洲大陸得勝的反基因轉殖行動者,知道要怎樣引起風潮,他們已經成功地淨化了嬰兒食品。下一步,假如他們夠聰明的話,他們將組織學童們聯合抵制麥當勞和Frito-lay,直到炸薯條和洋芋片都沒有含有會產生殺蟲劑的基因。

同時,如果你想要當一個創新的刺激者,每次當你買含有馬鈴薯、玉米、canola、大豆的產品或餐點時,就問︰『這裡面有任何東西是基因轉殖的嗎?』假如你要的是絕對的安全,就買有經過驗證通過的有機食品。

只有消費者的警覺心和義憤可以使基因轉殖者減緩至某一程度,那時我們才能有謹慎的、合理的、和民主的討論,有關什麼人可以在我們的食物中放進什麼東西,是為了什麼目的,做過什麼檢驗證明是安全的(除了人類,也對蝴蝶和其他第三者安全),有怎樣的標示,有什麼法規規範是關於人們在不知情下,更沒有同意下,像實驗動物般地被對待。

Donella H. Meadows是永續發展研究所主任和Dartmouth College環境研究副教授。

版權歸屬 Earth Day Network,環境信託協會 (黃子晏譯,LiLing審校)

Children of the Corn

by Donella H. Meadows 10.25.99

News about genetically engineered crops breaks so fast that it's hard to keep up. For those who look upon biotech foods with suspicion, much of the latest news is surprisingly good. The companies who splice strange genes into our corn and potatoes and soybeans are pushing their products so recklessly that they are alarming not only environmentalists and consumers, but also farmers, supermarket chains, baby-food makers, and investors. They are going to have to slow down.

Field of bad dreams? (Photo 1)
Photo by Warren Gretz, NREL/PIX.

But one bit of news is disturbing. Since the Europeans and Japanese are refusing to eat gene-modified (GM) foods, these crops are now being dumped almost exclusively on the American market. We can't avoid them. They are unlabeled. They are in everything from potato chips to salad dressings. If GM foods cause problems, we will be the first to find out -- unless we refuse to be guinea pigs.

First a quick review of the news.

You've probably heard about the butterflies. One kind of genetically engineered corn now makes its own insecticide, using a gene pasted in from a bacterium, in order to kill corn ear-worms. It turns out that this corn may also kill butterflies. Pollen from the biotech corn was scattered onto milkweed leaves (simulating the corn pollen that blows all over the Midwest every summer). When monarch caterpillars ate those leaves, they died.

That happened in a lab, not in nature. No one knows yet whether it happens in nature or happens to other kinds of butterflies or happens to other innocent creatures that run into pesticide-producing corn. The point is not that biotech kills butterflies, though it might. The point, made by ecologists for years now, is that gene-spliced inventions are being spread over millions of acres at a hectic pace without any idea what their effects might be. Unwelcome surprises are almost inevitable.

Among the creatures who eat that pesticide-containing corn (and pesticide-containing soy products and potatoes) are people. The pesticide in question is a toxin specific to insect larvae; it probably doesn't hurt us. So our government and several European governments have declared. Whether you believe them depends on how much you're inclined to trust your government.

Don't trust that tractor. (photo 2)

Europeans, having recently heard from their governments that mad cow disease is no health threat whatsoever, are not in a trustful mood. They insist that GM foods at least be labeled so consumers have the option of avoiding them. Suppliers -- such as our own Archer Daniels Midland, "supermarket to the world" -- said it would be impossible to separate out GM soybean or corn. So European consumers stopped buying any soybeans and corn, especially if imported from the United States.

That snapped European supermarkets to attention. Within weeks they informed ADM and other processors that they would accept no products containing GM corn syrup, corn starch, corn meal, soy oil, soy protein, etc. ADM found it possible after all to maintain separate supply lines. The regular foods now go to Europe. The GM stuff goes to us. 

Meanwhile Greenpeace activists began to question Gerber about the GM content of its baby food. Gerber, though it is owned by Novartis, one of the big gene-splicing companies, didn't waste time. It announced not only that it would drop suppliers that couldn't guarantee un-spliced foods, but more than that, it would use only organic ingredients. Heinz joined in. Another baby food maker, Healthy Times Natural Food, switched away from canola oil, canola being another crop that is commonly gene-modified and not separated or labeled.

For peace of mind, go organic. (photo 3)

Now analysts from Wall Street to Deutsche Bank are declaring genetic engineering a risky investment. Farmers who planted expensive GM seed last spring are watching the prices of their crops go down. A just-issued report of the British Economic and Social Research Council chastises its government for mindlessly promoting GM foods and says, "If anything the public are ahead of many scientists and policy advisors in their instinctive feeling for a need to act in a precautionary way."

So, with no warning or labeling, much less fanfare, GM foods are being channeled to Americans. (Except babies.) Common wisdom in the business is that Americans don't care whether their food is genetically manipulated.

I suspect the next surprise will be the disproof of that common wisdom. The anti-GM activists, fresh from victories in Europe, know how to strike nerves. They've already cleansed the baby food. Next, if they're smart, they'll organize school kids to boycott McDonald's and Frito-Lay until the pesticide-producing genes are removed from the fries and chips.

Meanwhile, if you want to be a creative irritant, just ask every time you buy a product or order a meal containing potatoes, corn, canola, or soy, "Is there anything genetically modified in here?" If you want to play it absolutely safe, buy certified organic.

Only consumer caution or consumer outrage will slow down the gene splicers to the point where we can all have a careful, rational, democratic discussion about who puts what in our foods, for what purposes, with what tests and proofs of safety (safety for butterflies and other bystanders as well as people), with what labels, and with what regulations about people being treated, without their knowledge much less their consent, as test animals.

Donella H. Meadows is director of the Sustainability Institute and an adjunct professor of environmental studies at Dartmouth College.