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Fighting the Gene Giants

Over the last five years, millions of acres of farmland have been planted with genetically engineered crops, a technological upheaval that happened with virtually no public debate. Now a growing group of activists is demanding a thorough scientific evaluation of the purported benefits and full disclosure of the potential hazards of genetic engineering on the farm.

Formed in 1999, the Sierra Club’s Genetic Engineering Committee has allied with other concerned citizens, including scientists, organic farmers, religious groups, beekeepers, and chefs, to call for a moratorium on the planting of genetically engineered crops and the release of other engineered organisms into the environment until the long-term environmental and health impacts have been assessed.

Most of the committee’s members have scientific backgrounds, as well as years of experience in agricultural and activist issues. “As trees, fish, insects, and other plants and animals are genetically engineered for short-term profit, the fundamental blueprints of the natural world could be changed forever,” says committee chair Laurel Hopwood. The group is working to promote laws that mandate safety testing of genetically engineered crops, that hold manufacturers of transgenic organisms liable for any environmental damage they may cause, and that fund research in ecologically sustainable agricultural methods.

The Club’s biotech activists are also asking Kraft, a subsidiary of Philip Morris and the largest packaged-food company in the United States, to remove all genetically engineered ingredients from its 7,000 food products--including Post Raisin Bran cereal, Oreo cookies, Wheat Thins crackers, and many flavors of Capri Sun juice drinks. You can join this effort by writing to Betsy Holden, CEO, Kraft Foods North America, 3 Lakes Drive, Northfield, IL 60093 or calling (800) 847-1997.

For a sample letter to Kraft and information about the Sierra Club’s genetic-engineering policies, visit To join the Club’s biotech listserv, e-mail


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