October 9, 2012
37 in California, billed as “The Right to Know” ballot initiative
to label products that contain genetically modified organisms in that
state, has drawn an intensive amount of interest from the country at
large, and ire from biotech corporations and their employees in the
recent peer reviewed long term feeding study by Dr. Gilles-Eric Seralini
from France caused Russia to immediately ban all US grain imports on
concern that they likely contain GMO (genetically modified) product.
The study also spawned a wealth of criticism from biotech scientists
all across the US. It seems like debunking Seralini’s study is
the new favorite pastime of many employed in the biotechnology field,
and we’ll look at some of those detractors later in this article.
we’ve been genetically modifying for millennia!
going any further, there appears to be an awful lot of confusion out
there about what genetic modification/engineering is, and how long it
has actually been around. When something is genetically engineered,
it contains the genes of a different species in it, not just particular
traits of various breeds of the same species.
instance, in plants, there are two primary types of modification, the
introduction of a virus or bacterium within the DNA of a plant, and
the mixing of plant DNA with animal DNA. The first method creates a
plant resistant to an otherwise plant killing substance or pest. The
introduction of animal genes and/or viruses into plants, are supposed
to aid in frost tolerance, lengthen shelf life, or enable “non-invasive”
vaccination of a population. These new life forms are patented and may
only be planted for one season by the farmer. If a farmer
saves the seed and replants, he is in violation of the contract
he accepted with the biotech company owning the patent by simply planting
their seed to start with.
there are hybrid plants. These plants are not patented, but varieties
developed by crossing different varieties of plants together. Hybrids
do not usually reproduce truly from saved seed, but they do not pose
any real danger to the environment through cross-pollination.
there are open pollinated and heirloom seeds. Open pollinated seeds
will reproduce truly and can be hybridized through cross pollination
with other plants of the species. Heirloom seeds are open pollinated
seeds that have been bred and kept true in reproduction for more than
people say we have been “genetically modifying” plants and
animals for thousands of years, they misconstrue modification (unnatural
alteration of the genes) with breeding for particular traits and hybridization.
Genetic modification is done in a laboratory, by smashing or splicing
the DNA of one species into a different species.
in nature has a spider or a human crossed with a goat, a human with
a cow, nor has a mouse coupled with a pig, or a fish combined with a
cat. Nor has a bacterium inserted itself into a plant or a chemical
herbicide entered the germplasm of a plant and propagated itself.
like the “Island of Doctor Moreau” has come to life. The
problem is that these life forms can get out and ‘blend’
with the naturally occurring species they appear to be, both in plant
or animal form. And as Prop 37 should indicate, in the US, there is
no labeling required of food containing GM products.
aren’t these GMO products labeled?
about 40 countries around the world, labeling of genetically modified
food is required. But in the US, it is SOP to put the cronies of the
biotech industry into positions of top authority in the agencies that
are supposed to regulate these things. Biotech has nothing to fear from
the regulators, because
they effectively own them. Not only that, they also pay for the
research conducted by universities that usually find GMO’s to
be “generally recognized as safe (GRAS)” because the natural
variety of the species is safe for human consumption.
Pollan wrote a very good essay on his experiment with Monsanto’s
New Leaf potato in 1998. He accurately and succinctly describes the
process followed by the FDA and the EPA in regulating GM products (please
read the article here) while trying to find out from an FDA representative
(Maryanski) if it is safe to eat these New Leaf potatoes he grew. Here
is the excerpt:
easy,'' Maryanski said. ''Bt is a pesticide, so it's exempt'' from F.D.A.
regulation. That is, even though a Bt potato is plainly a food, for
the purposes of Federal regulation it is not a food but a pesticide
and therefore falls under the jurisdiction of the E.P.A.
even in the case of those biotech crops over which the F.D.A. does have
jurisdiction, I learned that F.D.A. regulation of biotech food has been
largely voluntary since 1992, when Vice President Dan Quayle issued
regulatory guidelines for the industry as part of the Bush Administration's
campaign for ''regulatory relief.'' Under the guidelines, new proteins
engineered into foods are regarded as additives (unless they're pesticides),
but as Maryanski explained, ''the determination whether a new protein
is GRAS can be made by the company.'' Companies with a new biotech
food decide for themselves whether they need to consult with the F.D.A.
by following a series of ''decision trees'' that pose yes or no questions
like this one: ''Does. . .the introduced protein raise any safety concern?''
my Bt potatoes were being regulated as a pesticide by the E.P.A. rather
than as a food by the F.D.A., I wondered if the safety standards are the
same. ''Not exactly,'' Maryanski explained. The F.D.A. requires ''a reasonable
certainty of no harm'' in a food additive, a standard most pesticides
could not meet. After all, ''pesticides are toxic to something,'' Maryanski
pointed out, so the E.P.A. instead establishes human ''tolerances'' for
each chemical and then subjects it to a risk-benefit analysis.
I called the E.P.A. and asked if the agency had tested my Bt potatoes
for safety as a human food, the answer was. . .not exactly.
It seems the E.P.A. works from the assumption that if the original potato
is safe and the Bt protein added to it is safe, then the whole New Leaf
package is presumed to be safe....
there it is in a nutshell. The ones responsible for assuring that these
genetically engineered products are safe for consumption are the ones
developing them and selling them into the food supply. It’s “recommended
by owner” at it’s best, and the result of the revolving
door between agency headship and corporate executive positions.
who wants their food labeled?
more than 90% of Americans believe they are entitled to know if there
are genetically modified organisms in their food.
research shows that there are at least 20
states that have attempted legislation to label GMO products. This
spring, Monsanto et al put on a blanket
party for Connecticut and Vermont, and now, California looks quite
likely to actually succeed in their endeavor to label these products.
this year, there was a petition with well over 1 million signatures
submitted to the FDA requesting that they require labeling of GM ingredients
in the food supply. When the FDA received the petition, they effectively
erased all but one of those signatures by counting each petition
as a single request.
question is, since the creators of these products are so keen on protecting
their patent, so proud of their mutation of DNA, and so certain that
there is no potential danger linked to consumption or growing habitats
of these new life forms, why not label it?
can we know this stuff is safe to feed to our children? Who claims there
is no difference between these organisms and the natural varieties?
answer to theses questions are found by looking at the scientists who
promote GMO’s and claim they are safe for us to eat and following
the money attached to their affiliations.
among these is Henry
I. Miller, who birthed the Biotechnology Division of the FDA and
wrote guidance for the approval of genetically modified drugs. He writes
for Forbes and other journals and apparently is quite adept at selling
his knowledge of the regulatory processes to those who benefit from
getting their biotech products into the market with the least amount
of headache possible.
wrote a scathing piece for Forbes attacking the credibility of the recent
French study by Gilles-Eric Seralini that caused shockwaves across the
world. His cohort, David Tribe linked
to the Forbes piece on his blog promoting GMO foods as a great aid
to production agriculture and world hunger overall. Tribe is co-founder
Review with Miller’s friend, Bruce Chassey (microbiologist
professor at University of Illinois Urbana) co-author of the Seralini
attack piece linked above. David Tribe says he only is employed by the
University of Melbourne, yet an article
he wrote claiming that GMO food is at least as safe as conventional
varieties is posted on a site funded by CSIRO
(Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization of Australia),
who have developed genetically modified wheat and barley. In the comment
section of his
article there Tribe is asked repeatedly if he favors labeling of
GMO products, he finally answers and says that if it has nutritional
differences he would support labeling. So, if the GM barley and wheat
containing Omega 3 fatty acids from CSIRO is approved, he would support
labeling it....Tribe doesn’t say he would support stating on the
label that the Omega 3 is available because of genetic engineering.
in academia who have taken public stands against California’s
Prop 37 are Colin
Carter of UC Davis, and some of his colleagues did a piece for the
“No on 37” group claiming massive costs if Prop 37 is implemented.
These are professors Julian Alston and Daniel Sumner. According to the
Angeles Times, these gentlemen received $30,000 for their paper
for the “No on 37” coalition. Here is the pertinent excerpt
from the Times article as it is rather difficult and aggravating to
the other side of
the ballot campaign is, big surprise, the food processing and agribusiness
industries. Biggest donors to "No on 37" (as of Aug. 15):
Monsanto ($4.2 million), DuPont ($4 million) and PepsiCo ($1.7 million).
contend, among other things, that the measure would increase California
farmers' costs by $1.2 billion a year. Their source? A study for which
they paid two UC Davis agriculture professors, Julian M. Alston and
Daniel A. Sumner, at least $30,000. Their paper acknowledges that the
direct implications of the initiative for California agriculture "are
very difficult to assess," a disclaimer you won't find in the No
on 37 advertising.
study assumes that food producers will respond to Proposition 37 by
removing genetically engineered ingredients to avoid the labeling. The
authors don't devote much attention to the possibility that producers
will respond to the labeling mandate by simply relabeling, which seems
the easiest course since as much as 70% of the food in our groceries
contains some genetically engineered ingredient.”
Davis is one of the universities taking the most corporate funding for
research in agribusiness and particularly in food science and safety.
When you weigh all of this out, the biotech companies usually get the
best science they can buy from the pool of scientists for sale. This
dated paper by Food and Water Watch is an excellent resource on
the subject of buying the science to back up your product.
and their Elected Servants
looking at a list of donors for the “No on 37” campaign,
there are a great deal of companies that one would automatically expect
to be there, like Monsanto, Syngenta, BASF, Bayer Crop Science, Dupont.
But then there are many one wouldn’t think of at first blush,
and Sunny Delight, BumbleBee Tuna and others.
people are unaware that high fructose corn syrup and soy in many different
guises are in almost all packaged products. Mars
and the USDA have also joined together in a venture to genetically
modify cacao. Ostensibly, this is because they perceive some kind of
a shortage of chocolate in the future. More likely because they can
see the potential for great financial gain by patenting not only the
modified plant, but the gene sequence, and then corner the market on
July, the US Senate passed their version of the every five year Farm
Bill. There was an amendment offered to “allow” states to
label GE products. It lost by a huge amount, and you can see
the votes here. As of this writing, the 2013 Farm Bill has not yet
passed through Congress. In the 2013 Farm Bill there is Section 733
known as the “Monsanto Rider”. It would limit the ability
to regulate biotech products among other things.
article on the Monsanto Rider gives viewpoints from both sides of
the issue. Here is an excerpt:
from anti-biotechnology groups has caused uncertainty for growers and
has been a drain on USDA resources for several years," said Monsanto
spokesman Tom Helscher. "This provision provides an important assurance
for farmers planting crops which have completed the U.S. regulatory process."
the world's largest seed company spent $6.37 million on Washington lobbying
last year and $1.4 million so far this year, according to the
nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics....
people know that Monsanto
is actually 85% owned by the pharmaceutical giant Pfizer. Monsanto
and Upjohn joined together to form Pharmacia and Pfizer bought majority
in that company. Then There is the Novartis/Syngenta complex, Bayer
Pharmaceuticals and Crop Science. Big Pharma is in bed with Big Pharm
and the agencies of the US Federal Government are complicit in approving
their products for our consumption. Yet there has only been one long
term feeding study done, and the results of that study are frightening
and have drawn criticism from the scientists paid by the creators of
GMO listed above.
look at the Seralini Study
study was the first actual long term feeding study conducted on Monsanto’s
genetically modified “Round Up Ready” corn (NK603) and “Round
followed standard internationally accepted protocols for long term feed
testing on 200 rats divided into four groups for their entire lifespan
of two years. One group was fed NK603 that had been sprayed with Round
Up. The second was fed NK603 that had not been sprayed with Round Up
and a third was fed only “acceptable” levels of Round Up
in their water, while the control group was fed no Round Up and no Round
Up corn. The findings are pretty jarring to say the least. Here is the
abstract from the study which you can download
and read for yourself here.
The health effects of a Roundup-tolerant genetically modified maize
(from 11% in the diet), cultivated with or without Roundup, and Roundup
alone (from 0.1 ppb in water), were studied 2 years in rats. • In females, all treated groups died 2–3
times more than controls, and more rapidly. • This difference was visible in 3 male groups
fed GMOs. • All results were hormone and sex dependent,
and the pathological profiles
were comparable. • Females developed large mammary tumors almost
always more often than and
before controls, the pituitary was the second most disabled organ; the
sex hormonal balance was modified by GMO and Roundup treatments. • In treated males, liver congestions and necrosis
times higher. This pathology was confirmed by optic and transmission
electron microscopy. • Marked and severe kidney nephropathies were
also generally 1.3–2.3 greater. • Males presented 4 times more large palpable
tumors than controls which occurred up to 600 days earlier. • Biochemistry data confirmed very significant
kidney chronic deficiencies; for all treatments and both sexes, 76%
of the altered parameters were kidney related. These results can be
explained by the non linear endocrine-disrupting effects of Roundup,
but also by the overexpression of the transgene in the GMO and its metabolic
has been a great deal of criticism of Seralini’s methods by those
in the biotech scientific community, yet they fail to address the fact
that all of the studies claiming GMO are safe have followed the same
recommended protocols as Seralini, but for a much shorter time. Also,
rarely mentioned by detractors of Seralini’s study, is the fact
that consumption of “Round Up” itself has not been previously
studied over any length of time. The accepted science based opinion
on Round Up is that it evaporates before we consume it. However, it
has been found to be present in the drinking water of many municipalities
in the levels Seralini used in his study, so it doesn’t appear
to be evaporating as quickly as Monsanto would like you to believe.
are some very serious questions about the safety of Round Up as even
a USDA scientist, Dr. Huber, found a new pathogen had developed and
caused 40% mortality in cattle fed Round up fodder. There was another
study done that linked Round
Up to birth defects. Yet we, the American public, are supposed to
be content eating plants that are heavily sprayed with this herbicide
without our knowledge or consent.
seems to me that the American people should at least be afforded a choice
between consuming genetically engineered food or not. Considering that
more than 90% of soy and at least 85% of corn is genetically engineered
in this country, it is certainly pervasive enough that a label shouldn’t
cause much concern.....unless they have something to hide. And if they
have something to hide, I think they are the ones who should be the
subjects of the human experimentation, and we can be the control group.
Hannes has been an avid student of the effects of World Trade Organization
Free Trade Agreements on the livelihoods of citizens of the United States
since the establishment of the WTO and ratification of NAFTA in 1994-95.
Her dominant area of interest has been the impact on independent agriculture
and the ramifications of these agreements upon food freedom and consolidation
of access to market for independent growers.
has been a full time volunteer advocate for independent agriculture since
2005 and is a well-respected leader in the national movement to halt the
National Animal Identification System, now known as ADT (Animal Disease
Traceability). Doreen has written extensively on the topic of NAIS as
well as authored and co-authored several white papers on NAIS and other
topics affecting the consolidation of agriculture. She is a regular guest
on The Power Hour and Derry Brownfield Show and frequently does guest
spots on many other talk radio shows. One of her major operating principles
is that there are two kinds of people….Those who want to be left
alone, and those who won’t leave them alone. She has participated
in many agricultural forums in her home state of Missouri and surrounding
states. Doreen has served on the R-CALF USA Animal ID Committee for several
years and was appointed the position of Director of Research for the National
Independent Consumer and Farmers Association because of her dedication
to the mission statement of the group and her ability to relate complex
and unfamiliar material in a concise and meaningful manner.