I put a lot of doom and gloom posts on this blog, so today I decided to do something a little different. I ran across this op-ed from the New York Times – a happy story about a dairy farm not more than 40 miles from my home southwest of Portland. The farmer has found a winning and profitable combination of humane treatment of his jersey cows and best practices. This is the way dairy farms ought to be run, and, indeed, the way dairy farms used to be run. In this short article and even shorter video, many of the reasons we so often hear for why factory and industrial farming are necessary for large scale food production now and into the future – are simply found to not be true when proper organic farming guidelines are followed.
The more I research the topic of GMOs, Big Agri, Big Food and Big Biotech, the more I am unequivocally convinced that it’s Big Business pushing this technology on us for their own good, not our own good. A big company profits when it patents a seed or a synthetic growth hormone. The farmers and consumers profit, or benefit, when organic farming techniques are used – such as what the piece below describes. (Yes, organic food costs more but if more consumers demanded it, the price would go down.)
The article doesn’t even mention the word GMO but it fits here at sleuth4health because dairy farms and their slaughterhouse cousins may as well be a poster child for the technology. Just to name a few employs of the technology – there is the corn feed derived from Bt and Roundup Ready corn. There is that really nasty recombinant bovine growth hormone, rBGH or rBST, still widely used in American dairies though banned in most other countries (including Canada). Unless your dairy product says it is free of rBGH, you’re getting it in ice cream, sour cream, yogurt, milk, butter, etc. The synthetic hormone enables inhumanely treated cows to be milked constantly – thereby causing udder infections and pus – thereby requiring the use of antibiotics.
I often think of the old acronym I was taught to learn the spaces of the bass clef when I was first learning piano. ACEG: All Cows Eat Grass. Well, that’s not really true anymore, is it? Only a special few still eat grass here in the US.
I was at the beautiful Central Oregon Coast this weekend. My husband and I stayed at a relative’s beach house, which offers a bird’s eye view of crashing surf and coarse sand. It was lovely and very relaxing, though as I’ve mentioned before, whenever I am at someone else’s home, it is virtually impossible to avoid GMO food entirely, if I want to be a gracious guest and and not a high-maintenance putz… but that’s not what this post is about.
This post is about me coming home and trying to decide what I would post next on sleuth4health. I began to peruse apropros, recently published articles and blogs. I chose to post and comment on an article about the havoc that GM soy crops have caused in Latin America. I had just seen an Art Wolf episode on public television and with camera and crew he had digitally captured landscape and wildlife in stunning Bolivia high in the Andes, where mining and farming are constant threats to the eco-system – so South America was on my mind. And I found this… an article titled “Monsanto’s transgenic soy sewing misery in Latin America.”
I have posted an excerpt of the last part of the article which talks about transgenic soy’s start in Argentina, third largest producer of soy worldwide, and which served as gateway for the GM crops to spread elsewhere south of the border. The beginning of the article gives a brief primer on the shady past of biotech giant Monsanto, the multinational GMO corporation that widely employs bully tactics – successfully.
At the end I posted a 12-minute video titled Killing Fields: The Battle to Feed Factory Farms. It is a heartbreaking account of the human and environmental cost of GM soy.
(Parenthetic, plain text additions are from sleuth4health.)
President Carlos Menem came into power in 1989 in the middle of an economic crisis. Clearly supported by private national and international monetary organisms and corporations, Menem opened the door to transgenic crops.
Currently, over 18 million hectares (1 hectare equals 2.471 acres) or 50 percent of cultivable land is seeded with transgenic soy (SOJA RR) each year, a biogenetic engineered seed that is resistant to glyphosate. The crops are sprayed with over 200 million liters of the herbicide also produced by Monsanto—Round Up— with unforeseeable consequences to families in thousands of rural towns and areas around the country. (not to mention what it does to those of us who eat it.)
As small farmers and growers have been displaced from their lands by means of buyouts, intimidation or exploitation, biogenetic engineered crops have replaced other harvests for human consumption and diversified crops. Unemployment, hunger and disease have grown to alarming levels in such rural areas, forcing the government to increase public programs.
The seed was introduced in 1996 without environmental impact independent studies, public awareness, Congressional debate or appropriate regulatory legislation. Four companies lead in biogenetic seeds, Monsanto, Cargill, Dreyfus and Nidera, being the first one the largest by far. Monsanto controls 90 percent of transgenic seeds sold around the world.
Over 200 thousand hectares are deforested every year in Argentina to make room for GM soy monoculture, with extraordinary profits from land property owners that transcend national borders into Paraguay, Uruguay and Brazil.
In April 2009 Andrés Carrasco, an Argentinean embryologist working in the Ministry of Science’s CONICET—National Council of Scientific and Technical Investigations— reported that research results of glyphosate’ s (Roundup) impact in amphibians fetuses suggested the herbicide could cause brain, intestinal and heart defects. Not only his research was attacked and scorned but he was also personally threatened as reported by GRAIN.
Sofia Gatica, another Argentine activist who lost a three-day-old baby to kidney failure, was also threatened and victimized by Monsanto’s defenders and allies—including local police—when her advocacy efforts led to studies showing cancer rates in her hometown of Ituzaingo were 41 times the national average, as reported by the Huffington Post.
Introducing transgenic soy in Argentina was the mechanisms through which Monsanto spread and flourished into the rest of South America, pushing the seed illegally into Brazil, Paraguay, Bolivia and Uruguay, countries where transgenic crops were prohibited. The “United Republic of Soy” was born, an expression that qualifies the transnational characteristics of transgenic soy exploitation.
“I was in Brazil presenting proofs just before regulators approved the GMOs. Brazil researchers resisted the approval of genetically engineered crops. They conducted research studies resulting in large dossiers that were plainly ignored because of Monsanto’s pressure, which introduced such an amount of illegal seed in Brazil that forced approval,” said Smith. “Monsanto sued Brazilian farmers for ‘pirating’ its seed but now, the company may have to pay up to $7.5 billion to five million Brazilian soy farmers in unlawfully collected penalties.”
CTNBio, the Brazilian Biosafety Technical Commission, has given consent to other GMOs including GM maize (corn), soya, sugar cane and cotton but EMBRAPA (Brazilian Enterprise for Agricultural Research) is now speculating to approve GM pinto beans, a staple Brazilians eat in large quantities every day and worldly known for being the main ingredient in Brazil’s famous feijoada.
Attacks to native farmers and native indigenous populations in rural areas of Brazil have been denounced. Indigenous groups in Brazil claim they are frequently harassed and murdered to force submission of their land to multinational farmers with little or no protection from local authorities.
Paraguay’s political coup against President Fernando Lugo is now suspected to have had the dark hand of Monsanto moving the “wheel of fortune.” As reported, under the Lugo’s administration, the National Service for Plants and Seeds Quality and Health (SENAVE) refused the use of GM seeds but shortly after Vice-President Franco took power, Paraguay’s Health and Social Welfare Ministry’s sanctioned the genetically modified (GM) corn VT Triple Pro, produced by Monsanto.
Uruguay also resisted through light government pressure to corporations but finally gave in to Monsanto media campaign which adduced that transgenic soy was instrumental for its new Agricultural Production Plan. Changes to the farming landscape of Uruguay came with larger crop areas, and important increases in the index of economic concentration and marginalization of small rural farmers.
“Studies have shown that before 1996, food allergies were an irrelevant public health concern. After the introduction of transgenic soy, food allergy jumped to be the ninth cause of health concern in 1997 and the third in 1998. GMOs cause intestinal damage—leaky gut—and is believed to generate a number of other diseases that have expanded in the last forty years including diabetes, thyroids problems, rheumatoid arthritis and even MS,” concluded Dr. Bernhoft.
Even I, Sleuth 4 Health, am sometimes tempted to admit that, well maybe GMOs aren’t ALL bad. Am I rushing to judgement? Do I really know enough to be so dogmatic about this topic? Then I usually run across an article reporting on some new study, some new finding. Below are excerpts from just such an article and just such a study. I continue to be impressed that most of the really good research about GMOs seems to be going on in the UK.
Excerpts from Dailymail.co.uk..Written by Sean Coulter, Consumer Affairs Editor
Pete Riley, director of the UK campaigning group, GM Freeze, said the discovery of (a new potentially hazardous gene), ‘totally undermines claims that GM technology is safe, precise and predictable’.
He said: ‘This is a clear warning the GM is not sufficiently understood to be considered safe. ‘Authorisation for these crops must be suspended immediately, and they should be withdrawn from sale, until a full and extended review of their safety has been carried out.’
Typically, GM crops are modified in the laboratory to give them resistance to being sprayed with powerful weed killers such as Monsanto’s Round-up.
This means that, in theory, fields can be doused with the chemical, so wiping out the weeds and allowing the food plants to thrive.
The modification process involves inserting genes into the plants using a technique that allows them to piggyback on viruses that are commonly found in the soil and plants.
It has been assumed that virus genes are not present in the plant once it is grown in the field and reaches consumers, however it is now clear that this is not the case.
A review of the EFSA research in Independent Science News said the presence of the viral gene appears to have been missed by biotech companies, universities and government regulators.
‘This situation represents a complete and catastrophic system failure,’ it said. ‘There are clear indications that this viral gene might not be safe for human consumption. It also may disturb the normal functioning of crops, including their natural pest resistance.
‘A reasonable concern is that the protein produced by (the gene, called gene VI) might be a human toxin. This is a question that can only be answered by future experiments.’
I just read this headline moments ago and it made my jaw drop: Monsanto’s Earnings Nearly Double as They Create a Farming Monopoly. I had to post and comment. Non-GMO farmers are getting pushed out of the market, but it’s not for a lack of trying on their part. Read below about the giant of all biotech companies, Monsanto, their predatory and bullying tactics and the brave heroes who dare to challenge them. But it’s getting more difficult.
Excerpts from the full article written by Charlotte Silver at AlterNet.
Last week Monsanto announced staggering profits from 2012 to celebratory shareholders while American farmers filed into Washington, DC to challenge the Biotech giant’s right to sue farmers whose fields have become contaminated with Monsanto’s seeds.
Exploiting their patent on transgenic corn, soybean and cotton, Monsanto asserts an insidious control of those agricultural industries in the US, effectively squeezing out conventional farmers (those using non-transgenic seeds) and eliminating their capacity to viably participate and compete on the market.
Between 1997 and 2010, Monsanto filed 144 lawsuits against family farmers and settled 700 cases out of court. Furthermore, food groups estimate that Monsanto investigates hundreds of farmers each year as potential culprits of patent infringement.
Victims of Monsanto’s predatory lawsuits include farmers who used Monsanto seed but violated the licensing agreement, as well as those farmers who never had any intention of growing GE plants. OSGATA et al v Monsanto deals with the latter group and represents 31 farms and farmers, 13 seed-selling businesses, and 31 agricultural organisations that represent more than 300,000 individuals and 4,500 farms or farmers.
…the federal courts have always protected Monsanto’s rights to profit via a patenting system that increasingly impinges on individual and market freedom, allowing Monsanto to abuse its patent rights.
The biotech companies, their lobbyists and paid scientists, along with government officials who are in cahoots will have you believe that yes, we absolutely do. The common rhetoric is that genetic engineering is the only way to feed our ever-growing population and without it, we will all perish.
Here are ten reasons why we don’t need GM food, taken from the GMWatch website.
Genetically modified (GM) foods are often promoted as a way to feed the world. But this is little short of a confidence trick. Far from needing more GM foods, there are urgent reasons why we need to ban them altogether.
1. GM foods won’t solve the food crisis
A 2008 World Bank report concluded that increased biofuel production is the major cause of the increase in food prices. Biofuels are crops grown for fuel rather than food. GM giant Monsanto has been at the heart of the lobbying for biofuels — while profiting enormously from the resulting food crisis and using it as a PR opportunity to promote GM foods!
“The climate crisis was used to boost biofuels, helping to create the food crisis; and now the food crisis is being used to revive the fortunes of the GM industry.” — Daniel Howden, Africa correspondent, The Independent (UK)
“The cynic in me thinks that they’re just using the current food crisis and the fuel crisis as a springboard to push GM crops back on to the public agenda. I understand why they’re doing it, but the danger is that if they’re making these claims about GM crops solving the problem of drought or feeding the world, that’s bullshit.” – Prof Denis Murphy, head of biotechnology, University of Glamorgan, Wales
2. GM crops do not increase yield potential
Despite the promises, GM has not increased the yield potential of any commercialised crops. In fact, studies show that the most widely grown GM crop, GM soya, has suffered reduced yields.
A report that analyzed nearly two decades worth of peer reviewed research on the yield of the primary GM food/feed crops, soybeans and corn (maize), reveals that despite 20 years of research and 13 years of commercialization, genetic engineering has failed to significantly increase US crop yields. The author, former US EPA and US FDA biotech specialist Dr Gurian-Sherman, concludes that when it comes to yield, “Traditional breeding outperforms genetic engineering hands down.”
“Let’s be clear. As of this year , there are no commercialized GM crops that inherently increase yield. Similarly, there are no GM crops on the market that were engineered to resist drought, reduce fertilizer pollution or save soil. Not one.” – Dr Doug Gurian-Sherman
3. GM crops increase pesticide use
US government data shows that in the US, GM crops have produced an overall increase, not decrease, in pesticide use compared to conventional crops.
“The promise was that you could use less chemicals and produce a greater yield. But let me tell you none of this is true.” – Bill Christison, President of the US National Family Farm Coalition
4. There are better ways to feed the world
A major UN/World Bank-sponsored report compiled by 400 scientists and endorsed by 58 countries concluded that GM crops have little to offer global agriculture and the challenges of poverty, hunger, and climate change, because better alternatives are available. In particular, the report championed “agroecological” farming as the sustainable way forward for developing countries.
5. Other farm technologies are more successful
Integrated Pest Management and other innovative low-input or organic methods of controlling pests and boosting yields have proven highly effective, particularly in the developing world. Other plant breeding technologies, such as Marker Assisted Selection (non-GM genetic mapping), are widely expected to boost global agricultural productivity more effectively and safely than GM. 
“The quiet revolution is happening in gene mapping, helping us understand crops better. That is up and running and could have a far greater impact on agriculture [than GM].” – Prof John Snape, head of the department of crop genetics, John Innes Centre
6. GM foods have not been shown to be safe to eat
Genetic modification is a crude and imprecise way of incorporating foreign genetic material (e.g. from viruses, bacteria) into crops, with unpredictable consequences. The resulting GM foods have undergone little rigorous and no long-term safety testing. However, animal feeding tests have shown that GM foods have toxic effects, including abnormal changes in organs, immune system disturbances, accelerated ageing, and changes in gene expression. Very few studies have been published on the direct effects on humans of eating a GM food. One such study found unexpected effects on gut bacteria, but was never followed up.
It is claimed that Americans have eaten GM foods for years with no ill effects. But these foods are unlabeled in the US and no one has monitored the consequences. With other novel foods like trans fats, it has taken decades to realize that they have caused millions of premature deaths.
“We are confronted with the most powerful technology the world has ever known, and it is being rapidly deployed with almost no thought whatsoever to its consequences.” — Dr Suzanne Wuerthele, US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) toxicologist
7. People don’t want GM foods – so they’re hidden in animal feed
As a spokesperson for Asgrow, a subsidiary of Monsanto, said, “If you put a label on genetically engineered food, you might as well put a skull and crossbones on it.” The GM industry has got around the problem of consumer rejection of GM foods by hiding them in animal feed. Meat, eggs and dairy products from animals raised on the millions of tons of GM feed imported into Europe do not have to be labelled. Some studies show that contrary to GM and food industry claims, animals raised on GM feed ARE different from those raised on non-GM feed. Other studies show that if GM crops are fed to animals, GM material can appear in the resulting products and affect the animals’ health. So eating these “stealth GMOs” may affect the health of consumers.
8. GM crops are a long-term economic disaster for farmers
A 2009 report showed that GM seed prices in America have increased dramatically, compared to non-GM and organic seeds, cutting average farm incomes for US farmers growing GM crops. The report concluded, “At the present time there is a massive disconnect between the sometimes lofty rhetoric from those championing biotechnology as the proven path toward global food security and what is actually happening on farms in the US that have grown dependent on GM seeds and are now dealing with the consequences.”
9. GM and non-GM cannot co-exist
GM contamination of conventional and organic food is increasing. An unapproved GM rice that was grown for only one year in field trials was found to have extensively contaminated the US rice supply and seed stocks. In Canada, the organic oilseed rape industry has been destroyed by contamination from GM rape. In Spain, a study found that GM maize “has caused a drastic reduction in organic cultivations of this grain and is making their coexistence practically impossible”.
The time has come to choose between a GM-based, or a non-GM-based, world food supply.
“If some people are allowed to choose to grow, sell and consume GM foods, soon nobody will be able to choose food, or a biosphere, free of GM. It’s a one way choice, like the introduction of rabbits or cane toads to Australia; once it’s made, it can’t be reversed.” – Roger Levett, specialist in sustainable development
10. We can’t trust GM companies
The big biotech firms pushing their GM foods have a terrible history of toxic contamination and public deception. GM is attractive to them because it gives them patents that allow monopoly control over the world’s food supply. They have taken to harassing and intimidating farmers for the “crime” of saving patented seed or “stealing” patented genes — even if those genes got into the farmer’s fields through accidental contamination by wind or insects.
“Farmers are being sued for having GMOs on their property that they did not buy, do not want, will not use and cannot sell.” – Tom Wiley, North Dakota farmer
1. Donald Mitchell, 2008. A Note on Rising Food Prices. World Bank. http://image.guardian.co.uk/sys-files/Environment/documents/2008/07/10/Biofuels.PDF
2. Daniel Howden, 2008. Hope for Africa lies in political reforms. The Independent, 8 September. http://www.independent.co.uk:80/opinion/commentators/daniel-howden-hope-for-africa-lies-in-political-reforms-922487.html
3. Rob Lyons, 2008. GM: it’s safe, but it’s not a saviour. Spiked Online, 7 July. http://www.spiked-online.com/index.php?/site/article/5438/
4. Jorge Fernandez-Cornejo and William D. McBride, 2002. The adoption of bioengineered crops. US Department of Agriculture Report, May. http://www.ers.usda.gov/publications/aer810/aer810.pdf
5. R.W. Elmore et al., 2001. Glyphosate-resistant soyabean cultivar yields compared with sister lines. Agronomy Journal 93, 2001: 408–412.
6. Doug Gurian-Sherman, 2009. Failure to Yield: Evaluating the Performance of Genetically Engineered Crops. Union of Concerned Scientists. http://tiny.cc/eqZST
7. Doug Gurian-Sherman, 2008. Genetic engineering — A crop of hyperbole. The San Diego Union Tribune, 18 June. http://www.signonsandiego.com/uniontrib/20080618/news_lz1e18gurian.html
8. Charles Benbrook, Ph.D., 2009. Impacts of Genetically Engineered Crops on Pesticide Use: The First Thirteen Years. The Organic Center, November. http://www.organic-center.org/science.pest.php?action=view&report_id=159
9. Bill Christison, 1998. Family Farmers Warn of Dangers of Genetically Engineered Crops. In Motion magazine, 29 July. http://www.inmotionmagazine.com/genet1.html
10. N. Beintema et al., 2008. International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development: Global Summary for Decision Makers (IAASTD). http://www.agassessment.org/index.cfm?Page=IAASTD%20Reports&ItemID=2713
11. N. Beintema et al., 2008. International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development: Global Summary for Decision Makers (IAASTD). http://www.agassessment.org/index.cfm?Page=IAASTD%20Reports&ItemID=2713
12. B.C.Y. Collard and D.J. Mackill, 2008. Marker-assisted selection: an approach for precision plant breeding in the twenty-first century. Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci 363: 557–572.
13. J.R. Witcombe et al., 2008. Breeding for abiotic stresses for sustainable agriculture. Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci 363: 703–716.
14. John Snape, 2002. Gene mapping the friendly face of GM technology. Farmers Weekly, 1 March: 54.
15. – Memorandum to Linda Kahl on the Flavr Savr tomato (Pathology Review PR–152; FDA Number FMF–000526): Pathology Branch’s evaluation of rats with stomach lesions from three four-week oral (gavage) toxicity studies (IRDC Study Nos. 677–002, 677–004, and 677–005) and an Expert Panel’s report. F.A. Hines. US Department of Health & Human Services, 1993.
– Witness Brief – Flavr Savr tomato study in Final Report (IIT Research Institute, Chicago, IL 60616 USA) cited by Dr Arpad Pusztai before the New Zealand Royal Commission on Genetic Modification: New Zealand Royal Commission on Genetic Modification, 2000.
– V.E. Prescott, P.M. Campbell, A. Moore, et al. 2005. Transgenic expression of bean alpha-amylase inhibitor in peas results in altered structure and immunogenicity. J Agric Food Chem 53: 9023–9030.
– M. Malatesta, M. Biggiogera, E. Manuali, M.B.L. Rocchi, B. Baldelli, G. Gazzanelli, 2003. Fine structural analyses of pancreatic acinar cell nuclei from mice fed on genetically modified soybean. European Journal of Histochemistry 47: 385–388.
– M. Malatesta et al., 2002. Ultrastructural morphometrical and immunocytochemical analyses of hepatocyte nuclei from mice fed on genetically modified soybean. Cell Struct Funct 27: 173-180
– L. Vecchio et al., 2004. Ultrastructural analysis of testes from mice fed on genetically modified soybean. Eur J Histochem 48: 448-454
– M. Malatesta et al., 2008. A long-term study on female mice fed on a genetically modified soybean: effects on liver ageing. Histochem Cell Biol 130: 967-977
– S.W. Ewen and A. Pusztai, 1999. Effects of diets containing genetically modified potatoes expressing Galanthus nivalis lectin on rat small intestine. The Lancet 354: 1353–1354
– Séralini, G.-E. et al., 2007. New Analysis of a Rat Feeding Study with a Genetically Modified Maize Reveals Signs of Hepatorenal Toxicity. Arch Environ Contam Toxicol 52: 596–602.
– R. Tudisco R, P. Lombardi, F. Bovera et al., 2006. Genetically modified soya bean in rabbit feeding: Detection of DNA fragments and evaluation of metabolic effects by enzymatic analysis. Animal Science 82:193–199.
– F.B. Brasil, L.L. Soares, T.S. Faria et al., 2009. The impact of dietary organic and transgenic soy on the reproductive system of female adult rat. Anat Rec (Hoboken) 292: 587–594.
– A. Pusztai, S. Bardocz, 2006. GMO in animal nutrition: Potential benefits and risks. In: R. Mosenthin, J. Zentek, T. Zebrowska, eds. 2006. Biology of Nutrition in Growing Animals 4: 513–540.
– G.E. Séralini, D. Cellier, J. Spiroux de Vendomois, 2007. New analysis of a rat feeding study with a genetically modified maize reveals signs of hepatorenal toxicity. Archives of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology 52: 596–602.
– A. Kilic, M.T. Akay, 2008. A three generation study with genetically modified Bt corn in rats: Biochemical and histopathological investigation. Food Chem Toxicol 46: 1164–1170.
– J.S. de Vendomois, F. Roullier, D. Cellier, G.E. Séralini, 2009. A comparison of the effects of three GM corn varieties on mammalian health. Int J Biol Sci 5:706–726.
– A. Finamore, M. Roselli, S. Britti S et al., 2008. Intestinal and peripheral immune response to MON810 maize ingestion in weaning and old mice. J Agric Food Chem 56: 11533–11539.
– A. Velimirov, C. Binter, J. Zentek, 2008. Biological effects of transgenic maize NK603xMON810 fed in long term reproduction studies in mice. Familie und Jugend Report, Forschungsberichte der Sektion IV Band 3/2008.
– M. Trabalza-Marinucci, G. Brandi, C. Rondini, et al., 2008. A three-year longitudinal study on the effects of a diet containing genetically modified Bt176 maize on the health status and performance of sheep. Livestock Science 113: 178–190.
16. T. Netherwood et al., 2004. Assessing the survival of transgenic plant DNA in the human gastrointestinal tract. Nature Biotechnology 22: 204–209.
17. Paula Hartman Cohen, 2006. Trans Fats: The story behind the label. Harvard Public Health Review. http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/review/rvw_spring06/rvwspr06_transfats.html
18. Anil Netto,2000. Consumer groups for mandatory labelling of GM food. IPS News, 13 March. http://www.twnside.org.sg/title/groups.htm
19. Jack A. Heinemann, PhD, 2009. Report on animals exposed to GM ingredients in animal feed. Prepared for the Commerce Commission of New Zealand, 24 July. http://bit.ly/4HcJuJ
20. – R. Sharma et al., 2006. Detection of transgenic and endogenous plant DNA in digesta and tissues of sheep and pigs fed Roundup Ready canola meal. J Agric Food Chem 54: 1699–1709.
– R. Mazza et al., 2005. Assessing the transfer of genetically modified DNA from feed to animal tissues. Transgenic Res 14: 775–784.
– A. Agodi et al., 2006. Detection of genetically modified DNA sequences in milk from the Italian market. Int J Hyg Environ Health 209: 81–88.
– T. Ran, L. Mei, W. Lei, L. Aihua, H. Ru, S. Jie, 2009. Detection of transgenic DNA in tilapias (Oreochromis niloticus, GIFT strain) fed genetically modified soybeans (Roundup Ready). Aquaculture Research 40: 1350–1357.
21. – R. Tudisco, V. Mastellone, M.I. Cutrignelli, et al., 2010. Fate of transgenic DNA and evaluation of metabolic effects in goats fed genetically modified soybean and in their offsprings. Animal 4: 1662–1671.
– Jack A. Heinemann, PhD, 2009. Report on animals exposed to GM ingredients in animal feed. Prepared for the Commerce Commission of New Zealand, 24 July. http://bit.ly/4HcJuJ
22. Charles Benbrook, 2009. The magnitude and impacts of the biotech and organic seed price premium. The Organic Center, December. http://www.organic-center.org/reportfiles/Seeds_Final_11-30-09.pdf
23. E. Neal Blue, 2007. Risky business: Economic and regulatory impacts from the unintended release of genetically engineered rice varieties into the rice merchandising system of the US. Report for Greenpeace. http://www.greenpeace.org/raw/content/international/press/reports/risky-business.pdf
24. Soil Association, 2002. Seeds of doubt: North American farmers’ experience of GM crops. http://www.soilassociation.org/seedsofdoubt
25. R. Binimelis, 2008. Coexistence of plants and coexistence of farmers: Is an individual choice possible? Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics 21: 437–457.
26. Roger Levett, 2008. Choice: Less can be more. Food Ethics magazine 3: 11. http://www.foodethicscouncil.org/node/384
27. See, for example, Marie-Monique Robin’s documentary film, Le Monde Selon Monsanto (The World According to Monsanto), ARTE, 2008; and the website of the NGO, Coalition Against Bayer-Dangers, www.cbgnetwork.org
28. – BBC News Online 2000. GM firm sues Canadian farmer, 6 June. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/779265.stm
– Center for Food Safety, 2007. Monsanto vs. US Farmers: November 2007 Update. Washington, DC and San Francisco, CA, November.
29. Stephen Leahy, 2004. Monsanto ”seed police” scrutinize farmers. InterPress Service, 15 January. http://www.commondreams.org/headlines05/0115-04.htm
When I first began to learn about the existence of GMOs, and that I’d been eating them, unbeknownst, since the mid-1990s, I thought that the technology was in the same ballpark as hybridizing plants. I have since learned that they are not the same thing – at all.
Vicki Mattern of Mother Earth News writes:
The term “hybrid,” which you’ll often see in seed catalogs, refers to a plant variety developed through a specific, controlled cross of two parent plants. Usually, the parents are naturally compatible varieties within the same species. This hybridization, or the crossing of compatible varieties, happens naturally in the wild; plant breeders basically just steer the process to control the outcome. In contrast, GM varieties (sometimes called “genetically modified organisms,” or “GMOs”) are a whole different animal…
Unlike hybrids, which are developed in the field using natural, low-tech methods, GM varieties are created in a lab using highly complex technology, such as gene splicing. These high-tech GM varieties can include genes from several species — a phenomenon that almost never occurs in nature. “With GM varieties, genes are transferred from one kingdom to another, such as bacteria to plants,” Navazio says. A corn variety developed by Monsanto, for instance, includes genetic material from the bacterium Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis), which kills European corn borers. So far, only commodity crops with GM traits — such as corn, soy, alfalfa and sugar beets — have been approved by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) for use, primarily in processed foods and animal feeds. The exception is GM sweet corn, which is now available at your grocery store. (For more on foods in your grocery store that contain GM ingredients, see How to Avoid Genetically Modified Food.)
The landscape of food has changed. Not only is it available 24/7 and marketed to us using mobile apps and Internet games, but it is also full of lots of ingredients that just didn’t exist when we were kids.
So while our food may look the same, it now contains artificial, engineered and genetically altered ingredients that are so new that patents have been filed on them in the United States Patent and Trademark Office.
Below is as good of a fact sheet as I’ve seen on GMOs.
FACT SHEET: GENETICALLY ENGINEERED FOODS
Questions and Health Concerns
What are genetically engineered (GE) foods?
These are foods created from the insertion of a gene, bacteria or virus from one species into a different species to produce a desired effect, usually resistance to herbicides or insects. The terms genetically modified (GM) and genetically modified organisms (GMO’s) are typically used interchangeably with GE.
Are they the same as foods from traditional breeding?
No. Traditional breeding between the same or similar species, such as crossing two types of corn or apples, has been done for thousands of years. GE foods, only developed in the past few decades, are created in a lab and are between different species.
What kinds of food are genetically engineered?
There are currently six major foods sold in the U.S. that are typically genetically engineered. These are listed below with the percent that are genetically engineered according to the United States Department of Agriculture:
- Corn 88%
- Soybeans 94%
- Cotton (Cottonseed oil) 90%
- Canola 90%
- Sugar beets 95%
Because most of these are used widely, about two-thirds of processed food contains a GE ingredient. Conversely, the vast majority of raw fruits and vegetables are not GE. Organic foods, by definition, can’t be GE.
Does genetic engineering improve the nutritional quality of foods?
No. There are no GE foods on the market in which nutritional quality is enhanced beyond a non-GE food counterpart.
Is the act of genetic engineering precise?
No. The entire foundation of GE is that the introduction of one foreign gene, bacteria or virus into a plant will activate one protein, producing one desired effect and nothing more. But this ignores basic science – the chances of harmful unintended consequences with GE are substantially increased:[i]
One gene often creates multiple proteins
- The location of the gene often varies, which can affect whether it produces the desired protein or not
- The insertion of the gene can disrupt the genetic blueprint of the plant
- The new gene can either silence other genes that were normally active or activate other genes that were silent
- A promoter (typically a virus) is usually added that helps the gene activate a desired protein. However, it may also activate other proteins that were silent, which could lead to harmful effects on humans.
What evidence of harmful effects are there?
The deadliest incident occurred in the food supplement l-tryptophan, which had been used safely by millions of people as a sleep aid for decades. However, when a Japanese company produced a GE version in the late 1980’s, thousands of people contracted an extremely painful, serious disease, EMS, that killed at least 37 and left thousands with disabilities, including paralysis.[ii] The FDA subsequently removed virtually all l-tryptophan off the market, although only the GE version was linked to EMS.
It’s more difficult to detect harmful conditions such as cancer, birth defects, toxins or allergies, since they have other causes and/or can take longer to develop than EMS. Moreover, the FDA doesn’t require GE foods to be labeled, so most people don’t know they’re consuming them. This makes it virtually impossible to isolate and track them.
However, numerous credible animal studies all over the world have shown disturbing results. For example:
– In Scotland, GE potatoes fed to rats showed lowered nutritional content and suffered damaged immune systems, smaller brains, livers and testicles and enlarged intestines[iii]
– In Australia, a harmless gene in a bean engineered into a pea produced immune reactions in mice, indicating allergic reactions and/or toxins[iv]
– In Austria, a government study showed that mice fed GE corn had fewer litters and fewer total offspring[v]
– In France, a study found that GE corn previously thought harmless revealed hormone-dependent diseases and early signs of toxicity in rats[vi]
Harm to animals doesn’t necessarily prove harm to humans. However, it is a definite indication that more studies should be done. This hasn’t happened.
How is safety testing done in the U.S.? Is it adequate?
The FDA is responsible for food safety. However, it doesn’t do any testing on GE food and doesn’t require any independent tests. The only studies done are by the same companies developing the foods and they’re not required to give all their data to the FDA. They only need to declare their studies are adequate and that the GE food is safe. By and large, GE food safety is self-regulated.
The bottom line
Plants can be genetically engineered to be resistant to pests or herbicides. But in the process, there is evidence they may be causing harm to human health as an unintended consequence.
Sometimes I am so overwhelmed by this topic I am reporting about here – genetically modified organisms – GMO(s) – that I don’t know where to start my posts. Today is one of those days. It is a massive topic with far-reaching implications and I feel this driving energy even as I type… steering me… saying… don’t blow this… don’t say the wrong thing… this is BIG information and people’s lives are at stake. It’s like I’ve experienced some kind of spiritual conversion and I am called to this issue. If I am to be a spokesperson for this issue, then please God, let me be a good one.
Every day there are countless articles to read, videos to watch, data to absorb. I have merely started all that, but I know I’ve already learned enough to know this is perhaps as big an issue for our planet as climate change is. It goes way beyond labeling or eating processed foods.
Though there are countless life forms that can and are being genetically engineered, the present focus of SLEUTH4HEALTH is on how the technology affects food. It’s about seeds and seed manipulation, which, in my view, does affect everything that is alive on our planet. When you start messing with the genetic material, the DNA of seeds, you mess with all living things, because all living things must eat and all living things are tied in some way to other living things, which at some point in the food chain are tied to what grows from seeds.***
I will stop here for this post, and let it hang in the rarefied air of philosophy land for a bit, but before I do let me edit in (the following was added after initial post) a quote from Vendana Shiva – quantum physicist turned environmental activist. In her keynote address at the 2009 Organicology Conference in Portland, Oregon, she said:
I had to abandon that passionate love affair with physics – and quantum physics in particular – for a love affair with the seed, because the threat to the seed made me realize how vital it was to continuity of life.
***Disclaimer: I am not a biologist nor a scientist of any kind, and if any such individual finds flaws in my reasoning, please let me know.