A farmer fills his planters with seed corn using a leading Monsanto brand.
Oops. The World Food Prize committee’s got a bit of egg on its face—genetically engineered egg. They just awarded the World Food Prize to three scientists, including one from Syngenta and one from Monsanto, who invented genetic engineering because, they say, the technology increases crop yields and decreases pesticide use. (Perhaps not coincidentally, Monsanto and Syngenta are major sponsors of the World Food Prize, along with a third biotech giant, Dupont Pioneer.)
Monsanto makes the same case on its website, saying, “Since the advent of biotechnology, there have been a number of claims from anti-biotechnology activists that genetically modified (GM) crops don’t increase yields. Some have claimed that GM crops actually have lower yields than non-GM crops… GM crops generally have higher yields due to both breeding and biotechnology.”
Heinemann, a professor of molecular biology at the University of Canterbury in New Zealand and director of the Center for Integrated Research in Biosafety, says he first began looking into the matter after he heard a remark made by Paul Collier in 2010. Both Heinemann and Collier, an Oxford economics professor and author of the bestselling book The Bottom Billion, were speaking at a conference in Zurich.
Collier “made the offhand remark during his talk that because Europe has shunned GMOs [genetically modified organisms], it’s lost productivity compared to the US,” Heinemann recalls. “That seemed odd to me. So while he was talking, I went to the FAO [UN Food and Agriculture Organization] database and I had a look at yields for corn. And over the short term, from 1995 to 2010, the US and Western Europe were neck and neck, there was no difference at all. So his assertion that lack of GMOs was causing Europe to fall behind didn’t seem true.”
Heinemann attempted to ask Collier for the source of his facts through the conference’s Internet-mediated audience Q&A system, but he never got an answer. He continued poking around for data and stumbled upon what he calls “the textbook example of the problems that come from a low genetic diversity in agriculture” – the 1970 Southern corn leaf blight epidemic.
“Really what happened by 1970 was that upwards of 85 percent of the corn grown in the US was almost genetically identical,” explains Heinemann. “The US is the world’s biggest producer of corn and both geographically and in quantity, so when you cover that much land with a crop of such a low genetic diversity, you’re simply asking for it to fail… In 1970 a previously unknown pathogen hit the US corn crop and the US almost lost the entire crop. It was a major crisis of the day. The only thing that saved the corn crop was that the weather changed in 1971 and that weather change wasn’t as favorable to the pathogen, so it gave farmers and breeders and extra year to swap over the corn germplasm to a variety that wasn’t as vulnerable.”
All told, the epidemic cost an estimated five trillion kilocalories in lost food energy, making it “many times larger than the Irish potato famine,” said Heinemann.
“Now that was in a day where biofuels were not being made from corn. So there was no competition for those food calories… Fast-forward to the drought of 2012. How many food calories were lost because of it? In kilocalories, it’s 89 trillion just from the drought. That’s just from an annual variation due to weather… The U.S. is the biggest producer and exporter of corn.”
When the U.S. corn crop fails, the entire world feels the pain.
Given the stakes, Heinemann decided to look at the productivity and sustainability of the U.S. agricultural system. And when examining sustainability, he means it in a very literal sense: can this system be sustained over time? Is U.S. agriculture resilient or is it highly susceptible to variations in weather, pests or other stressors?
Instead of examining North America alone, he chose to measure it against Western Europe. Therefore, he is able to measure not just whether North American agriculture improved over time, but whether or not it improved more or less than a similar region. Agriculture on both sides of the Atlantic is fairly similar, with the major exception the adoption of GE crops.
Both the U.S. and Canada were early adopters, whereas Western Europe did not adopt GE crops. The study compared crops that are common to both regions: corn and wheat in the U.S. and Western Europe, and canola in Canada and Western Europe. Almost all of the corn and canola grown in North America is genetically modified, whereas no GE wheat is grown in either region studied. Therefore, the study could isolate whether any increases in yields were thanks to genetic engineering or simply due to conventional crop breeding.
Even in genetically engineered plants, most of the genes in the plant come from conventional breeding. Think about the new sheep genetically engineered by scientists in Uruguay to – no joke – glow in the dark. Its DNA contains genes that tell its cells to make wool, hooves, four legs, a head, and everything else that makes it a sheep. Only a few genes – the ones that make the sheep glow in the dark – were inserted via genetic engineering. If the sheep happens to have the best wool for making sweaters or it produces the best milk for making cheese, that’s due to conventional breeding and not genetic engineering.
The same is true for crops. One or more genetically engineered traits can be added to any variety of corn, soybeans, or canola. Most of those crops’ traits come from conventional breeding. If a GE crop does particularly well or particularly poorly, the success or failure could be due to the genes inserted via genetic engineering… or it could be due to all of its other conventionally bred genes.
Heinemann’s group found that between 1985 and 2010, Western Europe has experienced yield gains at a faster rate than North America for all three crops measured. That means that the U.S., which grows mostly GE corn, and Canada, which grows mostly GE canola, are not doing as well as Europe, which grows non-GE corn and canola. The increases in corn yields in the U.S. have remained relatively consistent both before and after the introduction of GE corn. Furthermore, Western Europe is experiencing faster yield gains than America for non-GE wheat.
What does this mean? “There’s no evidence that [GE crops] have given us higher yields,” says Heinemann. “The evidence points exclusively to breeding as the input that has increased yields over time. And there is evidence that it is constraining yields in the North American agroecosystem.” He offers two potential reasons why. First, he says, “By making the germplasm so much narrower, the average yield goes down because the low yields are so low.”
In other words, the lack of biodiversity among major crops today results in bigger losses during bad years.
Companies that make GE crops benefit from a relatively new law, passed in 1994, allowing for much stricter intellectual property rights on seeds. Previously, a company had the rights to sell its seed. A farmer could buy that seed and cross it with other seeds to produce locally adapted varieties. He or she could then save and replant those varieties. Now, the company can patent the genes inside the plant. It doesn’t matter if a farmer breeds Monsanto’s corn with a local variety and produces a brand new type of corn. If the resulting seeds have Monsanto’s patented gene in them, then Monsanto owns them. The farmer cannot save his own seeds.
This means that seed companies now control the amount of biodiversity available to farmers. And the number of varieties they sell has been going down. For example, the study found that in 2005, farmers could choose from nearly 9,000 different varieties of corn. The majority (57 percent) were GE, but farmers still had over 3,000 non-GE varieties to pick from. By 2010, GE options had slightly expanded, but non-GE options plummeted by two thirds. Similar reductions in varieties sold were seen in soybeans and cotton, too. By 2010, only 17 percent of corn varieties, 10 percent of soybean varieties, and 15 percent of cotton varieties available in seed catalogues were non-GE.
But these numbers make the U.S. seed supply look more biodiverse than it actually is. Within all of those thousands of corn varieties sold, one single variety, Reed Yellow Dent, makes up 47 percent of the gene pool used to create hybrid varieties. All in all, corn germplasm comes from just seven founding inbred lines. More than a third come from one of those seven, a line called B73.
With farmers in nearly every state planting such genetically similar corn, farmers experience booms and busts together. Farmers in Mexico, the birthplace of corn, plant a fantastic variety of corn. The plants differ in color, height, ear size, drought tolerance, maturity time, and more. If bad weather shows up late in the season, the early maturing varieties still provided a harvest. If it’s dry, the drought tolerant varieties survive. If a new disease shows up, some of the corn is bound to have some resistance to it whereas other varieties will be more susceptible to it. Biodiversity acts almost like an insurance system.
Planting genetically identical crops results in the opposite. It’s like betting all of your money on one lottery number. And when U.S. corn farmers lose the lottery, they all lose together so the national yield plummets.
Second, Heinemann adds, “Another possibility is that it’s not genetic engineering per se but it’s the innovation policy through which genetic engineering is successful that is causing the U.S. agroecosystem to invest in the wrong things. So the innovation strategy gives signals to the industry to produce things that can be controlled by strict property rights instruments, but these things are not contributing to sustainable agriculture. The problem is that the biotechnologies that the US is invested in are limiting the sustainability and productivity of the agroecosystem.” (Heinemann means “biotechnologies” in a very broad sense, as in any technology humans use in agriculture, even something as simple as using mulch or composting.)
“Western Europe has gone for a different kind of innovation strategy,” he continues. “Because Europe has had to innovate without using genetic engineering,” due to its laws that do not allow GE crops, “it does so in a way that rewards the plants. They’re getting greater yield and using less pesticide to do it. But the way the US is innovating, it’s penalizing all plants whether they are genetically engineered or not.”
Yep, that’s right. In addition to increasing crop yields faster, European nations have also reduced pesticides more than we have.
“The US and US industry have been crowing about the reduction in chemical insecticide use with the introduction of Bt crops [GE crops that produce their own pesticide],” says Heinemann. “And at face value, that’s true. They’ve gone to about 85 percent of the levels that they used in the pre-GE era. But what they don’t tell you is that France went down to 12 percent of its previous levels. France is the fourth biggest exporter of corn in the world, one of the biggest exporters of wheat, and it’s only 11 percent of the size of the U.S.
“So here is a major agroecosystem growing the same things as the US, corn and wheat, and it’s reduced chemical insecticide use to 12% of 1995 levels. This is what a modern agroecosystem can do. What the US has done is invented a way to use comparatively more insecticide.” Comparatively more than what? “More than it should be!” exclaims Heinemann. “It should be down to 12% too!”
A new study looking at pigs that eat genetically engineered (GE) versus non-GE feed suggests we could be overlooking health problems associated with using the unnatural gene technology in crops that livestock and people eat, according to some consumer experts and scientists.
In the new study published in the Journal of Organic Systems, Australian and U.S. researchers found pigs fed genetically engineered feed were much more likely to suffer from severe stomach inflammation and heavier uteri, a condition that could signal endometrial cancer, endometriosis, abnormal thickening, or gynecological polyps, all things that could affect fertility.
“Clearly, issues are raised in this pig study that need to be followed up, especially since in the U.S., we don’t require safety assessments before [GE crops] come onto the market,” says Michael Hansen, PhD, chief scientist at Consumers Union.
The GE feed used in the study included ingredients like corn, which is genetically engineered to produce pesticides within the plant or to withstand heavy sprayings of glyphosate, the main ingredient in Roundup. Some corn is genetically manipulated to produce pesticides internally and also withstand chemical spraying. Researchers also used GE soy developed for glyphosate dousing, another go-to ingredient for livestock feed (and processed people foods.)
Read More: 7 Things You Need to Know about GMOs
Long-term feeding studies like the recent pig study—they fed pigs on this diet about 5 months under real-world conditions until slaughter—are also rare. In America, the FDA doesn’t require studies investigating potential health impacts of GE ingredients to humans before genetically engineered crops can enter the market, and seed companies who own patents on GE technology must approve researchers’ requests to study their seeds, something critics say greatly stifles research.
“If the company decides they don’t like your research, then it doesn’t get approved. That’s not the way you do science,” Hansen says. “Imagine where we’d be if we let the tobacco industry decide which studies could have been done on tobacco and its safety.”
This rare feeding study found the uterus weight of GE-fed pigs was 25 percent higher than non-GE-fed pigs; GE-fed pigs also showed severe stomach inflammation at a rate of 2.6 times that of non-GE-fed pigs. It’s important to note, though, that even pigs on the non-GE diet experienced moderate stomach inflammation, a side-effect scientists say needs to be studied further.
Using pigs in the experiment serves two purposes. According to Hansen, commercial pig farmers are trying to figure out what’s causing emerging health problems in pigs. The physiology of pigs is the closest to human physiology of vertebrate animals, too. “The findings here are of particular significance for potential impacts on human health,” explains Warren Porter, PhD, professor of zoology and environmental toxicology at the University of Wisconsin, Madison.
The study stirred up more questions, too. Researchers didn’t examine the large and small intestines, but Porter says future research should focus on those organs to evaluate the gut microflora of animals fed GE versus non-GE feeds. Gut bacteria levels can have very important impacts on immune function and should ultimately be evaluated in long-term feeding studies before the government releases these crops into the food chain, Porter says.
A 2012 study published in the journal Current Microbiology raises gut and immune system concerns, too. In that study, German researchers found glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup, kills off beneficial bacteria, allowing more resistant, pathogenic germs to colonize in the gut. Warren notes that on Wisconsin dairy farms, the lifespan of organically fed cows is often up to three times longer than the lifespan of GE-fed cows, with the literature suggesting another link to GE-foods and immune system problems.
“It is important to remember that if immune function is being affected by GMO crops, it is also highly likely that endocrine and neurological functions are also being impacted because those three systems interact with each other in multiple, intricate ways,” Porter says. Hormonal changes in the endocrine system could also affect developmental processes of fetuses in pregnant females, he adds. Hormones are extremely sensitive to even tiny doses of chemicals, meaning there could be very broad impacts of feeding GE ingredients on fetal development, Warren adds.
“The public should be aware of the multiple connections between organ systems in normal bodily function when considering consumption of GMO foods,” Porter says. “These intricate interconnections between gut function, immune health, and the health of the rest of the body also elevates the need for labeling of GMO foods for human consumption and for domestic animal production.”
To avoid GMOs in your diet, eat organic, Non-GMO Project Verified, and 100-percent grass-fed foods. If you don’t want to wait for the federal government to make GMO labeling mandatory, consider starting at the state level. In June 2013, both Connecticut and Maine passed GMO labeling laws.
The most hated company in the world right now isn’t a member of Big Oil. It’s not a shady Internet company or a bailed-out megabank. Populist discontent toward dirty energy, high-tech snoops, and greedy bankers has occasionally been fierce, but it’s never been laser-focused like the outrage that drew an estimated (by the organizers) 2 million protesters to anti-Monsanto rallies in more than 50 countries at the end of May.
Think about that. If those numbers are accurate, a single private company drew almost as many protesters in a single day as the worldwide Occupy movement at its peak. Monsanto didn’t even have to bankrupt any economies or leech billions of dollars off taxpayers. All it took was three little letters: GMO.
What is GMO?
You probably know something about GMOs, which stands for genetically modified organisms, since it’s as closely associated with Monsanto as “IRS” is with taxes. The popular definition of a GMO is (according to Wikipedia) “an organism whose genetic material has been altered using genetic engineering techniques.” If you want to get pedantic about this definition, humankind has been genetically modifying organisms ever since the first nomads settled down to grow crops, since virtually nothing we eat today is the same exact plant or animal (or Twinkie) it was 10,000 years ago. But that’s not why everyone’s afraid of Monsanto. Monsanto is scary because — in the eyes of detractors — it’s compressing 10,000 years of genetic adaptations into 10 years of mad science.
The history of commercialized GMO foods as we now know them began just two decades ago, with an “enhanced” tomato that was so unprofitable to produce that its developer wound up selling itself to Monsanto. Since then, other developments have embedded GMOs into a rather substantial part of the world’s food supply.
Source : ISAAA Brief on Global Status of Commercialized Biotech Crops, 2012.
Total global cropland, by comparison, amounts to roughly 1.5 billion hectares, so GMOs now take up more than 11% of all cropland in the world. ISAAA — the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications, a pro-GMO nonprofit supported in part by Monsanto’s funding — says that GMOs have made 100-fold gains in terms of planted cropland since 1996. The United States, Brazil, Argentina, Canada, and India comprise the lion’s share of GMO cropland, as more than 152 million of the world’s 170 million GMO hectares are found in those five countries.
All of this adds up to big business. The six largest seed-and-weed companies — which typically pair specially engineered seeds with herbicides that often eliminate any plants not attuned to their unique chemical structure — accounted for close to $50 billion in global sales across their various product lines in 2009, the last year for which complete data was available:
Seed + Trait Sales
Global Seed Market Share
Global Agrochemical Market Share
Total Agro-Tech R&D Spending
Fear of a mod planet
A quick search of “GMO” will turn up all sorts of scaremonger websites, with all sorts of frightening claims that when you eat a Monsanto-developed crop, you’re consigning yourself to a short, sickly life of gastrointestinal (or just general) agony. Cancer, allergic reactions, liver problems, sterility, and even the unnatural modification of your genes — these are just the claims I found on the website of the Institute for Responsible Technology, which purports to be a leading anti-GMO advocacy group. I won’t go into some of the anti-Monsanto conspiracy theories you’ll find bandied about on less reputable corners of the Internet.
It may not be easy to debunk all of these claims, but thanks to extensive national medical records, we can at least see how close to the mark they may strike. Since America was the earliest adopter of GMO foodstuffs, and is now the world’s predominant grower and consumer of GMO crops, it should be experiencing the worst of the purported GMO health problems.
Are we more cancerous today than we were in 1996? Actually, not by a long shot:
The results are even more pronounced when focusing on cancers of the stomach, colon, and rectum, which all show a persistent and significant downtrend throughout the entire tracked period across race and gender divisions. If we’re eating ourselves to death, shouldn’t our digestive systems be the most damaged by these Frankenfoods? Cancer statistics don’t back up anti-GMO claims at all, and with more than 16 years in the food supply, you’d expect there to be a statistically significant change. The one statistically significant spike on these graphs, occurring around 1990, is often blamed on the Chernobyl disaster.
There has been an increase in death rates from chronic liver disease and cirrhosis in recent years, by about one person per 100,000 from 1999 to 2010 — but keep in mind that these liver problems are typically alcohol-related. Simply noting a slight statistical uptick isn’t enough to blame on modified crops. People might just be binge-drinking more.
Food allergies, however, might be a different story:
The little disclaimer at the bottom reads “statistically significant trend,” and the prevalence of food allergies among children increased by 18% from 1997 to 2007. That’s rather notable. The average number of food-allergy-related hospital visits per year also spiked toward the end of the tracking period, from only 2,600 per year in 2000 to more than 9,500 in 2006. On its own, this may not be enough to blame on GMOs — except for soy, none of the foodstuffs on the CDC’s list of common food allergens is a known GMO crop (although wheat appears headed in that direction). The body may react to one type of food by increasing its reaction severity to other types, but the interplay between these factors is complex and not easily reduced to a simple cause-and-effect relationship.
Other noted health problems — here I refer to a long essay by Earth Open Source, no more an impartial observer than the ISAAA (impartiality is all but impossible to come by in the GMO debate) — include toxin contamination from the overuse of herbicides on GMOs modified for herbicide resistance, stomach lesions, and adverse immune reactions in mice, liver and kidney abnormalities in rats … well, it goes on like this. You can read about the effects in detail at this link, beginning on page 37 (PDF opens in new window). If you can name an ailment, there’s probably a study somewhere that has traced its cause to GMOs. Yet the world continues to live longer. U.S. life expectancy has increased from 76 years in 1996 to 78.6 years in 2011, and global life expectancy has increased from 66.4 to nearly 69 years in the same time period. If we’re less healthy, we sure are coping with it more effectively.
There has to be a reason farmers keep using GMOs. The most obvious would be that the end product — that is, the stuff you eventually eat — would yield more per planting (that is, per acre), which should result in lower costs at the consumer level. To the extent that this is true, it can’t be credited to the adoption of GMO seed, as yield improvements and price declines began long before Monsanto got into the seed business:
Soybean yields haven’t grown quite as impressively but have still doubled on a per-acre basis over the same time frame. Cotton yields have also soared over the past several decades. GMO crops had nothing to do with it — old-fashioned hybridization, improved production techniques and infrastructures, and the spread of these two important developments around the world created a modern agricultural revolution after the Second World War. GMO crops might be in the process of extending that revolution today, but they may not. Few processes are so simple that a simple tweaking of one element can completely explain a change in another.
GMOs can’t claim to have reduced crop costs through efficiency gains, either. Since commercial introduction in 1996, two of the three major crops planted have nearly doubled in price:
Ultimately, this is probably good for farmers, but bad for everyone else. Not only are you buying Frankenfoods that will wreck your health, but you’re also paying twice as much for the privilege. Agriculture can be so cruel. (Yes, that was tongue-in-cheek.)
Monsanto itself claims that GMOs benefit farmers through increased yield, greater insect and disease protection, and drought and heat resistance. The modified crops also conserve the soil, minimize the use of herbicides, and reduce the energy used in the growing process.
I’ve already shown that yields have been increasing for decades, so Monsanto is at best merely continuing a long-running trend, and at worst piggybacking on other improvements to make disingenuous claims. Herbicides and fertilizers have shipped in more than 35% greater quantities this year over the volumes seen in 1996. Fertilizer, as you might expect, is one significant part of increasing crop yields. Since fertilizers are quite energy-intensive to make (many are derived from natural gas) and can be damaging to soil quality over time, this one factor tends to disprove a number of Monsanto’s claims:
The increased use of herbicide designed to work with GMOs (and vice versa) appears to be creating strains of “superweeds” that actively resist the chemicals. Nature tends not to sit idly by while scientists try to pound it into submission. The long-term consequences of an arms race between chemical-cum-GMO producers and the invasive species they want to push out of farm fields could very possibly result in damages beyond the circumstantial ones I’ve already highlighted.
The only real claim that I can’t disprove (or at least weigh down with caveats) is that of drought and heat resistance, mostly because it’s not easy to find data on the claim in either direction. Reducing water use is no small feat in a world quite obviously enduring a period of abnormal heat and drought. However, this alone can’t answer for the fact that something should be done about widespread droughts beyond the creation of GMOs that drink just a little bit less water — particularly if these GMOs result in the indirect use of more water by herbicide-resistant weeds.
How do you solve a problem like Monsanto?
It’s tempting to reduce complex issues into outraged sound bites, like “GMOs are killing people!” or “GMOs are feeding the world!” The truth, as always, isn’t quite so easy.
The threat of tainted food — whether by chemicals or through genetic manipulation — is a cause that arouses outrage at a pitch few other causes will ever muster. The threat of a shadowy corporation with its fingers buried in the heart of our food supply only heightens this outrage, and Monsanto’s heavy-handed efforts at control have done nothing to soften its public image. However, the science of GMOs has been carried out in a highly ideological way on both sides, which doesn’t help when all you want is the truth.
It seems that GMOs will inevitably become a larger part of our food supply, because the corporate motivator in the United States has proved to be stronger than the citizen motivator in recent years. A few protests won’t change that. It will take concerted, long-running national efforts to change diets and attitudes before Monsanto and its peers are forced to loosen their grip on American farmlands. If you choose to be one of the people on the vanguard of that effort, make sure that you understand the science as it is, and not as you’d like it to be.
Are we less healthy today than we were two decades ago? It’s possible, even though most of the statistics don’t show that. Is it all Monsanto’s fault? Probably not.
What macro trend was Warren Buffett referring to when he said “this is the tapeworm that’s eating at American competitiveness”? Find out in our free report: “What’s Really Eating at America’s Competitiveness.” You’ll also discover an idea to profit as companies work to eradicate this efficiency-sucking tapeworm. Justclick here for free, immediate access.
The article Why Is Monsanto the Most Hated Company in the World? originally appeared on Fool.com.
Britain is to push the European Union to relax restrictions on the licensing of genetically modified crops for human consumption amid growing scientific evidence that they are safe, and surveys showing they are supported by farmers. The Environment Secretary, Owen Paterson, is expected to use a speech next week to outline the start of a new government approach to GM to ensure Britain “is not left behind” in agricultural science.
The move comes as 61 per cent of UK farmers now say they would like to grow GM crops after a disastrous 12-month cycle of poor weather that is expected significantly to reduce harvest yields. Senior government officials said that ministers are increasingly concerned that the potential moral and ethical benefits of GM are being ignored by costly and bureaucratic licensing regulations.
With one-twelfth of global arable land under GM cultivation they have privately warned that Britain faces being left behind in an important technology that has the potential to improve crop yields, help the UK’s agricultural industry and provide benefits to human health through vitamin fortification.
Government sources added that GM also had applications beyond food including the potential to combat diseases such as ash dieback and in developing new medicines.
“The point about GM is not simply about food production,” they said. “There are wider potential environmental and economic benefits to the technology both in the UK and internationally.
“What we want to do is start a dialogue within Europe on GM based upon the science.”
Ministers are hopeful of building support in Brussels for a change of heart on GM, with Germany seen as a key swing voter. However, any attempts to relax the rules could face opposition from countries such as Poland which in April became the eighth EU member state to ban the cultivation of GM crops.
Mr Paterson is said to believe that Britain should take the lead in moving the debate on from the knee-jerk reaction against GM for much of the last decade.
The move comes as a poll of over 600 British farmers found a considerable shift in their stance toward GM in the past year, with nearly a third saying they would be more likely to grow GM crops if it were legal now than they were 12 months ago – about half of them a “lot more” so.
On top of the advocated benefits of improving yields and cutting down on costs such as pesticides, the increasingly extreme weather has concentrated farmers’ minds on the need to guard against climate change.
“The weather has definitely had an impact,” said Martin Haworth, director of policy at the National Farmers Union. “Farmers are becoming more and more aware that climate change doesn’t mean a gradual rise in temperatures but rather a stream of extreme weather events. GM technology is one possible way of mitigating this.
“Last summer was disastrous for potatoes, for example. The potential for growing potatoes resistant to blight has had an impact on some farmers’ attitudes,” he said, adding that farmers were “very frustrated” at not being able to grow GM crops.
One of the survey’s respondents said they wanted to grow GM crops because “the terrible weather in the past two years has meant that yields have been down and the cost of fertiliser and pesticides have been rising ever since”.
GM crops can be engineered to grow faster, increase their resistance to weeds, pests and pesticides, produce extra nutrients or survive harsher weather conditions. They are created by taking genes with beneficial qualities from other organisms and injecting them into the plant. A gene from bacteria found in soil has proved particularly effective at warding off pests from cotton plants, for example.
But while they are widely grown in North and South America, GM crops are effectively banned in the UK and Europe where they are considered on an extremely strict case-by-case basis.
Since the first GM food was produced in 1994 – a delayed-ripening tomato, which had a longer shelf-life – the EU has granted just two licences to cultivate GM crops, neither of them grown in the UK. One was for plants engineered to resist corn borers and the other for a starchy potato used to make paper.
Apart from that, Europe’s exposure to GM products has been confined to imports of genetically modified animal feed, while much of the meat, eggs and milk comes from animals that have been reared on engineered grains.
Science Minister David Willetts said that controls on GM crops should be weakened to make it easier for Britain’s farmers to grow them.
“We believe that GM crops can help make agriculture more efficient and also just as importantly more sustainable, by, for example, reducing the use of pesticides and the use of fossil fuels,” he said.
“There are just too m any 21st-Century technologies that Europe is just being very slow to adopt… one productive way forward is to have this discussion as part of a wider need for Europe to remain innovative rather than a museum of 20th century technology,” he added.
A European Commission analysis of 130 research projects carried out by 500 groups over 25 years concluded in December 2010 that there is “no scientific evidence associating genetically modified organisms with higher risks for the environment or food and feed safety than conventional plants or organisms”.
However, the evidence is not conclusive and the technique continues to be highly controversial. Opponents to GM crops argue that it is far too early to conclude that the technique is safe – including many farmers, with a quarter saying they would not cultivate them under any circumstances.
They are concerned that adopting GM crops could foster stronger pests, diseases and weeds as their foes evolve to adapt to engineered plant and that the injected “rogue” genes could cause problems by spreading to other plants.
The report was conducted by Farmers Weekly magazine and the Reed publishing group and commissioned by Barclays.
Plant scientists question Monsanto’s findings about escaped wheat variety | South China Morning Post
Several plant scientists have questioned conclusions US seeds giant Monsanto drew from its investigation of an escaped gene-altered wheat variety and said there is still a risk that rogue grain is in the seed supply.
In its first detailed response to the announcement that a genetically modified wheat not approved for use was found growing in an American farmer’s field, Monsanto said that it tested 31,200 seed samples in the US states of Oregon, where the wheat was found, and Washington and found no contamination.
That’s not enough to convince some researchers that this genetic modification, not cleared for commercial sale, won’t be found in some wheat seeds.
“We don’t know where in the whole chain it is,” said Carol Mallory-Smith, the weed science professor at Oregon State University who tested the initial wheat plants. “I don’t know how Monsanto can declare anything. We had these plants in the field.”
The US Department of Agriculture is investigating how the wheat showed up eight years after the company ended field tests. It was found growing on about 1 per cent of the farmer’s 51-hectare field, and he submitted it to Oregon State for testing after an Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide didn’t kill it.
Monsanto’s tests show the genetically modified variety isn’t present in the types of seeds planted on the Oregon farm or in wheat seed common in the region, Monsanto chief technology officer Robb Fraley said.
In previous cases, such as during the outbreak of herbicide-resistant weeds in recent years, Monsanto has played down the risks, said Doug Gurian-Sherman, senior scientist at the Union of Concerned Scientists, which is critical of Monsanto’s genetically modified research.
Although environmentalists might at first argue about the ramifications of burning so much organic matter right out in the open, the deeper truth is that genetic pollution poses a vastly more serious threat to our world, and burning GM corn is the one sure way to destroy the poisonous genetic code contained in plant tissues. In fact, I hope to see the day when the U.S. courts order the destruction of all GM corn fields across America. And I suspect that if the courts won’t rise to the occasion, the People will sooner or later find a way to get it done on their own. Think “Army of the 12 Monkeys” but with a GMO slant.
Lajos Bognar, Hungary’s Minister of Rural Development, reported this week that around 500 hectares of GM corn were ordered burned by the government. Hungary has criminalized the planting of genetically modified crops of any kind, and it has repeatedly burned thousands of hectares of illegal GM crops in years past.
This news was originally published in Portuguese at Rede Brasil Atual. An English translation has been posted at GMwatch.org.
GMOs are outlawed across the planet
GMOs have been banned in 27 countries, and GMOs are required to be labeled in at least 50 countries. In America, where Monsanto has deployed an insidious degree of influence over the legislature and courts, GMOs are neither illegal nor required to be labeled. In fact, 71 U.S. Senators recently voted against a measure that would have allowed states to pass their own food labeling laws.
Those Senators are now known as the Monsanto 71. The list includes Rand Paul and Ted Cruz, both senators from agricultural states (Kentucky and Texas) where Monsanto continues to exercise heavy influence over farmers.
Shockingly, most farmers who are planting GMOs have no knowledge whatsoever of what GMOs are or why people don’t want them in their food. They’ve been lied to by the biotech industry which promised them “higher yields” and “greater profits.” In reality, GM crop yields have plummeted even while giving rise to herbicide-resistant “superweeds” that now threaten many farms. With soils that have been rendered sterile with glyphosate and crop yields falling, farmers are increasingly finding themselves in dire straights.
Their only way out, of course, is to return to planting non-GMO crops. But wisdom moves very, very slowly through Texas A&M, a Monsanto stronghold and key propaganda center for pushing frankenfoods in the South.
A genetic apocalypse may devastate America’s bread basket
Hungary was wise to protect its agricultural sector from Monsanto’s imperialism. In contrast, America is incredibly foolish to sell out its food supply to destructive corporate interests that value nothing but profit.
By disallowing GMO labeling and promoting the continued commercialization of genetically modified crops (thanks, USDA!), the U.S. government is playing Russian roulette with America’s food future . One day, something the scientists didn’t anticipate will kick in, and the crimes against nature that have been committed by Monsanto will explode into a genetic apocalypse that threatens the future of life on our planet.
Remember: GMOs aren’t merely “pollution” in the classic sense. They are self-replicating pollution that may be impossible to stop. Hence the wisdom of burning GM corn fields to the ground. Fire destroys DNA and breaks down vegetable matter into its elemental constituents: carbon and mineral ash, essentially. Fields that were once dangerous are now harmless. Fire restores sanity by destroying the engineered DNA dreamed up by mad scientists working for arrogant, foolish corporations who think they’re smarter than Mother Nature and God.
Mark my words: there will come a day when Americans will wish they had burned all the GM corn fields to the ground. But by then it will be too late. The blight will be upon us, and with it comes the starvation, the suffering, the desperation and the riots. Hunger turns all family men into savages, just as greed turns all corporate men into demons.
To avoid both outcomes, we must banish GMOs now. Indict the executives of Monsanto for conspiracy to commit mass poisoning of the people. Invoke the RICO Act. Pull out the Patriot Act. Use whatever laws are on the books to put this monster away so that future generations do not have to suffer the devastating consequences of open-world genetic experiments gone awry.
If we don’t learn from Hungary, we will sooner or later be schooled by hunger.
Hungary has taken a bold stand against biotech giant Monsanto and genetic modification by destroying 1000 acres of maize found to have been grown with genetically modified seeds, according to Hungary deputy state secretary of the Ministry of Rural Development Lajos Bognar. Unlike many European Union countries, Hungary is a nation where genetically modified (GM) seeds are banned. In a similar stance against GM ingredients, Peru has also passed a 10 year ban on GM foods.
Almost 1000 acres of maize found to have been ground with genetically modified seeds have been destroyed throughout Hungary, deputy state secretary of the Ministry of Rural Development Lajos Bognar said. The GMO maize has been ploughed under, said Lajos Bognar, but pollen has not spread from the maize, he added.
Unlike several EU members, GMO seeds are banned in Hungary. The checks will continue despite the fact that seek traders are obliged to make sure that their products are GMO free, Bognar said.
During the invesigation, controllers have found Pioneer Monsanto products among the seeds planted.
The free movement of goods within the EU means that authorities will not investigate how the seeds arrived in Hungary, but they will check where the goods can be found, Bognar said. Regional public radio reported that the two biggest international seed producing companies are affected in the matter and GMO seeds could have been sown on up to the thousands of hectares in the country. Most of the local farmers have complained since they just discovered they were using GMO seeds.
With season already under way, it is too late to sow new seeds, so this years harvest has been lost.
And to make things even worse for the farmers, the company that distributed the seeds in Baranya county is under liquidation. Therefore, if any compensation is paid by the international seed producers, the money will be paid primarily to that company’s creditors, rather than the farmers.
Genetically modified potatoes now threaten the purity of potatoes internationally. All it takes is a careless farmer to allow his modified crop to be planted elsewhere, without properly labeling the crop as modified. This would mix in the genetically modified crop with traditional, and even organic, crops. This is a legitimate environmental issue, as it is a major threat to food integrity.
In a monumental move that signifies the truly terminal state of the international food supply, Ireland’s government officials have given the green light to begin genetically modifying the iconic potato. Met with severe resistance from both citizens, watchdog organizations, and political figures, the decision allows for the genetically modified potatoes to be planted within Ireland by the Irish food development authority Teagasc.
Starting off with a trial within the nation’s borders, Ireland’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has authorized Teagasc to plant the GMO crops throughout a two hectare land plot. While supports continue to assert that the relatively small size makes the process ‘safe,’ experts from within the Emerald Isle say otherwise. In response to the idea that starting the trial with a ‘small’ land plot is safe, The Organic Trust in Dublin explains that once you unleash genetically modified seeds into the environment, the consequences that may follow do not depend on how many acres of land is modified — only the fact that genetically modified seeds have been planted.
Spokesperson Gavin Lynch stated:
It is only a two hectare trial, but that’s like saying you’re only a little bit pregnant, there are no grey areas with GM…. Organic Trust calls on Teagasc not to act on the approval granted but to adhere to the wishes of the vast majority of Irish citizens not to pollute our precious land. Not one single solitary benefit will accrue to Ireland as a result of this trial. So why it is going ahead?”
The above stated is a valid question to which the answer may hide in previously leaked documents dating as far back as 2007. It was back in 2007 that WikiLeaks cables revealed a surprising threat made to nations who rejected GMO crops and biotechnology overall. As plainly stated by the United States ambassador to France and business partner to George W. Bush, Craig Stapleton, all nations that oppose GMOs will be hit with calibrated ‘target retaliation’ and ‘military-style trade wars’.
Stapleton even goes on to specifically state that many European nations are culprits of such anti-GMO activity and should therefore be hit with such target retaliation. In other words, it is becoming more and more apparent that political incentives and even political threats appear to play a much greater role in the establishment of genetically modified crops and subsequent trials than public opinion. And until the public utilizes serious political activism and peacefully demands change from their representatives on a major scale, such political corruption will continue to ultimately influence decisions that affect your daily life.
There is a tremendous shift, a food revolution, if you will, taking place across the entire food system. Countermeasures are overtaking the toxic destruction of Monsanto and company each and every day, as consumers are waking up to the fact that they’ve been duped.
The master plan is to annihilate nature and remix the genetic makeup of life itself. It is quickly being recognized and converted into a massive emergency effort to regain a foothold on our health and our environment.
This is more than just a health and environmental emergency. It is a matter of morality, in that science itself shows that we are on the verge of causing a man-made disaster and extinction of our natural species if Monsanto continues to arrogantly and foolishly re-engineer life on this planet.
The Rubik’s cube remix of our genetic code, the very key to our existence, is causing a rapid destructive and mutant life force, never seen before in the history of science. It is taking up residence in the digestive system of our families and our animals.
The corn is registered as a pesticide because they engineer it to produce its own pesticide. It doesn’t stop producing even after production or consumption. It is wreaking havoc on our human and animal digestive systems.
Our health science community is reporting significant and clearly defined patterns of increased cancer, allergies, infertility, still birth, auto-immune disorders, liver problems, Autism and so much more.
There are answers and there are ways to combat this dangerous cycle. Organic foods do not contain GMOs. Why are they expensive? Because they have to jump through the extensive hoops of certification to prove that they are producing crops free of these dangerous contaminants. In the long run, Organics are cheaper when you think about the damage GMO food does to your health and that of your family. It’s your choice. Choose wisely. Vote with your fork and contact your favorite product’s manufacturers and ask them to stop using GMO ingredients. They will listen. They will respond. Thank you!!
Supersized genetically modified salmon grown fast and fat and after years of wrangling, are ready for market – but is the market ready for them? And why is the firm hidden away in Panama?
t is hard to think of a more unlikely setting for genetic experimentation or for raising salmon: a rundown shed at a secretive location in the Panamanian rainforest miles inland and 1,500m above sea level.
But the facility, which is owned by an American company AquaBounty Technologies, stands on the verge of delivering the first genetically modified food animal – a fast-growing salmon – to supermarkets and dinner tables.
The US government this week enters the final stages of its deliberations on whether to allow commercial production of the GM fish, with a public consultation on the issue ending on Friday . Separately, a committee in Congress on Monday took up a bill that would outlaw GM salmon entirely – essentially destroying AquaBounty’s commercial prospects in America. If approved, the salmon could be the first of some 30 other species of GM fish under development, including tilapia and trout. Researchers are also working to bring GM cows, chickens and pigs to market.
In Panama City, government officials are upbeat about AquaBounty’s prospects of getting its fish to market. “From what we know it is very close to being approved. There have been tests for many years and the last thing we heard from the FDA is that there is a very good probability that it is going to be approved in the near future,” said Giovanni Lauri, the director of the Aquatic Resources Authority of Panama, Arap.
Aquabounty’s GM salmon fish farm in Boquete, Panama Photo: Sheena Rossiter
AquaBounty must still overcome formidable opposition from supermarkets and consumer organisations, environmental groups and commercial fishermen to sell its fish, however. The prospect of introducing GM fish into the food supply has generated enormous passions, with the FDA receiving 36,000 comments on the fish so far, most of them opposing the move. But after 20 years, AquaBounty’s efforts to bring GM animals to the table are getting closer to reality.
There was little outward sign of history in the making – or of the enormous controversy surrounding GM salmon at AquaBounty’s remote Panamanian location on the banks of the Calderas river in the western highlands of Chiriqui province. At the premises, visitors can see a fading green industrial shed and four large above-ground pools behind a high wire fence. On the site are up to 5,000 salmon,according to Arap officials say.
The only evidence of AquaBounty’s presence is a small round company decal next to the front door of the shack. Signs warn: “No pasar”. The place seems deserted at first, then a guard suddenly emerges when visitors approach the wire fence.
The facility is leased from a commercial fish farm that produces non-GM rainbow trout for export to the US. Access to both farms is by four-wheel drive across a river bed or a rusting footbridge, kept padlocked to keep out intruders. It’s a strange arrangement; the non-GM fish farm also raises organic trout for the upmarket supermarket Whole Foods. But the chain is deeply opposed to genetically engineered salmon, and said last month it would boycott the fish if it came to market.
Luis Lamastus, the owner of the trout farm and AquaBounty’s landlord, has a different view: “These kind of fish are the future.”
It was not entirely clear why Aquabounty chose this out-of-the-way location to raise GM fish for market, or indeed why it chose Panama at all – the company refused to comment for this article.
A genetically modified salmon, rear, and a non-genetically modified salmon, foreground. Photograph: AP
AquaBounty has had a long and difficult journey trying to develop GM fish in the 20 years since researchers at a university in Newfoundland first hit on the idea of making a faster-growing salmon.
The researchers injected growth genes from a Chinook salmon and a seal eel into an Atlantic salmon. The new genes made the fish produce growth hormone year-round, enabling the altered salmon to grow twice as fast as farmed salmon, bringing the fish up to market size in 18 months instead of 30.
But despite the commercial potential, Panamanian government officials at Arap said AquaBounty had difficulties finding a place to grow their salmon to market size. Arap’s Giovanni Lauri said he understood AquaBounty had approached a number of other countries seeking to set up a research site.
“They tried many countries but they were afraid to start something new,” Lauri said. After multiple refusals, the company eventually turned to Panama, where the project won a warm welcome from government officials. Lauri said officials had few concerns about the potential health and environmental risks of growing GM salmon in Panama. “We were not afraid of something new,” he said.
The first few years brought mixed results. A storm in 2008 destroyed part of the facility, according to a filing to the FDA. In 2010 an entire batch of fingerlings died in transit to the Panama facility, according to Franklin Kwai Ben, research director of Arap. The company then switched to importing eggs from a research lab in Prince Edward Island in Canada, hatching them at the Panama facility, according to officials. All the while AquaBounty worked to navigate the American regulatory process and win approval for the GM salmon, while trying to fend off financial pressure. The company has run through more than $60m waiting for the FDA. Last year, its main investor, the Georgian oligarch Kakha Bendukidze, sold his shares to a synthetic biology firm, Intrexon.
With the FDA nearing its decision, Panamanian officials began to hope their hospitality to AquaBounty would help gain the country an entry to the biotech industry.
“We have been talking to them. We want to be the first to have different farms,” Lauri said. His clear expectation was that this approval would clear the way for production of other GM fish, such as tilapia or trout, possibly at facilities on Panamanian soil. “Once they have salmon then I am pretty sure they are going to look for some other species,” he said.
Under the law, however, FDA approval would only allow AquaBounty to produce salmon at its existing facility. Other GM fish, or a move to a full-scale commercial facility would require additional approvals, according to Theresa Eisenman, a spokeswoman for the FDA.
The Obama administration has been weighing its decision on GM food animals for at least three years, after the FDA produced its first detailed study on the effects of consuming the animals on human health, essentially concluding it was as safe to eat the genetically engineered fish as conventional Atlantic salmon. Some campaign groups still dispute the finding, saying that GM salmon potentially has more allergens.
But the study that brought GM fish closer to market, published late last year, focused on the environmental impact. The main concern of the FDA was whether the genetically engineered salmon could escape and because of its superior size conceivably take over wild Atlantic salmon. The study concluded that even if the fish did slip through the net and escape the above-ground pools, it is unlikely they would travel far. The nearby waters would be too warm for them to survive.
But those determinations came under attack from campaign groups and upscale supermarkets, as well as members of Congress concerned about the threat to wild-caught salmon industry.
Opponents of the fish argued America’s regulatory system was ill-equipped to deal with new technologies such as GM foods. Unlike Europe, America has no specific laws for GM products, but regulates them as “animal drugs”.
Emma Ruby-Sachs, campaign director at Avaaz, said: “The approval of transgenic salmon could open the floodgates for genetically modified meat everywhere, yet the science behind its safety has been sloppy at best. If the FDA approves this GM salmon, it risks undermining its mandate to protect public health.”
Campaign groups said the current review process did not take adequate account of the sweeping changes in store for the global food supply, once GM food starts hitting the market.
“You have GM corn and soybeans,” said Patty Lovera, assistant director of Food and Water Watch, which has campaigned against GM foods. “But this would be the first food animal. You are taking it to a whole other part of the food supply,” she said.
There were specific concerns raised about the use of a facility in Panama for the launch of the first GM fish.
Supermarket chains said there was no need for GM salmon, and announced a boycott. “Whole Foods Market will not sell genetically modified salmon as our quality standards prohibit the use of genetically modified animals,” Beth Krauss, a spokeswoman for Whole Foods said in an email.
The company also said it was unhappy about the proximity of the GM salmon to its own trout. The two facilities are separated only by a shallow trench. Krauss indicated she hoped that AquaBounty would be forced to leave once it lease expires later this year.
But Lamastus said he would renew the lease. “They are a very good company,” he said. “The salmon is something unique, growth faster, but is the same like the Atlantic salmon, producers will use less feed probably, and less feed means less pressure on our seas, to obtain more fish for consumers, and for feed; therefore, it is good for the environment!”
In their temperature-controlled waters, kept at a constant 16C, the salmon in the Panamanian rainforest are oblivious to the ferocious debate about the future of GM animals. The 5,000 or so fish now reaching maturity at the AquaBounty site are the biggest GM salmon ever raised by the company, weighing in at 5kg a piece. Under the protocols put in place by the FDA, the fish can not enter the food supply. They are due to be slaughtered in September and buried in a pit on the banks of the nearby Caldera river, according to Franklin Kwai Ben, who heads the research division at Arap.
But it could be the last time such a mass disposal is carried out. The Panama site got a shipment of about 25,000 eggs from their lab in Prince Edward Island last month. By the time those fish reach maturity, some 18 months from now, they could be bound for American supermarkets instead.
Did you know that virtually every infant formula on the market, both soy or milk-based, is genetically engineered? How is this not going to affect and alter the expression of the genes of infants consuming it?
All non-certified organic infant formulas tested that were made from soy contained genetically modified sources. If they contained milk they contained recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH). Even the government’s WIC program, which provides infant formula to mothers for free, uses only genetically modified soy in their formulas.
Note: the “organic” brands of infant formula listed are not problem free. They often use ingredients that are classified as harmful to the environment, e.g. sodium selenite, or even classified as pesticides, e.g. cupric sulfate.
10 Reasons Why We Don’t Need GM Foods
Genetically modified foods are nearly impossible to avoid in the USA and the EU is on the verge of following suit. But nothing we were officially told about GM foods‘ safety is true, and the rest of the claims are all demonstrably false. Please, be sure that you know the truth and then get active to end this destruction of our food supply.
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 and 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 is all 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 cannot 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