A brief summary of some recent GMO related news, my take on the NAS claim that GMOs are ‘safe’ and other GMO related information
Let’s get right to it:
“From the Green Revolution to GMOs: Living in the Shadow of Global Agribusiness,” by Colin Todhunter, RINF; May 24, 2016
Excerpt: “Through the ‘green revolution’ chemical-intensive model of agriculture these corporations and their powerful backers promoted and instituted, they have been able to determine what seeds are to be used by farmers, what is to be grown and what inputs are to be applied. This, in turn, has adversely effected the nutritional content of food, led to the over-exploitation of water and diminished drought resistance, degraded soil, undermined biodiversity, polluted the environment, destroyed farmers’ livelihoods and so much more … These powerful corporations increasingly hold sway over a globalized system of food and agriculture from seed to plate. And with major mergers within the agribusiness sector in the pipeline, power will be further consolidated and the situation is likely to worsen. While scientific innovation has a role to play in improving agriculture, the narrative about farming has been shaped to benefit the interests of this handful of wealthy, politically influential corporations whereby commercial interest trumps any notion of the public good … If we are ever going to have a system of food and agriculture that serves the interests of farmers, rural communities and consumers, rather than the interests of unaccountable corporations (that profit at the expense of human life) or extremely wealthy individuals like Bill Gates and others, we require transparency, accountability and a system of decision making that does not take place within the overbearing shadow of commercial influence.”
More on the absurd GMO report by the National Academy of Science (NAS):
“National Academies of Sciences Calls for Greater Transparency on GMOs,” by Elizabeth Grossman, Civil Eats; May 18, 2016
Excerpt: “While the NAS report says there is no conclusive evidence to suggest GE crops now on the market have any more ‘risks to human health’ than conventional crops, it also stresses the need to avoid sweeping generalizations about these crops, which it says must be evaluated on a case-by-case basis. It also says there is no ‘conclusive cause-and-effect evidence of environmental problems from the GE crops,’ while detailing a great deal of information that the Academy deems cause for concern.”
My Comment: This quote embodies the disinformation of the faulty report. It’s extremely disingenuous for this ‘science group’ to say that sweeping generalizations need to be avoided while making sweeping generalizations.
The NAS’ conclusion that GMOs are safe is not based on epidemiological studies of the population over time. There are no controlled studies with humans with those eating GMOs and those who are not. At best, the NAS could have said they “found no evidence of risk, but we can’t establish any risk since the proper protocols have never been in place.” The National Academy of Sciences should be branded as the National Academy of Pseudoscience – because this report is just that. It’s not just that it’s a waste of taxpayer money, it is the use of taxpayer money to spread lies and disinformation about the food supply in America, and as such, it is nothing more than an advertising campaign in subterfuge for the biotech giants.
GMOs are not labeled in the US; so for over twenty years, there has been no way to trace consumption of any GMO food to any adverse health event. Labels would be the first step in collecting data that could contribute to establishing causation (epidemiological studies were responsible for establishing the harm caused by tobacco and Trans fats, for example). We already know that there are studies that show dramatic correlations between the rise of adverse health events in the population and the introduction of GMOs in the marketplace (for example, see: “Genetically Engineered Crops, Glyphosate and the Deterioration of Health in the United States of America,” by Nancy L. Swanson, Andre Leu, Jon Abrahamson and Bradley Wallet, Journal of Organic Systems, Vol. 9, No. 2; 2014 – 32 pages).
Since we know that there are strong correlations, this should raise a red flag: under normal scientific standards, strong correlations would be examined with a comprehensive risk assessment that would ultimately result in a full review from independent sources to either validate or invalidate the correlations to find out if the correlations can be attributed to causation. But that has not happened. Correlations (especially like the ones linked to) do mean something, and rather than ignoring them, authorities are obligated to call for independent studies and must take action to rectify and remove whatever roadblocks are preventing proper and appropriate independent studies from taking place. Since this is NOT happening, the NAS does not judge GMOs and their toxic chemicals through the eyes of science, but rather through the heavily biased influence of the biotech industry which sees only through the hungry eyes of profit gain.
The way the report is worded is (at best) disinformation, yet the media gobbled it up as if it were fact because ‘science’ said so: almost immediately, CBS News this Morning reported that a “major science group” said “GMOs are safe to eat.”
When biotech corporations submit ‘safety’ studies to the FDA for review (a voluntary process), they are typically (at best) 90-day studies which are grossly inadequate. A reliance on studies from the company that intends to profit from that product is insane, unscientific and unethical. Independent long-term chronic toxicity studies that have been done on animals demonstrate that claims that GMOs are safe are unfounded.
In over twenty years, only one human trial with GMOs has ever been conducted. (See: “Assessing the survival of transgenic plant DNA in the human gastrointestinal tract,” by Trudy Netherwood et al.; Nature Biotechnology 22, 204 – 209; January 18, 2004). Seven volunteers (ileostomisty patients) consumed GM soy and DNA fragments survived the digestive process and passed into the microflora of the small bowel.
Although the authors stated that in that particular study they did not discover any evidence of obvious harm, they raised concerns about the safety of GMOs and stated that this new finding “should be considered in the assessments of future GM foods” (which has not been done). In 2005, scientists published their findings that determined the genetic engineering processes used to create GM foods create hundreds to thousands of mutations (see: “The Mutational Consequences of Plant Transformation,” by Jonathan Latham et al., Journal of Biomedicine and Biotechnology, Vol. 2006, March 1, 2006 – 7 pages). A second study expanded on those findings (see: “Transformation-induced Mutations in Transgenic Plants: Analysis and Biosafety Implications,” by Allison Wilson et al, Biotechnology and Genetic Engineering Reviews, Vol. 23, December 2006 – 26 pages).
In 2011, scientists did a review of safety studies including “Assessing the survival of transgenic plant DNA in the human gastrointestinal tract,” and “Transformation-induced Mutations in Transgenic Plants: Analysis and Biosafety Implications.” The authors of the 2011 study stated that:
“GMOS ARE INHERENTLY UNSAFE –There are several reasons why GM plants present unique dangers. The first is that the process of genetic engineering itself creates unpredicted alterations, irrespective of which gene is transferred. This creates mutations in and around the insertion site and elsewhere. The biotech industry confidently asserted that gene transfer from GM foods was not possible; the only human feeding study on GM foods later proved that it does take place. The genetic material in soybeans that make them herbicide tolerant transferred into the DNA of human gut bacteria and continued to function. That means that long after we stop eating a GM crop, its foreign GM proteins may be produced inside our intestines.” [Citations omitted]. (See: “A Review on Impacts of Genetically Modified Food on Human Health,” by Charu Verma et al, Open Nutraceuticals Journal, Vol. 4; 2011 – 9 pages).
The NAS report claiming that GMOs are no more risky than conventional crops is more than a failure of science, it is more than a disservice to the American public – it is an affront to ethical standards everywhere.
The use of antibiotic resistance markers, the potential for horizontal gene transfer, the absolute lack of recognition for potential harm from the ubiquitous use of the CaMV 35S promoter gene are all additional factors why GMOs are inherently more risky than non-GMO foods. Even more disturbing is the fact that in 2012 EU regulators discovered that the CaMV gene also encoded DNA fragments from a “hidden” gene known as Gene VI. The CaMV 35S promoter gene is in nearly every GM food that has been consumed in the U.S. for the past two decades. The simple fact that the presence of Gene VI went unnoticed for decades is alarming in and of itself (the gene itself has been studied and reviewed since the early 1980’s; it has been long-established that Gene VI can harm not only plant cells, but mammal cells as well). However, the basis for asserting GMOs are safe when something like this is not discovered for decades highlights the total absence of overall understanding about GMOs (what else do they NOT know?) Because of this, GMOs should never have been placed in the marketplace – and because of this they should be recalled and a ban on GMOs should be enacted immediately.
Claiming that GMOs are as risky as conventional foods is a flat out lie.
For more on CaMV 35S and Gene VI, please see:
“Regulators Discover a Hidden Viral Gene in Commercial GMO Crops,” by Jonathan Latham, PhD and Allison Wilson, PhD, Independent Science News; January 21, 2013
“Is The Hidden Viral Gene Safe? GMO Regulators Fail To Convince,” by Jonathan Latham, PhD and Allison Wilson, PhD, Independent Science News; February 27, 2013
“CaMV 35S Promoter in GM Feed that Sickened Rats Transferred into Rat Blood, Liver, and Brain Cells,” by Dr. Mae-Wan Ho, Institute of Science in Society; January 7, 2015
Excerpt: “The CaMV 35S promoter is not the only hazardous piece of transgenic DNA, there are similar aggressive promoters designed to make genes express out of context, as well as genes coding for antibiotics and other dangerous functions, together with numerous recombination hotspots that enhance horizontal gene transfer; all of which contribute to making all GMOs unsafe. That is indeed the conclusion from research carried out by scientists independent of the industry up to now, which fully corroborates what farmers have been witnessing in their livestock and doctors in their patients for years. People need to take immediate action to ban GMOs from their own home and local communities. Governments should recall all GMOs from the market. And companies and regulators should face prosecution for causing damages to health and criminal negligence.” [Citations Omitted]
Lise Nordgård et al observed that: “The CaMV35S promoter may be of biosafety concern because of the multiple properties inherent in the same sequence. In the cauliflower mosaic virus (CaMV), the 35s sequence encodes a protein called P6 (encoded from gene VI) that harbors many different functions. The naturally condensed state of the chromosome of the virus results in an overlap between gene VI and the part known as P35S used in GMO plants. This poses a potential risk, as the degree of overlap between P6 and P35S depends on what variation (i.e. length) of P35S is used in genetic engineering. The concern is that partial expression of P6 may be allergenic. As shown … multiple variants of P35 [exist which] are used today without any knowledge of expressed P6 domains or their potential allergic properties. Podevin and Jardin (2012) suggested a framework to aid risk assessment of living products containing any form of the P35S promoter, but of course this requires detailed knowledge of the inserted DNA sequence and how it overlaps with genomic DNA. Today there is no way for researchers to access this information.” [Citations omitted]
See page 26: “Uncertainty and Knowledge Gaps related to Environmental Risk Assessment of GMOs,” by Lise Nordgård et al, GenØk Biosafety Centre; October 2015 (167 pages).
To emphasize why GMOs are NOT “as risky as conventional crops,” please see: “Why GMOs Can Never Be Safe,” by Dr. Mae-Wan Ho, Institute of Science in Society; July 22, 2013
Note that none of my comments above even mention the tons of glyphosate based herbicides (GBH) like Roundup that are sprayed on the majority of food. The ever growing use of GBH and additional chemicals like 2,4-D and dicamba raise a whole new level of risk about GMOs that needs to be assessed as well, which the NAS fails to incorporate into their risk assessment in a scientifically responsible manner.
In this same context, they also fail to acknowledge the intense ecological damage caused by GMOs – not just from the use of toxic chemicals. In short, this statement appears to be nothing more than willful ignorance and absolute irresponsibility of a group that has the audacity to claim “science” in its description: “Overall, the committee found no conclusive evidence of cause-and-effect relationships between GE crops and environmental problems.”
But it is not willful ignorance – it is an absolute and unequivocal lie.
How could the NAS simply dismiss the fact that superweeds have skyrocketed since the use of glyphosate tolerant GMO crops? The last time I looked, “weeds” were part of the environment. The problem is so bad, that in 2010 Congress held hearings about it! (See: “Are Superweeds on Outgrowth of USDA Biotech Policy?” hearing of the House Committee on Oversight & Government Reform Subcommittee on Domestic Policy; July 28, 2010 – 331 pages).
Andrew Kimbrell (Director of the Center for Food Safety) testified before Congress and pointed out that: “Since the first glyphosate resistant weed populations were confirmed in 1998, 53 populations of 10 different weed species at tens of thousands of sites have evolved glyphosate resistance. Glyphosate resistant weeds now infest an estimated 11.4 million acres. North Carolina Weed Scientist, Alan York, has called glyphosate resistant weeds ‘potentially the worst threat to cotton since the boll weevil’ due to extraordinary levels of dependence on glyphosate.” (See: Policy Statement of Andrew C. Kimbrell, at the hearing “Are Superweeds an Outgrowth of USDA Biotechnology,” to the House Committee on Oversight & Government Reform Subcommittee on Domestic Policy; July 28, 2010 – 7 pages).
Note that in 2010, 11.4 million acres were affected; last year, Wenonah Hauter (Food & Water Watch) stated the number of known acres was already much greater since 2010. As of January, 2015 “… at least 70 million acres in the U.S. [are] afflicted with Roundup-resistant weeds. It is only a matter of time before those weeds become resistant not just to Roundup, but to a mix of other herbicides, as their associated herbicide-tolerant crops are being planted and sprayed with chemical cocktails.” (See: “USDA Green-Lights Yet another Monsanto GMO crop,” by Wenonah Hauter, EcoWatch; January 15, 2015)
The fact that this is not considered an ecological threat by the NAS summarily makes the entire report lack any credibility whatsoever.
Superweeds have reached such extreme levels that it was described in 2010 as “[T]he single largest threat to production agriculture that we have ever seen.” (Andrew Wargo III, the president of the Arkansas Association of Conservation Districts as quoted in “U.S. Farmers Cope with Roundup-Resistant Weeds,” by William Neuman and Andrew Pollack, New York Times; May 3, 2010).
In the same article the authors interviewed farmer Louie Perry Jr., who is “a cotton grower whose great-great-grandfather started his farm in Moultrie, Ga., in 1830.” Perry stated that “If we don’t whip this thing, it’s going to be like the boll weevil did to cotton. It will take it away.”
To claim that there is no “cause and effect” from GMOs to environmental harm is blatantly false. It’s not just the toxic chemicals that are used: genetic pollution is a major issue. Once GMOs are released into the environment, cross-contamination is inevitable and this cannot be ‘undone.’
The reality is that GMO crops are inherently hazardous to non-GMO crops – period. Cross-contamination has cost the US billions of dollars in lost trade due to the cross-contamination episodes of StarLink corn, LL601 rice, and Monsanto’s GMO wheat (which was never put on the market).
As I discussed in yesterday’s post (see “GMO News Summary and More: May 24, 2016” Ban GMOs Now; May 24, 2016), co-existence between GMO crops and non-GMO crops is impossible and economically damaging as well.
For the committee to say that they fail to find a cause-and-effect relationship between environmental damage and GMOs is symbolic of the summation of the entire report: it is pure disinformation and nothing more than a propaganda tool for the promotion of GMOs.
It is the epitome of propaganda disguised as legitimate science.
Moving on … Oh No! It’s another look at the NAS report!
“Three Takeaways from New Study on GMOs,” by Katherine Paul & Ronnie Cummins (Organic Consumers Association), Truthout; May 24, 2016
Excerpt: “Initial media reports boiled the message down to ‘GMOs Are Safe’ and even ‘healthy.’ Some even claimed the study ‘proves’ the safety of genetically modified crops … Aside from the obvious — that the headlines over-simplify the NAS findings in a way that spins favorable for the biotech industry — the media also overlooked the influence, as reported by Food & Water Watch, of the biotech industry on The National Research Council (NRC), the research arm of the NAS. According to F&WW, the NRC takes millions of dollars in funding from biotechnology companies; invites sponsors like Monsanto to sit on high-level boards overseeing the NRC’s work; invites industry-aligned, pro-GMO scientists to author NRC reports; draws scientific conclusions based on industry science; and operates at times as a private contractor for corporate research … What the report actually says is that it’s too soon to make that determination [about the safety of GMOs]. Maybe that wouldn’t be the case, if GMOs had been required to undergo pre-market safety testing 20 years ago. Instead, they were unleashed, untested, into the environment, and into the food stream, on the basis of proprietary industry-funded testing that US regulatory agencies accepted at face value.”
In case you missed Food & Water Watch’s critique of the NAS (which just published the absurd GMO study) including the old ‘conflicts of interest’ problem, see: “Under the Influence: The National Research Council and GMOs,” by Food & Water Watch; May 2016 (12 pages).
Also in the news recently:
The presence of glyphosate is ubiquitous:
“UCSF presentation reveals glyphosate contamination in people across America,” by GMWatch; May 25, 2016
(UCSF=University of California San Francisco)
Excerpt: “Glyphosate was found in 93% of the 131 urine samples tested at an average level of 3.096 parts per billion (PPB). Children had the highest levels with an average of 3.586 PPB. The regions with the highest levels were the West and the Midwest with an average of 3.053 PPB and 3.050 PPB respectively … The results from the UCSF urine testing in America showed a much higher frequency and average glyphosate level than those observed in urine samples in the European Union in 2013. The average level in Europe was around 1 PPB with a frequency of detection of 43.9%.”
Could glyphosate-based herbicides be responsible for birth defects in animals in Argentina?
“Horrific deformities linked with pesticides sprayed on GM soy in Argentina,” by GMWatch; May 25, 2016
[Note: this article links to the original from Daily Mail Online that has photos]
From the Archives! – Did you know?
“Feeding the Planet or Feeding Us a Line? Agribusiness, ‘Grainwashing’ and Hunger in the World Food System,” by Stephen J. Scanlan, International Journal of Sociology of Agriculture & Food, Vol. 20, No. 3; October 15, 2013 (26 pages)
Abstract: “In this article I examine hunger in the world food system in light of agribusiness corporate environmental communications. Using data gleaned from advertisements and websites, I examine the messages of companies such as Archer Daniels Midland, Cargill, and Monsanto, among others, selling their contributions toward sustainability and alleviating hunger through biotechnology and globalization. In analyzing these I contrast claims of corporate social responsibility with what I call ‘grainwashing’, which misleads the public. This analysis is important to an ever-evolving sociology of agriculture and food in which structural challenges, conflict, power, and inequality determine hunger in a system in which people lack food sovereignty or food justice. It connects the study of agribusiness and hunger to environmental sociology and theoretical considerations such as treadmill of production and ecological modernization ideas explaining corporate environmental communication and practices.”
This next report from 2013 by La Via Campesina contains essays about seed and patent issues various countries including Korea, Mozambique, Brazil, Germany, Mexico, Indonesia, Canada, India and France:
Excerpt: “Peasant and farmers’ seeds are under threat of extinction. If we do not change the course history is taking, our children will not be able to produce their own food. Peasant, local, community, subsistence and family farming still produce 75% of the food that is consumed on the planet, and 90% of non-mechanized non-motorized farmers of the world produce the majority of their seeds themselves. This situation is intolerable to transnational corporations, which have decided to put an end to it. They have already carried out this program in rich countries where some “improved” industrial varieties, almost identical to one another, have replaced the great diversity of peasant and farmers’ seeds in the fields. Now they want to extend this policy to the rest of the world: first, by opening up all borders to the subsidized products of industrial agriculture from rich countries, and allowing them to ruin peasants and small farmers who practice family farming; then, by usurping the land and water that are essential for crops; and finally, by prohibiting all peasant and farmers’ seeds and replacing them with patented industrial seeds.”
“La Via Campesina: Our Seeds, Our Future,” by La Via Campesina; May 2013 (54 pages)
Suppress science, much?
“GMO Contamination Denial: Controlling Science,” by Don Fitz, Truthout; December 9, 2014
Excerpt: “By beginning with the overall goal of the food industry, a clearer picture of the suppression of research on GMO dangers emerges. Corporate agriculture defines the problem as how to increase the industry’s control over food production. GMOs rely on chemical inputs that raise the cost of production and thereby destroy small farms. Good research is then defined as investigations that help accomplish these goals, including demonstrating that GMO and chemicalized agriculture is efficient and safe. Suppression of findings that demonstrate the dangers of these crops is a last resort to be used only when the opposition is getting too large. Thus, attacks on scientists such as Pusztai, Chapela and Séralini are validations of the strength of the resistance movement. Defending the right of scientists to investigate dangers of GMO food could not be successful if that defense were limited to demanding free scientific inquiry while ignoring the way that agro dollars control the world’s food. The food industry will use any technique it can to squash significant opposition. That includes softening their blows against critics until the heat dies down and then beginning the attacks anew. The right to scientific investigation can only be protected if it is part of a larger effort to challenge the right of corporations to define what good food is and how it should be grown. The fact that the food sovereignty movement fully understands the unity of these goals is why it is so strong and why Big Food fears it so much.” [Emphasis added].
That’s it for now. Remember: don’t believe the lies and propaganda of the biotech spin machine whose tentacles reach just about everywhere. Recognize that when the mainstream mass media reports that ‘science says that GMOs are safe’ they are mistaking the subterfuge of the GMO proponents’ promotional advertising campaign for an ‘authoritative evidence-based’ claim of science. Consequently, the media is reporting falsehoods as facts. These advertising/propaganda tactics should not be mistaken for scientific facts.
सत्यमेव जयते – Satyameva Jayate
(Truth Ultimately Triumphs)
Re-posting is encouraged, provided the URL of the original is posted with attribution to the original author and all links are preserved to the referenced articles, reports, etc. on their respective websites.
Copyright © Jeff Kirkpatrick 2016 Ban GMOs Now All rights reserved.