Millions of people are looking for foods without genetically modified organisms (GMOs); thousands of doctors are prescribing non-GMO diets; and even celebrities like Danny DeVito, Bill Maher and Dick van Dyke have chimed in with their demands that these products be labeled.
As the movement swells, proponents of GMOs have become more aggressive at suppressing adverse data and promoting their myths, desperate to stem the anti-GMO tide. They continue to proclaim that the technology is precise, environmentally friendly, and needed to feed the world, in spite of evidence that shows just the opposite. But what is working against them more than anything else is the new data confirming that GMOs are dangerous to our health. In fact the evidence is so compelling, genetically engineered foods may soon be blamed for promoting a wide range of serious diseases on the rise in the U.S. and elsewhere.
INDUSTRY-MANIPULATED APPROVAL PROCESS IN THE U.S.
One would hope that our government would take every precaution before allowing GMOs in our food and environment. After all, any health issue with GMOs could theoretically impact everyone who eats. And once GMO crops are released into the environment, the pollen and seed movement contaminate the natural gene pool on a permanent basis. Moreover, the stated goal of the leading biotech company, Monsanto, is to genetically engineer all commercial seeds in the world. This would permanently replace the products of billions of years of evolution and thousands of years of agricultural crop development with a new, untested technology, promoted by the same company that told us Agent Orange, PCBs, and DDT were safe.
But with the safety of the food supply and the integrity of our ecosystem at stake, just the opposite happened. All precaution was thrown to the wind, and the U.S. government engaged in what arguably can be called the greatest gamble of our lives.
The story at the FDA is typical. In the early 1990s, scientists at the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) repeatedly warned their superiors that GM foods could create serious health problems. According to secret documents later made public from a lawsuit, the scientific consensus at the agency was that GM foods were inherently dangerous and might create hard-to-detect allergies, toxins, new diseases and nutritional problems. They urged their superiors to require rigorous long-term tests. But the White House under George H. W. Bush had ordered the agency to promote biotechnology; the FDA responded by recruiting Monsanto’s former attorney, Michael Taylor, to head up the formation of policy on GMOs. That policy, which is in effect today, denies knowledge of the agency scientists’ concerns. In fact, it falsely claims that the FDA is not aware of any information that shows genetically engineered food to be significantly different from other food. On that basis, no safety studies on GM foods are required. The government leaves it up to GMO companies, including Monsanto, DuPont, Dow, Syngenta and Bayer, to determine whether their own foods are safe.
After overseeing GMO policy at the FDA, Mr. Taylor worked on GMO issues at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and then later became Monsanto’s vice president and chief lobbyist. In the summer of 2009, he was appointed by the Obama administration as the U.S. food safety czar back at the FDA.
Although the United States government policy today is built upon the false notion that GMOs are totally safe, evidence accumulated over nearly two decades now vindicates the original FDA scientists and validates their concerns.
ANIMAL FEEDING STUDIES INDICATE HEALTH ISSUES
After seeing all scientific precaution stripped away from the government’s approval process of GMOs, FDA microbiologist Louis Pribyl accurately predicted in 1993 that “Industry will do what it has to do to satisfy the FDA ‘requirements’ and not do the tests that they would normally do because they are not on the FDA’s list.”1 In reality, the safety research conducted by the biotech industry remains superficial in its scope and sparse in its volume. A 2007 review of published scientific literature on the health risks of GM plants, for example, described the number of studies and available data as “very scarce.”2 Nonetheless, a careful analysis of both industry and independent studies does demonstrate significant harm to animals fed GMOs.
Based on their review of this body of research, in May 2009 the American Academy of Environmental Medicine (AAEM) publicly condemned GMOs in our food supply, saying they posed “a serious health risk.” They called on the U.S. government to implement an immediate moratorium on all GM foods and urged physicians to prescribe non-GMO diets for all patients.
AAEM members have a tradition of looking for new disease trends and their causes. As such, they have come to be known as the “Academy of Firsts.” They were the first U.S. medical organization to describe or acknowledge Gulf War Syndrome, the first to acknowledge chemical sensitivity, the first to characterize food allergy/ addiction, and the first to introduce or acknowledge more than a dozen other medical issues. They are one of the first medical organizations to identify GMOs as harmful.
According to the their policy paper, several animal studies reveal a long list of disorders, including infertility, immune dysregulation, accelerated aging, dysregulation of genes associated with cholesterol synthesis, [faulty] insulin regulation, cell signaling, and protein formation, and changes in the liver, kidney, spleen and gastrointestinal system. The policy statement boldly concludes, “There is more than a casual association between GM foods and adverse health effects.” Based on established scientific criteria, “there is causation.”
“Physicians are probably seeing the effects in their patients,” says AAEM past-president Jennifer Armstrong, MD, “but need to know how to ask the right questions.” The patients at greatest risk are the very young. “Children are the most likely to be adversely affected by toxins and other dietary problems” related to GM foods, says Dr. David Schubert of the Salk Institute. They become “the experimental animals.”
RISING DISEASE RATES CORRELATE WITH GMO INTRODUCTION
Unfortunately, no system of post market surveillance on the health impacts of GMOs has been set up anywhere in the world. Although correlation clearly does not imply causation, the deteriorating health of Americans since GMOs were introduced in 1996 does raise important questions. Within nine years, the number of people with three or more chronic diseases nearly doubled—from 7 percent to 13 percent. Visits to the emergency room due to allergies more than doubled from 1997 to 2002. And overall foodrelated illnesses doubled from 1994 to 2001, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
Physicist Nancy Swanson compiled numerous charts showing high correlations between GMO production (or Roundup herbicide use) and the incidence of numerous disorders in the U.S. (See charts: thyroid cancer, kidney and renal pelvis cancer, liver and intrahepatic bile duct cancer, obesity, high blood pressure, acute kidney injury, diabetes, end stage renal disease, reproductive disorders, autism, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, senile dementia, inflammatory bowel disease, peritonitis, chronic constipation, irritable bowel, intestinal infection, and rheumatoid arthritis.)
Tragically, there is no systematic, well-funded investigation to explore links between GMO consumption and any disease. “The experiments simply haven’t been done and we now have become the guinea pigs,” says renowned Canadian geneticist David Suzuki. He adds, “Anyone that says, ‘Oh, we know that this is perfectly safe,’ I say is either unbelievably stupid or deliberately lying.”
NUMEROUS U.S. PHYSICIANS NOW BLAME GMOs
Based on evaluations of GMO research presented at medical conferences, as well as recommendations by their peers, thousands of U.S. physicians now prescribe non-GMO diets to all their patients. The Institute for Responsible Technology has started hearing reports and collecting case studies from physicians, patients and consumers about significant and often dramatic improvements in health and alleviation of symptoms from of a wide variety of diseases and disorders after removing GMOs from the diet.
Michelle Perro, MD, who is regularly named one of America’s top pediatricians, says she believes that the novel proteins found in GMOs “may be responsible in part for the profound increase in allergies and immune dysfunction that I am witnessing.”
Emily Lindner, MD, who practices internal medicine in Chicago, says, “When my patients tell my patients to avoid genetically modified foods because in my experience, with those foods there is more allergies and asthma,” as well as digestive issues such as gas, bloating, irritable bowel, colitis and leaky gut. “And what emanates from that,” she says, “is everything. Lots of arthritis problems, autoimmune diseases, anxiety . . . neurological problems; anything that comes from an impaired immune system response.”
LIVESTOCK HEALTH IMPROVES
People who switch to non-GMO diets often do so by buying organic foods—which are not allowed to use GMOs. This raises a critical point in the analysis. Were the health recoveries stemming from eliminating GMOs or from the reduction in chemicals and increased nutrition found in organics? Similarly, since most GMOs in our diet are found in processed foods, some people reduce GMOs by cooking from scratch. Thus they simultaneously eliminate numerous additives that also may contribute to disorders. It is difficult, therefore, to isolate the influence of GMOs in the presence of these other potential co-factors.
Fortunately, the experience of numerous veterinarians and farmers around the world gives us insight. When they take livestock off GMO soy or corn and substitute the non-GMO equivalent, they don’t have these confounding co-factors. The animals are not eating organic, there’s no change in nutrients or additives, and the results are breathtaking.
When a Danish pig farmer switched to non- GMO soy in April 2011 for his four hundred fifty sows and their offspring, within two days the animals’ serious diarrhea problems virtually disappeared. During the following year, death from ulcers and other digestive problems, which had claimed thirty-six pigs over the previous two years, vanished. Conception rate was up, litter size was up, diseases were down, and birth defects were eliminated.
An Iowa farmer saw immediate changes in his three-thousand-pig nursery after switching to non-GMO corn last December. Not only was there a dramatic drop in rate of disease and medicine bills, he says, “Our pigs are happier and more playful.”
A feedlot operator with five thousand head of cattle also switched to non-GMO corn and reported, “We’ve had a lot less pneumonia and health issues since that time.” Like the pig farmer, the behavior changed noticeably. His “cattle have been a lot calmer.” Many farmers who were struggling with high rates of infertility and miscarriage say they turned the situation around after switching to non-GMO feed. Renowned veterinarian and author Michael W. Fox, whose syndicated newspaper column has twenty-five to thirty million readers, says that when GMOs were introduced, cats and dogs started suffering from much higher rates of allergies, itching and gastrointestinal problems. He has a file drawer full of letters from happy pet owners confirming that his advice to switch the pets to non-GMO and organic feed cleared up the problem.
REPEATING SYMPTOMS: FROM LAB RATS TO CONSUMERS
What is striking about all these reports is the similarity of experiences. Many of the same categories of disorders identified in animal feeding studies by the American Academy of Environmental Medicine, such as gastrointestinal, immune, and reproductive problems, also clear up in humans and livestock when they switch to a non-GMO diet. Moreover, these same problems are on the rise in the U.S. population since GMOs were introduced in 1996.
HOW GM FOODS CAUSE HEALTH PROBLEMS
There are many ways that GM foods might produce or exacerbate these health problems. We examine five categories below:
First, the process of genetic engineering creates unpredicted alterations. The gene insertion process, whether accomplished via a “gene gun” or through infection by Agrobacterium, can really mess up the normal functioning of the plants’ DNA. It can create mutations, deletions, and altered gene expression near the point where the gene is inserted and elsewhere. Then the transformed cell is cloned into a GM plant using tissue culture, which can produce hundreds or thousands of additional mutations throughout the plants’ genome. In total, a GM plant’s DNA can be 2-4 percent different from that of its natural parent.3 In addition, up to 5 percent of the natural genes can alter their levels of protein expression as a result of a single insertion.4
These changes can result in new or higher levels of allergens, toxins, carcinogens and anti-nutrients. For example, Monsanto’s data on cooked GM soybeans shows as much as seven times the level of a natural soy allergen, trypsin inhibitor, compared to non-GMO soy.5 Monsanto’s Bt corn (Mon 810) produces an allergenic protein that is not produced in natural corn—the genetic engineering process switches on the silent gene.6 And both GM corn and soy produce higher amounts of lignin; the metabolic pathway that produces lignin also produces a plant pesticide called rotenone, which is linked to Parkinson’s disease.
Secondly, the protein produced by the inserted gene may cause harm. The genes inserted into GM crops produce new proteins into the human diet, which may be allergenic, toxic, or otherwise harmful. The transgenic proteins in GM soy, corn and papaya all have properties of known allergens, for example, and may trigger reactions.
The protein produced in Bt corn, however, is an insecticide and has scientists and physicians particularly worried about its effects on humans. These corn (and Bt cotton) plant varieties are engineered to produce Bt-toxin in every cell, which kills certain insects by destroying the integrity of their gut. The biotech companies claim that Bt-toxin is safe since the natural form of Bttoxin— produced from Bacillus thuringiensis bacteria—has been used by farmers for decades as a method of natural insect control. But several studies demonstrate that both humans and mammals react to the natural spray.
Mice fed natural Bt-toxin showed significant immune responses and became sensitive to other formerly harmless compounds.7,8,9 They also showed tissue damage in their small intestines.10 Farm workers and others have also had reactions to natural Bt-toxin,11-15 and authorities acknowledge that “People with compromised immune systems or preexisting allergies may be particularly susceptible to the effects of Bt.”16 When natural Bt was sprayed in Vancouver and Washington State to fight gypsy moths, approximately five hundred people reported allergy or flu-like symptoms, with some requiring emergency room visits.17,18
The bacterial gene that produces the Bt-toxin is inserted into GM crops. The Bt-toxin produced in GM plants, however, is three to five thousand times more concentrated than the spray, doesn’t wash off or biodegrade,19,20 and is designed to be more toxic than the natural version.21
A 2008 Italian government study found that Bt corn provoked profound immune responses in mice.22 Monsanto’s own rat studies with Bt corn also showed toxicity and immune responses.23 Numerous reports, including medical investigations and hospital records, show that thousands of agricultural workers in India exposed to GM Bt cotton varieties are reporting rashes and symptoms that are similar to those experienced by the five hundred people in the Pacific Northwest who were exposed to Bt-spray.24
Bt-TOXIN DAMAGES CELL WALLS
Bt-toxin kills insects by creating small holes (pores) in the cell walls of their digestive tracts, which in turn allow bacteria and other substances to pass through. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which labels Bt corn and Bt cotton plants as registered pesticides, insists that Bt-toxin will have absolutely no influence on human or mammalian cells. But research published in the Journal of Applied Toxicology25 in 2012 proves otherwise. Researchers “documented that modified Bt toxins [from GM plants] are not inert on human cells, but can exert toxicity.” In high concentrations (generally higher than that produced in average Bt corn), Bt-toxin disrupts the membrane in just twenty-four hours, causing certain fluids to leak through the cell walls. The authors specifically note, “This may be due to pore formation like in insect cells.” Thus, Bt-toxin may indeed create small holes in our intestines.
Garry Gordon, MD, warns, “If [Bt-toxin] is causing an increased propensity for our intestine to become permeable or leaky and for foods to be presented to our bloodstream in a premature fashion, the havoc that it will cause will be across the entire spectrum of disease, from premature aging and Alzheimer’s to Parkinson’s to autism to cancer to asthma.”
The EPA had also claimed that Bt-toxin was destroyed during digestion in humans. But a 2011 Canadian study conducted at Sherbrooke Hospital discovered that 93 percent of the pregnant women they tested had Bt-toxin in their blood. And so too did 80 percent of their unborn fetuses.26 Thus, not only was the toxin not fully broken down in the stomach, a toxin is circulating within our blood stream that might further damage the cell walls it encounters. And in fetuses, which don’t have developed blood-brain barriers, this might result in damage to brain cells.
The third way GMOs can cause harm stems from the fact that transgenic protein may be different from the original and create unintended health hazards. In order for the inserted gene to produce proteins, the piece of DNA is first “transcribed” into RNA, and then “translated” to produce amino acid sequences, which are only then folded into proteins. These proteins confer the desired traits in the GMOs. The insertion process, however, can cause mutations and truncations in the genetic code of the inserted transgene. Monsanto’s Mon 810 Bt corn, for example, lost 30 percent of the transgene during insertion, and another of their Bt corns (Mon 863) ended up a mutation within the transgene. If the original transgene sequences are changed, then the amino acid sequences of proteins they produce in GMOs can similarly be altered, with unpredictable side-effects.
Even if the transgene gets into the plant DNA unscathed, the transcription process from DNA to RNA may also introduce unpredicted changes. Monsanto’s Roundup Ready soybean, for example, does not produce the RNA that Monsanto engineers intended. Instead, because a portion of the genetic sequence they inserted into the plant’s DNA (the “termination” sequence) failed to function properly, the soybean actually produces four RNA transcripts.27 These can produce proteins of different shapes and sequences.
And even if the RNA functions fine and produces the amino acids in the desired sequence, they may be misfolded; or molecules may attach themselves to the folded protein causing dangerous side-effects. For example, when Australian scientists inserted a gene from kidney beans into peas, the protein produced in a genetically engineered pea had the right amino acid sequence—the same as that produced in kidney beans. But the sugar molecules attached to the protein in the peas had a slightly different shape from the molecules that attached themselves in the natural beans. This slight change of the sugar chain (called glycosylation) was credited with changing a harmless protein into a potentially deadly allergen.28
The fourth danger concerns the large quantity of toxic herbicides used on GM herbicidetolerant crops. The vast majority of GMOs are herbicide tolerant—they allow specific herbicides to be sprayed on fields without damaging the GM plant. Roundup Ready soybeans, for example, tolerate applications of Roundup herbicide. Herbicide-tolerant crops have led to an increase in herbicide use of five hundred twentyseven million pounds in the U.S. over the first sixteen years,29 and significantly higher levels of toxic residues in GM food.
Numerous studies in the past several years have implicated Roundup, or its active ingredient glyphosate, in cancer, birth defects, endocrine disorders, Parkinson’s, and damage to gut bacteria.30 A 2013 paper in the journal Entropy goes even further. Examining the biochemical impacts of glyphosate on two key metabolic pathways, as well as its ability to bind with minerals and make them inassimilable, the authors link it to “most of the diseases and conditions associated with a Western diet, which include gastrointestinal disorders, obesity, diabetes, heart disease, depression, autism, infertility, cancer and Alzheimer’s disease.”31
Finally, transgenes inserted into GM crops can transfer to DNA of gut flora. According to one of the only published human feeding studies on GMOs, part of the transgenes from Roundup Ready soybeans transferred into bacteria living inside our intestines.32 In addition, the viral promoter, which turns on the gene and which forces continuous production of proteins, was also transferred intact. The gut bacteria from the human subjects that had acquired these transgenes were not killed by glyphosate— which is a powerful broad spectrum antibiotic. The survival of these bacteria in the presence of glyphosate supports the likelihood that even after being transferred into the DNA of the gut flora, the soy transgenes continued to produce the Roundup Ready proteins. If so, even short term exposure to GM foods might result in long-term exposure to transgenic proteins that are produced continuously inside our digestive systems. The medical consequences are unknown, but potentially catastrophic. Consider the various genetic components that might transfer and their implications:
The Roundup Ready gene produces a protein that has properties of a dust mite allergen, and therefore fails the World Health Organization’s recommended allergen screening protocol. If produced by our own gut bacteria, this protein might continuously trigger immune reactions.
• The viral promoter has the capacity to switch on unintended genes. It may therefore cause the overproduction of proteins from randomly switched-on genes found within the gut bacteria.
• Antibiotic resistant marker genes, used in most GM food crops, might create super diseases, untreatable with antibiotics.
• GM papaya, zucchini and yellow squash have viral transgenes that may produce viral proteins. More than one hundred studies show that viral proteins can suppress an organism’s defenses against viral infections33 or have toxic effects.
• The Bt gene might transfer from GM corn and convert our intestinal flora into living pesticide factories.
This last risk may explain the results of a study presented above. Recall that 93 percent of pregnant women tested had the Bt-toxin in their blood. The toxin is likely to wash out of our blood fairly quickly; therefore the consumption of Bt-toxin would have to be very frequent to explain this finding. But Canadians don’t eat corn products that often. (Although Canadians and Americans eat a lot of corn derivatives like corn syrup, the Bt-toxin is destroyed in these highly processed foods, so that would not be the source of this blood contaminant.)
The study authors suggest that the source of Bt-toxin—which ultimately came from Monsanto’s Bt corn—may have been acquired in milk and meat from animals fed the corn. This would require, however, that the protein remain intact both through the animals’ digestive process and the humans’. While this might be true, a more plausible explanation may be that the Bt-toxin was produced by the gut flora within the digestive tract, after the flora acquired the genes from corn tortillas, corn on the cob, etc.
OVERLAPPING CAUSATIVE FACTORS
While these are just some of the ways that GMOs may cause harm, in reality, their effects may be due to a combination of causative factors. In a French two-year feeding study published in 2012, for example, rats suffered from multiple massive tumors, shorter life spans, and organ damage. The research design used several different treatment groups: those fed Roundup Ready corn that had been sprayed with Roundup, those fed Roundup Ready corn without Roundup applied, and those fed just Roundup with no added GMO corn. All three groups suffered from these maladies to various degrees, while the controls fared much better. Thus, each component had a negative impact and the actual harm to humans and animals eating GMOs may be due to the synergy of causes.
TIPPING POINT AGAINST GMOs RISING
Although governments have not been fully responsive to the mounting evidence of harm from GMOs, consumers are reacting in greater numbers. The impact can be significant and world-changing. In Europe, after the media publicized significant health risks of GMOs in early 1999, a tipping point of consumer rejection forced the food companies to commit to remove GM ingredients on that continent. Now consumer rejection in the U.S. appears to be setting the stage for the removal of GMOs in this country as well.
Consumer concern over GMO health risks has driven unprecedented demand for non-GMO products. In fact, 2012 sales of non-GMO labeled products in the United States increased more than any other health and wellness category, according to 2012 Nielsen Health and Wellness Claims Performance Report. An executive at the national food store chain Whole Foods said that when a product becomes verified as non-GMO, sales increase by 15-30 percent.
A May 27th New York Times article entitled “Seeking Food Ingredients That Aren’t Gene-Altered” conveyed the profound industrywide ripple effect of the emerging non-GMO consumer trend. The article highlighted the “March Against Monsanto” by more than two million people in fifty-two countries; the more than two dozen U.S. state legislatures introducing GMO labeling bills; hundreds of companies recently enrolling products in the third-party non-GMO verifier, the Non-GMO Project; company executives who were worried that their supply of non-GMO ingredients would be lost to newcomer brands; and some companies that were already going overseas to get their hard-to-find non-GMO ingredients. In addition, food processors were seeking more non-GMO soy and corn, and farmers were already enjoying recent increases in non-GMO premiums per bushel.
If food company execs had any doubts about the trend, within three weeks they were likely extinguished. GMO labeling bills passed in Connecticut and Maine; the national chain of Target stores announced that their home brand will be fully non-GMO by 2014; the national restaurant chain Chipotle committed to label (then soon remove) all GMOs and two more studies highlighted GMO dangers (damaged blood cells in mice,35 inflamed and ulcerated stomachs and enlarged uteruses in pigs36). In addition, genetically engineered Roundup Ready wheat—which had not been approved for use in any country in the world—was discovered growing in an Oregon farmer’s field. Japan and South Korea temporarily suspended U.S. imports of wheat, and the food industry was once again reminded of the uncontrollable risk of GMO contamination thrust upon them by the biotech industry.
The next stage of the tipping point will come shortly, when a popular mainstream product, not sold in natural food stores, announces that it is Non-GMO Project verified. The “Battle for Market Share” between that product and the GMO-laden brand leaders on the shelves in Walmart and Safeway will be watched by the entire food industry. If the market share shifts towards the non-GMO product, then every other brand category will be inspired to quickly eliminate GMOs and declare it. Otherwise their competitor might beat them to it and grab market share as well.
MAKING A CHOICE FOR OURSELVES AND OUR FUTURE
The current situation is dangerous. GMOs are likely promoting the rise of numerous diseases in humans and animals, and creating widespread chemical and genetic pollution in the environment. Those who call for more science are ironically labeled by the biotech industry as “anti-science.” And the scientists who do discover safety problems or even express concerns are typically attacked and dismissed.
If reviewers were to reevaluate the technology in an independent manner, free from the manufactured bias of the biotech industry, they would be compelled to withdraw GMOs from our food supply and prevent releases in our environment. But the U.S. government ignores the mounting evidence of health problems linked to GMOs, the accelerating rejection of these foods by U.S. consumers, and the failure of GMOs to live up to their promises. The Obama administration, like those before him, has not backed down from their unconditional support of the biotech industry. In fact, a recent Wikileaks analysis by Food and Water Watch revealed how the U.S. State Department is secretly working on behalf of the biotech industry’s interests worldwide.
Given proper time and research, it is theoretically possible that genetically engineered products would become predictable, safe and beneficial. But at this point it is not responsible to expose the products of this infant science to all who eat, or to release them into the ecosystem where they can never be fully recalled.
Fortunately, U.S. citizens are no longer accepting the baseless claims that GMOs are safe. As they wake up to the risks of GMOs, they take matters into their own hands and seek non- GMO alternatives. If the food industry responds in America like they did in Europe, consumers will ultimately move the market and protect themselves from the risks of this dangerous technology.
SOME Lies GMO Label ing Opponents are Recycling in Washington State
By Zack Kaldveer, Organic Consumers Association, August 21, 2013
It’s déjà vu all over again. Last year a coalition of out-of-state, multinational biotech, pesticide and junk food corporations spent nearly forty-six million dollars to narrowly defeat Proposition 37, California’s GMO Labeling Initiative. Now the same who’s who of the world’s most notorious global corporate bad actors has descended on Washington State. Why? To try to stop Washington State voters from passing I-522, a citizens’ initiative which, if passed, will require mandatory labeling of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in all food products sold in Washington State.
Lie: Labeling genetically engineered foods (GMOs) will cost taxpayers millions of dollars a year.
Truth: Empirical studies have concluded labeling would lead to no increases in prices. Since the European Union labeled GMOs in the 1990’s, there has been “no resulting increase in grocery costs.”Trader Joe’s, Clif Bar & Co. and Washington’s own PCC Natural Markets all label their non-GMO product lines at no additional cost to consumers.
Lie: I-522 is full of arbitrary special interest exemptions that will just confuse consumers.
Truth: I-522 requires labeling for the GE foods that are most prevalent in the American diet: food on supermarket shelves. I-522’s exemptions are easy to explain and guided by common sense and the law.
Lie: Consumers don’t need labels to avoid GMOs. All they need to do is buy certified organic products.
Truth: Food companies routinely and intentionally mislead consumers by labeling products “natural” in order to attract health-conscious consumers. Because the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) does not prohibit the use of the word “natural” on products containing GMOs, most consumers are fooled by this label.
Lie: Washington will be the only state in the nation to label GMOs, unfairly hurting farmers and the state’s multi-billion dollar agricultural industry.
Truth: Washington won’t be the only state labeling GE foods. Connecticut, Maine and Alaska have passed labeling laws and dozens of other states are considering identical proposals. Besides, sixty-four countries already require labeling, so many farmers are already used to labeling for exports.
Lie: I-522 encourages shakedown lawsuits by giving trial lawyers an unprecedented new right to sue farmers, food producers and store owners over the wording on food labels.
Truth: I-522 offers no economic incentives for lawyers to sue. Consumers can’t file a class action suit against food producers without first giving the food producer a warning and the opportunity to comply with the law. As long as the defendant fixes the labels, then no class action is permitted.
Lie: Labeling GMOs creates a bureaucratic nightmare for grocers and retailers and requires the state government to monitor labels on thousands of food products in thousands of stores, costing taxpayers millions.
Truth: Under I-522, the person responsible for labeling processed foods is the person who puts the label on: the manufacturer. Retailers would only have to label the few raw commodities (sweet corn, papaya, squash) that are genetically engineered. They can either stick a simple label on the bin or, if they wish, they can ask their supplier for a sworn statement that the crop is not genetically engineered. I-522 requires no costly testing for GE ingredients. No burdensome government oversight is necessary. The system is inherently designed to protect small grocers and retailers while providing consumers with the right to know what’s in their food without increasing grocery costs.
Lie: GE foods pose no health safety risks.
Truth: A growing body of peer-reviewed animal studies have linked these foods to allergies, organ toxicity, diabetes, cancer, autoimmune disorders, birth defects, high infant mortality rates, fertility problems, and sterility.
Lie: We need GMOs to feed the world.
Truth: Studies have proven that GE crops do not lead to greater crop yields. In fact, just the opposite is true. A 2009 study by the Union of Concerned Scientists found GMO crops fail to produce higher yields. And a recently released, peer-reviewed study published in the International Journal of Agricultural Sustainability found that conventional plant breeding, not genetic engineering, is responsible for yield increases in major U.S. crops.
THE EVIDENCE MOUNTS: SOME STUDIES SHOWING GMO DANGERS
• Scientists at the Russian Academy of Sciences reported between 2005 and 2006 that female rats fed Roundup Ready-tolerant GM soy produced excessive numbers of severely stunted pups with more than half of the litter dying within three weeks, and the surviving pups completely sterile.37
• In 2005, scientists at the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization in Canberra, Australia reported that a harmless protein in beans (alpha-amylase inhibitor) transferred to peas caused inflammation in the lungs of mice and provoked sensitivities to other proteins in the diet.38
• From 2002 to 2005, scientists at the Universities of Urbino, Perugia and Pavia in Italy published reports indicating that GM soy affected cells in the pancreas, liver and testes of young mice.39
• In 2004, Monsanto’s secret research dossier showed that rats fed MON863 GM corn developed serious kidney and blood abnormalities.40
• In 1998, Dr. Arpad Pusztai and colleagues formerly of the Rowett Institute in Scotland reported damage in every organ system of young rats fed GM potatoes containing snowdrop lectin, including a stomach lining twice as thick as controls.41
• Also in 1998, scientists in Egypt found similar effects in the guts of mice fed Bt potato.42
• The U.S. Food and Drug Administration had data dating back to early 1990s showing that rats fed GM tomatoes with antisense gene to delay ripening had developed small holes in their stomachs.43
• In 2002, Aventis company (later Bayer Cropscience) submitted data to UK regulators showing that chickens fed glufosinate-tolerant GM corn Chardon LL were twice as likely to die compared with controls.43
• In 2012, researchers found that female rats fed Roundup Ready-tolerant GM corn developed large tumors and dysfunction of the pituitary gland; males also developed tumors and exhibited pathologies of the liver and kidney.43
1. Louis J. Pribyl, “Biotechnology Draft Document, 2/27/92,” March 6, 1992 http://www.responsibletechnology.org/fraud/fda-quotes
2. José Domingo, “Toxicity Studies of Genetically Modified Plants : A Review of the Published Literature,” Critical reviews in food science and nutrition, 2007, vol. 47, no8, pp. 721-733
3. P. H. Bao, S. Granata, S. Castiglione, G. Wang, C. Giordani, E. Cuzzoni, G. Damiani, C. Bandi, S. K. Datta, K. Datta, I. Potrykus, A. Callegarin and F. Sala, “Evidence for genomic changes in transgenic rice (Oryza sativa L.) recovered from protoplasts” Transgen Res 5 (1996): 97-103.; M. Labra, C. Savini, M. Bracale, N. Pelucchi, L. Colombo, M. Bardini and F. Sala, “Genomic changes in transgenic rice (Oryza sativa L.) plants produced by infecting calli with Agrobacterium tumefaciens,” Plant Cell Rep 20 (2001): 325-330
4. Srivastava, et al, “Pharmacogenomics of the cystic fibrosis transmembrane conductance regulator (CFTR) and the cystic fibrosis drug CPX using genome microarray analysis,” Mol Med. 5, no. 11(Nov 1999):753–67.
5. The original study: Stephen R. Padgette et al., “The Composition of Glyphosate- Tolerant Soybean Seeds Is Equivalent to That of Conventional Soybeans,” The Journal of Nutrition 126, no. 4, (April 1996), left out the data from the cooked soybeans, which was recovered from the Journal and referenced in A. Pusztai and S. Bardocz, “GMO in animal nutrition: potential benefits and risks,” Chapter 17, Biology of Nutrition in Growing Animals (Elsevier, 2005).
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7. Vazquez et al, “Intragastric and intraperitoneal administration of Cry1Ac protoxin from Bacillus thuringiensis induces systemic and mucosal antibody responses in mice,” Life Sciences, 64, no. 21 (1999): 1897–1912; Vazquez et al, “Characterization of the mucosal and systemic immune response induced by Cry1Ac protein from Bacillus thuringiensis HD 73 in mice,” Brazilian Journal of Medical and Biological Research 33 (2000): 147–155.
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16. Carrie Swadener, “Bacillus thuringiensis (B.t.),” Journal of Pesticide Reform 14, no. 3 (Fall 1994). See also, Health effects of B.t.: Report of surveillance in Oregon, 1985-87. Precautions to minimize your exposure (Salem, OR: Oregon Department of Human Resources, Health Division, April 18, 1991); and Material Safety Data Sheet for Foray 48B Flowable Concentrate (Danbury, CT: Novo Nordisk, February, 1991).
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20. BT: An Alternative to Chemical Pesticides, Environmental Protection Division, Ministry of Environment, Government of British Columbia, Canada, http://www.env.gov.bc.ca/epd/epdpa/ipmp/fact_sheets/BTfacts.htm
21. See for example, A. Dutton, H. Klein, J. Romeis, and F. Bigler, “Uptake of Bt-toxin by herbivores feeding on transgenic maize and consequences for the predator Chrysoperia carnea,” Ecological Entomology 27 (2002): 441–7; and J. Romeis, A. Dutton, and F. Bigler, “Bacillus thuringiensis toxin (Cry1Ab) has no direct effect on larvae of the green lacewing Chrysoperia carnea (Stephens) (Neuroptera: Chrysopidae),” Journal of Insect Physiology 50, no. 2–3 (2004): 175–183.
22. Alberto Finamore, et al., “Intestinal and Peripheral Immune Response to MON810 Maize Ingestion in Weaning and Old Mice,” J. Agric. Food Chem., 2008, 56 (23), pp 11533–11539, November 14, 2008.
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24. Ashish Gupta et. al., “Impact of Bt Cotton on Farmers’ Health (in Barwani and Dhar District of Madhya Pradesh),” Investigation Report, Oct–Dec 2005; and Sunday Indian, according to hospital records: “Victims of itching have increased massively this year . . . related to BT cotton farming.” October 26, 2008.
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27. Andreas Rang, et al., “Detection of RNA variants transcribed from the transgene in Roundup Ready soybean,” Eur Food Res Technol 220 (2005): 438–443.
28. V. E. Prescott, et al, “Transgenic Expression of Bean r-Amylase Inhibitor in Peas Results in Altered Structure and Immunogenicity,” Journal of Agricultural Food Chemistry (2005): 53.
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31. Anthony Samsel and Stephanie Seneff, Glyphosate’s Suppression of Cytochrome P450 Enzymes and Amino Acid Biosynthesis by the Gut Microbiome: Pathways to Modern Diseases, Entropy, 18 April 2013, http://www.mdpi.com/1099-4300/15/4/1416
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33. Comments on GM Science Review, From Econexus, the Five Year Freeze, Friends of the Earth, GeneWatch UK, Greenpeace, the Soil Association, and Dr Michael Antoniou, October 14th 2003.
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This article appeared in Wise Traditions in Food, Farming and the Healing Arts, the quarterly journal of the Weston A. Price Foundation, Fall 2013.