Hidden within a large federal spending bill is a proposal for $3 million to go toward consumer education and outreach to “promote understanding and acceptance of agricultural biotechnology”—a campaign to be carried out jointly by the FDA and the USDA. In plain English, this proposal would spend taxpayer dollars on an effort to convince Americans that GMOs are just fine—perhaps even that they shouldn’t be labeled.
You'll soon know whether many of the packaged foods you buy contain ingredients derived from genetically modified plants, such as soybeans and corn. Over the past week or so, big companies including General Mills, Mars and Kellogg have announced plans to label such products – even though they still don't think it's a good idea. The reason, in a word, is Vermont. The tiny state has boxed big food companies into a corner. Two years ago, the state passed legislation requiring mandatory labeling. The Grocery Manufacturers Association has fought back against the law, both in court and in Congress, but so far it's been unsuccessful. And since food companies can't create different packaging just for Vermont, it appears that the tiniest of states has created a labeling standard that will go into effect nationwide.
Russia has dealt a huge blow to U.S. farmers, after banning all imports of U.S. soybeans and corn due to microbial and GMO contamination, the country’s food safety regulator Rosselkhoznadzor announced earlier in February.
A recent USDA report acknowledging the spread of genetically engineered alfalfa into the wild is just further proof of what natural health advocates have known for a long time: that genetically engineered crops cannot “coexist” with traditional, organic agriculture. The report details the findings of a USDA team that analyzed three areas where alfalfa is grown: California, Idaho, and Washington. Of the over 400 areas the researchers studied, over a quarter (27%) contained GE alfalfa with Monsanto’s Roundup Ready-resistant gene. The study’s results stated that “transgenic [GE] plants could spread transgenes to neighboring feral plants, and potentially to neighboring non-GE fields.” This should come as no surprise. The problem is getting worse. Farmers in Oregon, fighting for a bill that would allow local governments to regulate crops and seeds, recently told legislators that contamination leads to real financial losses: “We lose money when we have a GMO contamination event, which I’ve had happen twice. We lose money directly, as have other growers,” said one organic farmer at a committee hearing.
Microcephaly is 40 times more common in the U.S. than it is in Brazil. The Zika virus is clearly not the cause of microcephaly. So why are politicians and medical leaders creating this false Zika epidemic?
In 1997, Gottfried Glöckner, an award-winning dairy farmer in Germany, became the first farmer to grow and feed Bt176 corn to his prized Holstein cows. The test continued until 2002. According to Séralini, this was the longest running and most detailed observation of farm animals ever performed for a GE crop. Since 1986, when Glöckner took over the farm, he’d had no cases of serious disease on his farm. That all changed once he started feeding his cows Bt176 in 1997. As Glöckner increased the amount of Bt176 corn in the cows’ feed, gradually going from 2 to 40 percent over the course of two years, the worse his cows fared. At the outset, 70 percent of his cows produced high yields of milk, which is considered normal. Once the GMO content of the feed reached 40 percent, a mere 40 percent of his cows were high-yielding. In 2000, milk tested positive for the Bt176 DNA specific fragment, which under European law meant the milk had to be labeled as coming from GE-fed animals. Peak mortality was reached in 2002, when 10 percent of his cows died after suffering a long period of partial paralysis. Thirty percent of the herd was sick with a variety of ailments.
The FDA recently announced that it would be accepting public input on how—or whether—to define the term “natural” on food labels. This action came about as a result of a number of petitions filed by the Grocery Manufacturer’s Association (GMA) and Consumers Union. The GMA asked the FDA to redefine “natural” so that foods derived from biotechnology (read: GMO foods) could use the label, while Consumers Union separately filed a petition asking the FDA to prohibit the use of “natural” on food labels altogether since the term is vague and misleading to consumers. The FDA is asking for public input on a variety of questions revolving around which foods should be allowed to bear the term “natural” and what kinds of things—such as processing and different manufacturing methods—should bar a food from being called “natural.” The GMA petition is a case in point—what meaning does the label have if genetically manipulated foods doused with herbicide can be called “natural”?
In March 2015, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), which is the research arm of the World Health Organization (WHO), determined glyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide, to be a “probable carcinogen” (Class 2A). This determination was based on evidence showing the popular weed killer can cause non-Hodgkin lymphoma and lung cancer in humans, along with “convincing evidence” it can also cause cancer in animals. Monsanto has maintained that the classification as a carcinogen is wrong and continues to tout glyphosate (and Roundup) as one of the safest pesticides on the planet. However, they’ve now been slapped with a growing number of lawsuits alleging they long knew that Roundup’s glyphosate could harm human health. In fact, internal Monsanto documents reveal they knew over 30 years ago that glyphosate caused adenomas and carcinomas in the rats they studied – and that’s only the beginning of Monsanto’s trouble. As each day goes by, the GMO (genetically modified organism) cookie continues to crumble.
Robert Kremer, Phd., co-author of the book Principles in Weed Management, is a certified soil scientist and professor of Soil Microbiology at the University of Missouri. He recently retired from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), where he worked as a microbiologist for 32 years. He's conducted research since 1997 on genetically engineered (GE) crops, and in this interview he reveals how GE crops and glyphosate impact soil ecology and biology. We often think of glyphosate as just another herbicide being applied topically, but it's important to realize that one of the properties of glyphosate is that when it enters a plant, it becomes systemic, and cannot be washed off like many other herbicides. Making matters even worse, glyphosate formulations such as Roundup are synergistically even more toxic than glyphosate itself.
By training, I am a plant biologist. In the early 1990s I was busy making genetically modified plants (often called GMOs for Genetically Modified Organisms) as part of the research that led to my PhD. I was not, at the outset, concerned about the possible effects of GM plants on human health or the environment. I now believe, as a much more experienced scientist, that GMO crops still run far ahead of our understanding of their risks. I have become much more appreciative of the complexity of biological organisms and their capacity for benefits and harms. As a scientist I have become much more humble about the capacity of science to do more than scratch the surface in its understanding of the deep complexity and diversity of the natural world. To paraphrase a cliché, I more and more appreciate that as scientists we understand less and less. I have read numerous GMO risk assessment applications. These are the documents that governments rely on to ‘prove’ their safety. Though these documents are quite long and quite complex, their length is misleading in that they primarily ask (and answer) trivial questions. Furthermore, the experiments described within them are often very inadequate and sloppily executed. Scientific controls are often missing, procedures and reagents are badly described, and the results are often ambiguous or uninterpretable. I do not believe that this ambiguity and apparent incompetence is accidental. To any honest observer, reading these applications is bound to raise profound and disturbing questions: about the trustworthiness of the applicants and equally of the regulators. They are impossible to reconcile with a functional regulatory system capable of protecting the public.