Genetically Modified Food
Since the dawn of agriculture, pests have been a problem, robbing farmers of the harvest. By the time modern industrial agriculture was in full swing, the monoculture method of planting only served to magnify this problem. Due to the lack of biodiversity, the risk of pestilence is very great in modern monoculture. A pest, if uncontrolled could wipe out the entire harvest. This vulnerability in a monoculture food production system was looking for a way to control the pests. Precise genetic modification of food plant (and now animal) species would turn out to be the solution modern, industrialized society would turn to.
Genetic engineering of animals and plants is a way of unnaturally and precisely manipulating their genes by use Recombinant DNA and DNA cloning techniques to give them artificial and “unnatural” properties desirable to humans. In agriculture, the most common application is to make a plant species immune to pesticides so that the resultant mutation can withstand abnormal amounts of pesticide – amounts that are lethal or severely damaging to the non-GMO plant. Another growing application area is supplementing plants with minerals and vitamins. There are two categories of GMO plants:
- Herbicide-tolerant (HT) crops – more commonly known as “Roundup Ready crops,” are genetically engineered to survive direct application of one or more herbicides during the growing season,chemicals that would otherwise kill or severely stunt the crop.
- Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) crops – are GMOs that are engineered with the Bacillus Thuringiensis bacterium implanted to produce toxins that kill certain agricultural insect pests.
Figure 1: Bt-GMO (Source: Nature Education)
Genetic modification itself is not a new technique. It may be argued that genetically modified organisms (GMOs) have been around as long as humans have been successfully (cross) breeding different plants and animals to achieve a desired result. A farmer who combines two crops or two animals in an attempt to create a more desirable crop/animal can be said to be creating a GMO. The modern use of the term GMO, however is usually reserved for organisms that are the result of precise application of scientific knowledge and technology…specifically Recombinant DNA and DNA cloning techniques. The term transgenic is often applied to describe such organisms made with these modern scientific methods. For a brief history of genetic engineering, click here.
How Widespread are GMO’s in the Global Food Supply?
GMO crops have rapidly become ubiquitous, mostly due to strong industry lobbying in the United States that lowered the regulation barriers. From the US, it quickly spread throughout the world. A lot of necessary testing was sidestepped due to this intense lobbying, letting the GMO Genie out of the bottle. From 1994 when the FDA approved the first GMO crop to 1999, GMO’s spread around the world like wildfire, offering farmers what appeared to be a Panacea against pests.
According to GMO Compass, the global hectares of GMO crops grew from 1.7 million hectares in 1996 to nearly 140 million hectares in 2009. The majority of these were grown for herbicide tolerance. This allows farmers to spray for weeds without worrying about killing their crops at the same time. The most common herbicides these plants are resistant to are glyphosate and glufosinate-ammonium. Glyphosate is the active ingredient in the weed killer, Roundup, so these plants are often called “Roundup Ready.”
According to the Non-GMO Project, as much as 80 percent of the processed foods available contain GMOs. In the US, the majority of most of the major crops are now GMO. These are found in ingredients derived from the most common GMO crops, including:
- Corn: 88 percent (21.2 million hectares) of American corn is genetically modified. Corn is used in oils, flours, fillers, thickeners, flavorings, sweeteners, livestock feed, and many other applications.
- Soy: 93 percent (54.4 million hectares) is genetically modified. Soy is a very common ingredient in processed foods. It is used in processed food as oils, fillers, and proteins.
- Cottonseed: 94 percent (9.8 million hectares) is genetically modified. Cottonseed oil is a common food ingredient, used for shortening and frying.
- Papaya: 75 percent of Hawaiian papaya is genetically modified.
- Canola (rapeseed): 90 percent (4.6 million hectares) of canola (used in oil) is genetically modified. Canola oil is a common ingredient in a number of processed foods.
- Sugar beets: Over 50 percent of the sugar beet crops are genetically modified. Sugar beets are used to make sucrose (sugar), as well as in food colorings. They are also used as livestock feed.
While GMO has found widespread adoption, 30 other countries around the world, including Australia, Japan, and all of the countries in the European Union have either restricted or outright banned the production of GMOs, because they are not considered to be proven safe.
Does GMO Live Up to its Promise?
Few topics in agriculture are more polarizing than genetic engineering (GE), the process of manipulating an organism’s genetic material—usually using genes from other species—in an effort to produce desired traits such as higher yield or drought tolerance. GE has been hailed by some as an indispensable tool for solving the world’s food problems, and denounced by others as an example of human overreaching fraught with unknown, potentially catastrophic dangers. UCS experts analyze the applications of genetic engineering in agriculture—particularly in comparison to other options—and offer practical recommendations based on that analysis.
The UCS full 2009 report is downloadable by clicking on the Failure to Yield graphics or by clicking here.
Benefits of GE: Promise vs. Performance
Supporters of GE in agriculture point to a multitude of potential benefits of engineered crops, including increased yield, tolerance of drought, reduced pesticide use, more efficient use of fertilizers, and ability to produce drugs or other useful chemicals. UCS analysis shows that actual benefits have often fallen far short of expectations.
Health and Environmental Risks
While the risks of genetic engineering have sometimes been exaggerated or misrepresented, GE crops do have the potential to cause a variety of health problems and environmental impacts. For instance, they may produce new allergens and toxins, spread harmful traits to weeds and non-GE crops, or harm animals that consume them.
At least one major environmental impact of genetic engineering has already reached critical proportions: overuse of herbicide-tolerant GE crops has spurred an increase in herbicide use and an epidemic of herbicide-resistant “superweeds,” which will lead to even more herbicide use.
How likely are other harmful GE impacts to occur? This is a difficult question to answer. Each crop-gene combination poses its own set of risks. While risk assessments are conducted as part of GE product approval, the data are generally supplied by the company seeking approval, and GE companies use their patent rights to exercise tight control over research on their products.
In short, there is a lot we don’t know about the risks of GE—which is no reason for panic, but a good reason for caution.
Pests Tolerance to GM Crops
Corn rootworm on the roots of a corn plant. Image: Sarah Zukoff/Flickr
Crops genetically engineered to produce insecticidal toxins derived from the bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) kill pest insects and reduce the use of conventional insecticides. However, the evolution of Bt resistance can diminishes these benefits. The western corn rootworm is a serious pest of maize and is managed with Bt maize. Beginning in 2009, western corn rootworm with resistance to maize producing the Bt toxin Cry3Bb1 imposed severe injury to Cry3Bb1 maize in Iowa. We show that cross-resistance exists between Cry3Bb1 maize and mCry3A maize and is associated with severe injury to Bt maize in farmers’ fields. These results illustrate that Bt crops producing less than a high dose of toxin against target pests may select for resistance rapidly; consequently, current approaches for managing Bt resistance should be reexamined.
The study finds that both the supplier and the farmers did not strictly (or even loosely) follow the recommendations of scientists, who had suggested that a buffer zone of non-GMO crops be created for.
Questions of Safety of Roundup
Genetic engineering allows farmers to spray large amounts of the world’s most popular herbicide, Roundup on HT-GMO crops without harming them. A recent study published by Dr. Channa Jayasumana et al in the March 2014 edition of the Open Access International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health entitled Glyphosate, Hard Water and Nephrotoxic Metals: Are They the Culprits Behind the Epidemic of Chronic Kidney Disease of Unknown Etiology in Sri Lanka? proposes a link between the mysterious killer disease CKDu responsible for the death of tens of thousands of poor farmers across 11 countries and glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup. More on this research study can be found here.
The Politics of GMO
GMO’s are very controversial because of their universal implications on human health and the ability of technologies such as terminator seeds to enable a few multinational food giants to control the entire global food supply.
The GMO issue is hotly debated with scientific supporters on both sides. The biotechnology movement is very reminiscent of the Climate Change Denial movement in that both involve multi-national corporations with huge vested interests. This corporate involvement biases scientific results and anti-GMO proponents argue that biotech industry, especially Monsanto, employs the same kind of lack-of-transparency, denial, corptocracy and media distortions. Monsanto stands accused of using much of the same techniques popularized by big tobacco and climate denialism. The popular film Food Inc. and many others explore Monsanto’s unethical practices, which has caused the public to hold Monsanto with a high degree of mistrust.
Because of the documented history of the vast powers of corptocracy to push out GMO product with insufficient testing, the public feels that a vast experiment has been unleashed around the entire planet. Such corporate-controlled applications of technology is another major example of a potential progress trap…a promise for good whose unintended and intentionally suppressed side-effects may do far more harm than good. When the major players are multi-billion dollar food conglomerates who lack transparency and have huge lobbying power, it is a great concern to objectivity. The GMO food issue demonstrates the problematic situation which arises when industry exerts so much control over policy.
From 1992 to 2002, GMO moved rapidly in the US from test fields to the supermarket shelf. This rapid migration was no accident but came about through heavy high level industry lobbying and business and government networks which helped Monsanto effectively bypass all regulatory hurdles. As a result, GMO food is now ubiquitous throughout the US food industry and Monsanto’s Roundup is now the leading global herbicide used to treat GMO plants. Most non-organic US corn, soy, cotton, sugar beets are GMO and together provide the majority of the sweeteners, fats, and additives used by food manufacturers, and also nearly all of the feed used by the US meat industry.The sad truth is that the GMO genie is out of the bottle.
The company on the leading edge of GMO, Monsanto, is the same company that has, at one stage or another of its history been involved in the creation, distribution or marketing of other notorious toxins such as PCB’s, Agent Orange and DDT. A track record like that should immediately set off warning bells but once again, big business has the power to push through products if the monetary rewards are lucrative enough.
Today, we live in a chemical world of 80,000 chemicals – of which perhaps 300 have been tested. Projects such as the Human Toxome project are beginning to process the huge backlogs of untested chemicals.
The History of the US government, the FDA and Monsanto
The person who may be responsible for more food-related illness and death than anyone in history has just been made the US food safety czar. This is no joke.
- Jeffrey Smith, Consumer Advocate
The rapid spread of GMO in the US and then throughout the world was principally brought about by the US FDA abdicating the responsibility to protect the US public against GMO. To this day, it does not require a single safety study on GMO; leaving it up to Monsanto to police itself. This conflict-of-interest had its beginnings in the cozy relationship between the biotech industry and George Bush Senior. The White house, under the first Bush administration instructed the FDA to promote biotechnology. The FDA responded by creating a new position for former Monsanto senior lawyer, Michael Taylor who headed FDA policy. In this position, he rapidly greenlighted all GMO related products. It was a clear conflict of interest and was likened by many to allowing the fox to guard the henhouse. Taylor allowed GMO into the U.S. food supply without undergoing a single test to determine their safety or risks. Then Taylor left and returned to Monsanto to become vice president and in 2009 returned to the Obama administration where he is the head of food safety at FDA. Obama does not see any conflict of interest, even though it is as clear as day to any lay person.
GMO: Not Fully Tested but now Ubiquitous
The entire US and world population is becoming one giant guinea pig. The World Health Organization only requires safety of food be tested for a 90 day period. No acute symptoms have ever been found or associated with GMO food but could GMO food have a long term and chronic effect? These are all worrying and disconcerting questions and the fact that they have not been addressed by Big Ag is obviously due to their bottom line.
Between 1992 and 2002—the period over which GMO crops moved rapidly from test plants to farm fields to dinner tables, the USDA spent about $1.8 billion on ag-biotechnology research—of which about 1 percent went to safety testing, a Union of Concerned Scientists analysis shows. Meanwhile, the ag-biotech industry uses its patent power to maintain tight control over who researches what—and dominates the research agenda at America’s main ag-research universities. When we eat GMOs, as millions of Americans do every day, we’re still eating in the dark.
Health Risks of GMO
The Health risks of GMO food are either varied and many, if one reads the conclusions of independent research studies or are nonexistent if one reads research papers affiliated with the biotech industry.. Dr. Thierry Vrain is a former research scientist for Agriculture Canada and it was his job to address the public and others and give them assurance that genetically engineered crops and foods are safe. Dr. Vrain was the spokesman and vouched for the safetyof genetically engineered plants for years so he is familar with all the arguments.
But Dr. Vrain has slowly changed his position. Vrain said “In the last 10 years I have changed my position. I started paying attention to the flow of published studies coming from Europe, some from prestigious labs and published in prestigious scientific journals, that questioned the impact and safety of engineered food. I refute the claims of the biotechnology companies that their engineered crops yield more, that they require less pesticide applications, that they have no impact on the environment and of course that they are safe to eat.”
The studies commissioned by Monsanto and other biotech industry corporations consistently come to the conclusion that genetically modified foods and crops are both safe for the environment and people. Such studies are inherently biased. Studies from objective researchers, on the other hand, often come to very different conclusions. Vrain says we should take the objective studies seriously and demand that our governments replicate the studies rather than take the word of biotech giants like Monsanto.
“The Bt corn and soya plants that are now everywhere in our environment are registered as insecticides. But are these insecticidal plants regulated and have their proteins been tested for safety? Not by the federal departments in charge of food safety, not in Canada and not in the U.S.”
Vrain argues that the entire paradigm of genetic engineering being used in GMO technology is flawed and based on a misunderstanding.
“Genetic engineering is 40 years old. It is based on the naive understanding of the genome based on the One Gene – one protein hypothesis of 70 years ago, that each gene codes for a single protein. The Human Genome project completed in 2002 showed that this hypothesis is wrong.”
Vrain further points out that “Genetic engineering is 40 years old. It is based on the naive understanding of the genome based on the One Gene – one protein hypothesis of 70 years ago, that each gene codes for a single protein. The Human Genome project completed in 2002 showed that this hypothesis is wrong. The whole paradigm of the genetic engineering technology is based on a misunderstanding. Every scientist now learns that any gene can give more than one protein and that inserting a gene anywhere in a plant eventually creates rogue proteins. Some of these proteins are obviously allergenic or toxic.”
GMO Myths and Truths – a study from Earth Open Source
Earth Open Source is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to assuring the sustainability, security, and safety of the global food system. It supports agroecological, farmer-based systems that conserve soil, water, and energy and that produce healthy and nutritious food free from unnecessary toxins. It challenges the use of pesticides, artificial fertilizer and genetically modified organisms (GMOs) on the grounds of the scientifically proven hazards that they pose to health and the environment and because of the negative social and economic impacts of these technologies. Earth Open Source holds that our crop seeds and food system are common goods that belong in the hands of farmers and citizens, not of the GMO and chemical industry.
Earth Open Source has established three lines of action, each of which fulfils a specific aspect of its mission:
- Science and policy platform
- Scientific research
- Sustainable rural development
Michael Antoniou, PhD is reader in molecular genetics and head, Gene Expression and Therapy Group, King’s College London School of Medicine, London, UK. He has 28 years’ experience in the use of genetic engineering technology investigating gene organisation and control, with over 40 peer reviewed publications of original work, and holds inventor status on a number of gene expression biotechnology patents. Dr Antoniou has a large network of collaborators in industry and academia who are making use of his discoveries in gene control mechanisms for the production of research, diagnostic and therapeutic products and safe and efficacious human somatic gene therapy for inherited and acquired genetic disorders.
Claire Robinson, MPhil, is research director at Earth Open Source. She has a background in investigative reporting and the communication of topics relating to public health, science and policy, and the environment. She is an editor at GMWatch (www.gmwatch.org), a public information service on issues relating to genetic modification, and was formerly managing editor at SpinProfiles (now Powerbase.org).
John Fagan, PhD is a leading authority on sustainability in the food system, biosafety, and GMO testing. He is founder and chief scientific officer of one of the world’s first GMO testing and certification companies,
through which he has pioneered the development of innovative tools to verify and advance food purity, safety and sustainability. He co-founded Earth Open Source, which uses open source collaboration to advance sustainable food production. Earlier, he conducted cancer research at the US National Institutes of Health. He holds a PhD in biochemistry and molecular and cell biology from Cornell University.
This is their executive summary:
Health Risks according to group of 85 Scientists, members of the European Network of Scientists for Social and Environmental Responsibility (ENSSER)
On Oct 23, 2013, a group of over 85 scientists, academics and physicians, members of ENSSER jointly released a statement stating that there is no scientific consensus that genetically modified foods and crops are safe. The statement comes in response to recent claims from the GM industry and some scientists and commentators that there is a “scientific consensus” that GM foods and crops are safe for human and animal health and the environment. The statement calls such claims “misleading” and states, “The claimed consensus on GMO safety does not exist.”
Commenting on the statement, some of the signatories had this to say:
Professor Brian Wynne, associate director and co-principal investigator from 2002-2012 of the UK ESRC Centre for the Economic and Social Aspects of Genomics, Cesagen, Lancaster University, said: “There is no consensus amongst scientific researchers over the health or environmental safety of GM crops and foods, and it is misleading and irresponsible for anyone to claim that there is. Many salient questions remain open, while more are being discovered and reported by independent scientists in the international scientific literature. Indeed some key public interest questions revealed by such research have been left neglected for years by the huge imbalance in research funding, against thorough biosafety research and in favour of the commercial-scientific promotion of this technology.”
Professor C. Vyvyan Howard, a medically qualified toxicopathologist based at the University of Ulster, said: “A substantial number of studies suggest that GM crops and foods can be toxic or allergenic, and that they can have adverse impacts on beneficial and non-target organisms. It is often claimed that millions of Americans eat GM foods with no ill effects. But as the US has no GMO labelling and no epidemiological studies have been carried out, there is no way of knowing whether the rising rates of chronic diseases seen in that country have anything to do with GM food consumption or not. Therefore this claim has no scientific basis.”
Andy Stirling, professor of science and technology policy at Sussex University and member of the UK government’s GM Science Review Panel, said: “The main reason some multinationals prefer GM technologies over the many alternatives is that GM offers more lucrative ways to control intellectual property and global supply chains. To sideline open discussion of these issues, related interests are now trying to deny the many uncertainties and suppress scientific diversity. This undermines democratic debate – and science itself.”
The scientists’ statement was released by the European Network of Scientists for Social and Environmental Responsibility in the week after the World Food Prize was awarded to employees of the GM seed giants Monsanto and Syngenta and UK environment secretary Owen Paterson branded opponents of GM foods as “wicked”.
Signatories of the statement also included prominent and respected scientists such as:
- Dr Hans Herren, a former winner of the World Food Prize and an Alternative Nobel Prize laureate
- Dr Pushpa Bhargava, known as the father of modern biotechnology in India
Health Risks according to Institute for Responsible Technology
The following list of GMO health risks have been taken from the Institute for Responsible Technology:
Download the full, detailed State of the Science of the Health Risks of GM Foods report
Health Risks: Gilles-Eric Séralini et al Long Term Rat GMO Study Results Rile Pro-GMO Industry Scientists and Biotech Industry
- “severe adverse health effects including mammary tumors and kidney and liver damage, leading to premature death,” in both from both Roundup Ready corn and Roundup itself, “whether they were used separately or together.”
- Interestingly, almost all of the ill effects manifested after 90 days—the industry’s preferred length for its own feeding studies. Coincidence?
By the end of the study, the researchers report:
- For females, 50 percent-80 percent of the females had developed large tumors compared to 30 percent in the control group.
- For males, Liver congestions and necrosis were 2.5 to 5.5 times higher than in the control group
- For males, 1. –2.3 times more instances of ‘marked and severe’ kidney disease.”
- Overall, among the rats receiving GMO and/or Roundup, Up to 50 percent of males and 70 percent of females died prematurely, before deaths could be put down to normal ageing, compared with only 30 percent and 20 percent in the control group.
Hours after the study was released, scientific critics argued that the experiment sample was too small to be significant. Neutral-appearing websites such as the Genetic Literacy Project (a pro biotech industry website disguising itself as an objective site) paint the study in the most negative light possible. A piece written by Mother Jones contributing writer Tom Philpott called The Making of an Agribusiness Apologist seems to have irritated Genetic Literacy Project principal Jon Entine. Philpott’s piece seems to expose Entine as someone who is right leaning but posing as an objective science supporter. He offers up a number of affiliations with very well known right leaning propaganda organizations such as pro-corporate American Enterprise Institute and leaves it to the reader to draw a conclusion. However, when you read the expose written by Spinwatch below, it Entine’s very active role in the witchhunt against this study confirms Philpott’s suspicions.
The irony of this and other such claims is that that Monsanto and other GMO corporations have been engaging for decades in far worse transgressions including deceptions, non-transparency and biased studies that have found their way into mainstream science through the power and control they possess. If Entine were balanced, would he dare bring up an even more serious faux pas: Why did the EPA’s Michael Taylor (a former EPA lawyer) approved all GMO food under his watch without a single study? How is it even conceivable that a regulatory agency would simply greenlight a then completely new technology with far reaching health consequences without a single study?
The entire episode must be contextualized within the wider and far-from-transparent decades long framework in which GMO research has been carried out, dictated mostly by the multi-national corporations who own the patents. The GMO battle reminds us of another case in which an industry lobby assured people for centuries there was no harm – an industry which had equally as many bright scientists, engineers and technologists working for them. How could they ever be wrong? That case is, of course climate change.
Today, global warming shows us that two centuries of the best foresight of the top business, industry, science and engineering leaders could not predict the global disaster which followed from the actions of their collective overconfidence. The technocrats solution is always more technology. It is the same hubris which gets us in deeper and deeper, creating ever deeper progress traps. The illusory confidence of technocrats is a symptom of a human mind that believes it knows more than nature does, a mind which, though paradoxically arises from nature herself does not understand the unlimited interconnectivity of nature, a mind that does not recognize it’s own inherent limitation. Every generation, these Icraruses are born and fly us too close to the sun, whereupon our wax wings begin to melt.
The entire EU has rejected GMO, setting an important precedence to the rest of the world. This is a collective of scientists, not a single scientists. To make that kind of bold statement dispells the mythos of the biotech industry. For here, we are not talking of a quack, a permaculturist or organic farmer. Here, we have an entire consolidated scientific system with the foresight to look at the scientific knowledge and say “there are still too many risks for our people to implement this technology”. The bias of the biotechnology industry was no match for a collective of clear minded scientists and policy makers who stood by them.
Gilles-Eric Séralini Response to his Critics
Response by Prof GE Seralini and colleagues to A. Wallace Hayes, editor of Food and Chemical Toxicology
28 Nov 2013
We, authors of the paper published in FCT more than one year ago on the effects of Roundup and a Roundup-tolerant GMO (Séralini et al., 2012), and having answered to critics in the same journal (Séralini et al., 2013), do not accept as scientifically sound the debate on the fact that these papers are inconclusive because of the rat strain or the number of rats used. We maintain our conclusions. We already published some answers to the same critics in your Journal, which have not been answered (Séralini et al., 2013).
The same strain is used by the US national toxicology program to study the carcinogenicity and the chronic toxicity of chemicals (King-Herbert et al., 2010). Sprague Dawley rats are used routinely in such studies for toxicological and tumour-inducing effects, including those 90-day studies by Monsanto as basis for the approval of NK603 maize and other GM crops (Sprague Dawley rats did not came from Harlan but from Charles-River) (Hammond et al., 2004; Hammond et al., 2006a; Hammond et al., 2006b).
A brief, quick and still preliminary literature search of peer-reviewed journals revealed that Sprague Dawley rats were used in 36-month studies by (Voss et al., 2005) or in 24-month studies by (Hack et al., 1995), (Minardi et al., 2002), (Klimisch et al., 1997), (Gamez et al., 2007).Some of these studies have been published in Food and Chemical Toxicology.
Number of rats, OECD guidelines
OECD guidelines (408 for 90 day study, 452 chronic toxicity and 453 combined carcinogenicity/chronic toxicity study) always asked for 20 animals per group (both in 1981 and 2009 guidelines) although the measurement of biochemical parameters can be performed on 10 rats, as indicated. We did not perform a carcinogenesis study, which would not have been adopted at first, but a long-term chronic full study, 10 rats are sufficient for that at a biochemical level according to norms and we have measured such a number of parameters! The disturbance of sexual hormones or other parameters are sufficient in themselves in our case to interpret a serious effect after one year. The OPLS-DA statistical method we published is one of the best adapted. For tumours and deaths, the chronology and number of tumours per animal have to be taken into account. Any sign should be regarded as important for a real risk study. Monsanto itself measured only 10 rats of the same strain per group on 20 to conclude that the same GM maize was safe after 3 months (Hammond et al., 2004).
The statistical analysis should not be done with historical data first, the comparison is falsified, thus 50 rats per group is useless
The use of historical data falsifies health risk assessments because the diet is contaminated by dibenzo-p-dioxins and dibenzofurans (Schecter et al., 1996), mercury (Weiss et al., 2005), cadmium and chromium among other heavy metals in a range of doses that altered mouse liver and lung gene expression and confounds genomic analyses (Kozul et al., 2008). They also contained pesticides or plasticizers released by cages or from water sources (Howdeshell et al., 2003). Historical data also come from rats potentially fed on GMOs, some animal pellets in the world do indicate that. All that corresponds to the contamination levels for which we have detected some effects in our treated rats versus appropriate controls.
2-year historical data mammary fibroadenoma rate from Charles River SD females ranged from 13 to 62% (Giknis, 2004). We obtain a lot less in our controls, the real comparators, a lot more in treated rats. This makes our results significant, like for deaths.
A factual comparative analysis of the rat feeding trial by the Séralini’s group and the Monsanto trials clearly reveals that if the Séralini experiments are considered to be insufficient to demonstrate harm, logically, it must be the same for those carried out by Monsanto to prove safety. Basically, all previous studies finding adverse effects of GE crops have been treated by regulators with the attitude: only those studies showing adverse effects receive a rigorous evaluation of their experimental and statistical methods, while those that claim proof of safety are taken at face value. All studies that reported no adverse effects were accepted as proof of safety regardless of these manifest (but deemed irrelevant) deficiencies of their methods.
The review by (Snell et al., 2012) illustrates this issue. In the abstract, the authors state “Results from all the 24 studies [reviewed] do not suggest any health hazards […]” – taking all those studies at face value. Yet in their review, the authors find numerous weaknesses of similar or greater severity [than those] raised for the Séralini group’s paper. For example, of the 24 studies they evaluated 16 (67% of all studies) did not mention using the isogenic line as control (interpreted as having not used them), many did not describe the methods in any detail, and according to the reviewers had other deficiencies too.
FCT should retract the Hammond et al. paper on Roundup tolerant maize for all these reasons, published for Monsanto’s authorization, or consider that each of these papers is part of the scientific debate.
To see references, go here.
Food and Chemical Toxicology Journal Caves to Biotech Industry Pressure and Retracts Gilles-Eric Séralini Study
The retraction of the Séralini study is a black mark on medical publishing, a blow to science, and a win for corporate bullies.
- Dr. Adriane Fugh-Berman MD and Thomas G. Sherman PhD are associate professors in the Department of Pharmacology and Physiology at Georgetown University Medical Center (GUMC)
Once again, the biotech industry shot the messenger. Caving into intense biotech industry pressure, the Food and Chemical Toxicology Journal retracted the Séralini study. The FCT retraction announcement very clearly states: “Unequivocally, the Editor-in-Chief found no evidence of fraud or intentional misrepresentation of the data” – and then goes on to say the study is being withdrawn because the journal’s own review of the primary data show that the results are inconclusive. The media coverage in the U.S. has been one-sided; criticism of Séralini’s study has been widely covered in mainstream press, while information about the conflicts of interest of critics have remained in the alternative press.
According to SpinWatch, a European muckraking organization, their investigation reveals that this was not a democratic expression of scientific opinion but rather a biotech industry coordinated witchhunt to demonize Prof. Séralini:
- 11 of the authors of letters to the editor slamming Séralini’s study had undisclosed financial relationships with Monsanto.
- In 2013, Paul Christou, the editor of Transgenic Research, coauthored an attack on Séralini and the FCT editors in his own journal, calling for a retraction of the study.
- Christou did not disclose his multiple conflicts of interest, including being an inventor on patents on GM crop technology, many of which Monsanto owns.
- Meanwhile, back at Food and Chemical Toxicology, a new position for an associate editor was filled by Richard E. Goodman, a University of Nebraska professor who previously worked for Monsanto, and who has a longstanding association with the industry-funded International Life Sciences Institute (ILSI).
- Months later, Elsevier, FCT’s publisher, announced the retraction.
Spinwatch Provides Detailed Dissection of Monsanto-led Smear Campaign on Gilles-Eric Séralini
Spinwatch studied the entire unfolding drama, and after analyzing the information it gathered, offers us the hypothesis that it was not simply the normal kind of objective consensus among a group of independent scientists, but rather was a well organized medias campaign executed with military precision and actively coordinated by Monsanto and a group of industry sympathizers behind the scene. The intense criticism and retraction is an example of what powerful industry lobby can buy you in the media. By studying Spinwatches analysis, you can see the orchestration of all the biotech scientists and players who attacked the study. It is very reminiscent of the same dirty tactics employed by the Koch Brothers and in Climate Change denialist smear campaigns.
European Network of Scientists for Social and Environmental Responsibility (ENSSER) condemns Biotech Double Standards
The publication of this study triggered orchestrated discrediting campaigns against the authors and their work, similar to previous campaigns attempting to discredit other studies finding adverse effects. This strategy has been extensively described for example in the journal Nature (Waltz 2009) and by Hilbeck et al. (2012). While it therefore comes as no surprise, this approach should be decried as contrary to sound scientific principles, and thus institutional anti-science. ENSSER condemns all ad hominem attacks and arguments and the emotional, often vicious conduct of the debate, like for example those that have gone on record in a recent article on this issue by John Vidal (2012) in the Guardian.
- The European Network of Scientists for Social and Environmental Responsibility (ENSSER)
A more detailed response by ENSSER addresses other points:
Journal’s retraction of rat feeding paper is a travesty of science and looks like a bow to industry
29.11.2013 – Elsevier’s journal Food and Chemical Toxicology has retracted the paper by Prof. Gilles-Eric Séralini’s group which found severe toxic effects (including liver congestions and necrosis and kidney nephropathies), increased tumor rates and higher mortality in rats fed Monsanto’s genetically modified NK603 maize and/or the associated herbicide Roundup. The arguments of the journal’s editor for the retraction, however, violate not only the criteria for retraction to which the journal itself subscribes, but any standards of good science. Worse, the names of the reviewers who came to the conclusion that the paper should be retracted, have not been published. Since the retraction is a wish of many people with links to the GM industry, the suspicion arises that it is a bow of science to industry. ENSSER points out, therefore, that this retraction is a severe blow to the credibility and independence of science, indeed a travesty of science.
Inconclusive results claimed as reason for withdrawal
Elsevier, the publisher of Food and Chemical Toxicology, has published a statement saying that the journal’s editor-in-chief, Dr. A. Wallace Hayes, “found no evidence of fraud or intentional misrepresentation of the data”. The statement mentions only a single reason for the retraction, namely that “the results presented (while not incorrect) are inconclusive”. According to Hayes, the low number of rats and the tumour susceptibility of the rat strain used do not allow definitive conclusions. Now there are guidelines for retractions in scientific publishing, set out by the Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE). Inconclusiveness of research results is not one of the grounds for retraction contained in these guidelines. The journal Food and Chemical Toxicology is a member of COPE. ‘Conclusive’ results are rare in science, and certainly not to be decided by one editor and a secret team of persons using undisclosed criteria and methods. Independent science would cease to exist if this were to be an accepted mode of procedure.
Séralini paper a chronic toxicity study, not a full-scale carcinogenicity study
Most notably, Séralini and his co-authors did not draw any definitive conclusions in the paper in the first place; they simply reported their observations and phrased their conclusions carefully, cognizant of their uncertainties. This is because the paper is a chronic toxicity study and not a full-scale carcinogenicity study, which would require a higher number of rats. The authors did not intend to look specifically for tumours, but still found increased tumour rates. Secondly, both of Hayes’s arguments (the number of rats and their tumour susceptibility) were considered by the peer reviewers of the journal, who decided they formed no objection to publication. Thirdly, these two arguments have been discussed at length in the journal following the publication of the paper and have been refuted by the authors of the paper and other experts. Higher numbers of animals are only required in this type of safety studies to avoid missing toxic effects (a ‘false negative’ result), but the study found pronounced toxic effects and a first indication of possible carcinogenic effects. The Sprague-Dawley strain of rat which was used, is the commonly used standard for this type of research. For these reasons, the statistical significance of the biochemical data was endorsed by statistics experts. The biochemical data confirm the toxic effects such as those on liver and kidney, which are serious enough by themselves. The tumours and mortality rates are observations which need to be confirmed by a specific carcinogenicity study with higher numbers of rats; in view of public food safety, it is not wise to simply ignore them. Unpleasant results should be checked, not ignored. And the toxic effects other than tumours and mortality are well-founded.
Who did the reevaluation?
Even more worrying than the lack of good grounds for the retraction is the fact that the journal’s editor-in-chief has not revealed who the reviewers were who helped him to come to the conclusion that the paper should be retracted; nor has he revealed the criteria and methodology of their reevaluation, which overruled the earlier conclusion of the original peer-review which supported publication. In a case like this, where many of those who denounced the study have long-standing, well-documented links to the GM industry and, therefore, a clear interest in having the results of the study discredited, such lack of transparency about how this potential decision was reached is inexcusable, unscientific and unacceptable. It raises the suspicion that the retraction is a favour to the interested industry, notably Monsanto.
It is also worth repeating Spinwatch’s excellent summary of the entire sordid Monsanto Media witch hunt of a scientist whose work could not be more important at this time:
Earth Open Source briefing 26 September 2012- Released a statement citing Monsanto and Biotech industry attempt to “disappear” tumours by using historical control data as invalid and worrying
Pests and weeds already becoming tolerant to Roundup and to GMO Corn
Monsanto Roundup Toxic to Human Health
A recent paper entitled Glyphosate’s Suppression of Cytochrome P450 Enzymes and Amino Acid Biosynthesis by the Gut Microbiome: Pathways to Modern Diseases points to severe and potentially global health risk of Monsanto Roundup, the world’s most used pesticide and one which is designed to be used on GMO foods designed by Monsanto.
Glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup®, is the most popular herbicide used worldwide. The industry asserts it is minimally toxic to humans, but here we argue otherwise. Residues are found in the main foods of the Western diet, comprised primarily of sugar, corn, soy and wheat. Glyphosate’s inhibition of cytochrome P450 (CYP) enzymes is an overlooked component of its toxicity to mammals. CYP enzymes play crucial roles in biology, one of which is to detoxify xenobiotics. Thus, glyphosate enhances the damaging effects of other food borne chemical residues and environmental toxins. Negative impact on the body is insidious and manifests slowly over time as inflammation damages cellular systems throughout the body. Here, we show how interference with CYP enzymes acts synergistically with disruption of the biosynthesis of aromatic amino acids by gut bacteria, as well as impairment in serum sulfate transport. Consequences are 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. We explain the documented effects of glyphosate and its ability to induce disease, and we show that glyphosate is the “textbook example” of exogenous semiotic entropy: the disruption of homeostasis by environmental toxins.
Global Battle against GMO
- Sri Lanka bans Monsanto Roundup due to a recent medical study linking Roundup to Renal Kidney failure of thousands of rice farmers.
- Mexican government has granted 359 permits for environmental release of GM cotton, at the request of Monsanto , Bayer, Dow AgroSciences and Pioneer Hi-BredGM occupying 2 million HA of land.
- Dr. Ana Wegier of the Laboratory of Forest Biotechnology has identified a number of serious problems with it
- GM Honey a threat to export markets in EU. Due to strict European regulations, rural farmers in the Mexican Yucatan face significant price cuts or outright rejection of their honey crop when their product contains pollen from GMO crops that are not for human consumption. The regional agricultural authorities, furthermore, seemed unaware that bees visited flowering soybeans to collect nectar and pollen. To test the honey for GMO pollen, researchers from the Smithsonian, El Colegio de la Frontera Sur la Universidad Autonoma de Yucatan and el Instituto Nacional de Investigaciones Forestales, Agropecuarias y Pecuarias sent the nine samples to Intertek laboratory in Bremen, Germany, for genetic analysis. Two samples tested positive for GMO pollen.
- GM Maize: Attorney René Sánchez Galindo stated; “The Calderón government illegally granted permits for the planting of GM maize, for which the results have been hidden.
- Dr. Andres Carrasco from Buenos Aires University showed that the glyphosate (Roundup) herbicide, which is used on Roundup Ready GM crops could cause brain, intestinal and heart defects in foetuses
- Acción Colectiva, a group of 53 scientists and 22 civil organizations, successfully brought a case to ‘protect the historical and ecologically important native maize varieties’ in 2013, which ended with a total ban on GM maize in Mexico.
Ecological Impacts of GMO
GMOs lead to the growth of “superweeds”
Just as the heavy use of antibiotics contributed to the rise of drug-resistant supergerms, American farmers’ near-ubiquitous use of the weedkiller Roundup has led to the rapid growth of tenacious new superweeds. The reason for this is that when a crop is repeatedly sprayed with Roundup to kill a given pest, the pest develops a resistance to the Roundup. The new “superweed” requires more herbicide to be applied in order to keep it under control.
GMOs lead to the rise of “superbugs.”
Research conducted the Iowa State University found that corn that was genetically modified to resist certain pests (rootworms) is being harmed by those pests, because the pests have become resistent to the pesticides being applied to them.
GMOs result in the increased use of toxic and persistent pesticides
As GMOs become more resistant to pesticides and herbicides, more of these substances are needed to prevent the growth of undesirable plants (i.e. weeds). In turn, the increased use of pesticides and herbicides results in increased environmental pollution and human exposure to toxic substances.
GMOs may reduce biodiversity and put our food security at risk
As more scientific effort and funding is dedicated to the development of genetically engineered seeds and crops, and more farmers become reliant on them, the stock of non-genetically engineered seeds and crops decreases. This, in turn, reduces crop and seed diversity and creates conditions under which our food supply becomes more vulnerable because it is dependent on the survival of a small number seeds and crops.
Research shows that the vast majority of GE crops are used to feed animals in rich countries rather than people in poorer nations. For instance, South America’s expanding GE soybean plantations produce soy meal for Europe’s livestock industry, and have reduced food security by displacing poor farmers and reducing land area planted to food crops like corn and beans for local consumption. Additionlly, researchers attending the September 2009 World Seed Conference in Rome pointed out that seed companies using genetic engineering are reducing crop diversity, which could have serious consequences for the world’s food supplies.
Try not to think of an elephant. Difficult to do, isn’t it? The following companies are opposed to GMO labeling. This already tells us what we want to know about them, doesn’t it?
A New York Times poll found that 93 percent of Americans want GMO food to be labeled.
EU has outright banned GMO. The US is inching closer. Thefor anti-GMO consumer advocates came with the California ballot initiative on GMO labeling. At the end of 2012, California. voters narrowly rejected Proposition 37, that would have forced companies to label GMO foods; 48.6 percent of voters were in favor, while 51.4 percent of voters were not.
Buoyed by this narrow loss and aided by the momentum for GMO labeling laws building across the U.S., California is making a second attempt at labeling GMOs called State Senate Bill SB1381, a measure very similar to Proposition 37, introduced by representative Noreen Evans of Santa Rosa. Evans and other proponents feel confident this bill will make history and pass, setting the precedence for the rest of the United States. The bill maintains the primary goal of Prop 37 — all GMO foods would have to be labeled with either “Genetically Engineered” or “Partially Produced with Genetic Engineering” — but it has removed the section which exempts farmers who are not manufacturers or retailers and for retailers who did not ‘knowingly and willfully’ fail to provide signs.
The 2012 bill was narrowly rejected due to a costly counter-campaign by large multinationals such as DuPont, Monsanto, Syngenta, and BASF, Coca-Cola, PepsiCo and Kraft Foods who spent a total of $46 million for advertising and other means to convince voters to reject the proposal in contrast to the anti-GMO side who spent a mere $9 million.It was revealing just how much large multi-nationals were willing to spend to keep consumers in the dark. Progress is also being made on a number of other fronts:
- General Mills announced that it would make its popular Original Cheerios breakfast cereal without GMOs, and US consumers would see it labeled as such.
- US supermarket chain Trader Joe’s announced that it will sell only non-GMO products.
- US retailer Whole Foods plans to label genetically engineered products — but only as of 2018.
- Fast food chain Chipotle Mexican Grill has started listing genetically engineered ingredients on its website and plans to eliminate GMOs from Chipotle’s ingredients.
Countries requiring GM labeling:
- Bosnia and Herzegovina
- Czech Republic
- El Salvador
- New Zealand
- Saudi Arabia
- South Africa
- South Korea
- Sri Lanka
- United Kingdom
Countries that have banned GMO
For a realtime map of all countries that label or ban GMO’s, look here
Indian Activist Vandana Shiva speaks out Against GMO
Vandana Shiva is a scientist and one of the staunchest opponents to Monsanto and GMO food. She speaks with authority and passion against the principles that Monsanto stands for. In a recent enlightening interview with Uprising Radio ‘s Sonali Kolhatkar, Vandana offered up a great summary on the scale of harm Monsanto has caused to the planet and why the California Proposition 37 is such a threat to them.
Uprising Radio interview with Vandana Shiva: Part 1
Uprising Radio interview with Vandana Shiva: Part 2
Poor little Nepal, a tiny country bullied by Washington, was told “if you don’t accept GMOs and write an agreement with Monsanto, we won’t give you aid.” Again my colleagues in Nepal had to do a massive mobilization to say no to GMOs and no to Monsanto.
Today the super extractions through royalties on seeds are linked to GMOs. GMOs have no other purpose except to bring royalties to Monsanto. That is why Brazilian farmers have sued Monsanto for $2.2 billion. That is why nearly a quarter million Indian farmers have committed suicide because of the royalties they are paying and the debt they’re getting into. The ripple effect is absolutely huge.
Freedom in my view is indivisible and that is why every step we take anywhere in the world matters. For example, the parliamentary committee of India has said there is no role for GMOs in agriculture after the suicides. Our recent technical group appointed by the Supreme Court has said there should be a ten year moratorium on GMOs til we start to do more independent science, to inform the public that most of what is passed as science these days is Monsanto’s public relations, because they just literally kill the work, research, the lab of every independent scientist.
They’re going after Seralini, there going after Arpad Putzai, and the only reason they’ve not gotten rid of me is that I got rid of a job I had in 1982. I have no job they can take away from me and that is the reason I’ve carried on for twenty-five years.
The earlier slavery was for one species, some people of the human species. This new slavery is an empire over all life on earth and it is also leading to human slavery. More than a quarter million farmers in India have committed suicide. They became seed slaves. That’s why they ended their lives. They couldn’t find a way out.
Monsanto writes the WTO agreement on intellectual property and Monsanto is on record saying, “we were the patient, the diagnostician, and the physician all in one, we define the problem.” And for them the problem was that farmers save seeds. And they offered a solution that it should now be a criminal offense to save seeds. According to them seeds should be an intellectual property and they created this new fictitious law of intellectual property and patents on seeds, as if they were the inventors and creators of life on earth.
When I heard these corporations in 1987 use this language of intellectual property, I said they want a slavery of life on this planet. If I tell a plant, “I have created you and your next generation is my property and I will manipulate you to my will, I will put in toxic genes so that I can sell more toxics; I will put terminator genes so that there is no future seed, it’s a sterile seed,” this is the ultimate slavery.
The farmer in Europe who is being chased by new seed laws that these companies are putting in place are being told “you can’t have your own seed. If you have your own seed that’s a crime. Diversity is a crime. Your own seed freedom is a crime.”
The myth that GMOs are feeding the world is a big lie. It is feeding the hunger for profits for just five corporations: Monsanto, Dupont, Syngenta, Basf, and Dow.
This is why we are making a call for “seed freedom” globally. And we have created the Global Citizen’s Alliance for Seed Freedom which issued a new report. The report is global, both in the positive steps that citizens are taking everywhere to liberate seeds and fight these corporations, as well in as the new laws and the new implementations they’re trying to shape.
Why are GMOs spreading so much? Because GMOs are connected to patents. Only when GMOs grow will they collect the royalties. That’s why all of Latin America grows Round Up Ready soya. All of Brazil grows Round Up Ready soya. All of the farming areas of the mid-west of this country grows GM corn and soya. Two percent of the soya is eaten as food.
Well, so far in these 20 years of commercialization of GM crops (and we’re not talking about the future we are talking about an experiment of twenty years), there are only two traits that have commercialized on a large scale. One is a family of crops called the BT crops in which a toxin is taken from a soil organism and put into the plant. The claim is that it will control one pest called the boll worm. But that pest has become resistant and new pests have been created. In India 13 times more pesticide is being used on cotton compared to what was being used before.
The second family is the Round Up resistant crops or the herbicide resistant crops. These herbicide resistant crops were supposed to control weeds. Instead, the US has fifteen million hectares of land overtaken by super weeds that can’t be controlled by Round Up. Now they are asking farmers to spray Agent Orange that was sprayed in Vietnam.
So it is not the case that GMOs do the work of weed control and pest control. Ecological farming does that much better. The argument that they can engineer climate resilience with a single gene is, again, a false claim. It’s an anti-scientific claim. All complex traits like resilience to the environmental stress whether it is climate or a pest are multi-genetic traits. Many genes come into play.
So for them it’s a game that will not lose because every failure means more chemicals, every failure means more royalties, every failure means more control. That’s why the only thing that can stop them is a people’s democratic movement. And that’s why Proposition 37 comes back to the center of this discussion.
These seeds have been evolved by farmers and nature over millennia. My organization, Navdanya, with its 110 seed banks, saves climate resilient crops because we know that this is what farmers need today: salt tolerant seeds that we can use after cyclones, flood tolerant seeds after flooding, and drought tolerant seeds. All that the companies are doing is stealing and engaging in bio-piracy of what farmers have already bred.
An herbicide tolerant crop means they sell more herbicide. They have said very clearly in conversations I’ve had with them that “every failure is a success.” When Round Up ready 1 fails, they bring in Round Up Ready 2 with two genes of Round Up resistance. When Boll Guard 1 fails with one gene of a BT toxin, they bring in Boll Guard 2 with two genes and they’ve now carried on up to 8 genes. Every single time they stack up the royalties.
Why is Occupy Wall Street such an important movement in this country? Because the youth recognize that their future is being limited by a Wall Street-driven, Monsanto-driven, Walmart-driven economy.
We always believe that because organic is costly (and it’s costly because the subsidies go to the poisons) that therefore it’s an option only for the rich. But the point is that there are huge subsidies to make the chemical food, the GMO food, move toward the poor. All we have to do is redirect our tax money. Just like we have the right to know what we eat, we have a right to decide how our tax money will be used for the public good rather than private greed.
Latest Blame-game: Anti-GMO Movement is Responsible for Millions of Deaths
Risk analyst and GMO supporter David Ropeik has revived a tried-and-true tactic of blaming Anti-GMO supporters of being guilty for deaths and loss of life years. He cites a study done by two German economists that sought to measure how many life years have been lost in India due to delayed release of GM food Golden Rice developed by Syngenta. Writing in Huffington Post, Ropeik opens with:
The Website Frankefood Files had one response to Ropeik’s article:
Report of the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to food, Olivier De Schutter on GM Food vs Agroecology
Epicyte – Monsanto, Dupont, Planned Parenthood and Bill Gates
In 2001 scientists at the Epicyte bio-lab in San Diego, researchers discovered a rare class of human antibodies that attack sperm. By isolating the genes that regulate the manufacture of these antibodies, and by putting them in corn plants, the company has created tiny horticultural factories that make contraceptives. The president of Epicyte, Mitch Hein, held a press conference and pointed to his GMO corn and announced, “We have a hothouse filled with corn plants that make anti-sperm antibodies.” Shortly after the 2001 Epicyte press release, all discussion of the breakthrough vanished. The company itself was taken over in 2004 by Biolex and nothing more was heard in any media about the development of spermicidal corn. The Guardian newspaper still has the original story from 2001 here.
- In early 2000’s, a small US biotech company called Epicyte created a gene that creates sterilization in men.
- Then in 2001, Monsanto and Dupont bought the company. This begs the obvious question: why would these two companies but a product that sterilized men? They must have had an application in mind.
- GM food is promoted heavily in developing world as the savior
- Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has donated $264 million USD to AGRA – Alliance for Green Revolution in Africa. 80% goes towards biotech research
- Bill Gates father was the president of Eugenic (population control) organization Planned Parenthood
- Biotech industry is fiercely anti-labeling.
With no information forthcoming from Monsanto, we are left to speculate what this could all mean.