When We Look At The Facts, The Answer Becomes Obvious
Warning! You may be about to change the way you look at food. Loyal brands that have followed you since childhood may soon disappear from your shopping cart. The decisions you make today may fuel a global revolution. This is about genetically modified (GM) foods. You probably eat some every day but don’t want to. Most Americans wouldn’t – if GMOs (genetically modified organisms) were labeled. The introduction of GMOs into the U.S. diet in 1996 could be the chief reason for the subsequent acceleration of health problems. In just nine years, the incidence of several chronic illnesses jumped from seven to thirteen percent of the population. Food allergies doubled in less time. Many other ailments are also on the rise.
According to the American Academy of Environmental Medicine (AAEM), GMOs cause a variety of disorders seen in animal studies, including vital organ damage, gastrointestinal and immune system problems, accelerated aging, infertility, and dysfunctional regulation of insulin and cholesterol. Last year, AAEM called for a moratorium on GM foods and urged doctors to prescribe non-GMO diets for all patients. Ohio allergist John Boyles was already on board. He says, “Now that soy is genetically engineered, it is so dangerous that I tell people never to eat it.”
Gambling with Side Effects
The five major GM crops are soy, corn, cottonseed, canola and sugar beets. The primary reasons why they’re engineered are to allow them to either drink poison or produce poison. The poison drinkers are called “herbicide tolerant.” Bacterial genes are inserted to allow them to survive otherwise deadly doses of toxic herbicide. Biotech companies sell the seed and herbicide as a package deal. Monsanto sells Roundup Ready crops and Roundup herbicide. Bayer CropScience sells Liberty Link crops and Liberty herbicide. Between 1996 and 2008, U.S. farmers sprayed an extra 383 million pounds of herbicide on these poison drinkers.
The poison producers are called Bt crops. Inserted genes from the soil bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis produce an insect-killing pesticide called Bt-toxin in every cell of the plant. Both classes of GM crops are linked to dangerous side effects. In fact, no matter what gene you insert into a plant’s DNA, the process itself creates massive collateral damage with unpredictable consequences.
Insertion, which is accomplished by shooting genes into cells using a gene gun or by using bacteria to “infect” the cells, followed by cloning the cell into a GM plant, generates hundreds or thousands of mutations in the plant’s DNA. In addition, up to five percent of the plant’s other genes mysteriously change their activity levels after a single foreign gene is inserted.
These widespread disruptions help explain why a normally silent allergy creating gene in corn was switched on in a popular Bt variety. Or why Roundup Ready soy has up to seven times the amount of a soy allergen compared to natural soy. In fact, GM crops may contain hundreds of changes, including new carcinogens, toxins or altered nutrients, which are not even looked for in the industry’s superficial “safety” studies. Biotech companies basically gamble with your health, hoping that things will work out. For one scientist, however, who accidentally discovered just how dangerous these unexpected changes can be, things definitely did not work out.
Hide the Evidence and Shoot the Messenger
In the mid-1990s, Dr. Arpad Pusztai was awarded approximately $3 million from the U.K. government to determine how to test the safety of GM foods. Dr. Pusztai, the world’s top scientist in his field, worked with a team of over twenty people to design a research protocol designed to eventually be required for all GMO approvals in Europe.
Dr. Pusztai ran an experimental GM potato through his protocol. The potato’s DNA had been outfitted with an insecticide-creating gene from the snowdrop plant. The spud was expected to pass a rat-feeding trial with flying colors, since Dr. Pusztai had studied this snowdrop insecticide for about seven years and knew it was harmless to rats. So he got quite a shock when the rats developed potentially precancerous cell growth, partially atrophied livers, damaged immune systems, and smaller brains, livers and testicles – in just ten days!
In one of his control groups, Dr. Pusztai fed rats not only natural, non-GMO potatoes, but also the straight insecticide (an equivalent amount to what was produced inside the GM potatoes). These control rats did not have the same symptoms; only those that ate the GM potatoes got sick.
Thus, it wasn’t the insecticide that was causing the damage to the rats. It was obviously the unpredicted changes due to the genetic engineering that was the cause.
When Dr. Pusztai went public with his concerns in 1998, he was fired, gagged and defamed. His safety testing protocols were never implemented. None of the GM foods on the market were tested as carefully, and we don’t know if what happened to the rats is now happening to us.
Eat Your Toxins
The snowdrop insecticide never made it into a commercialized GM crop. That place of honor is reserved for Bt-toxin, which is found in corn and cotton varieties. Monsanto and others claim that Bt is safe for humans and other mammals, since natural Bt bacteria has been sprayed on crops by farmers for decades to kill insects. But the spray version washes off and biodegrades. The Bt crops produce a built-in toxin that we eat. Furthermore, it is thousands of times more concentrated than the spray version and is designed to be more toxic. Moreover, even the kinder, gentler natural Bt spray isn’t safe. When used to fight gypsy moths in Washington and Vancouver, almost 500 people reported allergies and flu-like symptoms.
Now, thousands of Indian farm laborers who are exposed to Monsanto’s Bt cotton plants are suffering from those same maladies. In addition, thousands of sheep, goats, and buffalo died after grazing on Bt cotton plants following the cotton harvest.
Countless other livestock suffered reproductive disorders, skin disruptions, and upper respiratory ailments. Nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) tried for a year to persuade the Indian government and universities to investigate. One group, the Deccan Development Society (DDS), even offered to fund a study, but no research institute came forward. DDS finally resorted to doing its own small trial, in which sheep were confined to either Bt cotton or non-GM cotton fields. All sheep that consumed Bt plants died within a month. Those that ate natural plants remained healthy. When DDS reported its results, the findings were dismissed because it was only an NGO that did the study — not a government or university.
Although you don’t eat cotton plants, you probably do consume cottonseed oil in packaged foods. More importantly, Bt-toxin is in corn. An Italian government study confirmed that Bt corn causes serious immune responses in mice. Even Monsanto’s own rat studies showed vital organ damage. If you’re still not concerned about eating GMOs, consider this. The one and only published GM study on humans revealed that Roundup
Ready genes from soybeans transfer into the DNA of bacteria living inside our intestines – and continue to function. This means that long after we stop eating GMOs, we may still have dangerous GM proteins continuously produced inside us. If the Bt gene in corn chips were also to transfer, it could turn your intestinal flora into living pesticide factories – possibly for the long term.
Infant Mortality and Reproductive Disorders
A February, 2010, article published in Obstetrics and Gynecology reported an unexplained rise in low-birth-weight babies in the U.S. starting in the mid-1990s. Infertility is also increasing, and the U.S. has a very high infant mortality rate compared to other developed nations. The same is true for food allergies, autism, diabetes, and other mounting health trends. Since there is no post-marketing surveillance or human clinical trials with GMOs and only a handful of mostly short-term animal feeding safety studies, we can’t prove a connection. But there are certainly ominous indicators suggesting GMOs are a contributor.
When GM soy flour was added to the diets of female rats, most of their babies died within three weeks – compared to an only ten percent death rate among infants born to mothers fed natural soy. The babies from the GM-fed group were also smaller and later had problems getting pregnant. When male rats were fed GM soy, their testicles changed color – from the normal pink to dark blue. The testicles of mice also showed changes, including damaged young sperm cells. And the DNA in mouse embryos functioned differently when their parents ate GM soy. An Austrian government study reported that mice fed GM corn had fewer, and smaller, babies.
About two dozen U.S. farmers say that thousands of their pigs became sterile after consuming certain GM corn varieties. Some had false pregnancies; others gave birth to bags of water. Cows and bulls also became infertile when fed the same corn. Investigators in the state of Haryana, India, report that most buffalo that ate GM cottonseed had reproductive complications such as premature deliveries, abortions, infertility, and prolapsed uteruses. Many calves died.
Don’t Wait For The Government
If your reaction to this information is to think that the federal government will fix things, think again. GMOs have garnered unilateral support over the last five administrations. Under the first George Bush, for example, the FDA was instructed to promote GMOs, to fast-track them so they could increase U.S. exports. The FDA responded in 1991 by creating a new position, deputy commissioner for policy, explicitly for Michael Taylor – a former attorney for Monsanto. He oversaw the creation of the FDA’s official policy, which says that no GMO safety studies are required.
If Monsanto and the other four biotech companies claim their own foods are safe, the FDA doesn’t even have to know which GMOs are being introduced. The FDA policy claimed that the agency was not even aware of information showing that GM foods were significantly different. That was a lie. Seven years later, secret FDA documents made public from a lawsuit showed that the overwhelming consensus among the FDA’s own scientific experts was that GM foods were inherently dangerous and could create toxins, allergens, new diseases and nutritional problems. By ignoring the scientists’ urgent requests to require comprehensive safety testing, Michael Taylor may be responsible for more food-related illnesses and deaths than any other person in history. Soon after leaving the FDA, Taylor became a vice president at Monsanto. The Obama administration has now reinstalled him at the FDA, as food safety czar!
It’s Time For The Non-GMO Revolution
At a San Francisco biotech conference in January 1999, an industry representative predicted that by 2004, 95 percent of all commercial seeds would be genetically modified. The biotech industry was planning to replace nature. But the industry didn’t foresee the imminent European uprising. On February 16, 1999, the gag order on GMO researcher Dr. Arpad Pusztai (whose story was told earlier in this piece) was lifted by an order of the British Parliament. Once he was able to speak to the press, all hell broke loose. Newspapers reeled off 159 column feet of articles within a week. One editor said that it divided society into two warring blocks. By the end of the month, 750 articles on GMOs were circulating in Europe.
By the last week of April of that year, the tipping point of consumer rejection was achieved. GM ingredients had become a marketing liability. Unilever publicly committed to remove GMOs from its European brands. Within a few days, so did nearly every other major food company. But not in the U.S., where the Dr. Pusztai controversy was described by media watchdog Project Censored as one of the ten most underreported events of the year. Because of the continuing poor coverage of this topic, only one in four Americans is even aware that they’ve ever eaten a genetically engineered food.
Spilling Drugged Milk
A tipping point is occurring in the U.S., against genetically engineered bovine growth hormone (rBST or rBGH). In the past few years, a concerted consumer education campaign by several organizations drove rBGH out of milk and yogurt brands at WalMart, Starbucks, Dannon, Yoplait, and about 60 of the top 100 U.S. dairies so far. Seeing that its days were numbered, Monsanto sold off rBGH to Eli Lilly in 2008.
Drugged milk has more pus, antibiotic-resistant bacteria, bovine growth hormone, and of greatest concern, insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1). People with higher levels of IGF-1 have a much greater chance of getting cancer. The high levels of IGF-1 in milk from treated cows was the primary reason why rBGH use has been officially denounced by the American Public Health Association, American Nurses Association and others.
Engineering a U.S. Tipping Point
Whether the rejection of GMOs comes swiftly due to high profile coverage, as in Europe, or accelerates slowly over three years, as with rBGH in the U.S., the key component is consumer concern over health impacts. Yes, GMOs create irreversible environmental contamination, increase herbicide use, trap farmers in a cycle of dependence, and steal resources from other technologies and methods that really could help feed the hungry. But it is knowing that eating a GMO might turn our intestinal flora into living pesticide factories, affect our ability to have children or alter our kids’ health that is going to have a far bigger influence on which brands we place in our shopping carts.
Mercifully, only a tiny percentage of American consumers need to start avoiding GMOs in order to turn GM ingredients into a liability. Since GMOs offer no consumer benefit, if merely five percent of citizens – 15 million people – start choosing brands based on GMO content, that should be more than enough to hit the tipping point.
No matter how you slice the numbers, they add up to a coming non-GMO tidal wave. Approximately 28 million Americans buy organic regularly, 87 million are strongly opposed to GM foods and 159 million (53 percent) say they would not eat GMOs if labeled. There are far more people who are receptive to this message than we will ever need. We can end GMOs without ever having to convince resistant people.
Learn To Avoid GMOs
- Visit NonGMOShoppingGuide.com to view, download, or order the guide to help you choose healthier, nonGMO brands.
- Download the iPhone app ShopNoGMO to create a portable, non-GMO shopping list to bring with you to the store.
- Organic products are not allowed to use GMOs, although some contamination may occur.
- The Non-GMO Project Verified seal is the new third-party, verified standard for non-GMO claims. Originally hatched by the Bay Area’s El Cerrito and Berkeley Natural Foods groceries, it has since been adopted throughout the natural foods industry and beyond.
Projecting the News about Non-GMOs
The Non-GMO Project has been working behind the scenes for over three years to bring the first clearly labeled, independently verified non-GMO choices to consumers. After successfully creating North America’s only consensus-based, third-party standard for GMO avoidance practices, the Project began enrolling companies in its unique verification program.
There are currently over 2,000 products enrolled, with participation from nearly 70 brands and growing. “We believe that everyone has a right to know what’s in their food and avoid GMOs if they want to,” says the Project’s executive director, Megan Westgate. “With GMOs in an estimated 80 percent of U.S. processed foods and no labeling mandated by the government, the organic and natural
products industry has stepped up, through the Non-GMO Project, to give consumers an informed choice.”
The Project’s website features a listing of enrolled brands and products that allows users to sort by type or brand. The Project allows products to be listed only if they are part of the Product Verification Program, and does not accept unverified non-GMO claims. A user-friendly shopping guide, with GMO avoidance tips, can be downloaded from the site and easily printed on one (double-sided) sheet of paper: nongmoproject.org.
Visit the Project’s website to:
- View and download a shopping guide of products and companies enrolled in the Non-GMO Project.
- Search a list of retailers who support the Project.
- Sign the consumer pledge and sign up for the Project’s e-newsletter
- Become a fan on Facebook and receive daily updates on GMO news. Find out first when new companies enroll or become verified in the Project’s Product Verification Program.
- Follow the Project on Twitter.
There are eight GMO crops on the market today. Unfortunately, their derivatives are found in the vast majority of processed foods. The worst offenders are soy and corn, followed by sugar from GM sugar beets and oil from GM canola and cottonseed. The remainders are a small amount of zucchini and yellow squash, and most of the papayas grown in Hawaii. There are also products from animals fed GM feed, derivatives from GM microorganisms such as aspartame, and dairy products from cows injected with GM bovine growth hormone. These are all listed in the Non-GMO Shopping Guide, along with a long list of derivatives of soy and corn: nongmoshoppinguide.com.
Jeffrey M. Smith is the international bestselling author of Seeds of Deception and Genetic Roulette and Executive Director of the Institute for Responsible Technology www.ResponsibleTechnology.org, which publishes the Non-GMO Shopping Guide.