Genetically Modified Foods
GMO study finds 'indications of harmful and adverse effects'
A new biosafety report for the Norwegian Environment Agency says GM foods cannot be declared safe due to major gaps in the science, writes Nafeez Ahmed. Indeed research clearly indicates harmful and adverse impacts to both health and environment. But Monsanto insists that GMOs are just as safe as, or even safer than, conventional crops.
A new study commissioned by the Norwegian government, and conducted by a nationally recognised scientific authority on the safety of biotechnologies, concludes that available scientific data on GM crops is inadequate to prove their safety.
The scientific reportwas commissioned by the Norwegian Environment Agency and completed last year, before being publicly released in June by the Genok Centre for Biosafety, located in the Arctic University of Norway. The Genok Centre is a nationally-designated centre of competence on biosafety issues.
The new study analyses a dossier by giant agribusiness conglomerate, Monsanto, submitted to the Brazilian government, and conducts a comprehensive review of the available scientific literature from other sources.
Its focus is on Monsanto's GM soybean Intacta Roundup Ready 2 Pro, which is grown in Brazil, and also authorised in Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay, and probably also present in Bolivia due to illegal introductions from neighbouring countries.
Major gaps in the scientific literature
The report, titled 'Sustainability Assessment of Genetically Modified Herbicide Tolerant Crops' concludes that due to major gaps in the scientific literature, it is not possible to give a scientific verdict on their safety.
Monsanto's dossier, the report concludes, demonstrates a range of methodological weaknesses, and highlights the problem of incomplete information and research on GM crops in the available literature.
According to Monsanto, genetically modified organisms do not harm human or animal health, and therefore do not have any adverse effects on crops and the environment. But according to the new Norwegian study:
"Contrary to this assertion, the literature provides indications of harmful and adverse effects to the environment and to health (both animal and human), as well as to socio-economic conditions, particularly over the medium- and long-term."
The new study is authored by Georgina Catacora-Vargas, a researcher at the Agroecology Centre (AGRUCO) at the Faculty of Agricultural, Livestock and Forestry Sciences, University Mayor de San Simon, Cochabamba, Bolivia. Catacora-Vargas was until recently technical biosafety advisor at Bolivia's Vice-Ministry of Environment, Water and Forestry Management.
"Statements of the safety of GM crops rely principally on the absence of evidence of harm in specific research tests, rather than actual evidence of safety", said Catacora-Vargas."Absence of evidence of harm is a too low standard for adequate protection of human and environmental health ...
"Moreover, today, a large portion of the research on GM crops is based on short-term studies that have inherent methodological weakness for detecting subtle yet significant effects that materialise in the long-term. Another common weakness - as indicated in my report - is the lack sufficient analytical rigour to derive any meaningful conclusions."
According to her report, the large number of studies indicating positive impacts of GM crops are questionable because of such "methodological limitations", which largely ignore"possible long-term effects" and used a "reduced and repetitive set of indicators."
Most of this research does not compare GM crops with other production systems, such as IPM (integrated pest management), organic, and agroecological; focuses exclusively on 'single-trait' GM plants rather than, more realistically, "the combinatorial and additive effects of multiple-trait GM crops"; and is based on experiments which do not adequately consider "real field conditions."
"These limitations", the Norwegian report concludes, "partially explain the kinds of findings reported by the applicant [Monsanto]: all of them showing no possible adverse effects in contrast to a significant body of literature."
Monsanto: GM crops 'in some cases safer'
Mark Buckingham, a spokesman for Monsanto, dismissed the report's findings: "We are confident that GM crops can be and are being properly assessed for safety and that GM crops being used by farmers are just as safe and in some cases safer than conventional crops and foods."
According to a compendium of EU-funded research published by the European Commission in 2010, "there is, as of today, no scientific evidence associating GMOs with higher risks for the environment or for food and feed safety than conventional plants and organisms."
Buckingham added that GM crops are "designed to be safe" by scientists and plant breeders, and that national and international regulators whose job is "to check that a crop is safe and to protect consumers" have certified GM:
"Since GM crops were first grown on a large scale 19 years ago in the mid 1990's, billions of meals including ingredients from these crops have been safety consumed by people around the world. No health effects what so ever have been observed - GM crops have a track record of safety."
The author of the new study, however, disagreed. At the request of the Norwegian Environment Agency, the report focused on analysing the herbicide tolerant trait of Monsanto's 'Intacta' crop.
"The literature contains a number of recent scientific studies which do indicate potential adverse effects", said Catacora-Vargas, noting that Monsanto's comment solely concerned Intacta's insect resistance. By selectively focusing on studies of only certain impacts of the crop, Monsanto and other biotechnology companies are misleading the public.
She added that the EU's 2010 compendium, which is also cited in the new Norwegian study, "is one of the very few with specific research on Intacta. These few papers are insufficient - evidence wise - to assert that Intacta is safe to the environment and human health.
"If integral analysis of GM crops' sustainability is incomplete, it is just because the knowledge available on GMO safety and sustainability is also incomplete. There are more unknowns than evidence on the safety of GM crops."
Monsanto's flagship product condemned by WHO
The release of the new Norwegian report coincided with a spate of bad news for the biotechnology food industry. An expensive two-year research trial to test GM wheat's ability to repel aphids (also known as plant lice), conducted by Rothamsted Research, failed spectacularly to produce the desired results.
Most GM crops contain the Roundup Ready trait patented by Monsanto. But in March, anassessment by the World Health Organization's (WHO) cancer arm published in The Lancet, found that Roundup is "probably carcinogenic to humans."
The study evaluated evidence of human exposures to Roundup since 2001, largely for agricultural workers in the US, Canada and Sweden. Alarmingly, it found "limited evidence of carcinogenicity in humans for non-Hodgkin lymphoma", along with "convincing evidence that glyphosate also can cause cancer in laboratory animals."
According to Dr. Helen Wallace of the campaigning group, Genewatch UK, Monsanto's GM crops "are now failing in the field due to the growth of superweeds resistant to the weedkiller RoundUp which is blanket sprayed on these GM plants."
Despite the "high failure rate of experimental GM crops", Genewatch UK notes ongoing efforts at "collaboration between government-funded scientists, ministers and industry on a PR strategy to try to rehabilitate GM crops in Britain and weaken regulations."
Large quantities of industry and public money therefore incentivises academic scientists to produce research on GM crops that favours the industry, and underplays contrary evidence.
The harder we look, the worse it gets
The author of the new Norwegian study, Catacora-Vargas, said that given the current level of knowledge, "it is premature to assert that GM crops are safe. Currently, the more research we do on GMOs the more questions and uncertainties arise."
She added that non-GM based forms of agriculture such as low input agriculture, agroecological approaches and even peasant and family farming are receiving insufficient attention from governments.
These non-GM production systems "have shown their capacity to produce adequate volumes of healthy and safe food and feed, besides being less energy and resource demanding. We still have a long way to go in designing scientific research that will provide the evidence needed to make justifiable claims of safety of GM crops, and their benefits in comparison to other production systems."
These findings will add to growing public concerns over the addition of GM crops into the food-chain, and the role of the industry in suppressing scientific research that contradicts its claims.
Source : The Ecologist
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What Is the "Monsanto Protection Act," and How Did It Sneak Into Law?
A provison that protects the biotech giant from litigation passed Congress without many members knowing about it.
A number of readers have requested to know exactly where in the HR 933 they might find the provision dubbed the “Monsanto Protection Act.” It is Section 735 in the bill, the full text of which can be read here. Original post: Slipped into the Agricultural Appropriations Bill, which passed through Congress last week, was a small provision that’s a big deal for Monsanto and its opponents. The provision protects genetically modified seeds from litigation in the face of health risks and has thus been dubbed the “Monsanto Protection Act” by activists who oppose the biotech giant. President Barack Obama signed the spending bill, including the provision, into law on Tuesday.
Since the act’s passing, more than 250,000 people have signed a petition opposing the provision and a rally, consisting largely of farmers organized by the Food Democracy Now network, protested outside the White House Wednesday. Not only has anger been directed at the Monsanto Protection Act’s content, but the way in which the provision was passed through Congress without appropriate review by the Agricultural or Judiciary Committees. The biotech rider instead was introduced anonymously as the larger bill progressed — little wonder food activists are accusing lobbyists and Congress members of backroom dealings.
The Food Democracy Now and the Center for Food are directing blame at the Senate Appropriations Committee and its chairman, Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md. According to reports, many members of Congress were apparently unaware that the “Monsanto Protection Act” even existed within the spending bill, HR 933; they voted in order to avert a government shutdown.
“It sets a terrible precedent,” noted the International Business Times. “Though it will only remain in effect for six months until the government finds another way to fund its operations, the message it sends is that corporations can get around consumer safety protections if they get Congress on their side. Furthermore, it sets a precedent that suggests that court challenges are a privilege, not a right.”
Source : Alternet
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Doctors and Animals Alike Tell Us
The farmer grinned as he told the visitor, “Watch this!” He called his pigs, which ran frantically towards him to be fed. But when he scooped out corn and threw it on the ground, the pigs sniffed it and then looked up at the farmer with confused expectation. The farmer then scooped corn from another bin and flung it near the pigs, which ran over and quickly devoured it.
The farmer said, “The first corn is genetically engineered. They won’t touch it.”
It’s not just pigs that swear off genetically modified organisms (GMOs). In South Africa, Strilli Oppenheimer’s chickens won’t eat genetically modified (GM) corn. Most buffalo in Haryana, India, refuse cottonseed cakes if made from GM cotton plants. Geese migrating through Illinois only munched sections of the soybean field that was non-GMO. When given a choice, elk, deer, raccoons, and rats all avoided GMOs. And even during the coldest days of Iowa winter, squirrels, which regularly devour natural corn, refused to touch the GM variety.
One skeptical farmer who read about the squirrels wanted to see for himself if it was true. He bought a bag full of GM corn ears, and another of non-GM, and left them in his garage till winter. But by the time he fetched the bags, mice had done the experiment for him. They broke into the natural corn bag and finished it; the GM cobs were untouched.
Doctors prescribe no GMOs
No one knows why the animals refuse GMOs, but according to a 2009 statement by the American Academy of Environmental Medicine (AAEM), when lab animals do eat GM feed, it’s not pretty. “Several animal studies indicate serious health risks associated with GM food,” says the AAEM policy paper, which specifically cited infertility, immune problems, accelerated aging, insulin regulation, and changes in major organs and the gastrointestinal system, among the impacts of eating GMOs. “There is more than a casual association between GM foods and adverse health effects,” they wrote. “There is causation…”
1Although we humans don’t have a natural sense to stay away from GM foods, AAEM’s position indicates that we should take a lesson from the animals. This renowned medical organization, which first recognized such dangers as food allergies, chemical sensitivity, and Gulf War Syndrome, called on all physicians to prescribe non-GMO diets to all patients.¹ They also called for a moratorium on GMOs, long-term independent studies, and labeling.
Former AAEM President Dr. Jennifer Armstrong says, “Physicians are probably seeing the effects in their patients, but need to know how to ask the right questions.” Renowned biologist Dr. Pushpa M. Bhargava and many others believe that GMOs may be a major contributor to the deteriorating health in America since GM foods were introduced in 1996. GMOs on your plate
There are eight GM food crops: soy, corn, cotton, canola, sugar beets, Hawaiian papaya, and a little bit of zucchini and yellow squash. The two primary reasons why plants are engineered are to allow them to either drink poison, or produce poison.
Poison drinkers are called herbicide tolerant. Their DNA is outfitted with bacterial genes that allow them to survive otherwise deadly doses of toxic herbicide. The first five crops on the list above have herbicide tolerant varieties. 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. That is found in corn and cotton. The papaya and squashes have virus genes inserted, to fight off a plant virus. All GM crops are linked to dangerous side effects.
Pregnant women and babies at great risk
GM foods are particularly dangerous for pregnant women and children. After GM soy was fed to female rats, most of their babies died—compared to a 10% deaths among controls fed natural soy.² GM-fed babies were smaller, and possibly infertile.³
Testicles of rats fed GM soy changed from the normal pink to dark blue.3 Mice fed GM soy had altered young sperm.4 Embryos of GM soy-fed parent mice had changed DNA.5 And mice fed GM corn had fewer, and smaller, babies.7
In Haryana, India, most of those buffalo that did consume GM cottonseed ended up with reproductive complications such as premature deliveries, abortions, and infertility; many calves died. About two dozen US farmers said thousands of pigs became sterile from certain GM corn varieties. Some had false pregnancies; others gave birth to bags of water. Cows and bulls also became infertile.
Eating poison in every bite
When insects take a bite out of the corn and cotton plants engineered to produce Bt-toxin, their stomach splits open and they die. Because that same toxin is used in its natural bacterial state as a spray by farmers for insect control, biotech companies claim that it has a history of safe use and can be incorporated directly into every plant cell.
The Bt-toxin produced in GM plants, however, is thousands of times more concentrated than natural Bt spray, is designed to be more toxic, has properties of an allergen, and cannot be washed off the plant.
Moreover, studies confirm that even the less toxic natural spray can be harmful. When dispersed by plane to kill gypsy moths in Washington and Vancouver, about 500 people reported allergy or flu-like symptoms.¹, ¹¹ The same symptoms are now reported by thousands of farm workers from handling Bt cotton throughout India.¹²
GMOs provoke immune reactions
GMO safety expert Dr. Arpad Pusztai says changes in immune status are “a consistent feature of all the [animal] studies.”¹³ From Monsanto’s own research to government funded trials, rodents fed Bt corn had significant immune reactions.¹, ¹
Soon after GM soy was introduced to the UK, soy allergies skyrocketed by 50%. Ohio allergist Dr. John Boyles says “I used to test for soy allergies all the time, but now that soy is genetically engineered, it is so dangerous that I tell people never to eat it.”
GM soy, corn, and papaya contain new proteins with allergenic properties.¹ In addition, GM soy has up to seven times more of a known soy allergen.¹ Perhaps the US epidemic of food allergies and asthma is a casualty of genetic manipulation.
Animals dying in large numbers
In India, animals graze on cotton plants after harvest. But when shepherds let sheep graze on Bt cotton plants, thousands died. Investigators said preliminary evidence “strongly suggests that the sheep mortality was due to a toxin…most probably Bt-toxin.”¹ In one small study, all sheep fed Bt cotton plants died; those fed natural plants remained healthy.
In an Andhra Pradesh village, buffalo grazed on cotton plants for eight years without incident. On January 3rd, 2008, 13 buffalo grazed on Bt cotton plants for the first time. All died within three days.¹ Bt corn is also implicated in the deaths of cows in Germany, and horses, water buffaloes, and chickens in The Philippines.²
In lab studies, twice the number of chickens fed Liberty Link corn died; 7 of 40 rats fed a GM tomato died within two weeks.²¹ Those rats had refused to eat the tomato and had to be force fed.
Worst finding of all—GMOs remain inside of us
The only published human feeding study revealed that even after we stop eating GMOs, harmful GM proteins may be produced continuously inside of us; genes inserted into GM soy transfer into bacteria inside our intestines and continue to function.²² If Bt genes also transfer, eating GM corn chips might transform our intestinal bacteria into living pesticide factories.
Warnings by government scientists ignored and denied
According to documents released from a lawsuit, in 1991–92 scientists at the FDA repeatedly warned that GM foods might create allergies, poisons, new diseases, and nutritional problems.²³ But the White House ordered the agency to promote biotechnology, and Michael Taylor, Monsanto’s former attorney, headed up the FDA’s GMO policy. That 1992 policy—still in effect today—declares that no safety studies on GMOs are required. Monsanto and other producers determine if their foods are safe. Taylor later became Monsanto’s vice president, and was reinstalled at the FDA in 2009 by the Obama administration as the US Food Safety Czar.
Opting out as guinea pigs
Biologist Dr. David Schubert of the Salk Institute says, “If there are problems [with GMOs], we will probably never know because the cause will not be traceable and many diseases take a very long time to develop.” In the 9 years after GM crops were introduced in 1996, Americans with three or more chronic diseases jumped from 7% to 13%.² Allergies doubled in less time. And the incidence of low birth weight babies, infertility, and infant mortality are all escalating. But without any human clinical trials or post marketing surveillance, we may never know if these or other disorders like autism, obesity, and diabetes, are triggered or made worse by GMOs.
We don’t need to wait for more research to learn our lesson from the animals and the doctors. Consult the Non-GMO Shopping Guide (www.NonGMOShoppingGuide.com) to learn how to avoid GMOs. Even a small percentage of people choosing non-GMO brands could force the food industry to remove all GM ingredients. By doing so, you are not only being careful about your own health, you are being compassionate to the environment and future generations—since GMOs wreak long-term havoc in our ecosystem as well.
References: 1 www.aaemonline.org/gmopost.html
2 Irina Ermakova, “Genetically modified soy leads to the decrease of weight and high mortality of rat pups of the first generation. Preliminary studies,” Ecosinform 1 (2006): 4–9.
3 Irina Ermakova, “Experimental Evidence of GMO Hazards,” Presentation at Scientists for a GM Free Europe, EU Parliament, Brussels, June 12, 2007
4 Irina Ermakova, “Experimental Evidence of GMO Hazards,” Presentation at Scientists for a GM Free Europe, EU Parliament, Brussels, June 12, 2007
5 L. Vecchio et al, “Ultrastructural Analysis of Testes from Mice Fed on Genetically Modified Soybean,” European Journal of Histochemistry 48, no. 4 (Oct–Dec 2004):449–454.
6 Oliveri et al., “Temporary Depression of Transcription in Mouse Pre-implantion Embryos from Mice Fed on Genetically Modified Soybean,” 48th Symposium of the Society for Histochemistry, Lake Maggiore (Italy), September 7–10, 2006.
7 Alberta Velimirov and Claudia Binter, “Biological effects of transgenic maize NK603xMON810 fed in long term reproduction studies in mice,” Forschungsberichte der Sektion IV, Band 3/2008
8 Jerry Rosman, personal communication, 2006
9 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 Chrysoperla carnea (Stephens) (Neuroptera: Chrysopidae),” Journal of Insect Physiology 50, no. 2–3 (2004): 175–183.
10 Washington State Department of Health, “Report of health surveillance activities: Asian gypsy moth control program,” (Olympia,: Washington State Dept. of Health, 1993).
11 M. Green, et al., “Public health implications of the microbial pesticide Bacillus thuringiensis: An epidemiological study, Oregon, 1985–86,” Amer. J. Public Health 80, no. 7(1990): 848–852.
12 Ashish Gupta et. al., “Impact of Bt Cotton on Farmers’ Health (in Barwani and Dhar District of Madhya Pradesh),” Investigation Report, Oct–Dec 2005.
13 October 24, 2005 correspondence between Arpad Pusztai and Brian John
14 John M. Burns, “13-Week Dietary Subchronic Comparison Study with MON 863 Corn in Rats Preceded by a 1-Week Baseline Food Consumption Determination with PMI Certified Rodent Diet #5002,” December 17, 2002
15 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
16 See L Zolla, et al, “Proteomics as a complementary tool for identifying unintended side effects occurring in transgenic maize seeds as a result of genetic modifications,” J Proteome Res. 2008 May;7(5):1850–61; Hye-Yung Yum, Soo-Young Lee, Kyung-Eun Lee, Myung-Hyun Sohn, Kyu-Earn Kim, “Genetically Modified and Wild Soybeans: An immunologic comparison,” Allergy and Asthma Proceedings 26, no. 3 (May–June 2005): 210-216(7); and Gendel, “The use of amino acid sequence alignments to assess potential allergenicity of proteins used in genetically modified foods,” Advances in Food and Nutrition Research 42 (1998), 45–62.
17 A. Pusztai and S. Bardocz, “GMO in animal nutrition: potential benefits and risks,” Chapter 17, Biology of Nutrition in Growing Animals, R. Mosenthin, J. Zentek and T. Zebrowska (Eds.) Elsevier, October 2005
18 “Mortality in Sheep Flocks after Grazing on Bt Cotton Fields—Warangal District, Andhra Pradesh” Report of the Preliminary Assessment, April 2006, www.gmwatch.org/
19 Personal communication and visit, January 2009.
20 Jeffrey M. Smith, Genetic Roulette: The Documented Health Risks of Genetically Engineered Foods, Yes! Books, Fairfield, IA USA 2007
21 Arpad Pusztai, “Can Science Give Us the Tools for Recognizing Possible Health Risks for GM Food?” Nutrition and Health 16 (2002): 73–84.
22 Netherwood et al, “Assessing the survival of transgenic plant DNA in the human gastrointestinal tract,” Nature Biotechnology 22 (2004): 2.
23 See memos at www.biointegrity.org
24 Kathryn Anne Paez, et al, “Rising Out-Of-Pocket Spending For Chronic Conditions: A Ten-Year Trend,” Health Affairs, 28, no. 1 (2009): 15-25to be force fed
Source: Laleva.org 5/11/2010
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What are Genetically Modified Foods