“Let food by thy medicine and let medicine be thy food,” said Socrates. Our soils are more depleted of nutrients than they were 2500 years ago, and today much of what comprises people’s diet in the U.S. is more poison than medicine, for processed foods are most often high in calories and low in nutrients, or altogether absent of calories and nutrients but full of toxins, as is the case in diet soft drinks. On top of that, it’s difficult to purchase any processed food today in the U.S. that doesn’t contain genetically modified, or engineered, ingredients. Despite the proved health risks from consuming genetically modified organisms (GMOs), the FDA has approved GMO foods and drugs without testing, taking the word of the agrochemical and seed giant Monsanto that they’re safe, despite substantial evidence that GMOs are anything but safe for human or animal consumption.
“Monsanto: The World’s Poster Child for Corporate Manipulation and Deceit,” by Jeffrey Smith, explains how the revolving door between the Monsanto and the U.S. government ushered in an era of GMO-contaminated foods. Click on the image to access the pdf of the article published by Huffington Post in 2010.
How did this happen? Monsantoism and Corporatism in the U.S.
As author and journalist Chris Hedges tells us in “Democracy in America Is a Useful Fiction,” a corporate coup d’état has occurred. Corporations are now fully in control of the U.S. government. Jeffrey Smith, founding director of the Institute for Responsible Technology, leading authority on GMOs, and author, has published two books on how an aggressive, deceptive war has been waged by Monsanto and other agrochemical and biotech corporations against farmers and against the people of the world, invading food supplies, and our bodies, with GMOs. Smith’s summary published in Huffington Post explains how Monsanto got FDA approval for genetically engineered foods (see “Monsanto: The World’s Poster Child for Corporate Manipulation and Deceit” as a printable pdf or at Huffington).
Like the EPA’s process of “pre-approval” of oil dispersants based on data from the manufacturer’s own tests, the FDA accepted Monsanto’s test data to designate GMOs as generally accepted as safe (GRAS), and therefore not requiring further testing by the agency. This policy is based on political, not scientific, considerations and was accomplished by allowing Monsanto to tailor rule-making and policies favorable to its corporate interests and more generally to the agri-biotech industry. As if this were the plot of a modern-day Dickens novel in which characters are tagged according to their vice or virtue, the name of the man to plow the FDA field for the sowing Monsanto-friendly policy is Michael Taylor, who re-entered the FDA through a revolving door between Monsanto and the federal government, this time to fill a position created especially for him to continue to serve his true client.
As FDA Deputy Commissioner for Policy, Taylor was responsible for the FDA’s GMO policy, writing the rules to approve the infamous genetically engineered Recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone, or rBGH, which has been linked to cancer, especially of the breast and prostate. Several Monsanto scientists who conducted rBGH tests on rats were so alarmed at their findings that they refused to drink anything but organic, hormone-free milk, and one even bought his own milk cow. After returning to Monsanto as Vice President of Public Policy, he returned again to the FDA in 2010 as Deputy Commissioner for Food Safety.1
Despite the groundswell of activism against Monsanto and GMOs, with demands for mandatory labeling on food products indicating genetically engineered ingredients, on Thursday, May 23, two days before the global March Against Monsanto, the U.S. Senate rejected an amendment to the Agriculture Reform, Food, and Jobs Act of 2013:
To permit States to require that any food, beverage, or other edible product offered for sale have a label on indicating that the food, beverage, or other edible product contains a genetically engineered ingredient (S.AMDT.965).
Two days after President Obama signed the “Monsanto Protection Act” (HR933), the Senate rejected an amendment to a farm bill that would have provided protection to states which choose to mandate labeling of genetically modified foods.
Sen. Bernie Sanders’ amendment, co-sponsored by Senators Mark Begich (Alaska), Richard Blumenthal (Connecticut), Michael Bennet (Colorado), and Jeff Merkley (Oregon), was overwhelmingly defeated. Seventy-one U.S. senators believe we the people shouldn’t have the right to know what’s in the products we and our children consume. Seventy-one U.S. senators think states shouldn’t be allowed to mandate such labeling. Seventy-one U.S. senators say we don’t have a right to know what’s in the food we eat and the beverages we drink, because they believe we should be forced to eat and drink GMOs whether we want to or not. Seventy-one U.S. senators say we don’t have a right to protect our health by avoiding ingredients that are known to endanger our health. Seventy-one U.S. senators have told us that it’s more important to them to listen to Monsanto lobbyists and to represent Monsanto than to listen to and represent their electorate. Only twenty-seven voted for the amendment. You can go here to find out how your senators voted.
Two days before the Senate struck down the GMO labeling amendment, President Obama signed an appropriations bill dubbed the “Monsanto Protection Act” for a rider anonymously inserted (admittedly by Sen. Roy Blunt and Monsanto) that allows the secretary of the Department of Agriculture to override court orders regarding biotech companies.2 With the government protecting Monsanto’s profit margins instead of food safety and public health, we have no choice but to do our best, using resources provided by nonprofit organizations, to avoid GMOs. For the time being, we must continue to avoid GMOs by informing ourselves and each other.
Why should we avoid GMOs?
Genetically modified organisms are created by inserting a gene of one species into the DNA of another. As mentioned above the genetically engineered rBGH has had deleterious effects on animals and on humans. Genetically modified seed crops are of two types: Roundup Ready crops are engineered to be resistant to the Monsanto herbicide Roundup, whose active ingredient is glyphosate; in the other a gene of the soil bacteria Bacillus thuringiensis, or Bt, is inserted into corn, where it acts as a pesticide.
Monsanto and other biotech corporations would have us believe that everything about GMOs is safe and that GMO crops will help feed the world. Government agencies and politicians base their decisions on those premises, which are false. To put it more bluntly, they’re lies. The truth of the matter is that GMO crops produce lower yields, require an ever increasing amount of extremely toxic pesticides and herbicides as pests and weeds become resistant, and the use of these herbicides and pesticides degrade the nutrients in the soil. Animal studies reveal that GMO foods and their residues of pesticide and herbicide cause disruptions of a number of biological systems, damage cells, and even alter DNA. Even though the FDA has required no further testing and no human studies, what is known about the effects of GMOs from medical evidence reported by veterinarian and medical doctors, in addition to scientific animal studies, has been alarming. So much so that to anyone who becomes aware of these concerns it’s clear that GMOs and the herbicides and pesticides formulated to grow them should never have been approved by the USDA, EPA, and FDA to be produced in the U.S. and consumed by humans or animals.
In 2009 the American Academy of Environmental Medicine (AAEM) issued a position paper on genetically modified foods, stating, “There is more than a casual association between GM foods and adverse health effects. There is causation….” It goes on to say,
[B]ecause GM foods pose a serious health risk in the areas of toxicology, allergy and immune function, reproductive health, and metabolic, physiologic and genetic health and are without benefit, the AAEM believes that it is imperative to adopt the precautionary principle…. Based on the precautionary principle, the AAEM asked:
- Physicians to educate their patients, the medical community, and the public to avoid GM foods when possible and provide educational materials concerning GM foods and health risks.
- Physicians to consider the possible role of GM foods in the disease processes of the patients they treat and to document any changes in patient health when changing from GM food to non-GM food.
- Our members, the medical community, and the independent scientific community to gather case studies potentially related to GM food consumption and health effects, begin epidemiological research to investigate the role of GM foods on human health, and conduct safe methods of determining the effect of GM foods on human health.
- For a moratorium on GM food, implementation of immediate long term independent safety testing, and labeling of GM foods, which is necessary for the health and safety of consumers.3
Following are a few of what are said to be unintended consequences of GM crops and food:4
- Internal FDA memos indicate that the consensus among agency scientists was that GM crops could have a variety of unpredictable results, including toxins, allergies, nutritional effects, and new diseases.
- Statistical analyses of raw data from Monsanto’s own studies on rats indicate that three varieties of GM corn caused toxicity in the liver and kidneys, as well as significant changes in other organs.
- Most of baby rats died after being fed GM soy, compared to 10% that were fed non-GM soy.
- Embryos of GM-fed mice had changed DNA.
- The liver and pancreas of mice were affected Roundup-Ready soy
- In India, most of buffalo fed GM cottonseed had reproduction problems, and most of the calves died.
- U.S. farmers reported that their pigs became sterile after being fed some varieties of GM corn, as did cows and bulls.
- Changes in the immune system in rodent studies.
- New proteins with allergenic properties are contained in GM corn and soy.
- Within two weeks of being fed a GM tomato, 7 of 40 rats died.
- Twice the number of chickens fed a GM variety of corn (LibertyLink) died.
What about effects on human health? Since GMOs were introduced into the food supply in the 1990s, there has been a rise in infant mortality, reproductive disorders, gastrointestinal problems, and other conditions that could be caused by GMO foods and by herbicide and pesticide residues. There has only been one study of effects of genetically modified foods on humans. In a Canada study the matabolite of the herbicide gluphosinate and a Bt toxin were found in the of blood samples of pregnant women and their fetuses and of non-pregnant women.5
Since it’s been found that genes inserted into GM soy transfer into gut bacteria of humans continue to function there, the question has been raised if this could also be true of the Bt gene. If so, pesticides could continue production in our intestines after ingesting Bt GM corn. It’s been found that some of the so-called “inert” ingredients of Roundup actually have more deleterious effects on mammals than the active ingredient, glyphosate, for they amplify toxic effects on human cells, and in much more diluted states than recommended. A French team of researchers were astonished to find that the supposedly inert ingredient polyethoxylated tallowamine, or POEA, was “more deadly to human embryonic, placental, and umbilical cord cells” than glyphosate. It has also been found that glyphosate suppresses gut enzymes that detoxify xenobiotics, compounding the effects of other toxins ingested and causing inflammation throughout the body that can lead to numerous diseases typical of populations on a Western diet. A report on the results of yet another study says that a new GM wheat could change the way glucose and carbohydrates are stored in the human body, which could lead to death in children and serious illness in adults.6
Tumors in mammary glands of female rats fed GMO corn (J), GMO corn with Roundup (K), and Roundup (L).
Last year the journal Food and Chemical Toxicology published a report on the long-term toxicity of Roundup herbicide and Roundup-Ready GM corn (see pdf), the “ﬁrst detailed documentation of long-term deleterious effects arising from the consumption of a GM R[oundup]-tolerant maize and of R[oundup], the most used herbicide worldwide.” In this two-year study of health effects of GM corn and Roundup in rats, most affected were mammary and pituitary glands of females, and the liver and kidneys in males, results explained by the study’s authors “by the nonlinear endocrine-disrupting effects of Roundup and the over expression of the transgene in the GMO and its metabolic consequences.” Females developed large mammary tumors (see photographs at right). Some of the males had to be euthanized after kidney tumors grew to above 25 percent of their overall weight.
Altogether, the significant biochemical disturbances and physiological failures documented in this work conﬁrm the pathological effects of these GMO and R[oundup] treatments in both sexes, with different amplitudes.
The EPA has stated that the consumption of glyphosate, the active ingredient in the herbicide Roundup, above maximum contaminant levels (MCL) can cause liver and kidney failure, and reproductive effects. However, this study demonstrates that concentrations far lower than those the EPA considers safe cause severe mammary, liver, and kidney disturbances, which can be compounded by the transgene in at least one GM corn (NK603), which can also be expressed in other pathologies. The authors of this study say that long-term studies are necessary to determine potential toxic effects of GM human food and animal feed and the pesticides formulated to be used on them. 7
The EPA and the FDA should have conducted long-term studies of the effects of Roundup and GMOs before Monsanto was allowed to unleash them onto the world. However, like we’ve seen with Corexit, those agencies adjust regulatory policy to fit the demands of corporations. They can’t be expected to protect the public, despite public tax dollars appropriated to those agencies to do so. The very least we must do to protect ourselves and our loved ones is to avoid GMO products as much as possible.
Those who have learned and are practicing the basics of detoxification, which include limiting incoming toxins, already know that “clean nutrition,” meaning in part the avoidance of all processed foods, is a necessity. Because risks involved in consuming GMOs include ingestion of pesticides and it can be very difficult at this time to avoid GMOs completely, everyone should detoxify and then adopt a detoxification maintenance regimen, the basics of which can be learned by reading Detoxify or Die, by Sherry A. Rogers, M.D. If we start by eliminating from our diet all processed foods, the process of choosing what is non-GMO and is healthful will be easier.
The main foods and ingredients to avoid in order to limit the consumption of GMOs are corn, soy, canola oil, cottonseed oil, sugar made from sugar beets, commercial dairy products in which cows were given the growth hormone rGBH, papayas, zucchini and yellow squash, and canola oil. Aspartame, which should be avoided anyway because of its toxicity, is also made from genetically modified bacteria. GMO avoidance is made easier by several free phone apps and lists made available by several nonprofit organizations. The Non-GMO Project offers a free phone app.
Non-GMO Project free iTune app: Designed to support consumers in knowing what’s in our food and avoiding GMOs, this app features a list of the brands and products that are enrolled in the Non-GMO Project’s Product Verification Program. The Non-GMO Project’s program is the ONLY third-party non-GMO verification program in North America, and “Non-GMO Project Verified” is the only non-GMO claim backed by transparent and rigorous standards. The Non-GMO Project is a non-profit organization originally founded by retailers committed to providing consumers with reliable non-GMO choices.
You can also use the Non-GMO Project‘s data base to verify if a product you’re interested in purchasing is non-GMO certified, and view a list of retailers in your area that are participating in the Project. Please explore this site to learn more about how you can ensure the products you purchase are GMO-free, support non-GMO products and retailers, and to make requests for products to become verified and listed.
The Institute for Responsible Technology (IRT) provides two pdf brochures: Non-GMO Shopping Tips and Non-GMO Shopping Guide. Please also explore IRT’s website, which is the most comprehensive source for GMO information, and which also offers ways to get involved with others to curb GMO inroads into our food supply. We have to think for ourselves. Just because a label says “natural” or “organic” doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s non-GMO. Several big food corporations have been sued for labeling their products “all natural,” when in fact they have ingredients that are GMO.8
Join the Tipping-Point Network
As consumers we have the power to reject GMOs by refusing to purchase products that contain them, even if our elected representatives refuse to pass labeling laws. It’s this power that corporations which sell harmful products fear. As more and more countries refuse to important GM agricultural and food products, the more U.S. federal government increases subsidies to U.S. farmers who are growing GM feed and foods, and the more U.S. consumers are expected and forced, if possible, to eat them. It’s not so much by protesting against the power of giant corporations like Monsanto and the politicians who collude with them that will free us from their tyranny, but by refusing to consume the products that are unsafe and that threaten to make our loved ones ill, and are already making many sicker than they have yet to realize. At this point marches and protests are of most value at when they include educational outreaches to the public.
Let’s all make the effort to learn about GMOs, to educate others, and to, at the very least, exercise our purchasing power to reject them, and to grow as much of our own food as possible. With 9 out of 10 people in the U.S. opposed to GMOs in our food supply, we can curb corporate and government GMO tyranny by exercising our consumer power, which is now worth much more than a vote for a politician. The Institute for Responsible Technology hosts a networking service so people can get in touch with other organizers in their community. Resources provided include draft letters to grocery store managers and restaurants, brochures, fact sheets, and organizing tools. Achieving the consumer tipping point can be accomplished through 1) public education, 2) winning the cooperation of grocery stores, restauranteurs, and manufacturers in your community (see IRT’s Tipping Point action sign-up page).
When our elected officials represent corporations instead of the electorate, when agencies such as the EPA and the FDA lie to the public about safety of products we’re led to believe are tested and regulated, when a transnational corporation is so ruthlessly powerful that it poisons the people, and the entire planet, with impunity, it is our obligation to stop it using nonviolent tactics. Good planning is essential for successful direct actions. If they involve civil disobedience that could result in an arrest, it’s a good idea to speak with a supportive attorney ahead of time and to be prepared. One direct action being practiced is applying GMO labels on foods on Grocery shelves. However, caution should be exercised so that you won’t be charged with property damage and ultimately forced to pay for GMO products! There are also many other ways people can creatively engage their community without alienating it. Please document your direct actions and educational outreaches you’ve conducted with descriptions, photographs, and videos, and send them to us so we can share them with others (send to firstname.lastname@example.org)!
Fundamental to health freedom is having access to clean water and healthful foods, the freedom to choose the nutrients we ingest, the freedom to prevent harmful toxins from trespassing in our bodies, and the freedom to rid our bodies of those toxins. The EPA and the FDA continue to violate these rights by failing to test and regulate GMO crops, foods, and drugs and the chemicals used to produce them, and by lying to the public about their safety. White House administrations continue to violate these rights with political appointees favorable to biotech corporations such as Monsanto. Congress has violated these rights by failing to provide proper oversight of the EPA and the FDA, for confirming appointees who are entering government through the revolving door between the White House and Monsanto. The only way to curb the tyranny of Monsanto and other biotech giants and the GMOs they’ve unleashed onto the world is with our own bodies: refusing to allow GMOs to invade our bodies is the very least and perhaps the most we can do.
Following are further educational resources about GMOs. See also the “No GMO” link section in the right-hand column.
audio: GMO Frankenfoods and What You Can Do to Improve Your Health Gabriela Segura, M.D. hosts this SOTT podcast roundtable discussion November 15, 2010
The World According to Monsanto (Le monde selon Monsanto, 2008) Directed by Marie-Monique Robin, author of the book by the same name that won the Rachel Carson Prize.
Seeds of Death: The Lies of GMOs produced by Gary Null (full length)
Genetic Roulette: The Gamble of Our Lives Everyone should watch this documentary and share it with family, friends, and community. Jeffery Smith brilliantly summarizes the threats of GM foods to human and animal health and to global food security and convincingly sets forth a proposal of how consumer power can regain and protect their and their family’s health and take back the food supply from control of biotech corporations. The film can be purchased or rented through Amazon.
1 hr. 25 min. Buy, or rent for a week. Show at a family, church, or community gathering.
Seeds of Deception: Exposing Industry and Government Lies About the Safety of the Genetically Engineered Foods You’re Eating by Jeffrey M. Smith Foreword by Frances Moore Lappé
- The story of the Monsanto scientists is told by Jeffrey Smith in the documentary film Genetic Roulette: The Gamble of Our Lives. ↩
- See Section 35 of the Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act, 2013, or H.R. 933. ↩
- “Genetically Modified Foods,” Position Paper, American Academy of Environmental Medicine, May 9, 2009. See also the AAES press release, “The American Academy Of Environmental Medicine Calls For Immediate Moratorium On Genetically Modified Foods,” May 19, 2009. ↩
- Drawn from Jeffrey Smith, “Monsanto: World Poster Child of Corporate Manipulation and Deceit,” unless otherwise noted. ↩
- “Maternal and fetal exposure to pesticides associated to genetically modified foods in Eastern Townships of Quebec, Canada,” Reproductive Toxicology, March 2011. ↩
- “Eating GM corn Could Turn Your Gut Into a Living Pesticide Factory,” Dr. Mercola, May 29, 2012. “Weed Killer Kills Human Cells. Study Intensifies Debate Over ‘Inert’ Ingredients,’” Environmental Health News, June 22, 2009. “Glyphosate’s Suppression of Cytochrome P450 Enzymes and Amino Acid Biosynthesis by the Gut Microbiome: Pathways to Modern Diseases,” Entropy, April 18, 2013. “New GMO Wheat Could ‘Silence’ Vital Human Genes,” Dr. Mercola, April 23, 2013. See more on effects of GM foods at 65 Health Risks of GM Foods, Institute for Responsible Technology. ↩
- Séralini, G.-E., et al. Long term toxicity of a Roundup herbicide and a Roundup-tolerant genetically modified maize. Food Chem. Toxicol. (2012) http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.fct.2012.08.005. A pdf of the report can be read here. ↩
- Michele Simon, “Lawsuit Alleges Frito-Lay’s GMO Snacks Aren’t ‘Natural’,” Huffington Post, December 27, 2011. ↩
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