If, like me, you recall the “FlavrSavr" tomato, which was the first genetically modified crop on the market, then you recall that the first GMO food to be sold to US consumers was touted as such, was sold at a premium, and sold well. So, why then, I wondered, were these other miracles of modern science not equally newsworthy?
As you will see, I’m not one to just go about accepting the opinions of others. I’ve done quite a bit of research on this subject, and I continue to do so. The result of that research, beginning with my first learning that GMOs were already being sold to me as food and without my knowledge (and had been for years), has been presented here. I was not automatically angry or fearful, but I was very curious to know why this hadn’t been big news.
Rather than just tell you, and ask you to just accept my opinions when I am not capable of just accepting some else’s, I am giving you the opportunity to follow along with me on that research and form your own conclusions. This page is a work-in-progress and is updated as more information becomes available.
My first question is,
What exactly are GMOs?
GMO stands for “genetically modified organism,” sometimes just written as “GM” or “GE” for genetically engineered. Sometimes, they simply have a gene “turned off.” Others, science tends to call “transgenic,” because they are, quite literally, the product of transferring (splicing) part of the genetic code of one plant or animal into the DNA of another, sometimes even crossing the plant/animal kingdom boundary. Transgenic plants have the inserted gene in every single cell, including the pollen, flower, fruit, leaf, stem, and root.
This is a short list of the genetically modified food crops that are grown in the US today or are imported into the US food supply, many of which fall under the category of Transgenic GMO:
- Sugar cane (transgenic), no US production data available
- Soy bean (transgenic), over 90% of US soy production. If anything you eat has soy or soy derivatives in it that is not labeled organic, you’ve been consuming GMO soy.
- Field Corn (transgenic), nearly 90% of US production. If you eat or drink anything with corn meal, hominy, grits, or high fructose corn syrup (nearly all processed beverages, including soda pop, sweet teas, and flavored waters) that is not labelled organic, you’ve been consuming GMO corn. If you eat meat from non-organic farms, you are eating animals that have been fed GMOs.
- Cotton (transgenic), 93% of US production. If you eat foods containing cottonseed oil, such as canned oysters, you have been eating GMO.
- Alfalfa (transgenic), deregulated Feb 2011, data on percent of US production unavailable
- Hawaiian Papaya (transgenic), nearly 80% of US production
- Canola aka Rapeseed (transgenic), 93% of US production. If you eat anything containing canola oil not labelled as organic, you’ve been eating GMO canola. Genetically Modified Crop on the Loose and Evolving in U.S. Midwest (particularly alarming, as it is a member of the brassica family, which includes many other food crops, such as broccoli, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, and mustards.)
- Sugar beet (transgenic), 95% of US production in 2010. See below for links relating to the current legal battle over sugar beet planting in the US court system.
- Zucchini (transgenic), 13% of US production. Due to lack of labeling requirements, there’s just no way to know if that bag of frozen vegetables contains genetically modified zucchini.
- Sweet Corn - Monsanto Co. (MON), the world’s biggest vegetable seed maker, said it will begin selling genetically modified sweet corn in the U.S. this year, the first product it has developed for the consumer market. (Aug 4, 2011)
Most of the GMO crops currently being grown for the US food and feed market have been genetically modified to withstand applications of herbicides, or to produce pesticide in every cell (Bt Toxin).
Open Letter from World Scientists to All Governments Concerning Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) This one was written TEN YEARS AGO and signed by 828 scientists from 84 countries!
But wait! We, here in the United States, have the benefit of a government institution whose sole purpose is to ensure the safety of our food and medicines: The Food and Drug Administration (FDA). So, after reading that “Open Letter,” the next logical step was to assure myself that the FDA had proven these foods safe for consumption. Otherwise, they wouldn’t be on the market, right? Well, I learned that the FDA isn’t exactly the champion of food safety that I thought. Due to “trade secrets” and the patenting of these plants and seeds, there hasn’t actually been any independent safety testing of these products here in the USA! But, there has been testing done elsewhere that has had some rather frightening results.
Have these GMOs been adequately tested for safety?
In researching these foods, and trying to ascertain their safety, after learning of the FDA’s failure to do so, the name Monsanto pops up again and again.
Who, or what, is Monsanto?
Monsanto company has been around for over 100 years. They’ve been primarily a chemical company since the 1940s. In addition to GMOs, some of their contributions to the world include: the insecticide DDT, the herbicides Agent Orange and Roundup; aspartame (Equal, NutraSweet); recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH), and PCBs. All of them have either been proven to be harmful to humans, or are suspected of such by legitimate scientists.
Wikipedia entry for Monsanto Company (pay special attention to the sections “Corporate governance” and “Environmental and health record.”
Monsanto company also has an interesting recent history of litigation. After inventing and marketing Recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone (rBGH) to increase milk production in cows, they have successfully sued dairies over labeling their products as “rBGH free,” hired attorneys against Fox Network and successfully prevented the airing of an exposé about rBGH. They have also successfully sued farmers whose crops had been contaminated by Monsanto’s GMOs through cross-pollination!
So, my next question is how do they manage to win such cases? And, more importantly, how did Monsanto manage to get these products on the market in the first place? The answer to these questions is more than a little disturbing!
GMOs, Monsanto products, and Federal Approvals:
First, go look at the recently appointed Commissioner of Foods at the FDA, Michael R. Taylor’s FDA website profile. Note the former employers listed in the last paragraph. See Monsanto listed? There have actually been several instances where employees of Monsanto have gone to work at the FDA and other government agencies, and suspiciously been put into the position of choosing whether to approve or deny products that they themselves have, or had, a vested interest in through their work at Monsanto.
At this point, with all of the information above, I became dismayed and quite alarmed. Then, just days after the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced the deregulation of “Roundup Ready Alfalfa,” in February 2011, I encountered this:
Researcher: Glyphosate (Roundup) or Roundup Ready Crops May Cause Animal Miscarriages: This is a letter from Dr. Don Huber, professor emeritus of Plant Pathology at Purdue University, to Tom Vilsack, USDA Secretary of Agriculture. The letter warns of a new pathogen discovered in Roundup Ready crops that seems to affect both plants and animals. The professor urges the USDA to postpone approval of Roundup Alfalfa until more is known. The USDA approved it anyway two weeks later! I know it’s a lot to read, but read the comments as well. Most of them seem to be from knowledgeable and intelligent people.
And, in case you (like me) are inclined to suspect the validity of this letter, I give you an interview with Dr. Huber himself, released in April or May of 2011:
An in-depth interview with Dr. Huber, who wrote the US Secretary of Agriculture warning of a new pathogen associated with GMO plants and Roundup, strongly urging the Secretary to withhold approval of “Roundup Ready” alfalfa two weeks before the crop was deregulated.
And then, we arrive back at our original question: why were these products, whose safety has not been neither proven nor disproven (due to the FDA stance that these products are “substantially no different” than their natural counterparts) actually been sneaked into our food supply, unlike the FlavrSavr Tomato?
Why is the US Government opposed to labeling GMO Foods?
I think I’ve made my case.
Personally, I think every citizen of any nation whose government has allowed genetically modified plants to continue to be covertly planted and sold as food should be angry, outraged even! Americans in particular should be outraged because even if it turns out that GMOs are perfectly safe for us (and for the environment), the government most certainly should not have allowed the general populace to play the role of guinea pig without even telling us! Each and every new GMO should have been all over the news when they were first introduced onto the American market. And I still really must ask, WHY WEREN’T THEY? But, if I haven’t convinced you yet, read on (or better yet, do your own research)…