By Dr. Mercola
Americans are finally waking up to the reality of genetically engineered food—what it is, and its many dangers to human health and the environment.
Genetically engineered (GE) foods are also known as genetically modified (GM), or as genetically modified organisms (GMO).
In the video above, activist Adam Eidinger proposes a GMO shareholder resolution at Monsanto's 2012 annual shareholder meeting.
He tries to make the board and shareholders more aware of the dangers of Monsanto's pesticides and GMOs, the company's questionable practices, and the growing consumer backlash.
Did You Know? GM Crops are Sown in Wildlife Refuges Across U.S.
In related news, the White House has refused to release certain portions of a January 11 email sent from a Monsanto-linked lobbyist to top Obama administration policy analyst Peter Schmeissneri.
The email was requested by the Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) in a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request.
Based on other emails they have already obtained, PEER believes the email in question could reveal that the White House is colluding with lobbyists to defend the planting of genetically modified crops in wildlife refuges.
According to Truthout:
"Last July, PEER released a number of internal emails revealing that Peter Schmeissner, a senior science policy analyst and member of the White House's biotechnology working group, had corresponded with the BIO lobbyist about a legal challenge filed by PEER and its allies. The PEER lawsuit had successfully halted GE crop plantings in wildlife refuges in northeastern states, and the group continues to challenge planned plantings in other regions across the country.
In the emails obtained by PEER, longtime biotech lobbyist Adrianne Massey asks Schmeissner if the 'interagency working group' is addressing the PEER's legal challenges. Massey also forwarded environmental assessments of proposed GE crop plots at wildlife refuges in other regions of the country. These assessments could protect future GE crop plots in refuges from legal challenges."
Legal documents state that the White House is withholding part of the email because it accidentally also included information about the Biotechnology Industry Organization's (BIO's) lobbying strategy, which, if released, "would cause competitive harm to the group and the companies it represents," Truthout reports. In response, PEER staff counsel Kathryn Douglass has stated,
"We suspect the reason an industry lobbyist so cavalierly shared strategy is that the White House is part of that strategy."
Crazy as it sounds, the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service has permitted GM seeds to be sown in wildlife reserves for several years now, as part of various habitat restoration efforts. The idea is that planting herbicide-resistant GM crops helps establish ground cover while allowing them to kill off unwanted weeds. PEER challenged this practice after being contacted by concerned Fish and Wildlife biologists, and claims it is being used as a ploy to boost exports of GM crops. According to Truthout:
"PEER contends that the White House working group's involvement indicates high-level interest in showing trade partners that the US government considers GE crops to be so environmentally safe that Americans plant them in wildlife reserves."
PEER also claims to have evidence in the form of an email showing that US Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Tom Vilsack has pressured the Fish and Wildlife Service to support GE agriculture.
"In the January 14 email, Interior Department Deputy Secretary David Hayes told top Interior Department and Fish and Wildlife officials that Vilsack is "somewhat exercised that the Administration is not being consistent in supporting genetically engineered crops," Truthout reports.
Farmers Against Monsanto Fight in New York City
Another GMO battle was recently lost. At the end of January, 55 farmers belonging to the Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association (OSGATA) traveled to Manhattan, New York to defend their lawsuit against Monsanto, as the biotech giant was trying to get it dismissed on the grounds of being "frivolous."
OSGATA's suit sought to invalidate Monsanto's seed patents. At the heart of this effort was the very real fact that Monsanto's genetically modified crops threaten to contaminate the fields of farmers who opt not to use their seeds. And these farmers are then at risk of being targeted for Monsanto's aggressive enforcement of their alleged patent rights.
Anyone who understands how nature works will know that Monsanto's tactics are profoundly unfair, because there's simply NO way to avoid contamination!
For example, American rice farmers recently lost $389 million in projected sales as a result of the contamination with Bayer's unapproved experimental GM rice. Some 3,000 lawsuits have been filed against Bayer in recent years over their GM crops contaminating American rice farms. What makes this such a potent example is that Bayer's GM rice, known as LibertyLink, was never approved for commercial planting; it's an experimental crop, meant to be sown for research purposes only. Yet once planted, it was impossible to contain it. And this is the kind of dangerous ripple-effect that is bound to occur whenever a GM crop is introduced.
Unfortunately, federal judge Naomi Reice Buchwald dismissed OSGATA's case on February 27, stating that the organization "had no standing to bring such a suit, had not been harmed by the company, and had engaged in a transparent effort to create a controversy where none exists," the New York Times reportsii.
GM Contamination Spreading Like Uncontained Wildfire
Two years ago, the Food Freedom blog reported that the Irish government accidentally planted Monsanto's Roundup Ready GM maize, which was, and still is, banned in Irelandiii. The contaminated seeds had been supplied by Pioneer Hi-Bred Northern Europe, a subsidiary of DuPont. To protect surrounding farmers and organic farms, the contaminated maize crops were destroyed before flowering, to prevent pollen drift. However, there's still no telling the full extent of the GM contamination. After all, it was only discovered through random testing. The seed had verified as "GM-free" by Pioneer Hi-Bred.
Last year, a Greenpeace report revealed Monsanto's GM corn had been discovered across 3,000 hectares (7,400 acres) in seven German statesiv. Since GM corn is banned in Germany, the farmers had to destroy their crops and "eat" their losses, as the seed companies refused to accept liability for the contamination.
In 2007, pollen drift from GM maize (MON810) fields were also found to have contaminated hundreds of conventional and organic farmers in Spain; the only country in the EU that allows GM maize to be cultivated. A 2009 Greenpeace report documents the socioeconomic and human impacts of the contaminationv. Part of the summary reads:
"The farmers' stories tell of an alarming reduction in the amount of organic maize being grown and the direct negative impacts that genetically modified organisms have on the population. These organic producers have voluntary opted out of the conventional or GM farming model, many out of dedication to the principles of sustainability. Now, they face contamination from neighboring GM crops, even when they take measures to try to avoid cross pollination of the plants. For an organic farmer, genetic contamination is an unmitigated disaster. This report tells the stories of real people who have experienced losses not of their own making. Adding insult to injury, they often have to pay for testing or other protection measures themselves.
… There are no safeguards for MON 810 cultivation, and co-existence of GM and non-modified crops is impossible."
That's the reality of the situation, which is why we cannot rest on our laurels and must fight against the approval of each and every new GM crop. You cannot contain them. They absolutely WILL contaminate their conventional and organic counterparts.
The Many Dangers of GM Foods
Jeffrey Smith, author of Seeds of Deception and Genetic Roulette: The Documented Health Risks of Genetically Engineered Foods, provides overwhelming evidence that genetically engineered foods are unsafe and should never have been introduced. He's also the executive director of the Institute for Responsible Technology, whose Campaign for Healthier Eating in America is designed to create the tipping point of consumer rejection of GMOs, forcing them out of our food supply. Smith has documented at least 65 serious health risks from GM food products. Among them:
- Offspring of rats fed GM soy showed a five-fold increase in mortality, lower birth weights, and the inability to reproduce
- Male mice fed GM soy had damaged young sperm cells
- The embryo offspring of GM soy-fed mice had altered DNA functioning
- Many US farmers report sterility or fertility problems among pigs and cows fed GM corn
- Investigators in India have documented fertility problems, abortions, premature births, and other serious health issues, including deaths, among buffaloes fed GM cottonseed products
Other hazards to environmental-, animal-, and human health related to GM crops include:
- Dr. Don Huber, an internationally recognized plant pathologist and professor emeritus at Purdue University, has discovered an organism, brand new to science, related to GM corn and soy appears to be responsible for plant death, as well as infertility and spontaneous abortion in animals given GM feed. The organism is especially troubling as there's strong evidence this infectious agent promotes disease in BOTH plants and mammals, which is extremely rare.
- Data from 19 animal studies has linked GM foods to organ disruption.
- Proteins from GM crops are showing up in Indiana waterways. The University of Notre Dame and Loyola University looked at 217 streams, drains and ditches near Indiana cornfields and found the genetically modified bug-killing protein in 50 of them.
- Glyphosate (the active ingredient in Monsanto's herbicide Roundup, used on all Roundup Ready GM crops) is now showing up in air- and rain samples collected in Mississippi and Iowa. Glyphosate was detected in 60 to 100 percent of all air and rain samples, in varying amounts.
- Superweeds that now cover about 11 million acres of farmland, up fivefold from just three years ago, according to Penn State weed scientist David Mortensen vi. It's estimated that more than 130 types of weeds spanning 40 U.S. states are now herbicide-resistant. As a result, farmers are applying ever increasing amounts of herbicides on their crops.
- Dow AgroSciences (a subsidiary of Dow Chemicals and one of the original manufacturers of Agent Orange) has developed a new generation of GM crops -- soybeans, corn and cotton -- designed to resist a major ingredient in Agent Orange: the herbicide called 2,4-Dichlorophenoxyacetic acid (2,4-D). Experimental animal studies of chronic oral exposure to 2,4-D have reported adverse effects on the eye, thyroid, kidney, adrenals, and ovaries/testes. In addition, some experimental animal studies have reported teratogenic effects (birth defects) at high doses, including increased fetal death.
Why We MUST Insist on Mandatory Labeling of GM Foods
I've gone on record saying that due to the amount of GM crops now grown in the United States (over 90 percent of all corn is GM corn and over 95 percent all soy is GM soy) EVERY processed food you encounter at your local supermarket that does not bear the "USDA Organic" label is likely to contain at least one GM component.
If you eat processed foods, you're eating GM foods, and you have been for the last decade—whether you knew it or not. You can thank Congress for this, and the USDA and Monsanto. What ultimate impact these GM foods will have on your health is still unknown, but increased disease, infertility and birth defects appear to be on the top of the list of most likely side effects. Last year, Mark Bittman wrote in the New York Timesvii:
"A majority of our foods already contain GMOs and there's little reason to think more isn't on the way. It seems our "regulators" are using us and the environment as guinea pigs, rather than demanding conclusive tests. And without labeling, we have no say in the matter whatsoever."
Mandatory labeling may be the only way to stop the proliferation of GM foods in the U.S. Because, believe it or not, while GM crops are banned in several European countries, in the U.S., states have begun passing legislation that protects the use of GM seeds and allows for unabated expansion! At present, no less than 14 states have passed such legislation. Michigan's Senate Bill 777viii, if passed, would make that 15. The Michigan bill would prevent anti-GMO laws, and would remove "any authority local governments may have to adopt and enforce ordinances that prohibit or regulate the labeling, sale, storage, transportation, distribution, use, or planting of agricultural, vegetable, flower or forest tree seeds."
While legislation like this sounds like crazy nonsense to normal people, such bills are essentially bought and paid for through the millions of dollars Monsanto and other biotech companies spend lobbying the US government each year. In the first quarter of 2011 alone, Monsanto spent $1.4 million on lobbying the federal government -- a drop from a year earlier, when they spent $2.5 million during the same quarter. Their efforts of persuasion are also made infinitely easier by the fact that an ever growing list of former Monsanto employees are now in positions of power within the federal government.
Learn More about Genetically Modified (GM) Foods
Due to lack of labeling, many Americans are still unfamiliar with what GM foods are. We have a plan to change that, and I urge you to participate and to continue learning more about GM foods and helping your friends and family do the same.
To start, please print out and use the Non-GMO Shopping Guide, created by the Institute for Responsible Technology. Share it with your friends and family, and post it to your social networks. You can also download a free iPhone application, available in the iTunes store. You can find it by searching for ShopNoGMO in the applications.
Your BEST strategy, however, is to simply buy USDA 100% Organic products whenever possible, (as these do not permit GM ingredients) or buy whole fresh produce and meat from local farmers. The majority of the GMO's you're exposed to are via processed foods, so by cooking from scratch with whole foods, you can be sure you're not inadvertently consuming something laced with GM ingredients. When you do purchase processed food, avoid products containing anything related to corn or soy that are not 100 percent organic, as any foods containing these two non-organic ingredients are virtually guaranteed to contain genetically engineered ingredients, as well as toxic herbicide residues.
To learn more about genetically engineered foods, I highly recommend the following films and lectures:
Important Action Item: Support California's Ballot Initiative to Label GMO's!
In 2007, then-Presidential candidate Obama promised to "immediately" require GM labeling if elected. It's now 2012, and we're still waiting...
Fortunately, 24 U.S. states have (as part of their state governance) something called the Initiative Process, where residents can bring to ballot any law they want enacted, as long as it has sufficient support. California has been busy organizing just such a ballot initiative to get mandatory labeling for genetically engineered foods sold in their state. The proposed law will hopefully make it onto this year's ballot.
Michigan and Washington are also starting similar campaignsix, but since California is the 8th largest economy in the world, a win for the California Initiative would have the power to affect ingredients and labeling nation-wide. A coalition of consumer, public health and environmental organizations, food companies, and individuals has submitted the California Right to Know Genetically Engineered Food Act to the State Attorney General. Now, they need 800,000 signatures to get the Act on this year's ballot.
I urge you to get involved and help in any way you can. Also, regardless of where you live, please donate to help support this Initiative, and spread the word to everyone you know in California. Be assured that what happens in California will affect the remainder of the U.S. states, so please support this important state initiative, even if you do not live there!