A brief summary of some recent GMO related news, more responses on the NAS claim that GMOs are ‘safe’ and other GMO related information
Mergers, mergers, everybody wants to make a merger … and it’s not a good thing:
“Why a Bayer-Monsanto merger would be bad news for anyone who farms — or eats,” by Emma Court, MarketWatch; May 26, 2016
GMO labeling fight:
It never seems to end: Senator Stabenow has proven over and over that she is a mere puppet of the biotech industry. She will do anything they tell her, including pushing for a fake GMO labeling scheme (QR codes) against the overwhelming desire of the American people and in doing so will discriminate against the poorest communities in her district. Andrew Kimbrell explains:
“Senator Stabenow’s ‘Smart’ Labels Would Hit Her Hometown Residents Hard,” by Andrew Kimbrell, Huffington Post; May 25, 2016
Excerpt: A handful of multinational agribusiness and food companies have spent over $100 million over the past three years to fight Americans’ right to know what is in the products they purchase and consume. It appears Senator Stabenow (D-MI) is trying to accommodate Big Ag — a situation that is particularly tragic for residents of her own state. Right now Stabenow is working hard to come up with a “compromise” on labeling genetically engineered (GE) food products. Her idea is that so-called “smart labels” — digital product information accessed via a smartphone with network coverage — are sufficient for getting consumers access about product ingredients.
Unfortunately, Senator Stabenow’s proposal would only compromise Americans’ — and especially her Michigan constituents’ — right to know what is in the products they buy and feed their families. It is well-documented that rural communities throughout Michigan would be a particularly hard-hit target in terms of being denied information by “smart labels”, as more than half of rural Americans do not have a smartphone, let alone the necessary network coverage that would be required to access the information…
Corporations cannot continue to dictate what information people are allowed access to – especially when it comes to the food we eat – and it is shameful that any elected officials would support keeping their own constituents in the dark.
More responses about the absurd report by National Academy of Sciences (NAS)
The NAS report, ‘Genetically Engineered Crops: Past Experience and Future Prospects,’ by the National Academy of Sciences May 17, 2016 claims ‘GMOs are safe’ and that ‘Overall, the committee found no conclusive evidence of cause-and-effect relationships between GE crops and environmental problems.’ It sounds like it’s a long climb up Bullsh*t Mountain. You can read my take on this report in yesterday’s post.
GMWatch published an article on May 20, and two more today in response to the surreal report by the NAS. The first article, “No, ‘science’ has not confirmed that GMOs are safe to eat,” by Anonymous, edited by Claire Robinson, GMWatch; May 20, 2016
Excerpt: [O]ne important bias remains, and this is the one emerging from the relationship of several of its members with important biotechnology companies and their associated organizations. For example, the director of the study, Kara Laney, used to work for the International Food & Agricultural Trade Policy Council (funded by Monsanto). Food & Water Watch has documented the links of at least twelve of the twenty-two members of the committee with the main global biotech firms, or organizations funded by them.
Then today, Clair Robinson published her two articles:
“How the National Academy of Sciences misled the public over GMO food safety,” by Clair Robinson, GMWatch; May 26, 2016
Excerpt: In reality, the part of the report that deals with animal feeding studies on GM crops is a subtly treacherous mix. Scattered among some sound statements and useful recommendations are a plethora of strategic omissions, gobsmackingly unscientific assertions, wishful thinking, pulled punches, and outright lies. Below I consider just a few.
The report says, “The research that has been conducted in studies with animals and on chemical composition of GE food reveals no differences that would implicate a higher risk to human health from eating GE foods than from eating their non-GE counterparts.” That message was translated by the NAS’s press release as “no substantiated evidence of a difference in risks to human health between current commercially available genetically engineered (GE) crops and conventionally bred crops”.
That’s where the media got the message that GM crops are safe. It wasn’t (just) dumb or lazy reporting. It came straight from the NAS itself. But both statements are at best misleading and at worst lies, as anyone knows who has seen any of the long list of animal feeding studies showing risks and harms from GM crops. Ill effects in GM-fed animals include liver and kidney damage, changes in blood biochemistry, and immune responses.
The GMO industry and its allies are well aware of this and fight hard to try to persuade regulators not to require animal feeding studies with GM foods and their associated pesticides – and shoot down those that are carried out and that find problems. And for whatever reason, the NAS also seems to have felt it necessary to ‘neutralize’ the animal feeding studies that have shown problems with GMOs. How do the NAS do that? By avoiding directly addressing the findings of harm or signs of possible toxicity in the relevant studies. As far as the NAS is concerned, these studies may as well not exist. Instead they elevate to a position of authority two misleading reviews, written by conflicted-out authors, which claim to find no evidence of harm in GM-fed animals. The NAS report contains some useful analysis and sound recommendations – which almost certainly will not be acted upon. But on the vexed question of GMO safety, it is profoundly misleading and unscientific … [T]he NAS report has worked like a GMO lobbyist’s dream, prompting parts of the British media, for instance, to lobby for Europe to unblock GM crop farming, on the grounds that the report’s eminent authors had blown away claims that GM crops and foods cause harm.
Claire’s Second article:
“National Academy of Sciences GMO report fatally compromised by conflicts of interest,” by Claire Robinson, GMWatch; May 26, 2016
Excerpt: “In any experiment, the treatment groups (GM-fed animals) should be compared with the control group (non-GM-fed animals), and significant differences in the GM-fed group noted and analyzed. But a trend has grown among pro-GMO researchers, including the Snell review authors, of ignoring these significant differences and of comparing the GM-fed animals instead to a range of animals outside the experiment that have been fed unknown diets, have unknown genetic makeup, and are kept in unknown conditions. This makes a nonsense of the scientific method as it introduces so many uncontrolled variables that any differences in the GM-fed animals get lost amid the ‘data noise.’ This in turn allows researchers and authors to conclude that the changes in the GM-fed animals are within normal ranges.”
One pseudoscientific “official” report followed by another
Following on the heels of the pseudo-scientific report by the NAC, another report was criticized. This report was published by the UK’s pro-GMO group the Royal Society. GMWatch posted a link to the response by the UK’s well-known group the Soil Association in their article:
“Soil Association responds to new Royal Society report about GM crops,” by GMWatch; May 26, 2016
The Soil Association is a strong advocate for organic agriculture and also has a campaign to remove glyphosate from bread – it is used as ‘drying out’ agent on wheat.
The original article is “Soil Association response to ‘GM Plants: Questions and Answers’,” by the Soil Association; May 25, 2016
Excerpt: This Royal Society document about GM crops, like every other one they have issued over the last nearly 20 years, argues in favor of GM. Everyone knows that there are at least some scientific controversies, and disagreements about evidence concerning GM crops. None of these are mentioned in the Royal Society document. This may not be surprising, given that there are no scientists who have consistently expressed skepticism about the application of GM technology to agriculture listed among the authors. Scientific enquiry normally proceeds by open discussion of disagreements about evidence – the Royal Society’s involvement in GM has been consistently one-sided, ignoring scientists with dissenting views, and overlooking facts which do not fit with the views of supporters of GM crops…
On page 22, the Royal Society claims that GM food is ‘safe’ – going on to explain that there is no evidence that it is unsafe. No evidence that something is unsafe is not same as evidence that it is safe – this is basic scientific error, confusing absence of evidence with evidence of absence. For example, proponents of GM regularly claim that the fact that GM food has been eaten in America for 20 years shows that it is safe, despite the fact that the during the same period that GM food has been eaten in America, diet-related ill health amongst American citizens has increased dramatically. However, just because things happen at the same time, does not mean one causes the other. Also, until somebody does some research, we have no idea if the widespread consumption of GM food in the USA has had health consequences or not.
On page 25, the Royal Society neatly illustrates another trick that GM proponents have played over the years, when scientific evidence of harm has been difficult to explain away. In this case, the Royal Society looks at evidence of environmental damage associated with GM crops, something which a large-scale, five-year study funded by the UK government established beyond doubt. The Royal Society’s answer is to say that this is nothing to do with GM crops, but simply a result of ‘farming practice’. It is clear just how disingenuous this is, from the fact that every time this document claims some advantage for GM crops, it turns out that this is entirely because of GM, and nothing to do with farming practice. However, when there is clear evidence of damage, it’s nothing to do with GM, and all down to what farmers do.
From the Archives! Did you know?
“GMO Myths and Truths – Myth: Independent studies confirm that GM foods and crops are safe; Truth: Independent research on GM foods is difficult or impossible to carry out, but many studies that have been carried out find problems,” by John Fagan PhD, Michael Antoniou PhD, and Claire Robinson MPhil, Earth Open Source; 2014 [Excerpt from “GMO Myths and Truths 2nd Edition, 2014]
“GMO Myths and Truths – Myth: GM foods are safe to eat; Truth: Studies show that GM foods can be toxic, allergenic, or have unintended nutritional changes,” by John Fagan PhD, Michael Antoniou PhD, and Claire Robinson MPhil, Earth Open Source; 2014 [Excerpt from “GMO Myths and Truths 2nd Edition, 2014]
“GMO Safety: Physicians Take on the Biotech Industry,” by Brian Moench, Truthout; September 24, 2015
From 2003 – Dr. Mae-Wan Ho & Joe Cummins write about Terminator Seeds:
“Chronicle of an Ecological Disaster Foretold,” by Dr. Mae-Wan Ho & Professor Joe Cummins, Institute of Science in Society; February 20, 2003
Excerpt: Terminator technology’ is so named by its critics because it genetic engineers sterility into crop plants, for no other purpose than to protect and enforce corporate patents on GM seeds.
The public first became aware of the technology in patents jointly owned by US Department of Agriculture and Delta and Pine Land Company. There were massive protests worldwide, and Monsanto, which acquired the Delta and Pine patent rights, backed down from developing the terminator crops described in that particular patent. However, as we were to learn, there are many ways to engineer sterility. It is not easy to find the information, as very little is published, and applications for field trials or commercial approval routinely conceal such information from the public under ‘commercial confidentiality’. All our requests to regulatory bodies for details on specific constructs were ignored…
The spread of these constructs to conventional crops and wild relatives could instigate similar genetic instabilities, leading to catastrophic breakdown.
We simply have no data to assure us that this has not happened or cannot happen.
An interesting perspective from a Catholic worldview on the ethical implications of patents on seeds
“Are Life Patents Ethical? Conflict between Catholic Social Teaching and Agricultural Biotechnology’s Patent Regime,” by Keith Douglass Warner, Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics, Vol. 14; 2001 (20 pages)
Excerpt: The unprecedented expansion of life patents raises troubling issues in social ethics. The privatization of germplasm formerly considered the common heritage of humankind is incompatible with notions of the common good and economic justice. The scrutiny that life industries have been receiving is well deserved, although most of this attention has been focused on the potential threats to human and ecosystem health. The economic implications of the biotechnology patent regime are less obvious because they do not impact individuals, but rather social groups. The pubic appears less interested in this dimension of the biotechnology revolution. Nevertheless, addressing this patent regime through the lens of the common good is a better strategy for critics of agricultural biotechnology, who will likely be more successful in slowing down the expansion of corporate control over germplasm by addressing economic issues.
Religious ethics can play a more constructive role in the debate over agricultural biotechnology by addressing this patent regime rather than raising questions about “playing God” through genetically engineering germplasm, questions that are hard to answer and unlikely to be resolved in industrial societies. The Catholic social teaching tradition and its principle of the universal destination of goods fundamentally conflicts with the negative right conferred by gene patents. The Catholic principle of the universal destination of goods implies that genes, gene sequences, and engineered crop varieties are ineligible for patent protection, although the processes to engineer these should be eligible. International issues of economic justice and concern for the common good must be brought to the debate over the deployment of agricultural biotechnology. Banning life patents would advance these principles. [Emphasis added].
The classic from 1998: “Playing God in the Garden”
A well-known quote comes from the following article: “Monsanto should not have to vouchsafe the safety of biotech food. Our interest is in selling as much of it as possible. Assuring its safety is the F.D.A.’s job.” – Phil Angell, Monsanto’s director of corporate communications
“Playing God in the Garden,” by Michael Pollan, New York Times; October 25, 1998
Excerpt: What is supposed to rescue the American food chain is biotechnology — the replacement of expensive and toxic chemical inputs with expensive but apparently benign genetic information: crops that, like my New Leafs [Monsanto’s GMO potato with the Bt trait, no longer on the market] can protect themselves from insects and disease without being sprayed with pesticides … Organic farmers have been among biotechnology’s fiercest critics, regarding crops like my New Leafs as inimical to their principles and, potentially, a threat to their survival. That’s because Bt, the bacterial toxin produced in [many biotech plants] happens to be the same insecticide organic growers have relied on for decades … organic farmers are up in arms: the widespread use of Bt in biotech crops is likely to lead to insect resistance, thus robbing organic growers of one of their most critical tools; that is, Monsanto’s version of sustainable agriculture may threaten precisely those farmers who pioneered sustainable farming … [I]insect resistance to Bt, a potential form of “biological pollution” … could end the effectiveness of one of the safest insecticides we have — and cripple the organic farmers who depend on it. The theory, which is now accepted by most entomologists, is that Bt crops will add so much of the toxin to the environment that insects will develop resistance to it…
Monsanto scientists told me that if all goes well, resistance can be postponed for 30 years. (Some scientists believe it will come in three to five years.) The second response is more troubling. In St. Louis, I met with Jerry Hjelle, Monsanto’s vice president for regulatory affairs. Hjelle told me that resistance should not unduly concern us since “there are a thousand other Bt’s out there” — other insecticidal proteins. “We can handle this problem with new products,” he said. “The critics don’t know what we have in the pipeline.”
And then Hjelle uttered two words that I thought had been expunged from the corporate vocabulary a long time ago: “Trust us.”…
Monsanto executives are quick to point out that mad cow disease has made Europeans extremely sensitive about the safety of their food chain and has undermined confidence in their regulators. “They don’t have a trusted agency like the F.D.A. looking after the safety of their food supply,” said Phil Angell, Monsanto’s director of corporate communications…
So are my New Leafs safe to eat? … [T]he next time I met Phil Angell, who again cited the critical role of the F.D.A. in assuring Americans that biotech food is safe. But this time he went even further. “Monsanto should not have to vouchsafe the safety of biotech food,” he said. “Our interest is in selling as much of it as possible. Assuring its safety is the F.D.A.’s job.” [Emphasis added]
It’s a classic love story between a psychopathic entity and a sociopathic agency! Who could resist?
सत्यमेव जयते – Satyameva Jayate
(Truth Ultimately Triumphs)
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Copyright © Jeff Kirkpatrick 2016 Ban GMOs Now All rights reserved.