The Ultimate Food Betrayal: How Big Biotech Rigged the Research on GM Foods
August 10, 2010
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By Jeffrey Smith
In 2004, the peer-reviewed British Food Journal published a study claiming that when shoppers in a Canadian farm store were given an informed, unbiased choice between genetically modified (GM) corn and non-GM corn, most purchased the GM variety.
The research, which was funded by the biotech industry and conducted by four staunch proponents of GM foods, other findings around the world that show how people avoid genetically modified organisms (GMOs) when given a choice.
The controversial article was nonetheless given the Journal's prestigious Award for Excellence for the Most Outstanding Paper of 2004. It is often cited by biotech advocates as proof that people are embracing GM foods.
Fortunately Stuart Laidlaw, a reporter from Canada's Toronto Star, had visited the farm store several times during the study and described the scenario in his book Secret Ingredients. Far from offering unbiased choices, huge signs placed over the non-GM corn bin read, "Would you eat wormy sweet corn?" It further listed the chemicals that were sprayed during the season.
By contrast, the sign above the GM corn stated, "Here's What Went into Producing Quality Sweet Corn." No wonder 60 percent of shoppers avoided the "wormy corn." In fact, it's a testament to people's distrust of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) that 40 percent still went for the "wormy" option.
In addition to the signs, the "consumer education fact sheets" in the store were nothing more than pro-GM propaganda. And the lead researcher, Doug Powell, was even seen trying to convince a customer who purchased non-GM corn to switch to the GM variety.
The Science of Rigging Studies
Cambridge University's Dr. Richard Jennings, a leading researcher on scientific ethics, described the study as "flagrant fraud." But there are plenty more examples of "cooked" research in the much more critical area of GMO safety assessments.
- When dairy farmers inject cows with GM bovine growth hormone (rbGH), there are plenty of changes in the milk—including an increase of that hormone itself. To allay fears, the FDA claimed that pasteurization destroys 90 percent of the hormone.
In reality, the researchers of this drug (then owned by Monsanto) pasteurized the milk 120 times longer than normal. But they only destroyed 19 percent. So they spiked the milk with a huge amount of extra growth hormone and then repeated the long pasteurization. Only under these artificial conditions were they able to destroy 90 percent.
- To demonstrate that rbGH injections didn't interfere with cows' fertility, Monsanto appears to have added cows to their study that were pregnant BEFORE injection.
- When Aventis CropScience prepared samples to see if the potential allergen in StarLink GM corn was intact after cooking, instead of using the standard 30-minutes, they heated the corn for 2 hours.
- When independent researchers published a study in July 1999 showing that Monsanto's GM soy contains 12-14 percent less cancer-fighting phytoestrogens, Monsanto responded with its own study, concluding that soy's phytoestrogen levels vary too much to even carry out a statistical analysis.
Researchers failed to disclose, however, that they had instructed the laboratory to use an obsolete method of detection—one that had been prone to highly variable results.
- To prove that GM protein breaks down quickly during simulated digestion, biotech companies use thousands of times the amount of digestive enzymes and a much stronger acid than what the World Health Organization recommends.
- Monsanto told government regulators that the GM protein produced in their high-lysine GM corn was safe for humans, because it is also found in soil. Since people consume small residues of soil on fruits and vegetables, the protein has a long safe history as part of the human diet.
But the actual amount of the GM corn protein an average US citizen would consume (if all their corn were Monsanto's variety), would be "about 30 billion-4 trillion times" the amount normally consumed in soil residues. For equivalent exposure, people would have to eat as much as 22,000 pounds of soil every second of every day.
- Monsanto's high-lysine corn also had unusual levels of several nutritional components, such as protein and fiber. Instead of comparing it to normal corn, which would have revealed this significant disparity, Monsanto compared their GM corn to obscure corn varieties that were also far outside the normal range on precisely these values. On this basis, Monsanto could claim that there were no statistically significant differences in their GM corn.
Methods used by biotech companies to hide problems are varied and plentiful. For example, researchers:
- Use animals with varied starting weights, to hinder the detection of food-related changes;
- Keep feeding studies short, to miss long-term impacts;
- Test Roundup Ready soybeans that have never been sprayed with Roundup—as they always are in real world conditions;
- Avoid feeding animals the GM crop, but instead give them a single dose of GM protein produced from GM bacteria
- Use too few subjects to obtain statistical significance
- Use poor or inappropriate statistical methods, or fail to even mention statistical methods, or include essential data
- Employ insensitive detection techniques—doomed to fail
Monsanto's 1996 Journal of Nutrition study, which was their cornerstone article for "proving" that GM soy was safe, provides plenty of examples of masterfully rigged methods:
In December 2009, a team of independent researchers published a study analyzing the raw data from three Monsanto rat studies. When they used proper statistical methods, they found that the three varieties of GM corn caused toxicity in the liver and kidneys, as well as significant changes in other organs.
Monsanto's studies, of course, had claimed that the research showed no problems. The regulators had believed Monsanto, and the corn is already in our food supply.
[Citations for studies are available in Part 3 of Genetic Roulette, by Jeffrey M. Smith, www.geneticroulette.com.]
To learn more about the health dangers of GMOs, and what you can do to help end the genetic engineering of our food supply, visit www.ResponsibleTechnology.org.
About the Author
International bestselling author and filmmaker Jeffrey Smith is the leading spokesperson on the health dangers of genetically modified (GM) foods.
His first book, Seeds of Deception, is the world's bestselling and #1 rated book on the topic. His second, Genetic Roulette: The Documented Health Risks of Genetically Engineered Foods, provides overwhelming evidence that GMOs are unsafe and should never have been introduced.
Mr. Smith is 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.
Take Action Now by clicking on the following link to understand all the myths and realities behind GE crops. Education of GMO is the best step to avoiding them and spreading awareness of this increasing threat in our food supply that can rob you of your health.
For a straightforward guide to shopping Non-GMO, see the Non-GMO Shopping Guide.
Vote with Your Pocketbook, Every Day
The food companies on the left of this graphic spent tens of millions of dollars in the last two labeling campaigns—in California and Washington State - to prevent you from knowing what’s in your food. You can even the score by switching to the brands on the right; all of whom stood behind the I-522 Right to Know campaign. Voting with your pocketbook, at every meal, matters. It makes a huge difference.
I encourage you to continue educating yourself about genetically engineered foods, and to share what you’ve learned with family and friends. Remember, unless a food is certified organic, you can assume it contains GMO ingredients if it contains sugar from sugar beets, soy, or corn, or any of their derivatives.
If you buy processed food, opt for products bearing the USDA 100% Organic label, as certified organics do not permit GMO’s. You can also 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. Alternatively, download their free iPhone application, available in the iTunes store. You can find it by searching for ShopNoGMO in the applications. For more in-depth information, I highly recommend reading the following two books, authored by Jeffrey Smith, the executive director of the Institute for Responsible Technology:
For timely updates, join the Non-GMO Project on Facebook, or follow them on Twitter.
Please, do your homework. Together, we have the power to stop the biotech industry from destroying our food supply, the future of our children, and the earth as a whole. All we need is about five percent of American shoppers to simply stop buying genetically engineered foods, and the food industry would have to reconsider their source of ingredients—regardless of whether the products bear an actual GMO label or not.