By Dr. Mercola
In Europe genetically modified foods and ingredients have to be labeled.
In the United States, they do not.
But the truth is, if and when GM labeling is finally required in the United States, you're going to see changes to the majority of food labels in your supermarket, as GM foods already widely appear in our food supply.
Most people are not aware that nearly EVERY processed food you encounter at your local supermarket that does not bear the "USDA Organic" label is filled with GM components.
This is 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).
As you might suspect, it's in the interest of the industry to keep the prevalence of GM ingredients quiet and they won't go down without a fight.
Biotech Industry Spends More Than Half a Billion to Influence Congress
In just over a decade, the food and agriculture biotechnology industry has spent more than $572 million in campaign contributions and lobbying expenditures, according to an analysis by Food & Water Watch.
Key among the goals of this intense lobbying effort is to prevent GM food labeling and keep Americans in the dark about the contents of their food.
The analysis states:
"The food and agriculture biotechnology industry has been flexing its financial political muscle to ease the regulatory oversight of genetically modified foods. Lobbying efforts for some of these firms and groups have included approval of cloned food and genetically engineered food, animals and livestock.
Companies are also fighting to eliminate or prevent labeling on genetically modified foods in the United States and preventing other countries from regulating genetically modified foods. These efforts have dovetailed with lobbying to tighten intellectual property law protections over patented seeds and animals in attempts to further benefit the biotech industry."
Over 95 percent of Americans polled said they think GM foods should require a label, stating it's an ethical issue and consumers should be able to make an informed choice. Like people in Europe, Americans are suspicious of GM foods, and a large part of why many continue to buy them is because they are unaware that they're already in the food. A prominent GM food label would be a death sentence to U.S. GM crops, which are right now enjoying a free for all when it comes to entering the food market.
As Ronnie Cummins of the Organic Consumers Association stated:
"Why are there basically no genetically engineered foods or crops anywhere in Europe, while 75 percent of U.S. supermarket foods—including many so-called "natural" foods—are GE tainted?
The answer is simple. In Europe genetically modified foods and ingredients have to be labeled. In the U.S. they do not. Up until now, in North America, Monsanto and the Biotechnocrats have enjoyed free reign to secretly lace non-organic foods with gene-spliced viruses, bacteria, antibiotic-resistant marker genes, and foreign DNA—mutant "Frankenfoods" shown to severely damage the health of animals, plants, and other living organisms in numerous scientific studies.
Monsanto and their allies understand the threat that truth-in-labeling poses for GMOs.
As soon as genetically modified foods start to be labeled in the U.S., millions of consumers will start to read these labels and react.
They'll complain to grocery store managers and companies, they'll talk to their family and friends. They'll start switching to foods that are organic or at least GMO-free. Once enough consumers start complaining about GM foods and food ingredients; stores will eventually stop selling them; and farmers will stop planting them.
Genetically engineered foods have absolutely no benefit for consumers or the environment, only hazards. This is why Monsanto and their friends in the Clinton, Bush, and Obama administrations have prevented consumer GMO truth-in-labeling laws from ever getting a public discussion, much less coming to a vote in Congress."
Why the Approval of GM Alfalfa Could Mean the End of Organic
Industry lobbying is clearly working, as to date biotech companies have evaded mandatory labeling laws (although a new California initiative may change all of that). They also succeeded in getting GM alfalfa approved, which quite literally threatens the entire organic industry, including organic meat, as alfalfa is the fourth largest crop in the U.S., and is used to produce forage seed and hay to feed cows and other livestock.
Contamination would be disastrous for organic dairy- and cattle farmers as federal organic standards forbid them from using GM crops, and organic food manufacturers will reject a food ingredient if found to be contaminated with GM material -- not to mention Monsanto's history of suing both conventional and organic farmers for patent infringement should their crops be cross-contaminated.
Download Interview Transcript
Cummins noted in the above interview that any alfalfa growing within a five-mile radius of GM alfalfa will immediately become contaminated, and it's clearly evident that GM crops of all kinds cannot be contained. They absolutely WILL contaminate their conventional and organic counterparts, which will mean ultimately the entire food supply will contain GMOs.
Some, like Dr. Philip Bereano, professor emeritus at the University of Washington and an engaged activist concerning GM foods, believe contamination is actually an intentional strategy by both the government and the industry to weaken the organic industry to simply allow GM animal feed in organics.
Indeed, while USDA chief Tom Vilsack acknowledged alfalfa contamination concerns in an "Open Letter to Stakeholders" on December 30, 2010, stating that the USDA's environmental impact statement "acknowledges the potential of cross-fertilization to non-GE alfalfa from GE alfalfa," adding that cross-fertilization is "a significant concern for farmers who produce for non-GE markets at home and abroad," steps were not taken to address them.
Congress is the Puppet, Biotech is the Puppeteer
It takes only a flick of biotech's wrist to move Congress' regulatory arms, and the truth is the revolving door between the two is spinning so fast that the line between industry lobbyists and legislators is permanently blurred.
As the Food & Water Watch report noted:
"At least a baker's dozen of former members of Congress represent food and agriculture biotechnology interests as lobbyists. Of the companies surveyed, seven spent over $8.5 million to hire the firms of at least 13 former senators and representatives to represent these biotechnology interests to their former colleagues in the Congress. Many of these former legislators-turned-lobbyists have formidable legislative pedigrees.
For example, Former House Agriculture Committee Ranking Member Charles Stenholm (D-TX) is currently a registered lobbyist for Syngenta, a seller of genetically modified plants in the United States and abroad."
Biotech giant Monsanto is a prime example of how the industry has infiltrated U.S. regulatory agencies like the FDA and the USDA with their previous employees who are still very loyal to Monsanto. Cummins pointed out the following connections as a start:
- Clarence Thomas, who did not withdraw himself from a Supreme Court decision on genetically engineered alfalfa last year, used to be the general counsel for Monsanto.
- Michael Taylor, who was formerly the vice president of Monsanto, is now the Food and Drug Administration Deputy Commissioner for Foods.
- Roger Beachy, the former director of the Monsanto-funded Danforth Plant Science Center in Saint Louis, is now the director of the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture.
- Islam Siddiqui was vice president of Monsanto and Dupont's funded pesticide-promotion group CropLife. He is now the agricultural negotiator for the U.S. Trade Representative. In other words, he is the enforcer for U.S. foreign policy that countries have to accept our genetically engineered exports.
- Rajiv Shah is the former Agricultural Development Director for the pro-biotech Gates Foundation, who are frequently partnering with Monsanto. He served as Obama's USDA undersecretary for Research, Education and Economics.
- Elena Kagan has served as President Obama's Solicitor General. She took Monsanto's side against organic farmers on the roundup ready alfalfa case.
- Ramona Ramiro, corporate counsel to Dupont, another biotech bully, has been nominated by President Obama to serve as general counsel for the USDA.
This is not an issue of Republican versus Democrat. As Cummins noted, both parties are guilty:
"We must point that it's not just the Obama Administration that has served as a revolving door for Monsanto. We saw the same situation under Bush Jr., Clinton and Bush Sr. We have a corporation Monsanto that is not only out of control, but that places its people in high positions; that donates large sums of money to members of congress; and that basically gets its way every time there is a policy decision made in Washington."
It should not come as a surprise, then, that even the current secretary of the USDA, Tom Vilsack, is thoroughly entrenched in the industry. As the Organic Consumers Association (OCA) pointed out:
- Vilsack has been a strong supporter of genetically engineered crops, including bio-pharmaceutical corn.
- The biggest biotechnology industry group, the Biotechnology Industry Organization, named Vilsack Biotech Governor of the Year. He was also the founder and former chair of the Governor's Biotechnology Partnership.
- When Vilsack created the Iowa Values Fund, his first poster child of economic development potential was Trans Ova and their pursuit of cloning dairy cows.
- The undemocratic and highly unpopular 2005 seed pre-emption bill was Vilsack's brainchild. The law strips local government's right to regulate genetically engineered seed (including where GE can be grown, maintaining GE-free buffers or banning GE corn locally).
- Vilsack is an ardent supporter of corn and soy-based biofuels, which use as much or more fossil fuel energy to produce them as they generate, while driving up world food prices and literally starving the poor.
- Overall, Vilsack's record is one of aiding and abetting Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) and promoting animal cloning.
I think this makes it a lot easier to understand why GM crops have proliferated the American landscape and food supply, despite public outcry and organized opposition.
GM Crops Failing Miserably, Threatening Public Health
Virtually all of the claims of benefit of GM crops – increased yields, more food production, controlled pests and weeds, reductions in chemical use in agriculture, drought-tolerant seeds – have not materialized. The Global Citizens' Report on the State of GMOs states:
- Contrary to the claim of feeding the world, genetic engineering has not increased the yield of a single crop.
- Herbicide tolerant (Roundup Ready) crops were supposed to control weeds and Bt crops were intended to control pests. Instead of controlling weeds and pests, GE crops have led to the emergence of super weeds and super pests … Herbicide resistant crops such as Roundup Ready cotton can create the risk of herbicide resistant "superweeds" by transferring the herbicide resistance to weeds.
- Despite claims that genetically modified organisms (GMOs) will lower the levels of chemicals (pesticides and herbicides) used, this has not been the case. This is of great concern both because of the negative impacts of these chemicals on ecosystems and humans, and because there is the danger that increased chemical use will cause pests and weeds to develop resistance, requiring even more chemicals in order to manage them.
- Monsanto has been claiming that through genetic engineering it can breed crops for drought tolerance and other climate-resilient traits. This is a false promise.
- Among the false claims made by Monsanto and the Biotechnology industry is that GE foods are safe. However, there are enough independent studies to show that GE foods can cause health damage.
At the same time, earlier this year, Cry1Ab, a specific type of Bt toxin from certain GM crops, has for the first time been detected in human and fetal blood samples. It appears the toxin is quite prevalent, as upon testing 69 pregnant and non-pregnant women who were eating a typical Canadian diet (which included foods such as GM soy, corn and potatoes), researchers found Bt toxin in:
- 93 percent of blood samples of pregnant women
- 80 percent of fetal blood samples
- 69 percent of non-pregnant women blood samples
There's now plenty of evidence that the Bt toxin may trigger an inflammatory response, and as you may know, chronic inflammation is at the root of many increasingly common diseases, such as diabetes and heart disease. Food allergies are also skyrocketing, as is infertility, which could also be a potential side effect of GM foods, based on results from animal studies. Monsanto insists that GM foods are no different from conventionally grown varieties, but the research does NOT support this claim. Here is just a sampling of the unsavory findings associated with GM foods:
GM pea protein caused lung damage in mice
Offspring of rats fed GM soy showed a five-fold increase in mortality, lower birth weights, and the inability to reproduce
GM potatoes may cause cancer in rats
Male mice fed GM soy had damaged young sperm cells
Bacteria in your gut can take up DNA from GM food
The embryo offspring of GM soy-fed mice had altered DNA functioning
GM foods lead to significant organ disruptions in rats and mice, specifically the kidney, liver, heart and spleen
Several US farmers reported sterility or fertility problems among pigs and cows fed on GM corn varieties
Bt corn caused a wide variety of immune responses in mice, commonly associated with diseases such as arthritis, Lou Gehrig's disease, osteoporosis, and inflammatory bowel disease
Investigators in India have documented fertility problems, abortions, premature births, and other serious health issues, including deaths, among buffaloes fed GM cottonseed products
The Time is Ripe to Fight Back
All is not lost on the GM food front, as we now have a practical plan to end this disaster. By educating the public about the risks of GM foods through a massive education campaign, and launching a ballot initiative in California for 2012, which will require mandatory labeling of genetically engineered foods and food ingredients, our plan is to generate a tipping point of consumer rejection to make GMOs a thing of the past.
Several organizations, including Mercola.com, the Organic Consumers Association, the Institute for Responsible Technology, and even the Environmental Working Group are getting actively involved. But we do need your help.
Here's how you can get involved:
- If you live in California and are willing to attend a short training session and then start collecting petition signatures (you will be part of a team of 2-4 people) in early November for the California Ballot Initiative, sign up here. (For more information see: The California Ballot Initiative: Taking Down Monsanto.) Also remember to share this information with family and friends in California!
- Whether you live in California or not, please donate money to this historic effort
- Talk to organic producers and stores and ask them to actively support the California Ballot. It may be the only chance we have to have to label genetically engineered foods.
- Distribute WIDELY the Non-GMO Shopping Guide to help you identify and avoid foods with GMOs. Look for products (including organic products) that feature the Non-GMO Project Verified Seal to be sure that at-risk ingredients have been tested for GMO content. You can also download the free iPhone application that is available in the iTunes store. You can find it by searching for ShopNoGMO in the applications.
- For timely updates, please join the Organic Consumers Association on Facebook, or follow them on Twitter.
- You can also join the Non-GMO Project on Facebook, or Twitter
In the meantime, the simplest way to avoid GM foods is to buy whole, certified organic foods. By definition, foods that are certified organic must never intentionally use GM organisms, produced without artificial pesticides and fertilizers and from an animal reared without the routine use of antibiotics, growth promoters or other drugs. Additionally, grass-fed beef will not have been fed GM corn feed.
You can also look for foods that are "non-GMO verified" by the Non-GMO Project.
Keep Fighting for Labeling of Genetically Engineered Foods
While California Prop. 37 failed to pass last November, by a very narrow margin, the fight for GMO labeling is far from over. The field-of-play has now moved to the state of Washington, where the people's initiative 522, "The People's Right to Know Genetically Engineered Food Act," will require food sold in retail outlets to be labeled if it contains genetically engineered ingredients. As stated on LabelitWA.org:
"Calorie and nutritional information were not always required on food labels. But since 1990 it has been required and most consumers use this information every day. Country-of-origin labeling wasn't required until 2002. The trans fat content of foods didn't have to be labeled until 2006. Now, all of these labeling requirements are accepted as important for consumers. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) also says we must know with labeling if our orange juice is from fresh oranges or frozen concentrate.
Doesn't it make sense that genetically engineered foods containing experimental viral, bacterial, insect, plant or animal genes should be labeled, too? Genetically engineered foods do not have to be tested for safety before entering the market. No long-term human feeding studies have been done. The research we have is raising serious questions about the impact to human health and the environment.
I-522 provides the transparency people deserve. I-522 will not raise costs to consumers or food producers. It simply would add more information to food labels, which manufacturers change routinely anyway, all the time. I-522 does not impose any significant cost on our state. It does not require the state to conduct label surveillance, or to initiate or pursue enforcement. The state may choose to do so, as a policy choice, but I-522 was written to avoid raising costs to the state or consumers."
Remember, as with CA Prop. 37, they need support of people like YOU to succeed. Prop. 37 failed with a very narrow margin simply because we didn't have the funds to counter the massive ad campaigns created by the No on 37 camp, led by Monsanto and other major food companies. Let's not allow Monsanto and its allies to confuse and mislead the people of Washington and Vermont as they did in California. So please, I urge you to get involved and help in any way you can, regardless of what state you live in.
- No matter where you live in the United States, please donate money to these labeling efforts through the Organic Consumers Fund.
- If you live in Washington State, please sign the I-522 petition. You can also volunteer to help gather signatures across the state.
- For timely updates on issues relating to these and other labeling initiatives, please join the Organic Consumers Association on Facebook, or follow them on Twitter.
- Talk to organic producers and stores and ask them to actively support the Washington initiative.