By Dr. Mercola
Nearly all processed foods in the United States contain genetically modified (GM) ingredients, particularly Bt corn and Roundup Ready soy.
These crops and other GM varieties are now planted on nearly 4 billion acres of land throughout 29 countries, as their makers (primarily Monsanto, Dupont, Syngenta) continue to praise their worth.
These companies, which have created patents and intellectual property rights so that they now control close to 70 percent of global seed sales, extol the virtues of GM crops as though they are a panacea for ending world hunger and solving the food crisis.
But in fact, as a new report coordinated by Navdanya and Navdanya International, the International Commission on the Future of Food and Agriculture, The Center for Food Safety (CFS) and others, has stated, GM crops are surrounded by false promises and failed yields, to the extent that they are now destroying the food system.
GM Promises Failed to Deliver
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.
GM Crops do Not Increase Yields
Contrary to promises, GM crops are failing miserably all across the world. The reality simply isn't living up to the hype of increased yields of healthy crops. After 30 years of GMO experimentation, we have the data to show no increase in yields. On the contrary GM soya has decreased yields by up to 20 percent compared with non-GM soya. Up to 100 percent failures of Bt cotton have been recorded in India.
And recent studies by scientists from the USDA and the University of Georgia found that growing GM cotton in the U.S. can result in a drop in income by up to 40 percent.
You can also read Failure to Yield, a report by the Union of Concerned Scientists, which reviewed two-dozen academic studies of GM corn and soybeans. What they concluded was that genetically engineering herbicide-tolerant soybeans and herbicide-tolerant corn has not increased yields, and insect-resistant corn improved yields only marginally.
The report notes:
"The increase in yields for both crops over the last 13 years, the report found, was largely due to traditional breeding or improvements in agricultural practices."
The empty promise of increased yields has continued despite more than a decade of failures! In 1997, the Mississippi Seed Arbitration Council actually recommended Monsanto pay nearly $2 million to three cotton farmers who suffered severe crop losses after the company's Roundup Ready cotton failed to perform as advertised. And this is occurring not just in the United States but all over the globe.
The Global Citizen's Report states:
"Although Monsanto's Indian advertising campaign reports a 50 percent increase in yields for its Bollgard cotton, a survey conducted by the Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Ecology found that the yields in all trial plots were lower than what the company promised."
GM-Triggered Superweeds and Superpests Causing Pesticide Use to Spiral Out of Control
First came Agent Orange and PCBs, and now we have glyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto's nonselective broad-spectrum herbicide Roundup. Massive acreage of soybeans, cotton, and corn grown in the United States contain the GM Roundup Ready gene -- and all of these crops receive numerous applications of Roundup each and every year.
But Roundup is proving to be no match for Mother Nature.
It's estimated that more than 130 types of weeds spanning 40 U.S. states are now herbicide-resistant, and the superweeds are showing no signs of stopping. In fact, it's getting progressively worse. Extremely hardy Roundup-resistant weeds are already boosting costs and cutting crop yields for U.S. farmers. And with world food stores already strained, diminished crop production is a serious problem.
The creation of these superweeds is leading farmers to douse their fields with ever increasing amounts of herbicides in a desperate attempt to stop their spread.
The Global Citizen's Report states:
"Approximately 15 million acres are now overtaken by Roundup resistant "superweeds", and, in an attempt to stop the spread of these weeds, Monsanto has started offering farmers a "rebate" of up to $6 per acre for purchasing and using other, more lethal herbicides. These rebates offset approximately 25 to 35 percent of cost of purchasing the other herbicides"
In India, Bt cotton sold under the trade name "Bollgard" was supposed to control the Bollworm pest. Today, the Bollworm has become resistant to Bt cotton and now Monsanto is selling Bollgard II with two additional toxic genes in it. New pests have emerged and farmers are using more pesticides."
The report details how Bt crops in particular are a recipe for the creation of super pests, as they contain added genes for Bt toxins that allow the plants to produce their own insecticides (this Bt toxin, by the way, has been found circulating in the blood of pregnant women and fetuses). Because the plants release the toxin continuously, pests can actually evolve resistance to it, and farmers still have to use pesticides despite Monsanto's promises to the contrary. And to make matters worse, other beneficial insects like bees and Monarch butterflies may be negatively impacted.
The report states:
"The primary justification for the genetic engineering of Bt into crops is that this will reduce the use of insecticides. Bt cotton is among the 'miracles' being pushed by corporations like Monsanto as a solution to the pesticide crisis. One of the Monsanto brochures had a picture of a few worms and stated, "You will see these in your cotton and that's O.K. Don't spray."
However, in Texas, Monsanto faced a lawsuit filed by 25 farmers over Bt cotton planted on 18,000 acres which suffered cotton bollworm damage and on which farmers had to use pesticides in spite of corporate propaganda that genetic engineering meant an end to the pesticide era."
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Health Problems Already Documented
Scientists have discovered a number of health problems related to genetically modified foods, however these studies have been repeatedly ignored by both the European Food Safety Authority and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). GM foods are typically regarded as equivalent to their conventional counterparts. This, however, is flawed logic because GM foods contain foreign genes that have never before been introduced into the food supply.
The report states:
"The safety debate has been repeatedly suppressed by bad science. One of the unscientific strategies used to extinguish the safety discussion is tautologically define a novel organism or novel food created through genetic engineering as 'substantially equivalent' to conventional organisms and foods. However, genetically engineered crop or food is different because it has genes from unrelated organisms – it cannot, therefore, be treated as equivalent to a nongenetically engineered crop or food.
In fact, the biotechnology industry itself gives up the claim of 'substantial equivalence' when it claims patents on GMOs on grounds of novelty."
Science, too, has revealed stark differences. For instance, an analysis of 19 animal studies revealed that nearly 10 percent of blood, urine, organ and other parameters tested were significantly influenced by GMOs, with the liver and kidneys faring the worst.
A separate 2009 Brazilian study discovered that female rats fed GM soy for 15 months showed significant changes in their uterus and reproductive cycle, compared to rats fed organic soy or those raised without soy. This finding adds to a mounting body of evidence suggesting that GM foods can contribute to a number of reproductive disorders, including:
- Changes in reproductive hormones, such as excessive production of estrogen, progesterone, follicle stimulating hormone, and luteinizing hormone
- Damage to pituitary gland
- Retrograde menstruation, in which menstrual discharge travels backwards into the body rather than through the uterus, which can cause a disease known as endometriosis, which may lead to infertility. The disorder can also produce pelvic and leg pain, gastrointestinal problems, chronic fatigue, and a wide variety of other symptoms
- Testicular changes, including damaged sperm cells
Another disturbing study performed by Irina Ermakova with the Russian National Academy of Sciences reported that more than half the babies from mother rats fed GM soy died within three weeks, while the death rate in the non-GM soy group was only 10 percent. Additionally, the babies in the GM group were smaller, and, worst of all, could not reproduce. In a telling coincidence, after Ermakova's feeding trials were completed, her laboratory started feeding all the rats in the facility a commercial rat chow using GM soy. Within two months, the infant mortality facility-wide reached 55 percent...
Of course, in terms of reliability, there's a big difference between corporate science, which tends to primarily favor and support corporate interests, and independent science, performed without preconceived bias.
Monsanto wants you to simply trust them because they're "experts" and their industry-funded studies "prove" their GM foods are safe. But these same experts also told you PCB's, Agent Orange, and DDT was safe, and we now know those claims were far from accurate. The industry will also attack independent researchers who attempt to tell you otherwise. The Global Citizen's Report states:
"For example, Dr. Arpad Pusztai's research has shown that rats fed with GE potatoes had enlarged pancreases, their brains had shrunk, and their immunity had been damaged. Dr. Eric Seralini's research demonstrated that organ damage can occur. … The Biotechnology Industry attacked Dr. Pusztai and Dr. Seralini and every scientist who has done independent research on GMOs. GMOs cannot co-exist with the independence and freedom of science."
There are too many health concerns relating to GM foods to list, but some of the most concerning uncovered to date include:
||Provocation of inflammatory response
|Damage to sperm cells
||Altered DNA functioning
As one of the most credentialed plant pathologists, Dr. Huber, professor emeritus at Purdue University says:
"When future historians come to write about our era they are not going to write about the tons of chemicals we did or didn't apply. When it comes to glyphosate they are going to write about our willingness to sacrifice our children and to jeopardize our very existence by risking the sustainability of our agriculture; all based upon failed promises and flawed science. The only benefit is that it affects the bottom-line of a few companies. There's no nutritional value."
Your Non-GMO Action Plan: How to Say "No" to GMOs
At this point, there's really no shortage of excellent information on the hazards of genetically modified foods. For more information, I highly recommend Jeffrey Smith's books, Seeds of Deception, and Genetic Roulette: The Documented Health Risks of Genetically Engineered Foods, which provide overwhelming evidence that GM foods are unsafe and should never have been introduced in the first place. 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 (genetically modified organisms) to rid them from our food supply.
Additionally, there are a number of films and videos available for viewing, including:
Since the U.S. government prevents the labeling of GM foods, it's imperative to educate yourself on what they are, and to help spread awareness on how to avoid these foods. First and foremost, avoid most processed foods, unless it's labeled USDA 100% Organic. You can also avoid GM foods that are not found in processed foods, if you know what to look for. There are currently eight genetically modified food crops on the market (plus GM alfalfa is used as an animal feed):
||Sugar from sugar beets
|Cottonseed (used in vegetable cooking oils)
||Some varieties of zucchini
|Canola (canola oil)
The free Non-GMO Shopping Guide is a great resource to help you determine which food brands and processed food products are GM-free. Print it out for yourself, and share it with everyone you know. If you feel more ambitious you can order the Non-GMO Shopping Tips brochure in bulk, and bring them to the grocery stores in your area. Talk to the owner or manager and get permission to post them in their store.
Additionally, to help you find non-GMO organically grown, wholesome food in your area, check out these helpful resources:
- Alternative Farming Systems Information Center, Community Supported Agriculture (CSA)
- Local Harvest-- This Web site will help you find farmers' markets, family farms, and other sources of sustainably grown food in your area where you can buy produce, grass-fed meats, and many other goodies.
- USDA Farmer's Markets database
- Eat Well Guide: Wholesome Food from Healthy Animals -- The Eat Well Guide is a free online directory of sustainably raised meat, poultry, dairy, and eggs from farms, stores, restaurants, inns, and hotels, and online outlets in the United States and Canada.
- Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture (CISA) -- CISA is dedicated to sustaining agriculture and promoting the products of small farms.
- FoodRoutes -- The FoodRoutes "Find Good Food" map can help you connect with local farmers to find the freshest, tastiest food possible. On their interactive map, you can find a listing for local farmers, CSA's, and markets near you.
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.