By Dr. Mercola
One week from today California voters will vote on Prop 37 and we will see if truth will win out over corporate greed, and hopefully people will finally be given the right to know what is in their food.
The state of affairs in India with respect to GM foods is further validation of the importance of labeling GM foods with Prop 37 in California.
Over the past 16 years, it's estimated that more than a quarter of a million Indian farmers have committed suicide after being convinced to plant Monsanto's genetically modified (GM) seeds (especially Bt cotton), then having their crops fail, leaving them in financial ruin.
Earlier this year, India's National Biodiversity Authority (NBA), a government agency, sued Monsanto, the world leader in GM crops and seeds, and their collaborators, the Maharashtra Hybrid Seeds Company, for biopiracy, accusing them of stealing local varieties of eggplant to develop a genetically modified version.
It seems now that the country may have had enough, and is citing the precautionary principle in their announcement that all GM field trials should be stopped until certain conditions have been met.
India to Ban Field Trials of GM Crops
In October 2012, a five-member Technical Expert Committee (TEC) appointed by the Supreme Court of India unanimously recommended that all GM field trials in India should be stopped until the following conditions have been met:1
- Specific sites for conducting field trials have been designated and certified and sufficient mechanisms for monitoring the trials put in place.
- A panel of scientists, qualified in evaluation of the biosafety data of GM crops, has been engaged for scrutiny and analyses of the safety data.
- Conflict of interest in the regulatory body has been removed.
- The requirement for preliminary biosafety tests prior to field trials including sub-chronic toxicity in small animals has been included.
Two other noteworthy recommendations were also included in the TEC report:
- A 10-year moratorium on field trials of all Bt food crops, based on the overall status of current food safety evaluations for these crops (including data on Bt cotton and Bt eggplant)
- A moratorium on field trials of herbicide-tolerant crops until an independent assessment has evaluated its "impact" and "suitability"
It seems India is poised to join the ranks of those countries who do not want to use their population and land as guinea pigs to test out GM crops... others who have said "no" to GMOs (genetically modified organisms) include:2
|New Zealand: No GM foods are grown there
||Switzerland: No GM crops, animals and plants until 2013
|Germany: No GM corn
||Madeira: This small Portuguese island has a ban on GM crops
|Ireland: GM crops were banned for cultivation in 2009, and foods containing GM foods can be voluntarily labeled as such
||Japan: No GM seeds are planted in the country (but wild contamination from imported GM canola have been found growing near ports)
|France: Asked the European Commission to suspend Monsanto's authorization to plant GM MON 810 corn, but the EU stepped in and blocked the ban
||Austria, Hungary, Greece, Bulgaria and Luxembourg: All have bans on both cultivation and sale of GMOs
An Inside Look at India's Struggles With GM Crops
The film Bitter Seeds looks at the beginning of the consumer goods' supply chain – the raw materials – shedding much-needed light on the crisis created by Monsanto's genetically engineered Bt cotton.
The film features Manjusha Amberwar, an 18-year-old Indian village girl who wants to become a journalist in order to expose the severity of the problems caused by Monsanto's seed monopoly scheme. Farming debts claimed the life of her own father, a respected village leader. Manjusha interviews several families of local farmers who resorted to drinking pesticide. One of the village elders told her:
"In my time there were no suicides. Even the poor could survive by working hard. But there are no other seeds available now. Traditional seeds have disappeared. We farmers are illiterates. We follow false advertising like a dog follows bread."
What many still do not know is that farming has changed dramatically over the past few decades. Seeds have traditionally been saved and shared between farmers from one harvest season to the next. You rarely ever had to buy new seed. Nature, when left alone, provides you with the means to propagate the next harvest in a never-ending cycle.
In the 1970's, hybrid seeds were introduced into India, promising better yields using chemical fertilizers and insecticides. But it didn't take long before yields began to drop as the agricultural chemicals took their toll on the soils. Farm debts began driving Indian farmers to suicide in 1997, and it hasn't stopped since. In fact, matters have quickly gotten worse in the decade since Monsanto introduced its "revolutionary" Bt cotton, which cannot be saved or shared from season to season, but must be continually repurchased.
Genetically engineered seeds also require expensive agricultural chemicals, and more water – a commodity few farmers have access to unless it rains. Buried in debt and struggling against the rising cost of GM seeds and the chemicals required, combined with failing yields and GE-created super weeds and resistant pests, one Indian farmer now commits suicide every 30 minutes.
Are You Being Fed Lies?
You've probably heard that GM crops are safe and represent the "future of food" – a way to increase crop yields and feed the world. (That is, if you've heard anything at all... many people have heard precious little about GM foods, even though they're already in up to 80 percent of processed foods in the United States.)
Well, the authors of the report GMO Myths and Truths3 (who include Michael Antoniou, PhD, a 28-year veteran of genetic engineering technology who has himself invented a number of gene expression biotechnologies, as well as John Fagan, PhD, a leading authority on food sustainability, biosafety, and GMO testing) took a science-based approach to evaluating the available research, and came to the conclusion that most of the scientific evidence regarding safety and increase yield potential do not support the claims made at all. In fact, the evidence demonstrates that the claims for genetically engineered foods are not just wildly overblown; they simply aren't true... The authors concluded GM crops:
- Are laboratory-made, using technology that is totally different from natural breeding methods, and pose different risks from non-GE crops
- Can be toxic, allergenic and less nutritious than their natural counterparts
- Are not adequately regulated to ensure safety
- Do not increase yield potential
- Do not reduce pesticide use but increase it
- Create serious problems for farmers, including herbicide-tolerant "superweeds," compromised soil quality, and increased disease susceptibility in crops
- Have mixed economic effects
- Harm soil quality, disrupt ecosystems, and reduce biodiversity
- Do not offer effective solutions to climate change
- Are as energy-hungry as any other chemically-farmed crops
- Cannot solve the problem of world hunger but distract from its real causes – poverty, lack of access to food and, increasingly, lack of access to land to grow it on
According to their report, there are three potential sources of adverse health effects from genetically engineered foods:
- The genetically modified gene product – for example, the Bt toxin in GM insecticidal crops may be toxic or allergenic
- The GM transformation process may produce mutagenic effects, gene regulatory effects, or effects at other levels of biological structure and function that result in new toxins or allergens and/or disturbed nutritional value
- Changes in farming practices linked to the use of a genetically modified organism may result in toxic residues – for example, higher levels of crop contamination with the herbicide Roundup are an inevitable result of using GM Roundup Ready® crops
Do You Eat These Common Sources of GM Foods?
If you live in the United States and want to avoid GM crops, it isn't easy because they are already in commercial production – and GM crops are not labeled. According to the Non-GMO Project, GM crops already in production in the U.S. include:4
|Alfalfa (first planting 2011)
||Canola (approx. 90% of U.S. crop)
||Corn (approx. 88% of U.S. crop in 2011)
|Cotton (approx. 90% of U.S. crop in 2011)
||Papaya (most of Hawaiian crop; approximately 988 acres)
||Soy (approx. 94% of U.S. crop in 2011)
|Sugar Beets (approx. 95% of U.S. crop in 2010)
||Zucchini and Yellow Summer Squash (approx. 25,000 acres)
||Animal products (milk, meat, eggs, honey, etc.) because of contamination in feed
Common ingredients derived from these ubiquitous GM crops, which are added to the majority of U.S. processed foods, include:5
|Flavorings ("natural" and "artificial")
||High-Fructose Corn Syrup
||Hydrolyzed Vegetable Protein
|Textured Vegetable Protein (TVP)
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.