By Dr. Mercola
If you’ve been primarily a reader of the mainstream press, you’ve probably been misled into thinking genetically engineered (GE) crops are the greatest thing since sliced bread, that they provide better yields of equal or better quality food, pest and weed resistance, reduced reliance on pesticides, and more... But thankfully, the truth is unfolding and the tide is finally beginning to turn.
I have long warned against GE crops, pointing out the risks associated with their consumption, and the falsehoods presented about their safety. Now, the mainstream press is finally joining in.
The Fox News report above does a remarkably good job of questioning the logic behind, if not safety of, GE foods and genetically modified organisms (GMOs)—from crops with built-in pesticides, to salmon designed to grow abnormally large and fast.
I’m very pleased that Fox News pointed out the fact that potential health hazards cannot be averted simply by avoiding the GE crop in question. Animals raised on GE-grain feed will in turn produce GMO-tainted meat, milk, and eggs, for example, thereby affecting the vast majority of the food supply.
Fox News even reported the disturbing findings from feeding studies showing intestinal damage in animals fed Bt corn, and the potential links to food allergies, antibiotic exposure, and increased exposure to pesticides.
Let’s Get GMO’s Labeled!
Even though Prop 37 in California last November just missed passing, it generated enormous amounts of exposure on this issue, far more than what was spent on the campaign. That exposure will be the catalyst to our eventual victory.
In the past few weeks, Connecticut and Maine have passed GMO-labeling bills, and 20 other states have pending legislation to label genetically engineered foods. So, now is the time to put the pedal to the metal and get labeling across the country—something 64 other countries already have.
I hope you will join us in this effort. In November, Washington State will vote on GMO labeling. Please help us win this key GMO labeling battle and continue to build momentum for GMO labeling in other states by making a donation to the Organic Consumers Association (OCA).
If they raise $150,000 by July 27, I will match the donation1.
Is Monsanto Losing the Press?
Statistics showing skyrocketing increases in pesticide use due to resistance is just one problem that demonstrates the abject failure of GE crops. In a recent Mother Jones article2, Tom Philpott lists some mainstream reporters that have come down hard on Monsanto and their biotech allies in recent weeks, most of them highlighting the growing pest and weed resistance these crops have produced.
For example, NPR’s agriculture reporter Dan Charles recently reported3 on the high increase in pesticide use following the failure of Monsanto’s Bt corn, engineered to contain the bug-killing gene of the bacteria Bacillus thuringiensis—which essentially turns the corn plant into a pesticide itself. Ian Berry writing for the Wall Street Journal4 has also reported on the “comeback” of pesticides, as “Mother Nature outwits genetically modified seeds.”
The following graph, from the Food and Water Watch dramatic report titled: Superweeds: How Biotech Crops Bolster the Pesticide Industry5, published earlier this month, illustrates the dramatic increase of pesticide use as resistance began taking hold in the early 2000’s. According to their report, use of 2,4-Dichlorophenoxyacetic acid (2,4-D), a broadleaf herbicide and the active ingredient in the infamous Agent Orange (another Monsanto disaster), has also more than doubled since 20026.
There are other signs of progress as well. The restaurant chain Chipotle, for example, now lists GE ingredients used in their meals on their web site. This victory was achieved by the blogger and food activist Vani Hari, who has investigated the products sold by a number of major restaurants and food companies, including Chipotle, Starbucks, Subway and Kraft.
Whole Foods has also promised to label GMOs sold in their stores within the next five years. This long lead time is required primarily because of their meat products, which is an enormously long and complex chain to certify. Despite the five-year deadline, this announcement is incredibly encouraging and represents a major sign that all the efforts most of you put into the California Proposition 37 campaign have paid off. We may have lost that battle but this, and other, signs strongly suggest we are winning the war.
Then there’s the GE wheat debacle, which has raised questions about accountability and sparked alarm among Washington traders. When the blame started shifting too heavily onto Monsanto (where it rightly belongs), the company concocted one of the weirdest conspiracy theories out there7. The company basically wants you to believe that some anti-GMO saboteur collected and saved GE wheat seeds from their test plots a decade ago, and then sprinkled them in an Oregon wheat field as an act of sabotage... Yeah, right.
Pest and Weed Resistance Is Flourishing
After years of assurance that genetically engineered crops are the answer to pesky pest problems, corn rootworm is now turning into a nightmare for farmers and biotech companies alike, as the insects are developing resistance to the Bt gene in the crop that is designed to kill them. It didn’t take all that long for the bugs to develop their defenses and render the genetic manipulation useless either—only about 10 years from the introduction of Bt crops.
This is particularly tragic as very simple measures like the incorporation of biochar and the regular application of compost teas are far superior to GMO technology and also increase the soil vitality, rather than decimate it like GM crops do.
Last year, 22 of America’s top experts on corn pests urged the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to take action "with a sense of some urgency8.” They also urged seed companies to stop routinely inserting anti-rootworm genes into their corn lines to prevent devastating losses. The economic impact could be huge. Billions of dollars are at stake as Bt-stacked corn varieties account for 71 percent of all corn grown in the US9 as of 2013—up nearly 20 percent from 2012.
“It appears that farmers have gotten part of the message: Biotechnology alone will not solve their rootworm problems,” DanCharles writes. “But instead of shifting away from those corn hybrids, or from corn altogether, many are doubling down on insect-fighting technology, deploying more chemical pesticides than before.
Companies like Syngenta or AMVAC Chemical that sell soil insecticides for use in corn fields are reporting huge increases in sales: 50 or even 100 percent over the past two years... As a result, [the farmers] may just keep growing corn, fighting rootworms with insecticides — and there's a possibility that those chemicals will eventually stop working, too.” [Emphasis mine]
Similarly, the evolution of Bt resistant bollworms—a larvae that attacks cotton plants—has been confirmed and documented10, and what used to be minor pests are now becoming major problems, such as mirid bugs, which have increased 12-fold since 1997 in China, and can be directly linked to the scale of China’s Bt cotton cultivation. Since 1996, when GE crops were first introduced, at least nine species of American weed varieties have also developed resistance to glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup herbicide, which again means farmers using genetically engineered Roundup Ready seeds must use additional herbicides—some of which are even more toxic than Roundup. In the end, we’re left with all of the downsides and none of the intended benefits.
Monsanto’s Long and Checkered Past (and Present)
There are so many incidents of questionable and outright criminal behavior on the part of Monsanto and its various branches and subsidiaries. If you are interested in this issue, I would strongly encourage you to visit the Monsanto Atrocities Page. Just a handful of examples of their checkered past and present include:
- In 1985, Monsanto bought E.G. Searle, which became a Monsanto subsidiary known as The NutraSweet Company. No long-term studies have been performed to evaluate the physiological effects of aspartame, yet you’re led to believe it is absolutely safe. This deception is both willful and negligent—and perhaps even criminal—and goes all the way back to the time before its highly contested approval.
The 1974 FDA task force set up to examine aspartame and G.D.Searle stated that "we have uncovered serious deficiencies in Searle’s operations and practices, which undermine the basis for reliance on Searle's integrity in conducting high quality animal research to accurately determine the toxic potential of its products." The task force report concluded with the recommendation that G.D. Searle should face a Grand Jury "to identify more particularly the nature of the violations, and to identify all those responsible." That never happened, and the aspartame deception continues to this day under the management of Monsanto.
- In 2002, Monsanto was found guilty of secretly discharging PCB-laden toxic waste into an Alabama creek, and dumping millions of pounds of PCBs into open-pit landfills for decades after PCBs were banned in the US for being a possible carcinogen11.
- In 2007, the South African Advertising Standards Authority found Monsanto guilty of lying12 when advertising that “no negative reactions to genetically modified food have been reported.” Two years later, Monsanto was again found guilty of false advertising, this time by France's highest court, for claims that Roundup is biodegradable and leaves "the soil clean." They long used the slogans, "It's Safer than Mowing," "Biodegradable," and "Environmentally Friendly" to describe their product—until the real effects of this toxic herbicide were revealed and they were forced to discontinue their deceptive advertising.
The French court noted that Roundup's main ingredient, glyphosate, is in fact dangerous for the environment and toxic for aquatic organisms. More recent research also implicates glyphosate—which is used on all genetically engineered Roundup Ready crops—as a major driver of most chronic disease, including cancer and infertility, and most Europeans now have detectable levels in their bodies, indicating excessive exposure through food.
- Last year, India's National Biodiversity Authority (NBA), a government agency, sued Monsanto and their collaborators, the Maharashtra Hybrid Seeds Company; slapping biopiracy charges against them. In short, the biotech giant did not get prior approval to use locally occurring breeds of eggplant for the purposes of genetic modification, and in so doing violated the country's Biological Diversity Act (BDA), enacted in 2002.
The case marks the first time a government has accused Monsanto of biopiracy, and the results could set an important precedent for the future of the food supply.
Previously, Monsanto has also been found guilty of bribery to bypass Indonesian law requiring an environmental assessment review for its genetically engineered cotton.
- According to one EPA scientist13, Monsanto doctored studies and covered-up dioxin contamination of a wide range of its products, including the herbicide used in Agent Orange. She concluded that the company’s behavior constituted “a long pattern of fraud.”
Other questionable tactics include hiring fake “pro-GMO” food demonstrators to counteract anti-biotech protesters, revealed as far back as 1999, by the New York Times14. The company has also admitted to hiring the services of Blackwater in 2008 and 200915 for nondisclosed types of intelligence gathering and infiltration “to keep track of “public disclosure” of its opponents16.” And let’s not forget about its extensive history of intimidating and suing small farmers for patent infringement after its GE seeds spread wildly into surrounding farmers’ fields, contaminating their conventional crops. Or how their Bt cotton has spawned a tsunami of suicides among India’s cotton farmers.
You Deserve the Right to Know and Mandatory Labeling of GMOs Is Your Best Chance
Mandatory labeling may be the only way to stop the proliferation of genetically engineered foods in the US. Monsanto and other biotech companies spend huge amounts of money lobbying the US government each year to ensure favorable legislation that allows GE foods to proliferate unchecked and unchallenged. In the first quarter of 2011 alone, Monsanto spent $1.4 million on lobbying the federal government -- a drop from a year earlier, when they spent $2.5 million during the same quarter.
Yet these lobbying expenses pale in comparison to the amount Monsanto spent to defeat California’s Prop. 37—more than $8 million, according to RightToKnow.org17. Blowing half a decade’s worth of lobbying funds on one single anti-labeling campaign should tell you just how “willing” they are to let you know which foods contain their wares... Their efforts of persuasion are undoubtedly made infinitely easier by the fact that an ever growing list of former Monsanto employees are now in positions of power within the federal government...
Vote with Your Pocketbook, Every Day
Remember, 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.
As always, 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 beet, soy, or corn, or any of their derivatives.
If you buy processed food, opt for products bearing the USDA 100% Organic label, as organics do not permit GMOs. 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 chemical technology 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.