Agricultural corporations such as Monsanto and Syngenta have restricted independent research on the crops. They have refused to provide independent scientists with seeds, or else have set restrictive conditions that severely limit research. This is legal because under U.S. law, genetically engineered crops are patentable.
The Los Angeles Times reports:
"Agricultural companies defend their stonewalling by saying that unrestricted research could make them vulnerable to lawsuits if an experiment somehow leads to harm, or that it could give competitors unfair insight into their products. But it's likely that the companies fear something else as well: An experiment could reveal that a genetically engineered product is hazardous or doesn't perform as promised."
Even if you don't want to eat genetically engineered foods, you most likely already are doing so. Corn and soy are two of the most common food ingredients, especially in processed foods, and over 90 percent of both these crops in the US are now from GM seeds.
Organic food companies and consumer groups are stepping up their efforts to get the government to exercise more oversight of engineered foods. Critics of current policy argue that the genetically modified (GM) seeds are often contaminating the nearby non-GM crops.
ABC News reports:
"The U.S. government has insisted there's not enough difference between the genetically modified seeds its agencies have approved and natural seeds to cause concern. But Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, more so than his predecessors in previous administrations, has acknowledged the debate over the issue and a growing chorus of consumers concerned about what they are eating."
George Siemon, CEO of Organic Valley, the nation's largest organic farming cooperative, which had more than $600 million in sales last year, put it succinctly in the above article from ABC news:
"There is a growing awareness that our [food supply] system makes us all guinea pigs of sorts."
I couldn't have said it better myself, because that statement boils down the one fundamental truth about the current (non-organic) US food supply. You and your family are being treated as guinea pigs with food ingredients that have never been tested for long-term safety.
And according to the article above from the LA Times, there's a good reason these GM crops haven't been tested for safety. The companies producing the seeds won't let independent scientists test them, or if they do allow testing it is only for non-safety related studies!
Biotech Hides Behind Patent Laws to Quench Independent Safety Studies
Companies like Monsanto and Syngenta simply will not allow independent researchers access to their patented seeds, citing the legal protection these seeds have under patent laws. In other words, if their genetically altered seeds have something wrong with them that potentially could cause consumer illness, Monsanto and Syngenta would rather not have you find out about it.
You might sue them for putting your health in danger! Or a farmer using their seeds might sue them because their claims of increased crop yields is a myth. If fact, lawsuits like these have already begun appearing in court.
Does this remind you of the public health debate that went on for decades over another multi-billion dollar industry -- cigarettes? For decades the companies producing this cancer-causing product denied they caused any harm, denied nicotine was addictive and even ran advertisements featuring doctors claiming cigarettes were good for your cough.
They produced scientific study after study by their funded research scientists claiming there was no health threat whatsoever from cigarettes. Executives from every major cigarette company even lied to Congress under oath, claiming they had no knowledge cigarettes were addictive, when in fact they did know—they even manipulated the nicotine content of cigarettes to keep you hooked!
Is it really necessary to go through the same experience again with GM crops that independent scientists are now linking to frightening and dangerous pathogens?
Isn't it time to demand these crops be tested for long-term safety once and for all? If not now, when? After the population starts showing strange new health problems that no one can seemingly explain, like spontaneous abortions and infertility?
Can Large Corporations Be Trusted to Put You First?
One of the prime lessons that emerged from the recent home mortgage scandals, , or from our experience with the cigarette companies, just to name a few examples, is this: Major corporations operating with little or no regulation or real government oversight simply cannot be trusted to put anything above their quest for profits.
Not your financial health, not your personal health, not even the law.
A public corporation is a legal entity whose mandate is to produce profits for shareholders (with the exception of non-profits, which are not the same), while at the same time shielding the human beings who are running it from legal claims for the actions taken by the corporation, it's:
"A body that is granted a charter recognizing it as a separate legal entity having its own rights, privileges, and liabilities distinct from those of its members."
So Monsanto primary purpose is to protect its profits at the expense of everything else, and the human beings running them essentially can't be held accountable for wrongdoings in the quest for profits.
In the case of Phillip Morris and other tobacco manufacturers this means employing medical professionals to produce grossly misleading PR, lying to Congress under oath, and in the case of Big Pharma, paying their researchers to produce studies that that support the idea that their product is safe.
Would you really expect the corporate giants Monsanto or Syngenta to behave any differently?
While I am not against corporations seeking a profit, I am quite adamantly opposed to corporations manipulating government regulators (who are nowadays simply former executives of the corporations themselves!), producing biased scientific studies that blatantly distort data and lying to the public to accomplish their goals. And until Monsanto and Syngenta submit their GM seeds to independent analysis by scientists not funded by these companies, I will remain skeptical about their safety claims. It is important to note that they are currently stonewalling ALL independent researchers from safety testing under the guise and legal excuse of "patent protection".
GM Seed Producers are Already up to the Same Tricks as Big Pharma and Big Tobacco
The evidence is already in against the GM seed producers, and it's quite clearly in line with what happens when the government doesn't independently evaluate, test or study a for-profit corporation's product that goes into your body and may produce some unintended consequences.
"The dangers [of GM crops] ought to be clear. In 2001, the seed company Pioneer, owned by Dow Chemical, was developing a strain of genetically engineered corn that contained a toxin to help it resist corn rootworm, an insect pest. A group of university scientists, working at Pioneer's request, found that the corn also appeared to kill a species of beneficial ladybug, which indicated that other helpful insects might also be harmed.
But, according to a report in the journal Nature Biotechnology, Dow said its own research showed no ladybug problems, and it prohibited the scientists from making the research public. Nor was it submitted to the EPA. In 2003, the EPA approved a version of the corn, known as Herculex."
Also from the same article, more evidence that GM seed producers are trying to keep you from finding out some key claims they make about their products (increased yields in this case) are absolutely not true:
"Research restrictions [on GM seeds] also hamper scientists' ability to assess how genetically engineered crops perform against other modified crops, traditional crops, approaches such as organic farming and the seed companies' promises.
There's reason to be suspicious. Using USDA and peer-reviewed data, the Union of Concerned Scientists analyzed corn and soybean yields in the U.S. after the new seeds were introduced. We found only marginal increases due to genetically engineered traits -- not a result promoted by the industry."
Christian Krupke, a Purdue University entomologist who was quoted in the above Los Angeles Times articles sums up this problem very clearly:
"[The GM food] industry is completely driving the bus."
GM Crops – More Widespread than you Think, and Linked to Potential Health Hazards
With the vast majority of planted corn crops in the US (over 90 percent) and soy crops (over 95 percent) now being GM varieties, the American public has a right to ask producers of these foods whether they are safe for long-term consumption. And the answer these GM seed companies have consistently giving us?
We don't know really know. And we aren't going to let you find out, because it might interfere with our bottom line.
Just to be clear, we are talking about a food product that has been genetically altered by blasting DNA from one species into the DNA of a food crop, typically so the food crop will either resist dying from pesticide (allowing the crops to be drenched in pesticides!) or to create a new strain of food that produces its own pesticide, internally, while it grows.
And guess what, this increased pesticide load on these GM food crops ends up on your dinner plate, and ends up in the feed given to feedlot animals. So your milk, eggs, chicken and beef are all likely tainted with a lifetime supply of foods either saturated in pesticides or genetically altered to internally produce pesticides.
There is also evidence suggesting that this pesticide-producing corn, soybean and canola continues to produce pesticide once it's inside you (or a feedlot animal), colonizing your gut bacteria and genetically altering it to also produce pesticide within your own cells.
In essence, you become a pesticide producing organism. And do I even need to tell you this pesticide is harmful to your health?
This is both horrifying and perfectly legal, although it clearly violates the spirit if not that actual letter of the Delaney Clause of 1958, an amendment passed by the US Congress to protect a safe US food supply, which states:
"The Secretary of the Food and Drug Administration shall not approve for use in food any chemical additive found to induce cancer in man, or, after tests, found to induce cancer in animals."
Using the interpretation of "chemical additive" in the broadest sense to include living organisms whose DNA has been altered to produce pesticide (possibly inside your body) through man-made biological experimentation, then GM crops internally producing pesticides simply must fall under the purview of the Delaney Clause -- but to date GM crops have not been tested beyond a few days time and currently present absolutely zero long-term evidence that their altered DNA does not lead to cancer in either man or animals.
When in fact pesticides have for years been linked to cancer, along with a host of other diseases from Parkinson's to Alzheimer's to miscarrages.
Are GM Crops Contaminating Non-GM Crops?
In the US, over 90 percent of all canola grown is genetically modified, compared to just over 20 percent in the rest of the world.
According to Nature News, the research team discovered two varieties of transgenic canola in the wild, plus a third GM variety that is a cross of the two GM breeds. One of the transgenic varieties found was Monsanto's Roundup Ready canola, which is engineered to be resistant to glyphosate, and the other was Bayer Crop Science's Liberty Link canola, which is resistant to gluphosinate. The third variety contained transgenes from each of these, and is resistant to both types of herbicide.
The truth is Monsanto and Syngenta have unleashed something into nature that will proliferate, cross-breed, and create new plants that we simply do not understand. This is particularly disturbing when it comes to food crops, such as canola, which is used in a vast number of processed food products consumed by millions of people.
The fact that GM crops can infiltrate conventional crops is a concern for any food where GM experimentation is taking place. For example, in 2004, Hawaii reported widespread contamination of papaya crops by GM varieties. Even seed stocks sold as conventional were found to be contaminated, which threatened the existence of organic papaya.
These types of transgene contaminations are completely unavoidable once you start growing them out in the open– including the cross-mixing of GM breeds.
Science has recently revealed that the genome (whether plant, animal or human) is not constant and static, which is the scientific base for genetic engineering of plants and animals. This means that you may not necessarily get the results you think you're going to get when you insert or remove genetic material.
Instead, geneticists have discovered that the genome is remarkably dynamic and changeable, and constantly 'conversing' and adapting to the environment. This interaction determines which genes are turned on, when, where, by what and how much, and for how long.
They've also found that the genetic material itself has the ability to be changed according to experience, passing it on to subsequent generations.
How Genetic Engineering Really Works
Many people now have the flawed assumption that genetic engineering is a very precise, refined science.
Not so, explains Jeffrey Smith in a previous article:
"… in order to understand the risks associated with GMOs, I'm going to back up and talk about the process of creating a genetically modified organism because if we understand that, then a whole host of things that can go wrong all of a sudden become clear.
… The biotech industry gives you this impression that it's a very clean process. We just take a gene from a species and carefully splice it into another, and the only thing that's different is it's producing some new beneficial protein to produces some trait.
This is far from the truth.
What they do is – let's say you want to create a corn plant that produces a pesticide. So you go to the soil bacterium called BT for "Bacillus thuringiensis" and you change it so it's more toxic, and you make millions of copies of the gene.
You actually put a piece of a virus there which turns it on, it's called the promoter. It's the "on" switch that turns this gene on, 24/7, around the clock.
You make millions of copies and you put it in a gun and you shoot that gun into a plate of millions of cells, hoping that some of the genes make it into the DNA of some of those cells. Then you clone those cells into plants.
Now the process of insertion and cloning causes massive collateral damage in the DNA that could have higher levels, and do have higher levels, of allergens and toxins.
… Anti-nutrients of soybeans that are genetically engineered have as much as seven times higher the amount of a known allergen cold trypsin inhibitor when compared to non-GM soy, in their cooked state.
There is a new allergen in genetically modified corn. There is a new anti-nutrient in the [GM] soy which blocks the absorption of nutrients.
They don't look for these things. These are found after they're on the market by some few of the independent researchers that are doing their work."
Farmers have long used BT spray on crops, and because it's a natural bacterium, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the biotech companies claim it is safe for human consumption.
However, this too is clearly misguided optimism.
Jeffrey Smith continues:
"Based on peer reviewed published studies, animals like mice that were fed BT had damaged tissues and immune responses as powerful as if they've been fed cholera toxin, and then they became multiple-chemically sensitive to where they started to react to formally harmless compounds."
Can We Reverse the Trend in GM Crops?
According to Jeffrey Smith, a leading opponent of GM crops who has written two books on the subject, from the ABC News article above:
"We're seeing a level of reaction that is unprecedented," says Jeffrey Smith, an activist who has fought the expansion of genetically engineered foods since they were first introduced 15 years ago and written two books on the subject. "I personally think we are going to hit the tipping point of consumer rejection very soon."
The silver lining in all of this is that we actually don't NEED policy changes to kick GM Foods out of the market!
Like Jeffrey Smith suggests, the only requirement is getting enough people to consistently avoid buying anything containing GM ingredients, and the food manufacturers will do the rest. They WILL respond to market demands, because if they don't they go out of business.
This means avoiding and boycotting every product with corn or soy as an ingredient that does not carry the USDA Organic label. It may sound like a daunting task for you as an individual shopper, but there are resource guides available.
For a helpful, straightforward guide to shopping Non-GMO, please see the Non-GMO Shopping Guide, created by the Institute for Responsible Technology.
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:
Soy Sugar from sugar beets Corn Hawaiian papaya Cottonseed (used in vegetable cooking oils) Some varieties of zucchini Canola (canola oil) Crookneck squash
This means you should avoid products with corn, soy, canola, and any of their derivatives listed as an ingredient, unless it's labeled USDA 100% Organic.