The U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has issued a summary order concluding a long-standing lawsuit over genetically engineered "Roundup Ready" sugar beets. The court decided that previous court rulings in favor of farmers and conservation advocates will remain, including an order requiring the U.S. Department of Agriculture to prepare a rigorous review of the impacts of GM sugar beets.
A number of organizations challenged the USDA approval of GM sugar beets in 2008, arguing that the beets would contaminate related organic and non-GM crops such as table beets and chard. Further, they said that the pesticide-resistant beets would both increase pesticide impacts on the environment and worsen the current epidemic of pesticide-resistant "superweeds".
True Food Now reports:
"Despite the absence of lawful review or a new agency decision, in summer 2010, USDA and the biotech industry demanded the court allow planting to continue unabated. The district court refused to do so and instead set aside USDA's approval of the crop based on the agency's failure to comply with environmental laws. That precedential ruling was also preserved by [the Circuit Court of Appeal's] order."
This is a significant victory for organic farmers, not to mention you and me!
On May 20, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals issued a summary order in favor of farmers and consumer advocates, requiring the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to prepare a rigorous environmental study of the impacts of genetically modified (GM) sugar beets.
Once that review is done, the Court will decide whether GM sugar beets may be grown for commercial use. The USDA has estimated it will complete the Environmental Impact Statement sometime in 2012.
True Food Now quotes the Center for Food Safety's (CFS) attorney George Kimbrell as saying:
"Today's order cements a critical legal benchmark in the battle for meaningful oversight of biotech crops and food. Because of this case, there will be public disclosure and debate on the harmful impacts of these pesticide-promoting crops, as well as legal protections for farmers threatened by contamination."
Yes, public disclosure and debate is urgently needed. Genetically modified (GM) foods have been on store shelves for nearly two decades now, yet many people are still completely unaware of their existence, let alone their potential long-term health- and environmental effects!
GM Contamination Threatens Organic Crops—Food Advocates Fight Back
Contamination is one such concern, as we now know GM crops simply cannot be contained. In the case of GM sugar beets, it's not just conventional and organic sugar beets that are threatened. GM sugar beets may also contaminate related crops, such as table beets and chard.
We're also still facing a similar situation with GM alfalfa, which was approved by the USDA in January, without any restrictions whatsoever. I recently reported on the political shenanigans that led to this controversial and shocking decision. The release of GM alfalfa is particularly dangerous because it has the capacity to contaminate not just conventional and organic alfalfa, but also the entire organic dairy and meat industry, since it is used to make hay—a staple livestock feed.
In response, organic farmers and food advocates are now fighting back by suing. George Kimbrell, attorney for the Center for Food Safety's (CFS) recently stated:
"USDA's own analysis shows that contamination will happen. They just wash their hands of it and put that entire burden on the organic or the non-GE farmer. And we think that decision was unlawful."
Hopefully this lawsuit will be equally successful in preventing GM alfalfa from being unleashed.
Keep an Eye on the Wolf!
However, a very important aspect that may complicate matters is the USDA's recent decision to allow biotech giants like Monsanto to perform their own environmental impact studies. This crucial factor is not mentioned in any of the featured articles above, and it could be the death knell for all of the current lawsuits against unrestricted GM plantings.
Currently, the USDA is responsible for assessing environmental impacts of new GM crops, but the agency plans to at least temporarily hand over environmental impact reporting responsibilities to the very creators of the GM crops in question, allegedly in an "effort" to make the reporting process "more timely, efficient, and cost-effective."
This decision is an absolute abomination, fraught with massive conflicts of interest! So it's important to keep a close eye on this proposed two-year pilot program, and pay attention to who is actually doing these environmental impact studies.
Known Environmental Hazards
Although more independent research into the safety and environmental sustainability of GM crops is still needed, the studies that have been done so far indicate that significant harm is being done—to the environment, to wildlife, and potentially to humans at the top of the food chain.
For example, increasingly obvious hazards resulting from GM crops include:
- Roundup-resistant superweeds, which forces farmers to use ever increasing amounts of pesticides and herbicides
- Cross-pollination between GM and non-GM crops that threaten to destroy the organic industry as a whole
- Contamination of waterways with Cry1Ab, a specific type of Bt toxin from GM crops
- Creation of new pest problems
- Roundup herbicide, which is used in increasing amounts of more than 80 percent of all GM crops planted worldwide, has been found to be lethal to frogs and toxic to human placental and embryonic cells
But it doesn't end there...
New Study Finds GM Toxin in Pregnant Women and their Babies
Some GM crops, such as the GM sugar beets and certain varieties of GM corn and soy, are engineered to withstand otherwise lethal doses of Monsanto's herbicide Roundup. Other GM crops, however, are designed to produce their own pesticide internally, and it may be a case of marvelous synchronicity that a new study, published in the journal Reproductive Toxicology this month, addresses the professed "safety" of such GM crops.
Jeffrey Smith with the Institute for Responsible Technology discusses these research findings in a recent blog, stating:
"When U.S. regulators approved Monsanto's genetically modified "Bt" corn, they knew it would add a deadly poison into our food supply. That's what it was designed to do. The corn's DNA is equipped with a gene from soil bacteria called Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) that produces the Bt-toxin. It's a pesticide; it breaks open the stomach of certain insects and kills them.
But Monsanto and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) swore up and down that it was only insects that would be hurt. The Bt-toxin, they claimed, would be completely destroyed in the human digestive system and not have any impact on all of us trusting corn-eating consumers.
Oops. A study just proved them wrong.
Doctors at Sherbrooke University Hospital in Quebec found the corn's Bt-toxin in the blood of pregnant women and their babies, as well as in non-pregnant women."
Bt toxin was identified in:
- 93 percent of 30 pregnant women tested
- 80 percent of umbilical blood
- 67 percent of non-pregnant women
Safety Claims Crumble in Light of New Research Findings
This study may be profoundly important in the fight against GM foods, as it blows a giant hole in the biotech industry's safety claims. According to a recent article in the UK Daily Mail, the study "has triggered calls for a ban on imports and a total overhaul of the safety regime for genetically modified (GM) crops and food" in Great Britain.
These latest findings pile onto a growing body of evidence that GM foods can indeed harm animal and human health. According to Jeffrey Smith:
"There's already plenty of evidence that the Bt-toxin produced in GM corn and cotton plants is toxic to humans and mammals and triggers immune system responses. The fact that it flows through our blood supply, and that is passes through the placenta into fetuses, may help explain the rise in many disorders in the US since Bt crop varieties were first introduced in 1996.
In government-sponsored research in Italy, mice fed Monsanto's Bt corn showed a wide range of immune responses. Their elevated IgE and IgG antibodies, for example, are typically associated with allergies and infections. The mice had an increase in cytokines, which are associated with "allergic and inflammatory responses."
As I've explained in numerous articles, 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...
Although GM giants like Monsanto insist that GM foods are no different from conventionally grown varieties, the research does NOT support this claim. Here is just a sampling of the unsavory findings associated with GM foods:
GM peas 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