By Dr. Mercola
The European Union (EU) has historically taken a strict, cautious stance regarding genetically modified (GM) crops, much to the chagrin of Monsanto and in stark contract to the United States.
For instance, while GM crops are banned in several European countries, and all genetically modified foods and ingredients have to be labeled, this is in stark contrast to the U.S., where Monsanto has effectively restricted any unfavorable legal actions because of the massive conflict they have with federal regulatory agencies.
Recently Connecticut and Vermont were ready to pass statewide GMO labeling requirements but backed out at the last minute when biotech giant Monsanto threatened to sue them if it was passed.
As a result, the U.S. has only recently begun passing legislation that protects the use of GM seeds and allows for unabated expansion, in addition to the fact that GM ingredients do not have to be labeled.
It's quite clear that the U.S. government, which is closely tied to Monsanto, has been aiding and abetting Monsanto's tireless and often ruthless quest to control the world's food crops.
U.S. diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks, showed the government even conspired to find ways to retaliate against Europe for refusing to use GM seeds, mainly by engaging in aggressive trade wars against reluctant nations.i As you might suspect, the EU has been under heavy pressure to add some slack to their GM regulations – and it seems they are about to cave …
EU Proposes to Drop Zero Tolerance Policy
The European Commission has issued a proposal to drop the policy of zero tolerance for unapproved and untested GMOs in food. The proposal suggests setting a threshold below which contaminated imports could enter Europe's food chain.
This is similar to the EU's move in 2011 … they once had a zero tolerance policy regarding GM contamination from unapproved GMOs in animal feed, but last year decided to allow contamination with up to 0.1 percent of such materials. At the time, Greenpeace EU agriculture policy adviser Stefanie Hundsdorfer said:ii
"If the safety of a GM crop has not been tested in Europe, it should not be allowed. Setting a tolerance threshold, however low, is a sign that Europe is losing control over its own food production to please American exporters. The danger now is that EU countries come under pressure from the pro-GM lobby to also allow GM contamination in food products for direct human consumption."
And, alas, that moment has come, just over one year later. Several GM opponents are urging the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Secretary of State Caroline Spelman to reject the proposals, noting:iii
"Pressure to drop the zero tolerance policy comes from the US government, the WTO and the biotech industry."
EU Blocks France's Ban on GM Corn
France recently asked the European Commission to suspend Monsanto's authorization to plant genetically modified MON 810 corn, citing "significant risks for the environment" shown in recent scientific studies (Germany has also banned the cultivation of MON 810 corn).
The EU stepped in and blocked the ban, which was an unsettling move to put it mildly, considering that in a leaked cable from 2007, Craig Stapleton, who was the U.S. ambassador to France at the time, commented on France's plan to ban the cultivation of GM corn, and stated that retaliation would occur:
"Europe is moving backwards not forwards on this issue with France playing a leading role, along with Austria, Italy and even the [European] Commission... Moving to retaliation will make clear that the current path has real costs to EU interests and could help strengthen European pro-biotech voice.
... Country team Paris recommends that we calibrate a target retaliation list that causes some pain across the EU since this is a collective responsibility, but that also focuses in part on the worst culprits. The list should be measured rather than vicious and must be sustainable over the long term, since we should not expect an early victory."
UK Also Moving Full Steam Ahead with GMOs
Meanwhile, in the UK the Agriculture Biotechnology Council (ABC) published a new report "Going for Growth," which, according to GMWatch, "calls for GM to be put at the heart of agricultural development in the UK." But ABC is not a government authority; it's a GM industry lobby group that represents the interests of Monsanto, Bayer, DuPont, Syngenta and other biotech giants.
However, the ABC is meeting with key UK government officials to present their case, and reportedly "the industry's push for GM is already being welcomed."
Ironically, around this same time, a leading supporter of GM foods in the UK, George Freeman, has been touting a supposedly "healthier" broccoli that fights heart disease as GM, and using it to show how "GM food can improve health." But it turns out the broccoli, sold under the brand Marks & Spencer is not GM at all, but is produced using natural plant breeding methods!
Freeman, who has received money from the biotech industry, is now in hot water with Marks & Spencer, who has banned GM foods for more than 10 years, and was one of the first UK retailers to put such a ban in place!
This type of thing has actually happened before. In 2008, retired chief government scientist in the UK, Professor Sir David King made claims that drought-resistant crops that have increased yields by 30% were being planted in South Africa – even though the plants were only in a trial period, and effectiveness had yet to be proven. And as reported in the Guardian:iv
"King has been wrong before about new crops in Africa, claiming that a successful project near Lake Victoria was benefiting from GM technology, before having to admit the crops involved were not GM at all."
GM Soy Linked to Illnesses in Farm Pigs
As you probably know the reason why there's such heated controversy over the allowance of GM crops is due to their many health dangers, and the fact that their genes are capable of transferring to non-GM plants 'horizontally,' which means you cannot contain them. They absolutely WILL contaminate their conventional and organic counterparts, so one day soon there may be no such thing as "GM-free," because everything will be contaminated – especially with the recent approval of GM alfalfa.
Jeffrey Smith, author of Seeds of Deception and Genetic Roulette: The Documented Health Risks of Genetically Engineered Foods, provides overwhelming evidence that genetically engineered foods are unsafe and should never have been introduced. Smith has documented at least 65 serious health risks from GM food products.
- Offspring of rats fed GM soy showed a five-fold increase in mortality, lower birth weights, and the inability to reproduce
- Male mice fed GM soy had damaged young sperm cells
- The embryo offspring of GM soy-fed mice had altered DNA functioning
- Many US farmers report sterility or fertility problems among pigs and cows fed GM corn
- Investigators in India have documented fertility problems, abortions, premature births, and other serious health issues, including deaths, among buffaloes fed GM cottonseed products
There are countless examples of GM crop failures, as well as GM-associated toxicity being observed in animals fed the plants. For instance, a farmer in Denmark became frustrated because his pigs were sick. The pigs had chronic diarrhea, birth defects, reproductive problems, reduced appetite, bloating, stomach ulcers, weaker and smaller piglets, and reduced litter sizes – and they were being fed GM soybeans.
The farmer looked into the effects of GM foods and their associated herbicides, and stopped feeding his 450 sows GM soy, giving them non-GM fishmeal instead. It only took two days for him to see noticeable results -- for the better.v
GM Crops are Not All They're Cracked up to Be
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: vi
- Contrary to the claim of feeding the world, genetic engineering has not increased the long-term 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-resistant weeds and super-resistant 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 severe health damage.
Learn More about Genetically Engineered Foods
Due to lack of labeling, many Americans are still unfamiliar with what genetically engineered foods are. We have a plan to change that, and I urge you to participate and to continue learning more about genetically engineered foods and helping your friends and family do the same.
To start, please 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. You can also download a free iPhone application, available in the iTunes store. You can find it by searching for ShopNoGMO in the applications.
Your BEST strategy for now, however, is to simply buy USDA 100% Organic products whenever possible, (as these do not permit genetically engineered ingredients) or buy whole fresh produce and meat from local farmers. The majority of the genetically engineered organisms (GMOs) you're exposed to are via processed foods, so by cooking from scratch with whole foods, you can be sure you're not inadvertently consuming something laced with altered ingredients.
When you do purchase processed food, avoid products containing anything related to corn or soy that are not 100 percent organic, as any foods containing these two non-organic ingredients are virtually guaranteed to contain genetically engineered ingredients, as well as toxic herbicide residues.
To learn more about genetically engineered foods, I highly recommend the following films and lectures: