The Mark of Monsanto

No to GMOs

Story at-a-glance -

  • A so-called compromise to the DARK Act would mandate GMO labeling in the U.S. but allow companies to do so using symbols, packaging language, or electronic QR codes dubbed the “mark of Monsanto,” which would be confusing and likely of little significance to consumers
  • A 2014 report released by supposedly independent Academics Review, which slammed the organic industry, has turned out to be the product of blatant conflicts of interest
  • More than 100 Nobel laureates signed a letter to Greenpeace, urging the organization to stop its opposition to GMOs, which the letter refers to as “precision agriculture”
  • A group calling itself Support Precision Agriculture has an inoperative website that’s been traced back to The Genetic Literacy Project, a known biotechnology supporter

By Dr. Mercola

Organic foods are the antithesis of genetically engineered (GE) foods and, as organic food popularity grows, they're also one of the biotech industry's greatest opponents.

Organic foods are, by their very nature, free of GMOs (genetically modified organisms), and this is one of the traits that makes them superior to their conventionally grown (and often GE) counterparts.

Discrediting the organic industry would be one way for the biotech industry to cast their GE crops in a more favorable light, so when a report came out in 2014 bashing organics, industry funding was likely to be found. For years, however, the report got away with claiming to be independent.

Published by Academics Review,1 a non-profit "led by independent academic experts in agriculture and food sciences,"2 the report slammed the organic food industry for causing "false and misleading consumer health and safety perceptions about competing conventional foods."

It implied that the organic industry was trying to deceptively entice people to pay more for organic produce that is no better than conventional produce.

Even a quick review of the research shows that this is not the case — organic food crops have fewer, if any, pesticide residues and also contain up to 69 percent more antioxidants than conventionally grown varieties, for starters.3

What is even more important about this particular report, however, is that it was not even close to the "independent" review it claimed to be. Rather, it was a carefully orchestrated, conflict-of-interest-ridden attack meant to discredit the organic industry in order to directly benefit its opponents.

Monsanto Helped Fundraise For and Collaborated on Strategy With Academics Review

U.S. Right to Know, a nonprofit organization pursuing truth and transparency in America's food system, obtained inside emails between Academics Review founders and former Monsanto executives, via Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests.

The emails revealed that Academics Review collaborated with Monsanto and others in the industry to discredit those speaking out against GMOs and Monsanto while keeping their identity hidden. According to The Huffington Post:4

"What was not mentioned in the [2014 Academics Review organics] report, the news release or on the website:

Executives for Monsanto Co., the world's leading purveyor of agrichemicals and genetically engineered seeds, along with key Monsanto allies, engaged in fund raising for Academics Review, collaborated on strategy and even discussed plans to hide industry funding."

Monsanto Channels Pro-GMO Money Through Academic Institutions

One of Academics Review's co-founders is Bruce Chassy, Ph.D. professor emeritus at the University of Illinois.

Chassy exchanged emails with Monsanto's former head of communications turned biotech PR exec, Jay Byrne, and other Monsanto executives expressing interest in attacking the organic industry and finding corporate support for their nonprofit (which claimed to only accept money from "non-corporate sources").

Part of the discussion involved "keeping Monsanto in the background so as not to harm the credibility of the information."

Emails obtained by U.S. Right to Know also revealed that Monsanto gave hundreds of thousands of dollars to Chassy's University of Illinois while he collaborated with the company on projects meant to counter negative public perceptions of GMOs.

Carey Gillam, research director of U.S. Right to Know, told The Huffington Post:5

"What you find when reading through the email chains is an arrangement that allowed industry players to cloak pro-GMO messaging within a veil of independent expertise, and little, if any, public disclosure of the behind-the-scenes connections."

Adding insult to injury, Chassy is still billed as an independent GMO expert in the media while the biased Academics Review organics report is still posted online claiming to be independent. Clearly, the biotech industry will stop at nothing to spread their propaganda in support of moneymaking GMOs.

They're even going after children. Last October, the International Food Information Council, a front group funded by biotech and junk-food companies, along with the American Farm Bureau Federation released a 38-page biotechnology lesson plan aimed at grades 7 to 10.6

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Greenpeace Attacked for Opposing GMOs

Greenpeace has spoken out against GE Golden Rice — and rightly so. Golden Rice produces beta-carotene that, theoretically, the human body can convert into vitamin A, a serious nutrient deficiency in developing countries.

For decades, Golden Rice has been touted as a game changer that would save millions of lives, despite numerous signs that the product is destined to fall short of its promises.

The GE rice has failed to perform well in field trials, with yields lacking compared to conventional rice varieties. Further, evidence has not shown that malnourished children will be able to convert beta-carotene, a fat-soluble nutrient, in Golden Rice into vitamin A, especially given their low-fat diets.

Now, more than 100 Nobel laureates signed a letter to Greenpeace, urging the organization to stop its opposition to GMOs, which the letter refers to as "precision agriculture."7

A group calling itself Support Precision Agriculture then organized a National Press Club event to publicize the letter, held June 30, 2016 in Washington, DC. Greenpeace researchers attempted to attend the event, but were turned away at the door by none other than biotech PR guru (and former Monsanto exec) Jay Byrne.8

Support Precision Agriculture, meanwhile, has an inoperative website that GMWatch traced back to The Genetic Literacy Project, a known biotechnology supporter.9

WHO Scientist Reaffirms Glyphosate's Cancer Link

In 2015, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) of the World Health Organization (WHO) concluded that glyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto's Roundup herbicide, is "probably carcinogenic."

In May 2016, the United Nation's Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) issued a joint report with WHO stating glyphosate is unlikely to pose a risk of cancer to humans from exposure through the diet.10 The report raised eyebrows since the two WHO regulatory bodies released seemingly contradictory results.

In response, Dr. Kurt Straif, a section head with IARC, stood behind IARC's assessment that glyphosate may cause cancer, noting in an interview with Euronews:11

"Our evaluation was a review of all the published scientific literature on glyphosate and this was done by the world's best experts on the topic that in addition don't have any conflicts of interest that could bias their assessment.

They concluded that, yes, glyphosate is probably carcinogenic to humans based on three strings of evidence, that is clear evidence of cancer in experimental animals, limited evidence for cancer for humans from real-world exposures, of exposed farmers, and also strong evidence that it can damage the genes from any kind of other toxicological studies."

Notably, there have been reports that the FAO/WHO scientists were paid off by Monsanto to produce a favorable review. When Dr. Straif was asked about such allegations, he noted, "It is an important topic that needs important scrutiny, yes."12

Meanwhile, Monsanto has been attempting to dismiss lawsuits against the company that allege glyphosate gave the plaintiffs cancer. So far, at least three courts (one from Hawaii and two from California) have rejected Monsanto's requests for dismissal.13

Congress, Organic Leaders Sell Out to Industry in Backing Dark Act Compromise

The "Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act of 2014, dubbed the "DARK" (Denying Americans the Right to Know) Act, would preempt all states from passing GMO labeling laws. It would also bar states from enacting laws that make it illegal for food companies to misrepresent their products by labeling GE ingredients as "natural."

Last but not least, the DARK Act would also limit the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) power to force food companies to disclose GE ingredients. The industry is trying to HIDE the presence of GE ingredients, even though 90 percent of Americans are in favor of GMO food labeling.

A so-called compromise bill was introduced by Sens. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) and Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) in June 2016, which would mandate GMO labeling nationwide but allow companies to do so using symbols, packaging language, or electronic QR codes dubbed the "mark of Monsanto," which would be confusing and likely of little significance to consumers.

The bill would also undo the GMO labeling law that went into effect in Vermont on July 1, 2016.14 An analysis by the Organic Consumers Association (OCA) revealed that senators who voted yes to the bill in a procedural vote received more than twice as much in contributions from the agriculture lobby than those who voted no.15

Even the Organic Trade Association, Whole Foods Market and other leaders in the organic industry are being called out as traitors for supporting the compromise. Ronnie Cummins, director of OCA, reported:16

"These self-selected "good food" and "organic" leaders have been telling Congress behind closed doors—and now publicly—that they and the organic community will accept an industry-crafted DARK Act "compromise"—the Stabenow/Roberts bill— that eliminates mandatory GMO labeling and preempts the Vermont law with a convoluted and deceptive federal regime for QR codes and 1-800 numbers that is completely voluntary, with no firm guidelines for implementation and no provisions whatsoever for enforcement."

Dave Murphy, executive director of Food Democracy Now!, further stated:17

"This bill was written and approved by Monsanto and America's most corrupt food companies in a last ditch effort to avoid common sense, mandatory labeling of GMOs, while keeping the doors wide open for a flood of campaign cash."

GE Crops do Not Represent the Future of Food

Proponents of genetic engineering claim it is the most effective way to feed the world, by producing plants unnaturally equipped with internally produced insecticides, or with genes making them resistant to chemical herbicides or, in the case of Golden Rice, containing enhanced nutrition. Some are advertised as drought resistant and/or higher yield producing, but the truth turns out to be quite different.

GE plants may produce foreign proteins making them potentially allergenic and often they require more pesticides and herbicides than conventional crops, while producing lower yields.

Meanwhile, what people in the developing world need in order to receive ample dietary nutrients like vitamin A is access to a diverse range of nutritious food. This is the type of diet that is attained from organic and biodiverse farming — the opposite of what will occur if GE crops continue to be planted on a large scale.