Just say NO to #GMO

Genetically engineered foods are in almost all processed food products in the United States.  A simple reading of the label will reveal one or more of the following ingredients in every one of them: corn or corn oil, cottonseed oil, canola oil (made from rapeseed oil, a GMO product), soy and/or soybean oil, and/or high fructose corn syrup.

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Genetically engineered corn and soy are used for most of the animal feed in the United States.  And GMO sweet corn is now appearing in stores.  There are no current federal labeling laws for GMO products, and two labeling measures in California and Washington have been defeated, in the wake of heavy spending of millions of dollars against the measures by Monsanto, Dow Chemical, Bayer, Coca Cola, Kellogg’s, and many others whose name you will see on products on your breakfast, lunch or dinner table.  A member of the board of directors of Mc Donalds and one from Sara Lee sit on the board of directors of Monsanto.

The classified report on biological warfare in the story is fictitious (at least none has been disclosed) but the government reports cited from scientists at the FDA, EPA and USDA reporting GMOs as unsafe and calling for toxicology reports and further testing are real, having been accessed through litigation using the Freedom of Information Act, and you can read them on the Internet.  Arpad Pusztai is a real scientist, who conducted the first experiments on lab rats, and whose work was severely discredited until the UK government found out the real truth; that it had rushed into early approval of GMO foods and its ministers had hired Pusztai to do the study in two weeks, after already having approved GMO foods for public consumption.

Since chemical companies invented genetically engineered seeds designed to withstand heavy sprayings of glyphosate, global use of Roundup and related weed killers has jumped to nearly 900 million pounds annually. That is due to the fact that, since the crops are engineered to be resistant to Roundup, it can be sprayed on the entire field, not just on the weeds, making it much easier for farmers to manage weed kills.  Glyphosate is a systemic chemical, meaning once sprayed, it travels up inside of the plants that people and animals eat and they consume the glyphosate as well as the nutrients in the plants. As more farm fields have converted to GMO crops, federal regulators at the EPA (and former employees of Monsanto) have quietly allowed an increase in the levels of glyphosate allowed in our food, something from which we should see tragic long term consequences.  According to a World Health Organization study released in 2015, Glyphosate is a probable carcinogen.

Monsanto originally registered the ingredient in its “Roundup,” glyphosate, for glyphosate’s use as an antimicrobial agent.  What that means is it can kill the “good bacteria” in your digestive system, that you need to have to digest properly, and cause problems such as “leaky gut,” where the protective lining of the gut is compromised, allowing for toxins and bacteria to enter the bloodstream. This causes the body to send off an immune response to attack the wayward bacteria, potentially sparking autoimmune diseases.

Moreover, glyphosate interferes with tryptophan, the precursor of serotonin, an important neurotransmitter associated with happiness and well-being. Low serotonin levels have been linked to suicide, depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and other ailments.  Not only does glyphosate hamper tryptophan production in your digestive system, it also lowers levels of it in plants, causing even more of a deficiency when you ingest the food that has been tainted with it.

Virtually all of the genetically engineered (GMO) Bt corn grown in the U.S. is treated with neonicotinoid pesticides.  A 2012 study found high levels of clothianidin in pneumatic planter exhaust. In the study, it was found that the Bt insecticide was present in the soil of unplanted fields nearby those planted with Bt corn and also on dandelions (a favorite of bees) growing near those fields.  Once in the soil, the pesticide remains for many years, and is absorbed by any new plant life.

The Bt toxin, which was the subject of Seth’s study in the story, essentially pokes “holes” in the cells of insects’ stomachs, killing them, and has been found to poke holes in human cells as well.  In one study, it was found in the blood of 93% of pregnant women tested, and in the blood of 80% of their unborn fetuses, which gets into the brains of the fetuses, due to the fact that there is no blood-brain barrier at that stage of development.

Peer reviewed studies are rare in the case of GMOs, as the only ones who have the desire or the budget to perform them are the same chemical companies which fund most of the scientific research.  However, the few independent studies that have been done all point to the danger of GMOs.

These studies have found the association of GMO foods and specific disease processes.  Multiple animal studies have shown significant immune dysregulation, including upregulation of cytokines associated with asthma, allergy, and inflammation.  Animal studies also show altered structure and function of the liver, including altered lipid and carbohydrate metabolism as well as cellular changes that could lead to accelerated aging.   Changes in the kidney, pancreas and spleen have also been documented in these studies.

A recent 2008 study links Bt corn with infertility, showing a significant decrease in offspring over time and significantly lower litter weight in mice fed Bt corn.  American pig farmers have also reported infertility and false pregnancies in their livestock after feeding them Bt corn.  The study also found that over 400 genes were found to be expressed differently in mice-fed Bt corn. These are genes known to control protein synthesis and modification, cell signaling, cholesterol synthesis, and insulin regulation. Other studies show intestinal damage in animals fed GMO foods, including proliferative cell growth and disruption of the intestinal immune system.

Because of this mounting data, it is biologically plausible for genetically modified foods to cause adverse health effects in humans.  In spite of this risk, the biotech industry claims that GMO foods are safe, and can feed the world through production of higher crop yields. However, a recent report by the Union of Concerned Scientists reviewed 12 academic studies and indicates otherwise: “The several thousand field trials over the last 20 years for genes aimed at increasing operational or intrinsic yield (of crops) indicate a significant undertaking. Yet none of these field trials have resulted in increased yield in commercialized major food/feed crops, with the exception of Bt corn.” Moreover, they found that the increase in yields was largely due to traditional breeding improvements.

Because GMO foods pose a serious health risk in the areas of toxicology, allergy and immune function, reproductive health, and metabolic, physiologic and genetic health, and are without any of their claimed benefits, the American Academy of Environmental Medicine (AAEM) believes that it is imperative to adopt the precautionary principle, which is one of the main regulatory tools of the European Union environmental and health policy, and serves as a foundation for several international agreements. The most commonly used definition of this policy is from the 1992 Rio Declaration that states: “In order to protect the environment, the precautionary approach shall be widely applied by States according to their capabilities. Where there are threats of serious or irreversible damage, lack of full scientific certainty shall not be used as a reason for postponing cost-effective measures to prevent environmental degradation.”

The FDA does not test the safety of GMO crops. Instead, all GMO foods are assumed to be safe unless there is already evidence to the contrary. The FDA relies on self-reported data from the companies that manufacture the crops as to their safety.  Moreover, due to legal and copyright restrictions surrounding GMO patents, independent scientists must ask for the chemical companies’ permission before publishing research on their products. As a result, almost all of the long-term animal feeding studies that have ever been conducted on GMO feed have been carried out by the biotech companies themselves, with their own rules and using their own standards of reporting. What few independent studies have been conducted have shown a range of adverse health effects from reduced fertility to immune system dysfunction, liver failure, obesity and cancer.

The revolving door between big agriculture, the FDA, the USDA and the EPA is also true.  In a classic case of revolving door politics, the Obama administration’s Deputy Commissioner of Foods, Michael Taylor, refuses to make FDA testing of GMO food safety mandatory. Taylor worked for the FDA from 1976 to 1981, when he went into private practice at a law firm who represented Monsanto, only to return through the revolving door to the FDA in 1991.   In 1988 he published an article entitled “The De Minimis Interpretation of the Delany Clause: Legal and Policy Rationale ” in the Journal of the American College of Toxicology (now called the International Journal of Toxicology), which he had previously presented in December 1986 at a symposium on Topics in Risk Analysis, sponsored by International Life Sciences Institute Risk Science Institute, Society for Risk Analysis, and Brookings Institution.  The paper was delivered and published during the midst of a debate and litigation over federal agencies’ interpretation of the Delaney clause, a part of federal law written in 1958 that on its face, literally prohibits any chemical from being added, in any amount, to food that is processed, if that agent is carcinogenic.

As analytical instrumentation increased in power and more and more agents were found to be carcinogenic at very low levels, the agencies had developed a quantitative risk assessment approach to interpreting the Delaney Clause, which stated that if a carcinogen was present at levels less than 1 in 1,000,000 parts, the risk of that carcinogen was “de minimis” and it could be allowed on the market.  In the article, Taylor presented arguments in favor of this approach. Advocates in favor of organic food have criticized Taylor for taking this stance and have attributed the stance not to a good faith effort to reasonably regulate, but to an alleged desire to benefit Monsanto financially.

Between 1994 and 1996 Taylor went back through the revolving door to the USDA, where he acted as Administrator of the Food Safety & Inspection Service. During that term he implemented a science-based approach to raising safety standards for meat and poultry production over the protests from industry, which has been called by food safety advocates “a truly heroic accomplishment” (but that was the only one).  Between 1996 and 2000, after briefly returning to King & Spalding, he came back to Monsanto to become Vice President for Public Policy.  In 2009, Taylor once again returned to government through the revolving door as Senior Advisor to the FDA Commissioner, and was appointed by President Obama on January 13, 2010 to another newly created post at the FDA –  Deputy Commissioner of Foods.

Former EPA head, William Ruckelshaus, spent two years on Monsanto’s board of directors.  Linda J. Fisher spent a decade working as Assistant Administrator of the EPA’s Office of Pollution Prevention, before leaving to head up Monsanto’s lobbying team.  Margaret Miller spent her time at Monsanto, working on Monsanto’s GMO bovine growth hormone and wrote the report on it that was submitted to the FDA before taking a job as Deputy Director of the FDA, where she approved her own report.

In July 2013, the EPA, under the leadership of former Monsanto employees, increased the allowable levels of glyphosate in food, up to 100 ppm in animal feed and 40 ppm in oilseed crops, and from 0.2 ppm to 3 ppm for sweet potatoes, and 5 ppm in carrots (15 and 20 times the prior allowed rates).

The first version of GMO corn was attacked because it was found to be deadly to Monarch butterflies.  This, and the proliferation of the use of Roundup on farms, has reduced the population of the Monarch to the point of near extinction.  GMO corn has been banned in Poland, where it has been found to be a threat to bees.

Beta carotene producing rice is being pushed in the Philippines, where neighbors near a Bt cornfield have already reported allergy and respiration problems.  It is expected to be pushed in India as well.  And Indonesia is taking steps to approve GMO corn and soy.

Finally, the world is now suffering from what seven out of ten biologists believe is a sixth mass extinction.  The last mass extinction was 65 million years ago when the dinosaurs disappeared from the earth.  This mass extinction is being caused by man.  The use of non-renewable energy, pollution, deforestation, and the overuse of water and pesticides in agriculture are the primary culprits of what will be man’s demise from the destruction of his environment.  We will kill off everything that lives on the earth now, but nature will come back, this time without us.  But maybe that’s a good thing for the planet.

Described by critics as “one of our strongest thriller writers on the scene,” author Kenneth Eade, best known for his legal and political thrillers, practiced law for 30 years before publishing his first novel, “An Involuntary Spy.” Eade, an up and coming author in the legal thriller and courtroom drama genre, has been described by critics as “One of our strongest thriller writers on the scene and the fact that he draws his stories from the contemporary philosophical landscape is very much to his credit.” He is often compared to John Grisham, whom many regard as the master of the legal thriller.  For more information, and a free Kindle download, see his website at: www.kennetheade.com

 

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