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Thursday, May 30, 2013

Genetically Modified Foods



According to the World Health Organization, Genetically Modified Organisms(GMOs) are "organisms in which the genetic material (DNA) has been altered in such a way that does not occur naturally."1 This technology is also referred to as "genetic engineering", "biotechnology" or "recombinant DNA technology" and consists of randomly inserting genetic fragments of DNA from one organism to another, usually from a different species. For example, an artificial combination of genes that includes a gene to produce the pesticide Cry1Ab protein (commonly known as Bt toxin), originally found in Bacillus thuringiensis, is inserted in to the DNA of corn randomly. Both the location of the transferred gene sequence in the corn DNA and the consequences of the insertion differ with each insertion. The plant cells that have taken up the inserted gene are then grown in a lab using tissue culture and/or nutrient medium that allows them to develop into plants that are used to grow GM food crops.2
Natural breeding processes have been safely utilized for the past several thousand years. In contrast, "GE crop technology abrogates natural reproductive processes, selection occurs at the single cell level, the procedure is highly mutagenic and routinely breeches genera barriers, and the technique has only been used commercially for 10 years."3

Despite these differences, safety assessment of GM foods has been based on the idea of "substantial equivalence" such that "if a new food is found to be substantially equivalent in composition and nutritional characteristics to an existing food, it can be regarded as safe as the conventional food."4 However, several animal studies indicate serious health risks associated with GM food consumption including infertility, immune dysregulation, accelerated aging, dysregulation of genes associated with cholesterol synthesis, insulin regulation, cell signaling, and protein formation, and changes in the liver, kidney, spleen and gastrointestinal system.

There is more than a casual association between GM foods and adverse health effects. There is causation as defined by Hill's Criteria in the areas of strength of association, consistency, specificity, biological gradient, and biological plausibility.5 The strength of association and consistency between GM foods and disease is confirmed in several animal studies.2,6,7,8,9,10,11 

Specificity of the association of GM foods and specific disease processes is also supported. Multiple animal studies show significant immune dysregulation, including upregulation of cytokines associated with asthma, allergy, and inflammation. 6,11 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 and possibly lead to the accumulation of reactive oxygen species (ROS). 7,8,10 Changes in the kidney, pancreas and spleen have also been documented. 6,8,10 A recent 2008 study links GM corn with infertility, showing a significant decrease in offspring over time and significantly lower litter weight in mice fed GM corn.8 This study also found that over 400 genes were found to be expressed differently in the mice fed GM corn. These are genes known to control protein synthesis and modification, cell signaling, cholesterol synthesis, and insulin regulation. Studies also show intestinal damage in animals fed GM foods, including proliferative cell growth9 and disruption of the intestinal immune system.6

Regarding biological gradient, one study, done by Kroghsbo, et al., has shown that rats fed transgenic Bt rice trended to a dose related response for Bt specific IgA. 11

Also, because of the mounting data, it is biologically plausible for Genetically Modified Foods to cause adverse health effects in humans.

In spite of this risk, the biotechnology industry claims that GM foods 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."12 However, it was further stated that this increase is largely due to traditional breeding improvements.

Therefore, because GM 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 benefit, the 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.13 The most commonly used definition 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."13

Another often used definition originated from an environmental meeting in the United States in 1998 stating: "When an activity raises threats to the environment or human health, precautionary measures should be taken, even if some cause and effect relationships are not fully established scientifically. In this context, the proponent of an activity, rather than the public, should bear the burden of proof (of the safety of the activity)."13

With the precautionary principle in mind, because GM foods have not been properly tested for human consumption, and because there is ample evidence of probable harm, the AAEM asks:

  • Physicians to educate their patients, the medical community, and the public to avoid GM foods when possible and provide educational materials concerning GM foods and health risks.

  • Physicians to consider the possible role of GM foods in the disease processes of the patients they treat and to document any changes in patient health when changing from GM food to non-GM food.

  • Our members, the medical community, and the independent scientific community to gather case studies potentially related to GM food consumption and health effects, begin epidemiological research to investigate the role of GM foods on human health, and conduct safe methods of determining the effect of GM foods on human health.

  • For a moratorium on GM food, implementation of immediate long term independent safety testing, and labeling of GM foods, which is necessary for the health and safety of consumers.
(This statement was reviewed and approved by the Executive Committee of the American Academy of Environmental Medicine on May 8, 2009.)
Submitted by Amy Dean, D.O. and Jennifer Armstrong, M.D.

Bibliography: Genetically Modified Foods Position Paper AAEM
  1. World Health Organization. (Internet).(2002). Foods derived from modern technology: 20 questions on genetically modified foods. Available from: http://www.who.int/foodsafety/publications/biotech/20questions/en/index.php

  2. Smith, JM. Genetic Roulette. Fairfield: Yes Books.2007. p.10

  3. Freese W, Schubert D. Safety testing and regulation of genetically engineered foods. Biotechnology and Genetic Engineering Reviews. Nov 2004. 21.

  4. Society of Toxicology. The safety of genetically modified foods produced through biotechnology. Toxicol. Sci. 2003; 71:2-8.

  5. Hill, AB. The environment and disease: association or causation? Proceeding of the Royal Society of Medicine 1965; 58:295-300.

  6. Finamore A, Roselli M, Britti S, et al. Intestinal and peripheral immune response to MON 810 maize ingestion in weaning and old mice. J Agric. Food Chem. 2008; 56(23):11533-11539.

  7. Malatesta M, Boraldi F, Annovi G, et al. A long-term study on female mice fed on a genetically modified soybean:effects on liver ageing. Histochem Cell Biol. 2008; 130:967-977.

  8. Velimirov A, Binter C, Zentek J. Biological effects of transgenic maize NK603xMON810 fed in long term reproduction studies in mice. Report-Federal Ministry of Health, Family and Youth. 2008.

  9. Ewen S, Pustzai A. Effects of diets containing genetically modified potatoes expressing Galanthus nivalis lectin on rat small intestine.Lancet. 354:1353-1354.

  10. Kilic A, Aday M. A three generational study with genetically modified Bt corn in rats: biochemical and histopathological investigation. Food Chem. Toxicol. 2008; 46(3):1164-1170.

  11. Kroghsbo S, Madsen C, Poulsen M, et al. Immunotoxicological studies of genetically modified rice expression PHA-E lectin or Bt toxin in Wistar rats. Toxicology. 2008; 245:24-34.

  12. Gurain-Sherman,D. 2009. Failure to yield: evaluating the performance of genetically engineered crops. Cambridge (MA): Union of Concerned Scientists.

  13. Lofstedt R. The precautionary principle: risk, regulation and politics. Merton College, Oxford. 2002.

The Big GMO Cover-Up

The Permaculture Research Institute

The Big GMO Cover-Up


GMOs, Health & Disease — by Jeffrey M. Smith February 22, 2010

Something doesn’t quite add up about genetically modified (GM) foods.

It looks the same—the bread, pies, sodas, even corn on the cob. So much of what we eat every day looks just like it did 20 years ago. But something profoundly different has happened without our knowledge or consent. And according to leading doctors, what we don’t know may already be hurting us big time.

In May, the American Academy of Environmental Medicine (AAEM) publicly condemned genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in our food supply, saying they posed “a serious health risk.” They called on the US government to implement an immediate moratorium on all genetically modified (GM) foods, and urged physicians to prescribe non-GMO diets for all patients.


Genetic engineering is quite distinct from selective breeding because it involves taking genes from a completely different species and inserting them into the DNA of a plant or animal. The long term effects of this for our health and our planet’s biodiversity are unknown.

AAEM, an “Academy of Firsts,” was the first US medical organization to describe or acknowledge Gulf War Syndrome, chemical sensitivity, food allergy/addiction, and a host of other medical issues. But the potential for harm from GMOs dwarfs anything they have identified thus far. It can impact everyone who eats.

More than 70% of the foods on supermarket shelves contain derivatives of the eight GM foods on the market—soy, corn, oil from canola and cottonseed, sugar from sugar beets, Hawaiian papaya, and a small amount of zucchini and crook neck squash. The biotech industry hopes to genetically engineer virtually all remaining vegetables, fruits, grains, and beans (not to mention animals).

The two primary reasons why plants are engineered are to allow them to either drink poison, or produce poison. The poison drinkers are called herbicide tolerant. They’re inserted with bacterial genes that allow them to survive otherwise deadly doses of toxic herbicide. Biotech companies sell the seed and herbicide as a package deal, and US farmers use hundreds of millions of pounds more herbicide because of these types of GM crops. The poison producers are called Bt crops. Inserted genes from the soil bacterium Bacillus Thuringiensis produce an insect-killing pesticide called Bt-toxin in every cell of the plant. Both classes of GM crops are linked to dangerous side effects.

Doctors and Patients: Just Say No to GMOs

“Now that soy is genetically engineered,” warns Ohio allergist Dr. John Boyles, “it is so dangerous that I tell people never to eat it.” How dangerous are GM foods? World renowned biologist Pushpa M. Bhargava, PhD, believes they are the major reason for the recent rise in serious illnesses in the US.

The range of what GMOs might do to us is breathtaking. “Several animal studies,” according to the AAEM, reveal a long list of disorders, including: “infertility, immune dysregulation, accelerated aging, dysregulation of genes associated with cholesterol synthesis, [faulty] insulin regulation, cell signaling, and protein formation, and changes in the liver, kidney, spleen and gastrointestinal system.”

“There is more than a casual association between GM foods and adverse health effects,” says the AAEM position paper. Based on established scientific criteria, “there is causation.”

Difficult to Trace the Damage

Outside the carefully controlled laboratory setting, it is more difficult to confidently assign GMOs as the cause for a particular set of diseases, especially since there are no human clinical trials and no agency that even attempts to monitor GMO-related health problems among the population. “If there are problems,” says biologist David Schubert, PhD, of the Salk Institute, “we will probably never know because the cause will not be traceable and many diseases take a very long time to develop.”

GM crops were widely introduced in 1996. Within nine years, the incidence of people in the US with three or more chronic diseases nearly doubled—from 7% to 13%. Visits to the emergency room due to allergies doubled from 1997 to 2002. And overall food related illnesses doubled from 1994 to 2001, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Obesity, diabetes, gastrointestinal disorders, and autism are also among the conditions that are skyrocketing in the US.

The Lyme Induced Autism Foundation, a patient advocacy group, is not waiting for studies to prove that GMOs cause or worsen Lyme, autism, and the many other diseases on the rise since gene-spliced foods were introduced. Like AAEM, the LIA Foundation says there is more than enough evidence of harm in animal feeding studies for them to “urge doctors to prescribe non-GMO diets” and for “individuals, especially those with autism, Lyme disease, and associated conditions, to avoid” GM foods.

Another patient group, those suffering from eosinophilia myalgia syndrome (EMS), is more confident about the GMO origins of their particular disease. It was caused by a genetically engineered brand of a food supplement called L-tryptophan in the late 1980s. It killed about 100 Americans and caused 5,000-10,000 people to fall sick or become permanently disabled. The characteristics of EMS made it much easier for authorities to identify the epidemic and its cause. It only affected those who consumed the pills; symptoms came on almost immediately; and its effects were horrific—including unbearable pain and paralysis. There was even a unique, easy-to-measure change in the white blood cell count. But even though EMS was practically screaming to be discovered, it still took the medical community more than four years—and it was almost missed.

“The experiments simply haven’t been done and we now have become the guinea pigs.” David Suzuki, renowned Canadian geneticist.

What if the GMOs throughout our food supply are creating common diseases which come on slowly? It would be nearly impossible to confirm them as the cause. “Physicians are probably seeing the effects in their patients,” says AAEM president Dr. Jennifer Armstrong, “but need to know how to ask the right questions.” The patients at greatest risk are the very young. “Children are the most likely to be adversely effected by toxins and other dietary problems” related to GM foods, says Dr. Schubert. They become “the experimental animals,” our collective canaries in the coal mine.

Warnings by Government Scientists Ignored and Denied

Scientists at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) had warned about all these problems back in the early 1990s. According to secret documents made public from a lawsuit, the scientific consensus at the agency was that GM foods were inherently dangerous, and might create hard-to-detect allergies, poisons, new “super” diseases, and nutritional problems. They urged their superiors to require rigorous long-term tests. But the White House had ordered the agency to promote biotechnology and the FDA responded by recruiting Michael Taylor, Monsanto’s former attorney, to head up the formation of GMO policy. That policy, which is in effect today, denies knowledge of the scientists’ concerns and declares that no safety studies on GMOs are required. It is up to Monsanto and the other biotech companies—who have a long history of lying about the toxicity of their earlier products—to determine if their own foods are safe.

After overseeing GMO policy at the FDA, Mr. Taylor worked on GMO issues at the USDA, and then later became Monsanto’s vice president. In the summer of 2009, he went through the revolving door again. Taylor was appointed by the Obama administration as the de facto US food safety czar at the FDA.

Dangerously Few Studies, Untraceable Diseases

“Where is the scientific evidence showing that GM plants/food are toxicologically safe, as assumed by the biotechnology companies?” This was the concluding question posed in a 2007 review of published scientific literature on the health risks of GM plants, showing that the number of studies and available data are “very scarce.”

“The experiments simply haven’t been done and we now have become the guinea pigs,” says renowned Canadian geneticist David Suzuki. He adds, “Anyone that says, ‘Oh, we know that this is perfectly safe,’ I say is either unbelievably stupid or deliberately lying.”

When consumers realize the dangers of GM foods and that the FDA has abdicated its responsibility to protect us, they usually want to opt out of this massive feeding experiment. In fact, most Americans already say they would avoid GMO brands if given a choice.

It wouldn’t take a majority of us to kick GMOs out of our food supply. Kraft and other food companies wouldn’t wait until half their market share is gone before telling their suppliers to switch to the non-GM corn, soy, etc. By using GM ingredients, they don’t offer customers a single advantage. The food doesn’t taste better, last longer, or have more nutrients. Thus, if even a tiny percentage of US consumers—say 5% or 15 million people—started avoiding GMO brands, the millions in lost sales revenue would likely force brands to remove all GM ingredients, like they already have in Europe.

But the FDA doesn’t want to give us the choice. They ignore the wishes of nine out of ten Americans for mandatory GMO labeling in order to promote the economic interests of just five biotech companies.

The Shocking Evidence of Harm from GMOs

Genetically modified (GM) foods have not been scientifically tested on human beings. (The only published human feeding study had ominous results – see later.) Instead, animals are used as our surrogates, but the few published animal safety studies are generally short-term and superficial. In fact, industry-funded research is widely criticized as designed to avoid finding problems.  They’ve got bad science—down to a science. Even still, the accumulated evidence of harm is compelling people to read ingredient labels and avoid brands with genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

Infant Mortality and Reproductive Disorders

When GM soy flour was added to the diets of female rats, most of their babies died within three weeks—compared to only a 10% death rate among mothers fed natural soy. The babies from the GM-fed group were also smaller and later had problems getting pregnant.

When male rats were fed GM soy, their testicles actually changed color—from the normal pink to dark blue. Mice testicles also showed changes, including damaged young sperm cells. And the DNA in mice embryos functioned differently when their parents ate GM soy. Mice fed GM corn had fewer babies, and their children were smaller than normal.

About two dozen US farmers say that thousands of their pigs became sterile after consuming certain GM corn varieties. Some had false pregnancies; others gave birth to bags of water. Cows and bulls also became infertile when fed the same corn. Investigators in the state of Haryana, India, report that most buffalo that ate GM cottonseed had reproductive complications such as premature deliveries, abortions, infertility, and prolapsed uteruses. Many calves died.
In the US population, the incidence of low birth weight babies, infertility, and infant mortality are all escalating.

Food, A Registered Pesticide?

When insects bite genetically modified Bt corn and cotton, they get a mouthful of a built-in toxin, produced by every cell of the plant. The poison splits open their stomach and kills them. The GM plants are registered as pesticides with the Environmental Protection Agency.

Biotech companies claim that Bt-toxin has a history of safe use, since organic farmers and others use Bt bacteria spray for natural insect control. Genetic engineers insert genes from the bacteria into the DNA of the corn and cotton, so the plants themselves do the killing.

They fail to point out that the Bt-toxin produced in GM plants:
  • Is thousands of times more concentrated than natural Bt spray;
  • Is designed to be more toxic;
  • Has properties of an allergen; and
  • Unlike the spray, cannot be washed off the plant.
But even the less toxic natural bacterial spray is harmful. When dispersed by plane to kill gypsy moths in the Pacific Northwest, about 500 people reported allergy or flu-like symptoms. Some had to go to the emergency room.
Those exact same symptoms are now being reported by farm workers handling Bt cotton grown in India. According to Sunday India, medical records confirm that “victims of itching have increased massively . . . related to Bt cotton farming.”

If GM Crops Kill Animals, How Safe Are They for Us to Eat?

When sheep grazed on Bt cotton plants after harvest, thousands died. Post mortems showed severe irritation and black patches in their intestines and livers. Investigators said preliminary evidence “strongly suggests that the sheep mortality was due to a toxin. . . . most probably Bt-toxin.” In a small feeding study, 100% of sheep fed Bt cotton died within 30 days, while those grazing on natural cotton plants in the adjoining field had no symptoms.

Similarly, buffalo that grazed on natural cotton plants for years without incident are reacting to the Bt variety. In one village, for example, they allowed their 13 buffalo to graze on Bt cotton plants for a single day in January 2008. All died within three days.

Bt corn was also implicated in the deaths of cows in Germany, and horses, buffaloes, and chickens in The Philippines. Even Monsanto’s own 90-day rat feeding study showed evidence of poisoning in major organs due to their Bt corn. And a 2008 Italian government study found that Bt corn provoked immune responses in mice.

GMOs Contain Allergens

Immune system problems in GMO-fed animals are “a consistent feature of all the studies,” according to GM food safety expert Dr. Arpad Pusztai. The American Academy of Environmental Medicine specifically notes an increase in cytokines, “associated with asthma, allergy, and inflammation.” While all three conditions are on the rise in the US, it is the upsurge in food allergies among children that has generated the most alarm nationwide.

There are many reasons why GMOs might be the cause:
  • The GM proteins produced in GM soy, corn, and papayas have properties of known allergens. They actually fail the allergy screening protocol recommended by the World Health Organization.
  • The process of creating a GMO can introduce new allergens or elevate existing ones. Both GM soy and corn contain new unintended allergenic proteins, and GM soy has as much as seven times higher levels of a natural soy allergen—trypsin inhibitor.
  • Herbicide tolerant GM crops have considerably more residues of toxic herbicides, which may provoke reactions.
  • Skin prick allergy tests confirm that some people react to GM, but not to non-GM soy.
Soon after GM soy was introduced to the UK, soy allergies skyrocketed by 50%. But there are other non-GM foods that are also provoking more allergic responses now than in the past. Research shows, however, that consuming GM foods may still be the culprit by provoking sensitivity to other foods.

Mice fed Bt-toxin, for example, not only reacted to the Bt itself, they started having immune reactions to foods that were formerly harmless. Similarly, after mice ate GM peas, they started to react to other foods that previously had no impact. In addition, GM soy drastically reduces digestive enzymes in mice. If our ability to breakdown proteins is impaired, we could become allergic to a wide variety of foods.

GMOs and Liver Problems

As a primary detoxifier, the condition of the liver can point to toxins in our diet. The livers of mice and rats fed GM feed had profound changes. Some were smaller and partially atrophied, others were significantly heavier, possibly inflamed, and some showed signs of a toxic insult from eating GM food.

The Worst Finding of All? GMOs Remain Inside Us!

The only published human feeding study revealed what many find to be the most disturbing discovery. The genes inserted into GM crops transfer into the DNA of bacteria living inside our intestines and continue to function. This means that long after we stop eating GMOs, we may still have potentially harmful GM proteins produced continuously inside of us. Although scientists only tested this on soy, if Bt genes from corn chips also transferred, they could transform our intestinal bacteria into living pesticide factories, possibly for the rest of our lives.
When doctors hear about this evidence, they often respond by citing the huge increase of gastrointestinal problems over the last decade. GM foods might be colonizing the gut flora of North Americans.

Even if GMOs helped combat global hunger, which they don’t, it would be hard to justify putting these high-risk organisms into the food supply in their current state. Especially since GM crops cross-pollinate and contaminate the environment. Their self-propagating genetic pollution may outlast the effects of global warming and nuclear waste.

Shhhh!  Meet the Scientists Who Dared to Break the Silence on GMOs
Arpad Pusztai

Biologist Arpad Pusztai had more than 300 articles and 12 books to his credit and was the world’s top expert in his field. But when he accidentally discovered that genetically modified (GM) foods are dangerous, he became the biotech industry’s bad-boy poster child, setting an example for other scientists thinking about blowing the whistle.

In the early 1990s, Dr. Pusztai was awarded a $3 million grant by the UK government to design the system for safety testing genetically modified organisms (GMOs). His team included more than 20 scientists working at three facilities, including the Rowett Institute in Aberdeen, Scotland, the top nutritional research lab in the UK, and his employer for the previous 35 years. The results of Pusztai’s work were supposed to become the required testing protocols for all of Europe. But when he fed supposedly harmless GM potatoes to rats, things didn’t go as planned.

Within just 10 days, the animals developed potentially pre-cancerous cell growth, smaller brains, livers, and testicles, partially atrophied livers, and damaged immune systems. Moreover, the cause was almost certainly side effects from the process of genetic engineering itself. In other words, the GM foods on the market, which are created from the same process, might have similar affects on humans.

With permission from his Director, Pusztai was interviewed on TV and expressed his concerns about GM foods. He became a hero at his Institute—for two days. Then came the phone calls from the pro-GMO Prime Minister’s office to the Institute’s Director. The next morning, Pusztai was fired. He was silenced with threats of a lawsuit, his team was dismantled, and the protocols never implemented. His Institute, the biotech industry, and the UK government, together launched a smear campaign to destroy Pusztai’s reputation.

Eventually, an invitation to speak before Parliament lifted his gag order and his research was published in the prestigious Lancet. No similar in-depth studies have yet tested the GM foods eaten every day by Americans and Canadians.

Irina Ermakova

Irina Ermakova, a senior scientist at the Russian National Academy of Sciences, was shocked to discover that more than half of the baby rats in her experiment died within three weeks. She had fed the mothers GM soy flour purchased at a supermarket. The babies from mothers fed natural non-GMO soy, however, only suffered a 10% death rate. She repeated her experiment three times with similar results.

Dr. Ermakova reported her preliminary findings at a conference in October 2005, asking the scientific community to replicate her study. Instead, she was attacked and vilified. Her boss told her to stop doing anymore GM food research. Samples were stolen from her lab, and a paper was even set fire on her desk. One of her colleagues tried to comfort her by saying, “Maybe the GM soy will solve the overpopulation problem.”

Of the mostly spurious criticisms leveled at Ermakova, one was significant enough to raise doubts about the cause of the deaths. She did not conduct a biochemical analysis of the feed. Without it, we don’t know if some rogue toxin had contaminated the soy flour. But more recent events suggest that whatever caused the high infant mortality was not unique to her one bag of GM flour. In November 2005, the supplier of rat food to the laboratory where Ermakova worked began using GM soy in the formulation. All the rats were now eating it. After two months, Ermakova asked other scientists about the infant mortality rate in their experiments. It had skyrocketed to over 55%.

It’s been four years since these findings were reported. No one has yet repeated Ermakova’s study, even though it would cost just a few thousand dollars.

Andrés Carrasco

Embryologist Andrés Carrasco told a leading Buenos Aires newspaper about the results of his research into Roundup®, the herbicide sold in conjunction with Monsanto’s genetically engineered Roundup Ready® crops. Dr. Carrasco, who works in Argentina’s Ministry of Science, said his studies of amphibians suggest that the herbicide could cause defects in the brain, intestines, and hearts of fetuses. Moreover, the amount of Roundup® used on GM soy fields was as much as 1,500 times greater than that which created the defects. Tragically, his research had been inspired by the experience of desperate peasant and indigenous communities who were suffering from exposure to toxic herbicides used on the GM soy fields throughout Argentina.

According to an article in Grain, the biotech industry “mounted an unprecedented attack on Carrasco, ridiculing his research and even issuing personal threats.” In addition, four men arrived unannounced at his laboratory and were extremely aggressive, attempting to interrogate Carrasco and obtain details of his study. “It was a violent, disproportionate, dirty reaction,” he said. “I hadn’t even discovered anything new, only confirmed conclusions that others had reached.”

Argentina’s Association of Environmental Lawyers filed a petition calling for a ban on Roundup®, and the Ministry of Defense banned GM soy from its fields.

Terje Traavik

Prominent virologist Terje Traavik presented preliminary data at a February 2004 meeting at the UN Biosafety Protocol Conference, showing that:
  • Filipinos living next to a GM cornfield developed serious symptoms while the corn was pollinating;
  • Genetic material inserted into GM crops transferred to rat organs after a single meal; and
  • Key safety assumptions about genetically engineered viruses were overturned, calling into question the safety of using these viruses in vaccines.
The biotech industry mercilessly attacked Dr. Traavik. Their excuse? He presented unpublished work. But presenting preliminary data at professional conferences is a long tradition in science, something that the biotech industry itself relied on in 1999 to try to counter the evidence that butterflies were endangered by GM corn.

Ironically, three years after attacking Traavik, the same biotech proponents sharply criticized a peer-reviewed publication for not citing unpublished data that had been presented at a conference. The paper shows how the runoff of GM Bt corn into streams can kill the “caddis fly,” which may seriously upset marine ecosystems. The study set off a storm of attacks against its author, ecologist Emma Rosi-Marshall, which Nature described in a September 2009 article as a “hail of abuse.”

Nothing to Hide?

When Ohio State University plant ecologist Allison Snow discovered problematic side effects in GM sunflowers, Pioneer Hi-Bred International and Dow AgroSciences blocked further research by withholding GM seeds and genes. After Marc Lappé and Britt Bailey found significant reductions in cancer-fighting isoflavones in Monsanto’s GM soybeans, the seed seller, Hartz, told them they could no longer provide samples. Research by a plant geneticist at a leading US university was also thwarted when two companies refused him GM corn. In fact, almost no independent studies are conducted that might find problems.
According to a scathing opinion piece in an August 2009 Scientific American, “Agritech companies have given themselves veto power over the work of independent researchers. . . . Only studies that the seed companies have approved ever see the light of a peer-reviewed journal.”

Restricted access is not limited to the US. When a Japanese scientist wanted to conduct animal feeding studies on the GM soybeans under review in Japan, both the government and the bean’s maker DuPont refused to give him any samples. Hungarian Professor Bela Darvas discovered that Monsanto’s GM corn hurt endangered species in his country. Monsanto immediately shut off his supplies.
Dr. Darvas later gave a speech on his preliminary findings and discovered that a false and incriminating report about his research was circulating. He traced it to a Monsanto public relations employee, who claimed it mysteriously appeared on her desk—so she faxed it out.

Why is Science and Debate Being Silenced?

The attacks on scientists have taken its toll. There appears to be a de facto ban on scientists asking certain questions and finding certain results.

New Zealand Parliament member Sue Kedgley told a Royal Commission in 2001: “Personally I have been contacted by telephone and e-mail by a number of scientists who have serious concerns about aspects of the research that is taking place . . . and the increasingly close ties that are developing between science and commerce, but who are convinced that if they express these fears publicly, …  or even if they asked the awkward and difficult questions, they will be eased out of their institution.”

University of Minnesota biologist Phil Regal testified before the same Commission, “I think the people who boost genetic engineering are going to have to do a mea culpa and ask for forgiveness, like the Pope did on the inquisition.” Sue Kedgley has a different idea. She recommends we “set up human clinical trials using volunteers of genetic engineering scientists and their families, because I think they are so convinced of the safety of their products, I’m sure they would very readily volunteer to become part of a human clinical trial.”

Failing that, are you willing to continue your participation?


International bestselling author and independent filmmaker Jeffrey M. Smith is the Executive Director of the Institute for Responsible Technology and the leading spokesperson on the health dangers of GMOs. His first book, Seeds of Deception, is the world’s bestselling book on the subject. His second, Genetic Roulette: The Documented Health Risks of Genetically Engineered Foods, identifies 65 risks of GMOs and demonstrates how superficial government approvals are not competent to find most of them. Mr. Smith has pioneered the Campaign for Healthier Eating in America, designed to create the tipping point of consumer rejection against GMOs and force them out of the food supply.

To find out how to stop eating GMOs, visit: www.nongmoshoppingguide.com (USA) and www.truefood.org.au/truefoodguide (Australia)

Videos:  The Future of Food, The World According to Monsanto

Glyphosate Enhances Damaging Effects of Environmental Toxins


Samsel and Seneff: Glyphosate Enhances Damaging Effects of Environmental Toxins

This study shows that glyphosate, the active ingredient of roundup, enhances the damaging effects of other food borne chemical residues and environmental toxins.

Full study here: Gly, Modern disease,Samsel-Seneff 



Glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup®, is the most popular herbicide used worldwide. The industry asserts it is minimally toxic to humans, but here we argue  otherwise. Residues are found in the main foods of the Western diet, comprised primarily of sugar, corn, soy and wheat. Glyphosate’s inhibition of cytochrome P450 (CYP) enzymes  is an overlooked component of its toxicity to mammals. CYP enzymes play crucial roles in biology, one of which is to detoxify xenobiotics. Thus, glyphosate enhances the damaging effects of other food borne chemical residues and environmental toxins. Negative impact on the body is insidious and manifests slowly over time as inflammation damages cellular systems throughout the body. Here, we show how interference with CYP enzymes acts synergistically with disruption of the biosynthesis of aromatic amino acids by gut bacteria, as well as impairment in serum sulfate transport. Consequences are most of the diseases and conditions associated with a Western diet, which include gastrointestinal disorders, obesity, diabetes, heart disease, depression, autism, infertility, cancer and Alzheimer’s disease. We explain the documented effects of glyphosate and its ability to induce disease, and we show that glyphosate is the “textbook example” of exogenous semiotic entropy: the disruption of homeostasis by environmental toxins.

Authors:  Anthony Samsel and Stephanie Seneff

Monsanto Panics as Oregon GM Wheat Scandal Spreads Worldwide

Sustainable Pulse

Monsanto Panics as Oregon GM Wheat Scandal Spreads Worldwide


The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) announced Wednesday that test results of plant samples from an Oregon farm indicate the presence of genetically engineered (GE) glyphosate-resistant wheat plants. Further testing by USDA laboratories indicates the presence of the same GE glyphosate-resistant wheat variety that Monsanto was authorized to field test in 16 states from 1998 to 2005. APHIS launched a formal investigation after being notified by an Oregon State University scientist that initial tests of wheat samples from an Oregon farm indicated the possible presence of GE glyphosate-resistant wheat plants.  

There are no GE wheat varieties approved for sale or in commercial production in the United States or elsewhere at this time.

As a result of the USDA announcement Japanese authorities have canceled a tender offer to buy wheat from the US and other governments worldwide have threatened to stop all US wheat imports.

The EU Commission has asked the United States how to test for unapproved GM Wheat, a spokesman said, adding that incoming shipments would be tested and blocked if they contained the strain.

The detection of this wheat variety does not pose a food safety concern. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) completed a voluntary consultation on the safety of food and feed derived from this GE glyphosate-resistant wheat variety in 2004. For the consultation, the developer provided information to FDA to support the safety of this wheat variety. FDA completed the voluntary consultation with no further questions concerning the safety of grain and forage derived from this wheat, meaning that this variety is as safe as non-GE wheat currently on the market.“We are taking this situation very seriously and have launched a formal investigation,” said Michael Firko, Acting Deputy Administrator for APHIS’ Biotechnology Regulatory Services, “Our first priority is to as quickly as possible determine the circumstances and extent of the situation and how it happened. We are collaborating with state, industry, and trading partners on this situation and are committed to providing timely information about our findings. This situation is unacceptable and USDA will put all necessary resources towards this investigation.”

The Plant Protection Act (PPA) provides for substantial penalties for serious infractions. Should APHIS determine that this situation was the result of a violation of the PPA, APHIS has the authority to seek penalties for such a violation including civil penalties up to $1,000,000 and has the authority to refer the matter for criminal prosecution, if appropriate.

APHIS, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ FDA work together to regulate the safe use of organisms derived from modern biotechnology. APHIS regulates the introduction (meaning the importation, interstate movement, and environmental release/field testing) of certain GE organisms that may pose a risk to plant health. EPA regulates pesticides, including plants with plant-incorporated protectants (pesticides intended to be produced and used in a living plant), to ensure public safety. EPA also sets limits on pesticide residues on food and animal feed. FDA has primary responsibility for ensuring the safety of human food and animal feed, as well as safety of all plant-derived foods and feeds.
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Danish Whistle-blowers Reveal Links between GM soy, Roundup and Health Damage in Pig Herd

Sustainable Pulse

Danish Whistle-blowers Reveal Links between GM soy, Roundup and Health Damage in Pig Herd

New revelations have undermined the myth that GM soy and Roundup residues are essentially harmless components in the European animal feed supply chain.
A farming newspaper (Effektivt Landbrug) has caused a storm of controversy in Denmark by publishing (1) an extended analysis of the connections made by pig farmer Ib Borup Pedersen between GM soy and health problems in his herd of breeding sows. In an interview for the newspaper, Mr Pedersen contended that there was also a link between Roundup herbicide residues and stillbirths and malformations in pig litters. But most interestingly of all, he explained that since switching the feed in his breeding sow house to non-GM soy, health problems and medical costs have declined dramatically, to the point where the extra costs involved in purchasing non-GM soy feed are more than offset by reduced medication costs. The bottom line is that his farming operation is now more profitable than it was under the GM-soy feeding regime.

It is a long-held belief across most of the livestock farming community in Europe that farmers MUST use GM soy in animal diets in order to operate profitably — but Mr Pedersen says that that is just not true, and that farmers have simply been reluctant to face up to the real costs of their operations, by failing properly to account for medication costs and even by turning a blind eye to animal deaths and ailments. In an Editorial comment the newspaper urged Danish pig farmers not to close ranks but to open up an honest debate on the animal welfare, health and financial implications of the current dependence upon GM soy and Roundup herbicide.

Not surprisingly, the publication of the feature and Editorial has caused a storm of protest within Denmark, partly from vested interests including feed suppliers and agrichemical merchants and partly from those who feel that it is somehow disloyal for anybody — least of all a farming newspaper — to suggest that there might be something amiss in the Danish pig farming industry, which prides itself on high standards and a pristine “brand image.”

Following the publication of the newspaper article in Denmark, the Welsh group GM-Free Cymru has conducted extended interviews with Mr Ib Borup Pedersen, and also with a second farmer — Mr Sigurd Christensen — and has obtained a good deal of previously unpublished information. This is contained in a “Denmark Dossier” which can be accessed via this press release.

Speaking for GM-Free Cymru, Dr Brian John says: “These revelations come as no surprise to us. For years we have been picking up on information which suggests that GM crops and Roundup herbicide formulations are linked to animal deaths and health problems. This is supported by experimental evidence from independent research teams — but the GM industry, the European animal feed industry, and the farming community across Europe has been involved in an on-going cover-up which could not possibly be maintained ad infinitum. The EC and the GM regulatory bodies are also implicated in the cover-up, since they have systematically ignored “evidence of harm” brought to their attention over many years.

“We suspect that in many European countries, the pig farming industry is in a state of denial about the health of the animals fed on GM soy and subjected to Roundup residues in the feed chain and in litter; we wonder, for example, how many dead and malformed animals are simply disposed of, with no vets informed and no records kept?

“We now demand that the EU reassesses all of the GM soy consents already given, and puts an immediate halt on any assessments in the pipeline. This is not just an animal welfare issue; we are quite convinced that unless GM soy and Roundup are removed entirely from the animal feed chain, the health of the people of Europe will be seriously compromised.”


Contact: Dr Brian John GM-Free Cymru Tel 01239-820470

1. Pig farmer reaps gains from GMO-free soy, Effektivt Landbrug, 13 April 2012 www.effektivtlandbrug.dk/indhold/sider/artikler/vis_artikel.aspx?id=24261
Not all of the material published in the newspaper is online; the additional material can be provided on request.
2. The PDF entitled “GM Soy linked to health damage in pigs — a Danish Dossier” is to be found here:
and here:

What's wrong with genetic engineering (GE)?


Genetic Engineering

While scientific progress on molecular biology has a great potential to increase our understanding of nature and provide new medical tools, it should not be used as justification to turn the environment into a giant genetic experiment by commercial interests. The biodiversity and environmental integrity of the world's food supply is too important to our survival to be put at risk.

What's wrong with genetic engineering (GE)?

Genetic engineering enables scientists to create plants, animals and micro-organisms by manipulating genes in a way that does not occur naturally.
These genetically modified organisms (GMOs) can spread through nature and interbreed with natural organisms, thereby contaminating non 'GE' environments and future generations in an unforeseeable and uncontrollable way.

Their release is 'genetic pollution' and is a major threat because GMOs cannot be recalled once released into the environment.

Because of commercial interests, the public is being denied the right to know about GE ingredients in the food chain, and therefore losing the right to avoid them despite the presence of labelling laws in certain countries.

Biological diversity must be protected and respected as the global heritage of humankind, and one of our world's fundamental keys to survival. Governments are attempting to address the threat of GE with international regulations such as the Biosafety Protocol.

April 2010: Farmers, environmentalists and consumers from all over Spain demonstrate in Madrid under the slogan "GMO-free agriculture." They demand the Government to follow the example of countries like France, Germany or Austria, and ban the cultivation of GM maize in Spain.

We believe:

GMOs should not be released into the environment since there is not an adequate scientific understanding of their impact on the environment and human health.

We advocate immediate interim measures such as labelling of GE ingredients, and the segregation of genetically engineered crops and seeds from conventional ones.

We also oppose all patents on plants, animals and humans, as well as patents on their genes. Life is not an industrial commodity. When we force life forms and our world's food supply to conform to human economic models rather than their natural ones, we do so at our own peril.

GMO Myths and Truths: Summary

Organic Consumers Association


GMO Myths and Truths: Summary

Executive Summary

GMO Myths and Truths reportGenetically modified (GM) crops are promoted on the basis of a range of far-reaching claims from the GM crop industry and its supporters. They say that GM crops:
  • Are an extension of natural breeding and do not pose different risks from naturally bred crops
  • Are safe to eat and can be more nutritious than naturally bred crops
  • Are strictly regulated for safety
  • Increase crop yields
  • Reduce pesticide use
  • Benefit farmers and make their lives easier
  • Bring economic benefits
  • Benefit the environment
  • Can help solve problems caused by climate change
  • Reduce energy use
  • Will help feed the world.
However, a large and growing body of scientific and other authoritative evidence shows that these claims are not true. On the contrary, evidence presented in this report indicates that GM crops:
  • Are laboratory-made, using technology that is totally different from natural breeding methods, and pose different risks from non-GM crops
  • Can be toxic, allergenic or less nutritious than their natural counterparts
  • Are not adequately regulated to ensure safety
  • Do not increase yield potential
  • Do not reduce pesticide use but increase it
  • Create serious problems for farmers, including herbicide-tolerant “superweeds”, compromised soil quality, and increased disease susceptibility in crops
  • Have mixed economic effects
  • Harm soil quality, disrupt ecosystems, and reduce biodiversity
  • Do not offer effective solutions to climate change
  • Are as energy-hungry as any other chemically-farmed crops
  • Cannot solve the problem of world hunger but distract from its real causes – poverty, lack of access to food and, increasingly, lack of access to land to grow it on.
Based on the evidence presented in this report, there is no need to take risks with GM crops when effective, readily available, and sustainable solutions to the problems that GM technology is claimed to address already exist. Conventional plant breeding, in some cases helped by safe modern technologies like gene mapping and marker assisted selection, continues to outperform GM in producing high-yield, drought-tolerant, and pest- and disease-resistant crops that can meet our present and future food needs.

Download a PDF of the full GMO Myths and Truths report

For more information on this topic or related issues you can search the thousands of archived articles on the OCA website using keywords:


10 IRREFUTABLE evidence that GMO can harm you!


Seattle Organic Restaurants

10 IRREFUTABLE evidence that GMO can harm you!

monsanto- Long term toxicity of a Roundup herbicide and a Roundup-tolerant genetically modified maize

- Why genetically engineered food is dangerous: New report by genetic engineers

Nature is a living organism that functions through every cell and organ that is working together. There is nothing isolated in nature and everything is connected with one another. All these years, science has been trying to discover and explore complexity that exists in nature. However even the most advanced 3D engineering modeling and analysis cannot fully understand all the parameters and complexities that exists within the universe and sometimes the results aren’t even half close to reality. Although technology, industrialization and innovation have been revolutionary in human being’s life, at the same time they have resulted in dysfunction, scarcity and even destruction of our planet. In the last few decades one of the crises that our planet has been facing is modern agricultural. Extensive farming, use of pesticides, herbicides, chemical fertilizers, genetically modified foods or crops and invention of hormones and antibiotic that are fed to our livestock have drastically changed everything.

GMO dangers

Only 3% of US farm lands are planted with fruits and vegetables while 50% of farms are used for planting soy and corn. Even farmers treat what they plant as a commodity rather than food. With the anti-GMO labeling policies in America, there is no way that you would know, weather or not, what you buy in grocery stores are genetically modified or not. Even if you only buy organic foods, how could you know that the original seeds weren’t genetically modified? Yes the farmer might have used good soil without pesticides or chemicals to grow your favorite tomatoes, but there is no way that anyone would know where the actual seeds came from.


In the last three decades, industrialized agriculture, biotechnology and extensive use of pesticides, herbicides and chemical fertilizers have resulted in a nutrient-deficient soil. Mineral & nutritional deficiencies in soil, weak immune system in human beings and animals, new diseases, viruses & global warming are all related.

Environmental & Health Impact of GMO Seeds and Crops

Studies and research shows that soil microorganisms are very essential for soil fertility. Over 100 million microorganism and over 1000 species live in one gram of productive soil. Without these microorganisms that include fungi, bacteria, algae and insects, plants wouldn’t obtain the essential nutrition for growth.
Also, there was a huge change in US agriculture as the result of medical research on antibiotics, pesticides and synthetic chemicals during World War II.
Use of pesticides, herbicides and fungicides started killing fungi, weeds and useful bacteria in the soil. Excessive use of hormones and antibiotics also resulted in antibiotic resistant diseases in animals and people. Our soil and livestock were doing fine until genetic engineering was invented.

In genetic engineering a number of different genes are inserted into the recipient organism. At the same time chemicals & pesticides are sprayed on GMO crops which potentially results in destruction of most of the insects and living microorganisms in the soil.

GMO seeds

These engineering crops could also contaminate wild plants with new genes and that could result in production of widely spread viruses. GMO crops could be a danger to flies, insects, birds and other animals. GMO crops could also be a threat for crop diversity. These GMO crops over time become resistant to herbicides or pest control products so stronger herbicides or pest control products will be needed. As stronger herbicides or pest control products are used there would be a possibility for a more evolved version of viruses.

Here are actual cases of GMO’s harm to humans and livestock (that we eat):

1. There have been numerous cases where animals have died or became serious ill and were put down in order to avoid mass contamination or to calm down the panic that would have caused even more damage to the food industry. In Hesse, Germany many cows died suddenly when they were fed with Syngenta’s genetically engineered maize cow food and as a result of this incident the authorities in Germany decided to slaughter the rest of the cows to avoid having the mysterious disease to get out and contaminate other cattle houses. Syngenta did admit that the protein used for the cow food maize is also used for human genetically engineered foods. Oh dear, why has Syngenta now withdrawn this protein from human genetically engineered foods? Let’s ask FDA.

- Syngenta Charged for Covering up Livestock Deaths from GM Corn

- Doctors Warn: Avoid Genetically Modified Food

2. Why should you be concerned that cows eating GMO foods died and/or got contaminated with a mysterious disease? Because, if you eat meat or chicken that is contaminated as a result of a GMO with re-engineered DNA that is contaminated with a pathogen, then the DNA genes contaminate your cells and are also harmful to you. These DNA genes can be INSERTED into your own genes.

- Genetically Engineered Food Alters Our Digestive Systems

- Assessing Survival of Transgenic Plant DNA in the Human Gastrointestinal Tract

- DNA from GE foods can end up in your genes 


GMO corn

3. Roundup Ready Soy was given to mother rats as food during a study and it was discovered that 53% of the babies born died within a couple of weeks, about 10 times worse than normal. The biochemical form and structure of rats are very similar to human which is why they are used so often for studies to protect humans against various diseases. So the study should be of a major concern to FDA and other authorities that are concerned with health impediments of GMO’s. What should be even more concerning to FDA is that the GMO soy beans given to these rats caused serious disturbances to the liver by changing the cellular function of the liver and the cell nucleus, which may cause serious changes to the way our body operates at the biological level. Who knows how far this may go – may be in a few years of nucleus changes, men will even get pregnant since some already are growing breasts due to consumption of hormones.

- Mother Rats Fed Genetically Modified Soy Led to 56% Mortality of Offspring

- Biological Effects of Transgenic Maize Fed Long Term to Mice

- Genetically Modified Soy Linked to Sterility, Infant Mortality


GMO side effects 
 4. If you don’t eat beef or don’t much care about rats, then do you like lamb? When was the last time you had lamb kobabs or lamps cutlets? Nearly 2,000 sheep have died after grazing on GMO cotton crops and were found to have server toxicity and inflammation of intestines and the same toxin exists in GMO foods intended for future release to people, starting in Asia and Africa.

- Mortality in Sheep Flocks after Grazing on Bt Cotton FieldsWarangal District, Andhra Pradesh" Report of the Preliminary Assessment, April 2006

5. In United States gastrointestinal diseases (chronic and acute) have increased dramatically since mid 90s and this has been linked to GMO foods given to sheep. In Sweden, where no GMO foods are allowed for humans or cattle, there has been no change whatsoever. Scientists are still researching the inflammation causes to the intestine and the study will take another 2 years to complete, while GMO foods are still being given to sheep in US.

- Liver Damage Caused by GM Food

- How Genetically Modified Foods Lead to Inflammatory Bowel Disease

6. In UK, GMO soy was put through a thorough test on a group of students at Sheffield University, half on GMO soy and the other on non-GMO soy and the research was conducted with all other parameters being equal, e.g. water consumption, diet size, environmental factors, etc. By the end of the research the GMO soy fed subjects were experiencing some allergies with 50% of them experiencing long term allergies - compared to no GMO soy fed subjects.

7. In laboratory tests, again and again, animals avoided GMO foods compared to non-GMO equivalent. Should we trust the instincts of animals that live based on their instincts?

8. Argentina has been one of the first countries to convert half of their arable land to GMO food production and are now the country with a major serious agricultural nightmare which has resulted in more than 20,000 farmers losing their land and livelihoods to superweeds that have destroyed the soil and is now a major agricultural crises in the world.

In India every 30 minutes, one farmer commits suicide because of devastating side effects of genetically modified organisms.

9. Scientists and Genetic Engineers themselves (if not coerced nor threatened with unemployment – or worse) tell us that GMO as used in crop development is not precise or predictable and has not been shown to be safe. The technique can result in the unexpected production of toxins or allergens in food that are unlikely to be spotted in current regulatory checks.

- Why genetically engineered food is dangerous: New report by genetic engineers

- The Union of Concerned Scientists about GMO - Concerns Expressed by Government Scientists about GMOs - Dangers of Genetically Engineered Foods

GMO seeds

10. The scariest of them all – the authorities (FDA and others) as well as food corporations protest profusely to any kind of labeling of GMO foods. I don’t know about you, but that certainly concerns me that they would be so adamantly against labeling and so vehemently fighting against it – as if they have nothing better to do. Why are they so much against it? What is wrong with labeling or essentially saying, “… some foods are GMO and we (FDA) as well as our partners (Food Companies) don’t think there is anything wrong with them, but for the informed consumers’ choice and for fairness, we decided to include it in the labeling”. The fact that they assume that they know best and that they are the informed, logical, and trustworthy entity and us the people, who want labeling, are ignorant, fearful, and paranoid - tells me that they are hiding something. Why not be open and truthful and let people decide if they want GMO in their food or not? In a free country, should we not have the choice to eat GMO-free foods if we want?

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

9 Things You Should Know About the New Farm Bill



The House and Senate will vote soon on the new bills -- but there are important differences.

This week, both the House and Senate Agriculture committees adopted their versions of the 2013 Farm Bill. This is the latest move in the long-running attempt to pass a “normal” 5-year farm bill to replace one that was last passed in 2008. Several attempts to pass a farm bill in 2012 were unsuccessful and the farm bill that is currently in effect is a short-term extension that expires in September 2013.

There are some significant differences between the House and the Senate, in both what their bills actually contain and in the process used to get them through the committee. Both sides had an abbreviated process, skipping the normal step of conducting a series of hearings to explore various issues before writing the bill. But the Senate Agriculture Committee took the streamlining even further, managing to discuss, amend and pass its version of the bill in a little under three hours on Tuesday. The House Agriculture Committee finished theirs in a marathon session that took most of the day, wrapping up just before midnight Wednesday night.

Now each bill (HR 1947 and S 954) has to go to the floor for the whole body to vote on. The Senate is going first, with leadership claiming they will do the Farm Bill as early as next week. The full House may see their bill in June.
Here are some key differences between the two versions and things to look out for when the bills are on the floor:

1. Fair Markets for Farmers: It’s been a long battle to get the USDA to stop the abusive practices used by meatpackers and chicken processors to cheat ranchers and livestock producers raged on in this round. The 2008 farm bill directed the USDA to write rules to address commonplace abuses in the meatpacking and poultry sector, and the meat industry has been on the attack ever since. After years of fighting to get those rules in effect, the House Ag committee’s version of the Farm Bill repealed the few provisions of the “GIPSA Rule” that remained, which prohibited some of the most abusive things chicken companies do to contract poultry growers. The amendment also prohibits USDA from taking any action to curb emerging abuses in the meatpacking and poultry sector. The Senate bill does not contain this provision to repeal the rules.

2. Country of Origin Labeling: Just like livestock fairness rules, the meat industry has been out to kill country of origin labeling ever since it was included in the 2002 Farm Bill. Sen. Mike Johanns (R-NE) and Rep. Austin Scott (R-GA) each introduced amendments to repeal mandatory country of origin labeling, using the flimsy excuse that the World Trade Organization decision last year meant the program must end. The USDA is poised to release a technical change to COOL requirements that address the WTO decision, and there is no need for Congress to get involved in COOL at this point. The amendments were withdrawn in committee (probably because the enemies of COOL did not have the votes to win), but this issue will very likely come up again when the bills goes to the floor.

3. Food Safety: The 2008 Farm Bill shifted catfish inspection from the Food and Drug Administration to the USDA. U.S. consumers and catfish farmers wanted to replace the FDA’s lackluster inspection regime that allowed too many dangerous imports, hurting catfish’s reputation in the marketplace. Ever since, seafood importers have been trying to stop this from happening because they don’t want imported catfish to have to undergo the more rigorous inspection that would come with a USDA program. The House version of the bill repeals the catfish inspection program at the USDA and would move it back to FDA.

4. Organic: Organic agriculture fared much better in the Senate version of the bill, which restores funding for several “stranded” organic programs that expired last year, including data collection about organic agriculture, organic research funding and a cost-share program for newly certified organic farms and processors. Only the research program is funded in the House bill.

The biggest news on the organic front is that while critical organic programs have struggled to survive the last year’s craziness in the farm bill, both the House and Senate bills include language that would allow the creation of an organic “checkoff” program. The USDA-created checkoff programs fund research and promotion efforts for specific commodities (like cattle, hogs, eggs, etc.) by collecting a mandatory fee from farmers when they sell their products. Checkoff programs have paid for some famous advertising efforts like “Beef: It’s What’s for Dinner” and “Got Milk?”

Problem is, many farmers hate the checkoffs because they think the funds (which come from their sales) are not spent on things that actually help them but instead fund trade associations that are often dominated by meatpackers and processors. The USDA has a long history of poor oversight of the funds, which allows a lot of industry mischief that doesn’t benefit farmers. Creating a checkoff program for all organic products is controversial and we and many farmers oppose it.

5. Nutrition Safety Net: Not surprisingly, both committees took big swipes at the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (or SNAP, formerly known as food stamps) that provides a nutrition safety net for lower-income people. More than half of the overall savings found in the House bill were created by cutting SNAP by $20 billion. These cuts were five times bigger than the still-too-large $4 billion cut by the Senate committee. The cuts would squeeze people off SNAP largely by making it harder for people to qualify for the program. This was a topic of fierce debate in the House committee and will be a major issue on the House floor. Last year, the full House never voted on the Farm Bill, in large part because of controversy over food stamps.

6. Commodity Programs: Both the House and Senate bills end direct payments to farmers raising commodity crops and shift them towards crop insurance instead of government commodity programs. There was a big fight in the House committee over the dairy program, one that is sure to continue when the bill goes to the House floor. The House committee’s bill includes a program designed by Ag Committee Ranking Member Collin Peterson (D-MN) that creates a program to pay dairy farmers when the margin between the price of their milk and the cost of the feed they buy drops below a set level. It also has mechanisms to discourage overproduction of milk when prices are low. Dairy processing companies that love buying cheap milk from farmers hate this program and fought hard to get it out of the bill but were unsuccessful. The Peterson program is more popular with dairy farmers, but doesn’t actually do enough to ensure that the price farmers receive for their milk reflects their total production costs, according to family dairy farmers.

7. Conservation: Conservation programs to protect fragile land, like the Conservation Security Program, have taken a beating in the last several rounds of budget cutting and Farm Bill extensions. This hasn’t really improved in either the House or Senate bills; both sides reduced funding for conservation by combining or eliminating existing programs. The Senate bill includes a requirement that farmers receiving government support to pay crop insurance premiums must be in compliance with conservation standards (conservation compliance was already required for the commodity programs). The Senate bill also added a focus on protecting bees and other pollinators and includes veterans to the list of types of farmers with designated conservation programs.

8. Beginning Farmers and Local Food: There were some improvements in programs for beginning and socially disadvantaged farmers, including a measure in the House bill to create a Socially Disadvantaged Farmer and Rancher Policy Center and support in both the House and Senate bills for the Healthy Food Financing Initiative, which provides funding to help site retailers selling fresh food in underserved communities.

9. House Amendment Attack’s States Ability to Regulate Food and 
Agriculture: An amendment by Rep. Steve King (R-IA) would effectively overturn state laws that set food and agriculture standards that are higher than federal rules. The broad measure is an attack on laws passed by states to establish more humane livestock rules (the purported aim of the amendment) but would also prevent states from setting stronger food safety rules, agriculture product standards, protections against invasive pests or livestock diseases or conceivably even efforts to label GE foods. Federal law should set a floor not a ceiling on what local citizens want in the food and farming systems; this language must be removed as the Farm Bill moves forwards.

We’ll have more news next week about when the full Senate will vote on the Farm Bill and what you can do to make the bill better.

Patty Lovera is assistant director at Food and Water Watch.