The Audacity of Genetically Modified Foods

Published on
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the Boulder Daily Camera (Colorado)

The Audacity of Genetically Modified Foods

The biotech industry, led by Monsanto, promotes the idea that the arguments about genetically modified crops should focus on the science and the economics as Monsanto sees them. I maintain that the real discussion should be about the audacity and illegitimate way GM crops have been forced on a reluctant United States and world -- the money, corruption, politics and obfuscation that characterize its rise to dominance. The discussion should focus on how GM crops have taken over our food supply with little concern for safety or our right to choose.

Does it bother you that we consumers are largely unaware that 70 percent to 80 percent of the processed foods we buy contain GM ingredients? We are "largely unaware" because these foods are not labeled -- even though 90 percent of Americans want them labeled and think that we have the right to know what is in our food. The biotech industry fights labeling viciously because they know that, if GM foods were labeled, many would refuse to buy them as is the case in Europe. It`s not financial considerations that leave us with no choice; it`s our lack of awareness that allows them to take advantage of us. How many realize that Kraft Mac & Cheese is non-GM in Europe but does contain GM ingredients in the United States?

Our regulatory bodies and government are staffed with pro-GM people, a veritable revolving door. Michael Taylor, a Monsanto lawyer, moved from Monsanto to the Food and Drug Administration where he wrote the rules that were used to justify the release of Monsanto`s bovine growth hormone RBGH. He then returned to Monsanto as vice president. He currently is the FDA deputy commissioner for foods -- not the best place for a person with such apparent bias. And Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, previously general counsel for Monsanto, supported a ruling that GM alfalfa could be released. He does not recuse himself in cases like this involving conflict of interest.

There are minimal requirements for independent testing of GM crops and foods. Testing is left to the biotech companies who then choose which tests to submit to our regulatory bodies. This results from the gift of "substantial equivalence" that says we don`t need to do thorough testing because GM crops are substantially equivalent to regular crops. But how can we know they are substantially equivalent if we don`t thoroughly test them? Who do our regulatory bodies represent? Aren't they in place to protect our health? Shouldn't they be doing or overseeing the testing in our interest?

There is significant correlation between the increase in incidence of serious health problems and the introduction of various GM crops into our foods. Check out Robyn O`Brien`s "The Unhealthy Truth." Why would the incidence of peanut allergies begin increasing 20 percent yearly just after GM soy came into widespread use in the United States in 1996? Why would the incidence of soy allergies increase by 50 percent in 1998, the year GM soy was introduced in the United Kingdom? Correlation is not the same as cause and effect but determining cause is almost impossible when foods are not labeled.

What can we learn from the numerous cases where wild or domestic animals refuse to eat GM crops but willingly eat the non-GM equivalent? Even more drastic are the cases of animals dying following their consumption of GM crops -- not only lab test animals but farm animals. Obviously changes are occurring within the plant that go way beyond what was intended. I remember a statement from Chris Bright that "nature is a system of unfathomable complexity." Any messing with it should proceed with much greater caution than we are seeing today.

Roundup Ready GM alfalfa has been approved by the Department of Agriculture and is about to be grown large scale and will become the food for much of our meat and dairy animals. Alfalfa is water-intensive and has no significant weed problem while being extremely effective at contaminating other crops. I think this counter-intuitive agriculture policy is indicative of the revolving door and its attendant corruption.

Dominance of GM crops and food results in suppressing the growth of organic agriculture as well as traditional, non-GM, agriculture. Contamination, super weeds and constant efforts to weaken organic standards truly threaten the vibrant organic food industry in Colorado and the nation.

Monsanto and the biotech industry are well on their way to controlling the world`s seed markets. This, together with the lack of labeling, denies us freedom of choice in what we buy. It also dominates and controls farmers worldwide -- what they plant and how they operate.

Our favorite fruits, vegetables and grains are being readied for the GM market that views us as guinea pigs. Why are we and our elected representatives allowing them to do this to us? I highly recommend "Seeds of Deception" by Jeffrey Smith as well as his Web site: responsibletechnology.org. Resistance to GM foods is increasing rapidly and this Web site offers strategies and tools for involvement in this critical issue.

Bruce Robinson

Bruce Robinson, a retired software developer, lives in Boulder, Colorado.

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