By Jeffrey Smith
A former Monsanto scientist confided to me that following their tests on milk from cows injected with the company’s genetically engineered bovine growth hormone (rbGH), three of his colleagues refused ever to drink milk again—unless it was organic. One went so far as to buy his own cow. What caused this dramatic switch? High levels of the cancer-promoting hormone Insulin-like Growth Factor-1 (IGF-1) found in rbGH in the milk. Studies have found that even IGF-1 levels at the high end of the normal range may accelerate the development of tumors, which is one reason rbGH (also known as rbST) is banned in Europe.
The scientist also alleged that after other Monsanto employees discovered adverse reactions in rodents that were fed genetically modified (GM) corn, instead of withdrawing their dangerous crop, they rewrote the study to hide the problems.
Stories like these may explain why in 1999, the manager of the restaurant located inside Monsanto’s UK headquarters wrote the following. “In response to concern raised by our customers . . . we have decided to remove, as far as practicable, genetically modified soy and maize (corn) from all food products served in our restaurant.”
Europeans Do It. Animals Do It. Why Don’t We?
For Europeans, identifying and avoiding genetically modified organisms (GMOs) is easy—they require labels. But since better-informed Europeans don’t want to eat GMOs, the food companies there don’t use them. Those same corporations, such as Kraft, Nestle, and Hershey, continue to serve mostly unaware Americans the GMOs that Europe and others have declined.
When I say others, I don’t mean just humans; it’s animals, too. Just this year, about 50 farmers have confirmed to me that when given a choice, animals won’t touch the GM corn or soy. Well, that’s not entirely true. Sometimes they taste it and spit it out. In fact, some wild animals, such as squirrels and crows, do the same.
Veterinarian and author Dan Skow says, “I can assure you, if you give animals a choice, I know for sure they’ll take the non GMO every time. That I know for sure . . . whether it’s deer, cattle, pheasants, chickens, mice, rats. I’ve not seen one that doesn’t seem to be able to discern between which is which.”
Choosing Healthier GMO-free Foods
One way to avoid GMOs is to buy organic. Even the George W. Bush family opted for organic. According to the New York Times, “The former first lady, Laura Bush, insisted that fresh, organic foods be served in the White House, but did not broadcast that fact to the public.” And in addition to insisting that food prepared at the White House be organic, current First Lady Michelle Obama has taken it a step further with a high-profile organic kitchen garden. But not everyone has unlimited access to organic foods, which are not allowed to (intentionally) contain GMO ingredients (though accidental contamination is possible).
Another way to avoid GMO crops and their derivatives is to find brands that don’t use any. Fortunately, there are only nine commercialized GMO food crops: soy, corn, cottonseed (oil), canola (oil), sugar beets, Hawaiian papaya, a little zucchini and crook neck squash, and alfalfa hay for horse and cow feed. Unfortunately, the “offspring” of soy and corn include numerous processed ingredients found in packaged foods, and it’s a bit of a scavenger hunt to avoid the risky ingredients. You can get help at www.NonGMOShoppingGuide.com, or download the free iPhone app ShopNoGMO for a list of thousands of products by category, all verified by the Non-GMO Project.
Although we applaud this program, which backs up companies’ voluntary non-GMO claims, it’s in sharp contrast to Europe’s mandatory labels for products using GMO. Why didn’t the FDA give Americans this right to know that is enjoyed by citizens of more than 50 countries? It’s certainly not that we lack interest; multiple opinion polls confirm that 9 out of 10 Americans want GMOs labeled.
It’s probably because the FDA is officially mandated to promote biotechnology. And they also know another statistic: According to a 2009 CBS News-New York Times poll, most Americans (53 percent) say they would avoid eating brands labeled as GMO. Labeling could therefore hurt the economic interests of the five seed producers of GMO food crops—Monsanto, DuPont, Syngenta, Bayer and Dow.
A California Ballot Measure Could Change the World
Californians are fighting back with a ballot initiative to finally give us the labels the vast majority of us have wanted for more than a decade. While this circumvents corporate lobbying and influence peddling, it doesn’t avoid another well-worn tool—blatant lying. Brace yourself for a massive disinformation campaign designed to trick you into voting against your own self interest.
Here’s a short list of some of the most popular fabrications:
#1: It’s safe.
According to an American Academy of Environmental Medicine Position Paper in 2009, lab animals fed GMOs showed reproductive disorders, immune dysfunction, cellular and metabolism changes that may be linked to premature aging, GI problems, and insulin and cholesterol issues. It urged all physicians to “avoid GMO foods when possible.” And it supported labeling.
Subsequent studies make eating GMOs even less appetizing. Corn is engineered to produce a pesticide called Bt-toxin, which breaks open the stomach of insects and kills them. Although the manufacturers swore up and down the pesticide didn’t affect humans, a February 2012 study confirmed that Bt-toxin did break down the membranes of human embryonic kidney cells, meaning it is likely to do the same to other types of human cells not yet studied in this context. And a 2011 Canadian study found the toxin circulating in the blood of pregnant mothers and unborn fetuses.
#2: It’s well-regulated by the FDA.
The FDA doesn’t require a single safety study on GMOs. They allow companies such as Monsanto, which assured us their poisonous DDT, Agent Orange, and PCBs were safe, to determine if their own GMOs are safe. Although a civil lawsuit that resulted in 44,000 pages of documents being released by the FDA showed that their scientists had all kinds of concerns and warnings about GMOs, including that the foods could lead to hard-to-detect allergens, toxins, new diseases, and nutritional problems, these warnings and their recommendations for testing were ignored by the political appointee in charge—Michael Taylor, Monsanto’s former attorney, later their vice president, now the U.S. Food Safety Czar. Really!
#3: It lowers the use of agricultural chemicals.
The primary trait of GMO crops is called “herbicide tolerance.” In other words, they can survive deadly doses of herbicide. This has resulted in a huge increase of herbicide use—hundreds of millions of pounds, according to USDA data. A major culprit is Monsanto’s Roundup, sprayed on the company’s patented Roundup Ready crops. The herbicide, which has been linked to birth defects, hormone problems, and cancer, stays active in the soil for a very long time and is present in significantly higher concentrations in the food portion of Roundup Ready crops.
#4: It will feed the world.
When pro-GMO agriculture secretary Tom Vilsack tried to invoke this empty PR tactic at a conference filled with actual experts at feeding the world, he was booed and hissed by an audience that understood that the current generation of GMOs has nothing to offer in this regard. The Union of Concerned Scientists report Failure to Yield, exposes that GMOs don’t deliver the promised yield increase. And the epic IAASTD report on global agriculture, produced by more than 400 scientists and signed onto by nearly 60 countries, also explodes the myth that current GMOs hold the promise to feed the expanding population.
#5: Labeling will cost you lots and lots of money.
According to state government’s analysis, the annual cost to “monitor compliance” with the labeling requirements has a low price tag of “up to one million dollars annually.” That’s less than 3 cents per citizen. If, however, food companies choose to eliminate GMOs rather than admit they use them, the measure will cost Monsanto plenty. Wouldn’t that be a shame.
To get involved with the campaign, go to labelGMOs.org. If you see someone collecting signatures outside a food market, sign on to help get the measure on the ballot. To watch videos, read more, and get a free newsletter, visit ResponsibleTechnology.org. To learn to avoid GMOs even before the measure passes, see NonGMOShoppingGuide.com or download the iPhone ShopNoGMO app. And be sure to vote in favor of the measure, and to encourage a thousand of your closest personal friends to do the same.
International bestselling author and filmmaker Jeffrey M. Smith is executive director of the Institute for Responsible Technology. He is the author of “Seeds of Deception” and “Genetic Roulette,” and will be touring California with his upcoming film on GMOs during the campaign season.
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