The problems with Genetically Modified (GM) foods are as many as they are varied. Respected scientists have risked everything to step forward and warn consumers that this new fast-track “solution to world hunger” is bad for their health and the environment, but to little avail. Giant agri-business companies such as Monsanto forge ahead to flood the world’s food chain with experimental technologies that are proving to be harmful to life. The worst part is, the longer this reckless experiment is allowed to go on, the closer we get to a complete planetary takeover by Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO).
The GMO Cover-up
Dr. Arpad Pusztai, PhD, FRSE, “one of the few genuinely independent scientists specializing in plant genetics and animal feeding studies” (OCA, 2005), worked for the Rowett Research Institute in Aberdeen, Scotland in 1998. During his employment, he was commissioned to study potatoes “fitted” or genetically modified (GM) with a lectin gene from Galanthus Nivalis, a European plant. He inserted the gene into the potatoes himself, then fed the GM potatoes to lab rats in order to document the effects. What he found was that these potatoes had damaged the organs of the rats and depressed their immune systems. On August 10, 1998, Dr. Pusztai appeared on a British documentary and issued a warning to the public about the inadequate testing of GM foods, and revealed his test results. For his candor, Dr. Pusztai was accused of incompetence, and forced to retire.
A scandal ensued after Dr. Pusztai raised questions about the safety of GM potatoes. Accusations that Monsanto used its influence to ram the technology through with bribery and coercion were made, as chronicled by the Doric Column (1999):
12 February 1999: Twenty scientists from 14 countries who have examined Pusztai's report accuse Rowett of bowing to political pressure. The group calls for a moratorium on GM crops.
13 February 1999: The British government "rejects calls for a moratorium amid allegations that it is in the pocket of the biotech industry."
14 February 1999: Rowett is reported to have received £140,000 from Monsanto before the blow-up.
Dr. Pusztai was later “asked by the German authorities in the autumn of 2004 to examine Monsanto's own 1,139-page report on the feeding of MON863 to laboratory rats over a 90-day period” (OCA, 2005). He was forced to sign a “declaration of secrecy,” or gag order before Monsanto would allow him to see the report.
This would not be so bad if it were not for the fact that Dr Pusztai's evaluation was highly critical of both the methods and the findings of the study, indicating that MON863 maize by no means has a "clean bill of health." Subsequent leaks from France, Germany and Belgium suggest that the maize variety may indeed be unsafe for animal or human consumption, and that a major cover-up is under way, designed to protect the corporate giant Monsanto and the regulatory authorities that have prematurely advised that MON863 is perfectly safe. (GM-Free Ireland, 2005).
His concerns regarding the dangers of MON863 maize after seeing the report were the same as several German and other European scientists, “but the German Government refused to publish their findings, and insisted that Dr Pusztai should respect his "gagging order"” (OCA, 2005).
Not to be held back in its rush to give the okay to GMO foods and the questionable technology behind them, The European Safety Authority commissioned its own set of experts to conclude that,
MON863 was perfectly safe and wholesome. More seriously, in the EFSA Statement, and in subsequent Monsanto press releases, Dr Pusztai was named and criticized in spite of the fact that it was known by all concerned that he was effectively "gagged" and could not defend himself. (OCA, 2005)
Independent Research Confirms - GMO Food is Dangerous
On October 10, during the symposium over genetic modification, which was organized by the National Association for Genetic Security (NAGS), Doctor of Biology Irina Ermakova made public the results of the research led by her at the Institute of Higher Nervous Activity and Neurophysiology of the Russian Academy of Sciences (RAS). This is the first research that determined clear dependence between eating genetically modified soy and the posterity of living creatures (Regnum, 2005).
Over half of the rats born to mothers who ate GM-soy (55-56%) were dead in three weeks, as opposed to a 9% mortality rate in rats whose mothers ate normal soy. “The morphology and biochemical structures of rats are very similar to those of humans, and this makes the results we obtained very disturbing,” said Irina Ermakova to NAGS press office. (Regnum, 2005)
Another glaring example of the dangers of GMO food is that of Syngenta and the German farmer, Gottfried Glockner of North Hessen. As William Engdahl explains in Seeds of Destruction,
This farmer found evidence that planting Syngenta Bt-176 genetically engineered corn to feed his cattle in 1997 had been responsible for killing off his cattle, destroying his milk production, and poisoning his farmland. Syngenta's Bt-176 corn had been engineered to produce a toxin of Bacillus thuringiensis, which they claimed was deadly to a damaging insect, the European Corn Borer (pg. 230).
GMO Technology Threatens the World’s Food Supply
Not only is GMO food harmful to the animals that eat it, but it also has the potential to overcome the crops around it. Insects, birds, and wind carry seeds into neighboring fields and beyond. This is cross-pollination, and cannot be controlled in an outdoor environment. Genetically engineered plants are no exception to this. The pollen from GM plants can cross-pollinate with normal plants and contaminate entire fields. With the proliferation of GM crops, this is a real danger.
In 1996, there were approximately 6,563 square miles of farmland in the world devoted to GMO crops. In 2006, there were 393,828 square miles devoted to GMO crops (GMO Compass, 2007). This is a 5900% increase in land devoted to GMO crops in a 10-year period! At this rate, the amount of GM crops will double in the next ten years, not including cross-pollination factors.
Is “Organic” Really Organic?
Even foods labeled “organic” are allowed a percentage of GMO contamination.
“EU Agricultural Ministers have decided to allow organic food accidentally contaminated with genetically modified organisms to be classified as organic as long as the GMO presence is less than 0.9%” (Shield, 2007).
In the United States, “the US National Organic Program (NOP) rules prohibit GMOs in organics but don’t require methods to prohibit GMO contamination or establish thresholds for adventitious GM presence” (Roseboro, 2007).
Many organic companies simply do not want to undergo the expense and effort necessary to test their fields for GMO contamination, but some say that it is essential in order to maintain integrity.
Jack Olson is an organic farmer in Litchville, North Dakota, who grows organic soybeans, wheat, and other crops. “It’s hard for one organic farmer to fight Monsanto,” he says. Still, Olson puts up with the inconveniences because he is committed to organic agriculture. “At least we’re clean, that’s why we grow organic. It’s God’s way,” he says. (Roseboro, 2007)
Fighting the Giant
It is difficult to fight the giant like Jack Olson is doing, but essential for health and the survival of our food supply. Scientists that are not afraid to speak out, and organic farmers that are not afraid to compete with companies such as Monsanto and offer customers GMO-free organic foods, stand between the agri-business giants intent on profiting from an improperly tested technology and the people who need the information and resources to make sure that what they are eating is healthy and nutritious. Without these people, the Monsantos of the world will soon have us eating nothing but their genetically engineered foods, with no thought for the consequences of their actions.
© 2008, Barbara H. Peterson
Doric Column. (1999). Transgenic Potatoes Á La Carte.
Engdahl, F.W. (2007). Seeds of Destruction. Global Research.
GM Free Ireland. (2005). Monsanto GM Maize Conspiracy Revealed.
GMO Compass. (2007). Transgenic Crops by Trait. GM Trait Statistics.
Organic Consumers Association (OCA). (2005). Monsanto's GE Corn Experiments on Rats Continue to Generate Global Controversy
Regnum. (2005). Genetically modified soy affects posterity: Results of Russian scientists’ studies.
Roseboro, K. (2007). How Organic is Organic? New Calls for Testing Organic Foods for GMOs. Environmental News Network.
Shield, P. (2007). GMOs Threaten Organic Standards. Organic Consumers Association (OCA).