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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 10/23/10

Genetically Modified Foods and the Monsanto Initiative

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"If people let the government decide what foods they eat and what medicines they take, their bodies will soon be in as sorry a state as are the souls of those who live under tyranny." Thomas Jefferson

Deception, manipulation, propaganda and profit: These words have become the basis of the American corporate and political landscape without any seeming concern or guilt over their promulgation. One company in particular, which seems to be the iconographic example of this is Monsanto or so go the claims today by the "conspiracy crowd" in reaction to the Genetically Modified (GM) food technology and its apparent governmental backing.

In order to understand the purpose of GM foods and the reasons stated for its implementation, the powers that be will tell us we need only look at the current global environment and the necessity of solutions to provide an adequate food supply to those in need in the global community. Farmable land and access to water, energy, and biological resources are not as plentiful in many countries as they are in many parts of America. These shortages equate to low crop yield which means certain death and starvation to many people around the world each year.

Unfortunately, the facts surrounding these assertions are accurate. According to the World Bank and the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, "1.02 billion people are undernourished, a sizable increase from its 2006 estimate of 854 million people," which indicates a combination of insufficient food, low incomes, and inadequate distribution of food. This is the largest number of hungry humans ever recorded in history. Likewise, reports from numerous other international organizations and reputable scientific researchers confirm the existence of these serious food supply problems. In the face of these realities, the U.S. Government will have us believe it that we NEED GM foods to meet the demands of a modern world.

Arguments for the research into and implementation of GM foods claim to support the initiatives to combat these problems. Proponents tell us that GMO foods bring higher crop yields, allow farmers to use less pesticides and fertilizers thereby decreasing environmental impact and allow the growth of crops in harsh environments. Though these all seem like ideal solutions to our present, global dilemma, opponents tell us that these claims do not agree with much of the scientific research on the issue and are only creating an increased danger to consumers. It seems that the biggest concern stemming from the GM process is generated mainly by ignorance of the process and the mounting threats that independent researchers say it poses to public health.

Currently, two particular genetically altered foods are at the forefront of the controversy. They are the appropriately named Franken Fish (genetically altered Salmon) and BT corn. As far as I can tell, research has not yet been done to thoroughly examine the long term effects of these foods and that which has been done does not give much confidence for the consumption of these items. So far, this research has only uncovered a string of objections for the importation of them into many countries from the United States.

To date several countries have banned the product based on their own research findings. The European Union has just recently done so adding to a rising front against the questionable product despite U.S. threats of trade barriers. The United States, despite the mounting objections and research-based proof of their dangers to human health, is still refusing to ban the genetically manipulated products. It seems curious that our government is not heeding the warnings of so many other nations.

Studies that are conclusive to the effects of GM foods cannot be found from US agencies to deem this technology safe. The little research that has been done, independent of our government, has not pointed to a very healthy outcome. In 2009, The American Academy of Environmental Medicine (AAEM) called for a Moratorium on GMO Foods. They stated that "GM foods pose a serious health risk." Citing several animal studies, the AAEM concludes "there is more than a casual association between GMO foods and adverse health effects," and that "GM foods pose a serious health risk in the areas of toxicology, allergy and immune function, reproductive health, and metabolic, physiologic and genetic health."

Another alleged advantage to this modern wonder of biological meddling: that of higher crop yields to feed the population with less acreage has also come into question. On this subject, the AAEM has stated that "over time GMO harvest yields were lower than conventional yields and required over time, more not less, highly toxic herbicidal chemicals such as glyphosate, with the exception of Bt corn." However, the slight yield gain for Bt corn they report was "largely due to traditional breeding improvements, and not to GMO."

Backing up this claim, researchers at the University of Nebraska conducted controlled studies comparing the Roundup Ready soybean with non-engineered soybeans and found consistent yield decreases with the GE beans of between 5 and 10%. Likewise, claims that Round-up Ready crops will mean less herbicide in our ground water have been debunked.

To this effect, the Alliance For Bio-Integrity writes that "farmers who plant crops that are genetically engineered to resist the herbicide Roundup are now applying more of it to their fields." They have noted that "research conducted by the Denmark and Greenland Geological Research Institution has discovered that the Roundup used in Danish agriculture is unexpectedly polluting the ground water with its active ingredient glyphosate at five times the acceptable level." One could easily dismiss these findings as the result of older data and the testing of emerging product rather that the product in use but the evidence is just too abundant.

In addition to the debunking of initial claims to the benefits of this technology, the secrecy surrounding these precariously researched products seems to be only raising concerns rather than the additional crops it promises. GMO has been in production for nearly 30 years but solid evidence of its innocuous nature is quite difficult to find. It begs the question then: Why is GM food being forced into our diet and why is our government so vehemently pushing it upon the global population even after it has been shown to not meet the standards by which they have promoted it?

There is a well documented "revolving door' between Monsanto employees and officials from US Government regulatory bodies. For example, the USDA secretary Ann Veneman is a former director of Calgene (swallowed by Monsanto and now part of Pharmacia). Clarence Thomas, a Supreme Court Justice who presided over the recent case to decide whether to allow some farmers to plant Monsanto's Roundup Ready alfalfa seeds, was once a Monsanto Attorney. These connections do not bode well for outcomes favoring the health of We the People. Add that to the initiative to control the global market of sterile seeds and there emerges great motivation to deceive the global population.

Seemingly, as a reaction to the growing skepticism and scientific research into the adverse effects of GM foods and the demand for these foods to be labeled so consumers can readily identify the products, our government made the following statement:

"There is No Right to Consume or Feed Children Any Particular Food; There is No Generalized Right to Bodily and Physical Health; There is No Fundamental Right to Freedom of Contract." ~ US Dept of Health & Human Services and US Food & Drug Administration, 2010.

This governmental stance on the voiced objections to GMO is not just addressed to we informed Americans, it also seems to serve as a premise by which the spread of GM Foods has become a global endeavor. The United States, under several administrations including Presidents Reagan, Bush, Clinton, Bush(2) and Obama, has introduced Monsanto seed stocks into several countries including the most recently invested country of Iraq, the safety for which we have charged ourselves.

The Agribusiness Examiner has reported about this initiative...

"The seeds farmers are now allowed to plant -- 'protected' crop varieties brought into Iraq by transnational corporations in the name of agricultural reconstruction -- will be the property of the corporations. While historically the Iraqi constitution prohibited private ownership of biological resources, the new U.S. imposed patent law introduces a system of monopoly rights over seeds."

The greatest proof to the backing of GM foods by the American Government comes from the actions of the Bush Administration which "had been engaged in a running fight with a bloc of African countries who, on their own initiative, sought international rules to regulate GMOs through negotiation of a Biosafety Protocol. The Biosafety Treaty was completed despite U.S. administration attempts to undercut it. The treaty allows the sorts of policies Europe and many African countries and now major U.S. trade partners from China to Brazil are also enacting regarding the segregation and labeling of GMOs. By launching this attack, the Bush Administration had put the interests of its agribusiness supporters over many of the values it purports to seek for the world: democracy, accountability and openness." The Administration, spurred on by the biotech and agribusiness industries, viewed the moratorium, as well as any regulations on tracking the origin of GM products or labeling, as "barriers to trade."

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Steven Forrest is a Project Architect living in St. Petersburg, Florida. Currently, he is working to implement Green Building initiatives in several communities across Florida. Given the current situation in America and the continued (more...)
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