Monday, November 9, 2015


44 Reasons To Ban or Label GMOs
By Gary Null
07 November, 2015
Progressive Radio Network
For twenty years the federal government, through the USDA and FDA, has stated unequivocally that genetically-modified organisms (GMOs) are safe and can help feed the world and save lives. However, over the last two decades independent scientists have brought forth challenges to the prevailing dogma on this important issue. The response of the GMO industry to any critic–irrespective of their credentials or the scientific evidence they provide–is that they are wrong. To determine where the truth lies, we have set about reviewing all available scientific literature on the safety and efficacy of GMOs. The results of our independent investigation are stated in the following 44 reasons to ban or label GMOs. All of the information is footnoted and fully referenced.
1.Because 91% of Americans want GMO labeling.[1]
2.Because 64 countries around the world including Japan, Australia, China and the entire European Union require GMO labeling.
3.Because in September 2015, Russia completely banned the production of food using GMOs. This came after the country undertook independent scientific research of the GMO issue.[2]
4.Because GMO giant Monsanto has a history of producing highly dangerous chemical compounds including DDT, Agent Orange, saccharin, and recombinant bovine growth hormone, all of which are known to cause significant health issues. [3]
5.Because Monsanto has launched smear campaigns against GMO labeling advocates, organic farmers, anti-GMO organizations, and made threats of lawsuits against state governments and media outlets for even suggesting mandatory labeling. For example, supporters of GMOs recently pressured Reuters to fire veteran journalist Carey Gillam for reporting fairly on GMOs.[4]
6.Because the pro-GMO lobby pushes its own research that contradicts the conclusions of independent studies on GMO safety. The Hindustani Times remarked that “There are over 500 research publications by scientists of indisputable integrity, who have no conflict of interest, that establish harmful effects of GMO crops to human, animal and plant health, and on the environment and biodiversity… On the other hand, virtually every paper supporting GM crops is by scientists who have a declared conflict of interest or whose credibility and integrity can be doubted.”[5]
7.Because according a meta-analysis carried out by researchers at Caen University in France, a GMO feed diet contributes to kidney and liver toxicity in rats.[6]
8.Because a study published in the Turkish Journal of Biology in December 2014, associates GM corn and soy consumption with several health complications in rats including DNA damage, abnormal sperm, blood changes, and damage to liver, kidney, and testes.[7]
9.Because pregnant goats fed a diet of GM soybeans were found to produce less nutritious milk and give birth to offspring that grew slower and were shorter.[8]
10.Because GM tomatoes were discovered to cause stomach lesions in research mammals.[9]
11.Because the genetic engineering of foods can trigger allergic reactions to GM substances. For example, one study carried out by researchers at the University of Nebraska showed that an allergen commonly found in brazil nuts that is used in the creation of GM soybeans caused an allergic reaction in individuals who consumed soybeans.[10]
12.Because research demonstrates that DNA fragments from GM foods can enter the human bloodstream. Considering that the health risks posed by GM foods are still not well understood, this finding is especially troubling.[11]
13.Because an increase in GMO consumption in the United States has coincided with a rise in health issues among the US population. According to Jeffrey Smith’s Institute for Responsible Technology, “numerous health problems increased after GMOs were introduced in 1996. The percentage of Americans with three or more chronic illnesses jumped from 7% to 13% in just 9 years; food allergies skyrocketed, and disorders such as autism, reproductive disorders, digestive problems, and others are on the rise.” While this connection has not been confirmed through science, it’s important that we investigate the potential associations between human health issues and GMOs.[12]
14.Because GMO crops are prone to failure. Bt insecticidal brinjal eggplant in Bangladesh is facing widespread collapse, with a failure rate of four out of five farms. In Brazil, after only three years of GM Bt cultivation, pest resistance has been observed. Similar observations are being reported in Bt maize in Puerto Rico, Brazil, Philippines, South Africa and US, and in Bt cotton in Australia, China, India and the US. American scientists confirmed that rootworms destroying corn fields are no longer resistant to GM corn.[13][14]
15.Because GM crops contaminate non-GM agriculture through cross pollination, polluting the genetic integrity of crops for many years to come.
16.Because South Korea, despite having a nationwide ban on the cultivation of GM crops, is currently contending with wild GM crops sprouting across the country. Officials fear that these wild GM strains will disrupt local ecosystems.[15]
17.Because GMO cross pollination has resulted in financial hardship and difficulty for farmers who wish to grow crops that are non-GMO and organic.
18.Because GMO research can be costly and ineffective. In 2015, a trial testing out the viability of GM wheat in the UK failed miserably when aphids destroyed an entire crop, costing the taxpaying public about $5 million.[16]
19.Because permaculture and organic farming practices are being refined to create sustainable agricultural models in the long term. For example, scientists have found that crops can actually sense pests approaching and attract pest predators in order to survive. Kenyan farmers have used this knowledge to successfully eliminate an insidious pest affecting their corn crops at no cost.[17]
20.Because rats fed a diet of GM Roundup Ready crops were observed to have structural and functional alterations to liver cells.[18]
21.Because it was revealed in 2015 that GM salmon is more susceptible to disease and slower growing than their non-GM counterparts.[19]
22.Because the FDA approved GMOs to be introduced into the American food supply despite some FDA scientists raising questions about the safety of GMO consumption in the long term.[20]
23.Because some GM crops are sprayed with chemicals that have been found to decrease their nutritional value. A recent meta-analysis published in the British Journal of Nutrition which reviewed 373 studies concluded that organically grown fruits and vegetables contain up to 69% greater amounts of important antioxidant compounds when compared to their conventionally grown counterparts.[21
24.Because GM corn has been found to be nutritionally inferior to non-GM corn in terms of vital nutrient content. One assay found that non-GM corn is 437% richer in calcium, 56% times richer in magnesium and 16% richer in potassium.[22]
25.Because the Grocery Manufacturer’s Association (GMA), representing food giants including PepsiCo, ConAgra, Nestle and Kellogg has spent tens of millions of dollars in lobbying efforts to keep Americans from knowing if their food contains GMOs. In an apparent attempt to undermine the democratic process, this group has sued the state of Vermont in 2014 after it became the first state to require GMO labeling.[23]
26.Because Big Ag companies contribute to an unsustainable and environmentally unhealthy monoculture form of agriculture, in which only one type of crop is farmed. The UN Commission on Trade and Development issued a report in 2014 warning against corporate dominated monoculture farming methods and promoted farm diversity and small scale organic farming as the most sustainable way to feed to the world’s population.[24]
27.Because the domestic production of GM corn, which accounts for about 90% of all corn grown in the United States, is forcing the US to import organic and non-GM corn from other countries. This dynamic hurts farmers in the United States who could otherwise capitalize from the growing demand for non-GM corn.[25]
28.Because new research suggests that some biotech firms are engaging in highly questionable scientific practices while conducting trials assessing GMO safety in animal feed. Data gathered by researchers at Caen University in France indicates that the feed given to animals in the control group during various trials conducted by GM firms such as DuPont actually contained high quantities of pesticides and GMOs, which may have heavily skewed the test results.[26]
29.Because glyphosate (Roundup), the widely used pesticide that Monsanto’s GM seeds (Roundup Ready Crops) are created to withstand, has been shown to be a probable carcinogen. [27]
30.Because glyphosate has been found to disrupt proper enzyme function in the body of mammals, causing inflammation.[28]
31.Because research links glyphosate exposure with the alarming rises in chronic degenerative disease in the United States. According to one study published in The Journal of Organic Systems “Evidence is mounting that glyphosate interferes with many metabolic processes in plants and animals and glyphosate residues have been detected in both. Glyphosate disrupts the endocrine system and the balance of gut bacteria, it damages DNA and is a driver of mutations that lead to cancer.”[29]
32.Because glyphosate can act as a genotoxic endocrine disruptor in human cells.[30]
33.Because glyphosate has been identified as a potential health hazard for decades yet nothing has been done to curb its production. The Permaculture Research Institute states that “Monsanto and the European Commission (EC) have known about birth defects since the 1980s. Industry studies found statistically significant skeletal and/or visceral abnormalities as well as reduced viability and increase in spontaneous abortions in rats and rabbits exposed to high doses of glyphosate. Lower doses were later shown to cause dilated hearts. The EC dismissed all the findings.”[31]
34.Because glyphosate may no longer be as effective at killing weeds. Worse still, glyphosate use has been shown to give rise to “superweeds” that are resistant to the chemical and therefore highly problematic for farmers. [32]
35.Because glyphosate residues do not break down as quickly or completely but end up poisoning our soil, rainwater and air, accordingly to official government research.[33][34]
36.Because evidence suggests that glyphosate not only contaminates soil with its chemical compounds, but actually destroys beneficial soil organisms.[35]
37.Because glyphosate contamination has become so pervasive that it is present in our urine. One German study found the pesticide to be present in significant concentrations in all the urine samples tested from non-agricultural workers in Berlin.[36]
38.Because glyphosate exposure has been linked with birth defects. [37]
39.Because evidence suggests that glyphosate may contribute to Parkinson’s Disease.[38][39]
40.Because glyphosate may seriously damage the kidneys. In early 2014, the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health published a study linking glyphosate runoff in Sri Lanka’s water systems to an epidemic rise in a fatal unknown chronic kidney disease or CKDu.[40]
41.Because recent studies reveal that Monsanto’s Roundup herbicides are contributing to the decline of honeybee populations. In August 2014, Mexican beekeepers in the state of Yucatan won a victory to halt Monsanto’s plans to plant thousands of acres of Roundup Ready soybeans. After a careful review of the science, a Mexican judge ruled that GMO soy agriculture is an economic threat and incompatible with the state’s honey production, home for 25,000 families involved in producing 40% of Mexico’s honey exports. The ruling is having a rippling effect across other Mexican states involved in honey production.[41]
42.Because oversight on pesticide use may be hampered by serious conflicts of interest. In October 2015, the Washington Post reported that entomologist Jonathan Lungren blew the whistle on his superiors at the US Agriculture Department for attempting to block his research conclusions showing that pesticides are particularly lethal to key pollinators such as bees and butterflies.[42]
43.Because the rise of Big Ag monoculture and GMO farming in India has resulted in significant economic and social hardships among Indian farmers and their families. Dwindling crop yields stemming from farmers’ reliance on corporate agricultural models to grow crops such as bioengineered cotton has contributed to many farmers going bankrupt. It is suspected that around 250,000 Indian farmers have committed suicide over the last 16 years; some of them are thought to have been brought to the brink by the economic difficulties that accompany corporate farming practices. [43]
44.Because simply handling bioengineered cotton crops caused Indian farmers to develop a range of frightening symptoms, which included, according to one report “allergic reactions in various body parts which included hands, feet, face, eyes and nose, with some having fallen seriously ill.”[44] Similarly, more than a decade of documentation shows that Argentinean agricultural workers who were exposed to glyphosate had developed medical conditions including skin rashes, infertility, cancer and respiratory issues.[45]
It’s Time to Act
Time is running out for your voice to be heard on this issue. Contact your local members of Congress today to let them know that we want all GMO foods to be labeled, if not removed from the shelves completely, until they are proven to be safe for consumption. Let them know that we would like congressional hearings on this issue during which qualified independent scientists present the evidence for GMOs being harmful.
To find the contact information for congressional members visit:
There are many small local food organizations in the individual states. However, the following list of organizations are those that have been at the forefront to protect organic and traditional agriculture and have been fighting on behalf of American consumers and food health against the big agricultural and chemical giants. Most of these organizations have e-lists you can subscribe to and receive daily or periodic information and updates about the battle against GMOs.
Institute for Responsible Technology was founded by Jeffrey Smith, who is a world leader in educating policy makers and the public about genetically modified foods and crops. The organization publishes frequent reports on GMO risks and impact on health, the environment, the economy, corporate practices and agriculture.
Food Democracy Now was founded by David Murphy, who has built a national grass-roots community dedicated to a sustainable food system that protects the environment and supports traditional farmers and their families. The organization has been at the forefront in advocating for the labeling of GMO foods and products.
Organic Consumers Association, directed by food activist Ronnie Cummins, is a grass-roots public-interest organization campaigning for food sustainability, children’s health, and corporate accountability. OCA is the primary organization fighting on behalf of the nation’s estimated 50 million organic food consumers with a goal to convert American agriculture to at least 30% organic by the year 2015.
GM Watch is a UK-based information organization monitoring everything related to bioengineered foods and big agriculture gathered from around the world. You can sign up at GM Watch’s site to receive daily news and reports as they arrive.
The Center for Food Safety is directed by national legal and consumer-interest advocate Andrew Kimbrell. The organization is a non-profit environmental advocacy initiative challenging harmful food production technologies, including genetic modification, and a leader in promoting sustainable agriculture.
Food and Water Watch is a health safety advocacy organization dedicated to assuring our food, water and fish are safe and sustainably produced. The organization pressures legislators to promote wholesome food (including the labeling of GMO foods) and clean water accessibility to all for their basic needs. The organization has 15 offices in the US and a staff in Europe and Latin America.
Natural News was founded by its chief editor and national health activist Mike Adams. It is among one of the best daily news resources for information on all issues related to health, including alternative medicine, genetically modified foods, vaccines science, and corporate corruption.
Dr. Joseph Mercola publishes one of the nation’s most widely read health sites dedicated to natural health and everything related to the corporate pharmaceutical, medical, chemical and agricultural industry that threatens the health and safety of people.
Coalition of States for GMO Labeling is a grass-roots effort now with 30 states to persuade state legislatures to bring up a vote on GMO labeling. For information on becoming involved in your state to educate and promote GMO labeling, inquire with an email to
The Alliance for Natural Health is an international organization promoting sustainable health practices, freedom of choice in healthcare, and accessibility to non-toxic healthy food, vitamins and supplements at the federal and local state levels. The Alliance is perhaps the most active organization lobbying Congress and state legislatures, and serves as a government watchdog to file complaints on actions taking by the FDA, USDA and other federal health agencies.
Just Label It is a grassroots organization started in California to fight state legislators to mandate GMO labeling. The organization, in partnership with many of the more notable organic food companies, is taking the petition for mandatory labeling to the FDA.
Center for Environmental Health is a non-profit organization taking on the industrial chemical industry to eliminate the threats chemicals pose to children, families and communities.
Consumers Union is a large national organization with lobbyists fighting for a fair, just and safer marketplace for consumers. Their website provides consumer information on a wide variety of topics, including genetically modified foods.
Environmental Working Group is a public health and environmental organization that advocates for health protection on Capitol Hill. Among their primary goals is to conduct scientific research to expose chemicals and products dangerous to health, the environment and the natural resources we rely upon, and to replace federal policies favoring big corporations with policies that invest in conservation and sustainable development.
Organic Seed Alliance advances the ethical development and stewardship of the genetic resources of agricultural seed. Their mission is to work through collaborative education, advisory services, and research programs with organic farmers and other seed professionals to advance a more sustainable agriculture.
Seeds of Change is an organic seed company founded in 1989 with a mission to preserve biodiversity and promote organic agriculture. It is an excellent source to purchase organic seeds and learn tips about rural, personal and urban organic farming.
Navdanya was founded by Dr. Vandana Shiva in India to lead the way to food and seed sovereignty, sustainable agriculture, and fair trade organic networking. The organization’s learning centers, School of the Seed and Earth University, bring people together from all over the world to build a food network that will be sustainable in the future.
The National Organic Coalition is a national alliance of organizations working to provide a “Washington voice” for farmers, ranchers, environmentalists, consumers and progressive industry members involved in organic agriculture.
National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition is an alliance of grass-roots organizations that advocates for federal policy reform to advance the sustainability of agriculture, food systems, natural resources, and rural communities. Its vision of agriculture is one where a safe, nutritious, ample, and affordable food supply is produced by a legion of family farmers who make a decent living pursuing their trade
The Oakland Institute is an independent policy think-tank, founded by renowned agricultural and trade activist Anuradha Mittal, that brings fresh ideas and bold action to the most pressing economic, social and environmental issues directed towards a more sustainable, just future.
Foodconsumer is an online health, diet and food site taking a lead in promoting GMO labeling.
Food Freedom News is an educational site addressing food safety, food freedom and sovereignty, and local food production. It is a popular site for those who wish to begin growing their own produce.
Moms for Safe Food is a national community blog website offering a lot of advice about transitioning to eating a safe, healthy, GMO-free diet
Gary Null PhD is the host of the nation’s longest running public radio program on nutrition and natural health and a multi-award-winning director of progressive documentary films, including Seeds of Death: Unveiling the Lies of GMOs, which is available for free viewing
2. "Govt Decides to Ban GMO Food Production in Russia – Deputy PM." RT English. Accessed October 30, 2015.


4. Ken Roseboro. “Biotech’s Assault on Balanced Journalism” Huffington Post, June 4, 2014

5. Pushpa M Bhargava
 US is trying to control our food production Hindustan Times, August 7, 2014


8. Calabrò, M.I. Cutrignelli, G. Moniello, M. Grossi, V. Mastellone, P. Lombardi, M.E. Peroa, F. Infascelli (2015) Genetically modified soybean in a goat diet: Influence on kid performance. Small Ruminant Research 126: 67–74.

9 . Department of Veterinary Medicine, FDA, correspondence June 16,1993. As quoted in Fred A. Hines, Memo to Dr. Linda Kahl. “Flavr Savr Tomato:Pathology Branch’s Evaluation of Rats with Stomach Lesions From Three Four-Week Oral (Gavage) Toxicity Studies and an Expert Panel’s Report,” Alliance for Bio-Integrity (June 16, 1993)
10 Nordlee, Julie A., Steve L. Taylor, Jeffrey A. Townsend, Laurie A. Thomas, and Robert K. Bush. "Identification of a Brazil-Nut Allergen in Transgenic Soybeans." New England Journal of Medicine, 1996, 688-92.


13. Guardian Newspaper Report Admits Widespread Failure of GM Btbrinjal” GMWatch June 5, 2014
14. Deirdre Fulton, GMO Corn No Longer Resistant to Bugs Common Dreams 30 July 14


17. Richardson, Jill. "Don't Let Them Blind You with Their Science." OtherWords. October 28, 2015. Accessed October 29, 2015.

18. Jeffrey M. Smith, Genetic Roulette: The Documented Health Risks of Genetically Engineered Foods, Yes! Books, Fairfield, IA USA 2007


20. Steven M. Druker, “How the US Food and Drug Administration approved genetically engineered foods despite the deaths one had caused andthe warnings of its own scientists about their unique risks,” Alliance for Bio-Integrity,




24. UN Report Says Small Scale Organic Farming Only Way to Feed the World.” Technology Water. December 14, 2013




28. Anthony Samsel Stephanie Seneff. Glyphosate’s Suppression of Cytochrome P450 Enzymes and Amino Acid Biosynthesis by the Gut Microbiome: Pathways to Modern Diseases, Entropy 2013, 15 (4), 1416-1463






37. Paganelli A1, Gnazzo V, Acosta H, López SL, Carrasco AE. Glyphosate-based herbicides produce teratogenic effects on vertebrates by impairing retinoic acid signaling. Chem Res Toxicol. 2010 Oct 18;23(10):1586-95. doi: 10.1021/tx1001749. Epub 2010 Aug 9.

38. “Roundup, An Herbicide, Could be Linked to Parkinson’s, Cancer and Other Health Issues, Study Shows” Reuters. April 25, 2013

39. Gang Wang, Xiao-Ning Fan, Yu-Yan Tan, Qi Cheng, Sheng-Di Chen Parkinsonism after chronic occupational exposure to glyphosate. Parkinsonism Relat Disord. 2011 Jul;17(6):486-7. Epub 2011 Mar 2

40. Channa Jayasumana , Sarath Gunatilake and Priyantha Senanayake Glyphosate, Hard Water and Nephrotoxic Metals: Are They the Culprits Behind the Epidemic of Chronic Kidney Disease of Unknown Etiology in Sri Lanka? J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2014, 11(2), 2125-2147

41. Sweet victory for Mexico beekeepers as Monsanto loses GM permit” The Guardian, August 8, 2014

42. Volk, Steve. "Suspended USDA Researcher Alleges Agency Tried to Block His Research into Harmful Effects of Pesticides on Bees, Butterflies." Washington Post. October 28, 2015. Accessed October 30, 2015.



Herbicide finding intensifies battle over GMO labeling

More than two years after passing the nation’s first law requiring labels on most foods containing genetically engineered components, there are still no labels for Genetically Modified Organisms – GMOs – in Connecticut or anywhere else in the United States.
The food and biotech industries are fighting Connecticut's law and two others in Vermont and Maine with federal legislation that would nullify (preempt is the official term) all three as well as any future attempts at GMO labeling. The bill would also set national standards for labelling food as non-GMO, essentially codifying the existing voluntary practice of labeling those foods.
But GMO labeling advocates now have some new ammunition for a counter-offensive. One of the key reasons for developing GMO crops in the U.S. has been to make them resistant to weed-killers – primarily Monsanto’s herbicide Roundup — which are used to kill weeds and other undesirable plants in and around fields where the food crops are grown.
A label used to indicate a non-GMO product
A voluntary label used to indicate a non-GMO product.
In March, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), which is part of the World Health Organization, declared the active ingredient in Roundup – glyphosate – a “probable carcinogen.” Its use is being reviewed by the Environmental Protection Agency, and in September California announced it would begin labeling products with glyphosate as carcinogenic.
“We are outraged with this assessment,” Dr. Robb Fraley, Monsanto’s chief technology officer, said in a statement at the time. The statement also called the information “inconsistent” with decades of safety reviews, and the company offered multiple web pages with dozens of links to documentation and other material. “This result was reached by selective ‘cherry picking’ of data and is a clear example of agenda-driven bias,” the Fraley statement said.
Since then, Monsanto has asked Intertek Scientific and Regulatory Consultancy — an international consulting firm that, among other things, provides expertise on food science regulatory issues — to convene a panel to review IARC’s findings.
The glyphosate designation came as another worrisome piece in the GMO puzzle for those in the academic food science community, public officials and other experts who view the GMO approval and oversight process as flawed and secretive. They believe it adds to ongoing safety concerns and has chilling implications for the food supply in the age of climate change.
The food and biotech industries have long asserted otherwise, pointing out that some GMOs other than the herbicide-resistant ones lessen the need for agricultural chemicals. “GMOs are safe,” said Mike Gruber, senior vice president for federal affairs at the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA), which often speaks on behalf of the industries that oppose labeling. “There’s almost 2,000 studies that have reaffirmed the safety of genetically engineered food.”
Advocates see labeling as the first step toward addressing their concerns. It’s especially important given the regulatory environment, said Timothy A. Wise, director of the research and policy program at the Global Development and Environment Institute at Tufts University. “That regulatory environment is weak and doesn’t give the public the confidence that it should have that the products that are being approved are fully tested and safe,” said Wise, whose specialty is international development and sustainability, focusing on agriculture.
“There is no way we could possibly know how safe these crops are given that they’ve only been in existence for 20 years,” he said. “Twenty years is nothing for evaluating the long-term effects.”
GMOs explained
GMO crops are created by inserting, deleting or otherwise changing genes to create particular traits. The process differs from hybridization, which is the deliberate, and sometimes accidental, crossbreeding of organisms.
The majority of GMO crops by far are designed to be herbicide resistant – able to withstand sprays like Roundup. Other crops are genetically altered to create resistance to pests or diseases — the most prominent of those being Bt corn, which is resistant to the European corn borer. Biotech companies argue such crops mean using fewer anti-pest sprays, but labeling advocates counter it just means the insecticides are inside the crop.
Genetic engineering also can create cosmetic and other properties, like a recently announced apple that doesn’t brown when it’s cut. But some earlier attempts, such as golden rice, designed to include beta-carotene, and tomatoes with delayed ripening and make them easier to ship, were commercial failures.
Crops that could better handle climate change-related growing extremes, such as drought and periodic flooding, are believed to be far off.
There are actually only about a dozen GMO crops in production in the U.S., but they include some of the most ubiquitous items in our food system: corn, soybeans and sugar beets. Nearly all non-organic varieties of these are now GMOs, one or more of which are likely to turn up in the majority of processed foods in the United States. In the case of corn, nearly all feed corn is genetically modified. Throw in a couple of other major GMO crops – alfalfa and canola/rapeseed – and it’s a little hard to avoid GMOs unless you eat only organic products, generally far pricier than conventional ones.
“The problem with that is, it’s a really elitist attitude,” said Tara Cook-Littman, the Fairfield activist who spearheaded the fight for Connecticut’s labeling law and has since helped found the national Citizens for GMO Labeling.” I don’t think only rich people should be able to avoid GMOs.”
But the Coalition for Safe Affordable Food, an organization founded in early 2014 to push for the current federal legislation, contends that labeling food containing GMOs would push up food prices.
The anti-labeling GMO industry also points a to a Pew survey that shows a majority of scientists think GMOs are safe.
But Wise said some scientific opinion on the safety of GMOs is more nuanced than that.
“To say ‘the debate’s over, these things are safe, there’s a consensus among scientists about that, stop standing in the way of science’ — in fact they are the ones standing in the way of science,” he said of the biotech and food industries. “We need to stop stifling science and start following the thread of findings that suggest that there may be human health effects.”
Many agree with Wise that it’s impossible to know long-term effects yet. But they also draw a sharp distinction between risks from the genes themselves and secondary risks that flow from the genetic work – such as the widespread use of glyphosate.
Rounding up the research on glyphosate
Data compiled for the U.S. Geological Survey shows glyphosate use in the U.S. went from about 20 million pounds a year in the early 1990s to about 280 million pounds in 2013. Not all of it is because of the increased use of GMO seed – especially corn and soybeans — but most is thought to be.
Even if the genetic alterations in corn, soybeans and other crops glyphosate is sprayed on ultimately prove to be safe, labeling advocates and many scientists point out that the secondary environmental factors related to its use are not considered in approving the genetic engineering.
One is emergence of herbicide-resistant weeds, something that scientists warned about years ago.
“And that has in fact come to pass,” said Doug Gurian-Sherman, a plant pathologist who was a risk assessment scientist for genetic engineering at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and is now director of sustainable agriculture and senior scientist at the Center for Food Safety. “What a lot of us consider to be an epidemic of glyphosate-resistant weeds is causing serious, major problems with farms across the country, especially in the Southeast, but moving into the corn belt in the Midwest.”
Gurian-Sherman noted that glyphosate is particularly good at killing milkweed, critical food and habitat for monarch butterflies, which have suffered drastic population drops in recent years. There has also been some evidence of glyphosate residue in water and soil.
“I think the glyphosate debate is interesting because my sense is that the activists have been unable to prove that genetically engineered foods are unsafe, and now they’re trying to tie glyphosate into this argument,” said the grocery manufacturer's Gruber. “It may be a good political strategy for the opponents of genetic engineering, but if their real goal is to ban glyphosate, then they should be more honest with legislators.”
Claire Parker, spokeswoman for the Coalition for Safe Affordable Food, called the glyphosate issue a “red herring.” “The discussion about glyphosate really demonstrates the desperation of anti-GMO activists,” she said. “Glyphosate is used on both non-GMO and GMO crops, so it’s very much a side issue.”
Testiness over testing
Many labeling advocates are looking most warily at the government's GMO approval system - something they see as a case of the fox guarding the henhouse.
Under the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act – a law created long before GMOs – GMOS are not considered “materially different” from the original crop and so do not require labels or independent testing prior to FDA approval.
The chemical, seed and other biotech companies developing GMOs turn over their test results to the oversight agencies: principally the Food and Drug Administration, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Heath Inspection Service and the EPA.
The agencies, with few exceptions, only review what they are given. The FDA would not agree to an interview request, and it is unclear if the FDA has ever turned down a GMO application.
Because GMOs are considered patented inventions, their developers have also been reluctant to reveal details or allow the scientific community to independently test them.
Several years ago the Center for Food Safety’s Gurian-Sherman, then with the Center for Science in the Public Interest, looked at about 25 percent of the FDA’s GMO reviews.
He called them “cursory.”
“FDA does very short reviews where they mostly just reiterate what the industry says. They’re not evaluating raw data or even statistically analyzed data. They’re just evaluating the summary,” he said. “So you have this voluntary process where the companies submit the data. They collect data themselves. They determine what tests are going to be done or not going to be done.
“It leaves the fox guarding the henhouse, absolutely.”
The Obama administration is beginning to look into the situation. In July the White House ordered the three agencies to reform their oversight and approval system — known as the coordinated framework — to ensure better policing of GMOs. But that will take time to develop and implement.
Gurian-Sherman chooses his words carefully, however, when it comes to the safety of the actual GMO crops. “Nothing that I found suggested that the products that were being looked at necessarily were harmful,” he said. “Frankly my feeling is that, in terms of human health risks, probably most of these will not be harmful, but some could be quite harmful.”
But, he continued, “Genetic engineering has been on balance more harmful than it has been good so far. I think the downsides substantially outweigh the benefits.”
He would like to see independent, pre-approval testing, something the GMA balks at. “Who’s going to be the independent testing authority?” asked Gruber. “I’d like to know what somebody’s definition of independent research is.”
But even independent research on the genetics is unlikely to address the concerns about secondary harms. 
Aside from the use of glyphosate, Gurian-Sherman and Wise said GMOs reinforce the U.S. system of monoculture and industrial farming. They said that system would be unable to withstand the rigors of climate change, unlike smaller farms that use traditional soil and farming techniques to keep farms healthy and diverse through all kinds of climate and weather extremes.
A first step
For now, the focus of the battle remains on labelling.
Labeling already exists in 64 countries, including nearly all of Europe. Last month 19 European Union nations agreed to ban the growing of certain GMO crops, though in the last week the European Parliament rejected a move to allow individual nations in the EU to ban GMO imports. Only a few countries ban GMO imports.
Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Connecticut, an advocate of GMO labeling who has proposed his own legislation requiring it, said he knows the GMO approval process needs overhauling. “We’re beginning with labeling because that is the step that attracts the most consensus,” he said. “In the end there has to be steps to authorize and require better oversight by the FDA.”
He is also no fan of federal preemption. “The federal government may set a floor,” he said. “But it shouldn’t impose a ceiling on what states do.”
He doubts federal preemption legislation, which has passed the House and recently was the subject of a hearing in the Senate, will get through Congress as a so-called clean bill, but admitted he didn’t know whether President Obama would be inclined to veto it if it did. More worrisome to him is that it will get tacked on to a critical piece of legislation, such as a spending bill, that the president would be hard-pressed to veto.
While that gets sorted out, PR battles rage on both sides.
Multiple letter-writing campaigns opposing the federal legislation are under way by hundreds of national and state advocacy and food groups. Another is sponsored by Just Label It, which has support from dozens of food company business leaders, and a third comes from state legislators, though curiously only four in Connecticut have signed it.
On the other side of the debate, The Coalition for Safe Affordable Food said its letter supporting federal preemption has more than 400 signers, including 46 national organizations. Its argument mirrors that of the grocery manufacturers and others – that GMOs are safe, that they aren't materially different from the natural crop, and that a patchwork of state labeling laws would be unwieldy.
In the meantime, many eyes are on a court case on Vermont’s GMO labeling law. It was passed after Connecticut’s but is set to go into effect next July. It survived a challenge in federal district court in April and is now in federal appeals court.
Supporters of labeling laws in Maine and Connecticut also are now looking to eliminate or at least reduce the implementation triggers that have kept them from going into effect. The existing Connecticut law requires passage of similar measures in four other Northeastern states encompassing a population of at least 20 million. That means either New York or Pennsylvania needs to be on board. One of the states must border Connecticut. Both Massachusetts and Rhode Island are believed to be close to approving labeling legislation.
State Rep. Diana Urban, D-North Stonington, one of the original bill’s key supporters, said she’d like the triggers gone. Like Blumenthal, she’d like a full overhaul of the GMO oversight process.
“I understand policy has got to be incremental, and where do you start with an incremental policy? You start by saying – shouldn’t the consumer know that there are GMOs in this particular item?’ she said. “Markets work the best when consumers have as much information as possible.”
Urban, who is an economist, has company in that belief. Wise at Tufts also looks at economics as a senior research fellow at the Political Economy Research Institute at UMass Amherst.
“As soon as there’s a label regime in place, there will be a sizeable market for non-GMO soybeans and non-GMO corn,” he said. “Farmers will then have a choice of which one they want too grow.”
It makes GMO labeling very economically sensible, he said. “It will allow a non-GMO market to express itself, to create demand, to create investment incentives, create profits and to compete.”
Urban put it a little differently.
“What the industry is saying is ‘if we label these, then people aren’t going to buy them,’” she said. “So ooookay – then maybe you guys need to get more information on why these are safe.”


GMO vs Biodiversity
08.11.2015 Tony Henderson
GMO vs BiodiversityTayug in the Philippines - small scale forming (Image by Tony Henderson)
Bio diversity is crucial for any species to survive, Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) as plants destroy bio diversity with their perfect copies waiting for a specialized disease or parasite to ravish the clones. Swati Srivastava (Avatar name on social media) gives some “simple facts” about GMOs:
1) There is not a single independent long term study that deals with the impacts of GMO food on humans and animals,
2) There have been several small reports of lab animals getting tumors and other diseases when on GMO feed yet those reports are covered up and not discussed,
3) The FDA and USDA accept the research by Monsanto and its allies as valid research (this is akin to letting the fox guard the hen house),
4) It is well known that farmers unabashedly use more Glyophosate on Glyphosate resistant GMO crops which WHO has declared a carcinogen, so we are all eating more cancer causing food.
5) 70% of world is fed by small farmers not by mono-culture GMO farms and the world food production has been outpacing the population increase by 1.2 -1.5 times in the past 4-5 decades. We are not running out of food, the world is not going to starve without GMOs, its the democracy of food distribution that needs to be addressed.
6) There is not a single GMO crop which is designed to increase yield, but the most successful ones are designed to tolerate the herbicides and chemicals produced by the same seed companies in an astonishing win for vertical integration in a world that needs diversity if we are to protect ourselves from a global case of GM corn blight.
7) Lastly, the two great myths of our time are:
a) Human activity doesn’t contribute to climate change (Exxon Mobil & its allies), based on their “scientific research”. – We know how “scientific” that claim is now, but we are 30 years too late and no matter what we do, the world is going to suffer terrible consequences, especially the weakest and poorest of us.
b) Humans have Genetically modified plants since time immemorial (Monsanto & its allies). Humans have never been able to cross two different species such as a fish gene with a tomato gene, or a virus gene with a corn gene. Cross-breeding and Genetic Modification are two entirely different things. Cross-breeding requires nature’s participation and propagation – mate a donkey and horse & it might make a mule, but the mule is sterile, as nature puts its own barrier to such a variant.
(Farmers and gardeners have been cultivating new plant varieties for thousands of years through selective breeding. They did this by cross-pollinating two different, BUT RELATED plants over 6 to 10 plant generations, eventually creating a new plant variety.Mendel discovered a method of controlled crossing that can create these desired traits within just one generation. This method produces what’s known as F1 hybrid seeds (hybrid species are never true and the traits dont survive beyond one generation like a mule is very often sterile). But still Mendel’s hybrid were within a species, never cross-species.)
But, GMO organisms, are created in lab without anywhere near complete understanding of how genes interact with each other, what proteins are expressed or suppressed & what mutations are caused by the gene gun when it blasts gene from one species to another species – all entirely unknown. This is not true science in action, this is being able to tinker a little bit in the lab and rushing ahead to patent & profit without any real understanding of the long-term consequences. And then not allowing public the choice to decide on their own by spending millions of dollars in anti-labelling-anti-democracy campaigns.
The reasons to oppose GMOs are way too numerous
The GM companies are the same ones who sold us DDT and Agent Orange and told us it was good for us.
These are the same companies who ensure USDA doesn’t do independent testing because their seeds are “substantially equivalent” to regular seeds – “its so similar, its entirely the same, so why test”, whereas on the other hand they fill their coffers with money from patenting the same seeds – “they are so novel that nothing like this existed before”. Can you see the contradiction?
They are also the companies who use the same lawyers to make their PR as the tobacco industry. That should ring a bell, loud and clear.
GMOs are not created using natural, low-tech methods and involve interbreeding between totally different species, which just doesn’t and can’t happen with traditional selective breeding techniques. Seedless watermelon is an example of selective breeding within the same species. Nature has barriers against cross breeding between species. I think you would be against mating a human with a donkey, wont you? Envision what that offspring would look like. I make this extreme example, just so we can all wrap our head around the GM experiment we are part of. Just because a plant doesn’t have eyes, face and ears, doens’t make it a less complex organism. And when we create new species in labs, from two or three or four different species mixed together, we create new organisms that neither human nor animal body has evolved to digest and no one knows what long terms effects this new type of food will have on us or our ecosystem.
Further, I recently read that Genetic Modification maybe able to treat cancer! Right, being able to work at the gene level, is an absolute marvel of science, a great accomplishment.
The problem with GMO foods which are created by crossing the species barrier in a lab, is that we are now creating entirely new species that were not part of nature’s evolution design. So, how do we know what effect eating these new “species” will have on us?
Regarding, “millions are now eating GMO corn without any demonstrable ill effects” – the key word is “demonstrable”.
The way things are demonstrated in the scientific/ medical world is by conducting long term studies, with control groups and experimental groups. So, the way to demonstrate that GMOs have no “demonstrable ill effects” would be to have a 30 year long INDEPENDENT study where a statistically significant group of people are restricted to an all GMO diet, and the control group is not allowed any GMOs in their food whatsoever. At the end of those 30 years, we would likely have a good “demonstrable” answer. Until then, and without the absence of such a study, we have demonstrated nothing and we have no clear answer. People are certainly getting very sick and unhealthy around the world – obesity, autism, diabetes and cancer are on the rise, but how do we know what’s causing these without a proper controlled study. Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.
As a Humanist, film-maker and activist, I encourage other humanists to go below this “surface science”. This is not a debate about pro-science-anti-science and people who are against GMOs are not all Luddites. We need TRULY INDEPENDENT LONG TERM studies, before we eliminate native crops around the world, destroy small farmers, have unimaginable health consequences and become sitting ducks for a blight that could devastate half of the world crops, because they are all GM Corn NO. 7861.
Thanks goes to Swati Srivastava
The above is extracted from comments on an article that can be found here:

About The Author

Tony Henderson
Tony Henderson is a freelance writer working in Hong Kong, since 1980, and previously Japan, for seven years following two years in Mauritius after a year in Libya. Long time participant in the Humanist Movement and spokesman for Universal Humanism in Hong Kong. Also, Pressenza Hong Kong Bureau Chief.