We, unfortunately, live in a world where the dollar is king. It takes priority over everything, and everyone — well, except for those few who possess a lot of them. Any attempt to regulate profit-centric industry is proclaimed as ‘communism’ and deemed an injustice and an obstacle to everything from economic prosperity to world peace. This thinking somehow concludes that market forces and self-interest are always working in our best interest. But they are not.
When the U.S. Constitution was formed, the U.S. government’s role was to protect the rights of its populace, and little else. Today the goverment’s role is to protect the interests of Big Business, and little else. For us, the little people on the ground, the government, Big Business and the media — their PR department — have all the appearances of being on an extractive offensive against us all.
When it comes to GMOs, industry has been allowed to call its own shots. In the World According to Monsanto documentary we saw footage of George Bush senior on an early 1990s tour of a Monsanto laboratory, where Monsanto executives complained to him that they couldn’t sell their exciting new products due to onerous regulatory requirements. The ecologically inept Mr. Bush then essentially told them that this would no longer be a problem, as "we’re now in the deregulation business". Today, in countries like the U.S. of A., the GMO industry simply regulates itself. If the biotech industry deems its wares safe for people and place, they are placed on shelves ready for purchase. Worse, instead of a situation where discerning buyers can, at the very least, choose to take or leave these items, the industry has managed to get GMO ingredients into most of the nation’s edible, drinkable products, and unlabelled, so consumers don’t have a choice.
Currently, up to 85 percent of U.S. corn is genetically engineered as are 91 percent of soybeans and 88 percent of cotton (cottonseed oil is often used in food products). According to industry, up to 95% of sugar beets are now GE. It has been estimated that upwards of 70 percent of processed foods on supermarket shelves–from soda to soup, crackers to condiments–contain genetically engineered ingredients. — centreforfoodsafety.org
Big Biotech has even fought and made it illegal for other industries to market their goods as being without GMOs. The hypocrisy here is difficult to overstate. In order for a seed to be patented and sold under license, it needs to be shown to be substantially ‘different‘ from the non-GMO version. And yet, a Ma & Pa corner store cannot market their organically produced food as ‘non GMO’, due to the law of ‘substantial equivalence‘, which states that GMO and non-GMO ingredients are essentially the same, and thus to use ‘GMO-free’ labels is biological discrimination. (It should be noted that the person who initially coined the term ‘substantial equivalence’ and pressed it into law in order to ensure the speedy approval of GMO strains, is non other than Michael Taylor, the Obama administration’s senior advisor to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which is responsible for "protecting and promoting public health". These are the same people who are conducting armed raids on organic farms, and this Michael Taylor also happens to have spent the last few decades in the revolving door between either working for the biotech industry, or legally representing/defending it, or working at government level to oversee the regulations (or lack of) for it. Talk about a conflict of interests….)
New Long Term Study Throws Cat Amongst the Pigeons
Until now, most studies on the possible health implications of GMOs for us captive customers have been organised and monitored by the very same industries that make those GMOs. And, normally those studies have lasted no longer than 90 days. When an industry has spent billions on researching new GMO strains, it’s not hard to imagine there might be at least just a tad of bias about their products involved… but this is exactly how it works.
Now we have a new study at hand, one that has been independently financed and researched. And, unlike the industry-led studies, this one has been run over a much longer period — two full years. It’s the world’s first long term study of Monsanto’s widely used Roundup herbicide and Roundup Ready Maize — unless you want to count the decade of experimentation on the human race itself…. (But, that can’t count, of course, as there has been no proper research or control groups in this area….)
You can download the study (2.2mb PDF).
In the first ever study to examine the long-term effects of Monsanto’s Roundup weedkiller, or the NK603 Roundup-resistant GM maize also developed by Monsanto, scientists found that rats exposed to even the smallest amounts, developed mammary tumours and severe liver and kidney damage as early as four months in males, and seven months for females, compared with 23 and 14 months respectively for a control group.
“This research shows an extraordinary number of tumours developing earlier and more aggressively – particularly in female animals. I am shocked by the extreme negative health impacts,” said Dr Michael Antoniou, molecular biologist at King’s College London, and a member of CRIIGEN, the independent scientific council which supported the research.
GM crops have been approved for human consumption on the basis of 90-day animal feeding trials. But three months is the equivalent of late adolescence in rats, who can live for almost two years (700 days), and there have long been calls to study the effects over the course of a lifetime.
The peer-reviewed study, conducted by a team of researchers at the University of Caen, found that rats fed on a diet containing NK603 Roundup resistant GM maize, or given water containing Roundup at levels permitted in drinking water, over a two-year period, died significantly earlier than rats fed on a standard diet.
Up to half the male rats and 70% of females died prematurely, compared with only 30% and 20% in the control group. Across both sexes the researchers found that rats fed Roundup in their water or NK603 developed two to three times more large tumours than the control group. By the beginning of the 24th month, 50-80% of females in all treated groups had developed large tumours, with up to three per animal.
By contrast, only 30% of the control group were affected. Scientists reported the tumours “were deleterious to health due to [their] very large size,” making it difficult for the rats to breathe, [and] causing problems with their digestion which resulted in haemorrhaging.
The paper, published in the scientific journal Food and Chemical Toxicology today, concluded that NK603 and Roundup caused similar damage to the rats’ health, whether they were consumed together or on their own. The team also found that even the lowest doses of Roundup, which fall well within authorised limits in drinking tap water, were associated with severe health problems.
“The rat has long been used as a surrogate for human toxicity. All new pharmaceutical, agricultural and household substances are, prior to their approval, tested on rats. This is as good an indicator as we can expect that the consumption of GM maize and the herbicide Roundup, impacts seriously on human health,” Antoniou added. — TheGrocer.co.uk
Monsanto is already in active denial over this study. And this is perhaps the saddest part for me — as Monsanto and their ilk can turn the whole issue over whether GMOs are bad for us or not into an extended sideshow distraction that can be argued for years, or even decades. Just like the current U.S. election fiasco, where the critically important issues of climate change, peak oil and transition away from the perpetual growth paradigm are totally sidelined to instead focus on far more trivial campaign nonsense, the argument over the health implications of GMOs, as important as that is (don’t get me wrong on that point), still distracts us from far more profound root issues about them.
My point here is that the era of large scale, globalised industrial agriculture is coming to an end. We no longer have the energy to maintain it, and nature cannot take its abuse any longer. This ‘end’ will occur by one of the following means: 1) rapid human transition to smaller scale, biodiverse, low-carbon systems that actually pull carbon out of the atmosphere and put it back to work in our soils, or 2) it will happen by necessity as fossil fuels wane and starve the system to death, or 3) it will occur via the destructive forces of a biosphere out of balance.
In reality, all GMOs are is an attempt to deal with, and capitalise on, the symptoms created by reductionist industrial agriculture. Battling symptoms is a process that can never be won. The only real cure is prevention.
It’s clear that Big Biotech will ignore and/or work to undermine any study that contradicts their own. To be able to actually prove ‘beyond reasonable doubt’ the health implications for humans themselves, in a way that would satisfy them completely, I think, we’d have to have an island set aside just for a 20 year experiment, where half the population ate imported GMO products, and the other half ate island-grown organics. This would be the only way to ensure that all other conditions were at least similar. But even then I’m sure the industry would find ‘discrepancies’ in lifestyle between individuals in the groups, and the argument would go on, and on, and on….
In short, if the outcome of a study is negative towards GMOs, then that study will never be regarded as truly scientific by Big Biotech. You will never hear a Monsanto CEO — who has a legal obligation to make profit for shareholders — come out and say, "Oh, hell, I learned something new. You’re absolutely right — we’ll close up shop right now!"
As far as the consumer side of this goes, the base issue is the freedom to choose. Even though the cigarette industry denied its harmful effects for decades, at least people were not forced to smoke. Yes, through stealth advertising you were made to feel you were very uncool unless you partook, but at least it was not ground up and included, unlabelled, in almost every product available for purchase.
I hope this new study provides impetus to Proposition 37. Gaining critical mass in public desire to see GMOs labelled will do wonders towards seeing supermarket chains boycott them. This could spell the death knell for GMOs. But, as mentioned above, I’d like to see the ‘critical mass’ evolve even further, to include an holistic understanding of soil science, peak oil, climate change, industrial agriculture, perpetual growth economics, an unravelling ecology and society, and their interconnectness with each other. Unless this happens, we’ll always be dealing with symptoms and isolated ‘issues’, and will never create a permanent culture.