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Companion story: "Collapsing Food System" by Jessie James.       Back to Agriculture
Our Food System is Failing Us
What's a body to do?

Genetic Modification

GMO "Myths" as reported by CBS (L-R): "Genetically modified food, Godsend-or Frankenfood;" "Genetically modified food will end world hunger;" "The FDA conducts safety tests of all GM Foods;" Conventional Crops are Free of Altered Genes. CBS News reporting on GMO Foods.

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The world population is nearly 7 billion. Over 300,000,000 live in the United States.(1) And many of us, even here in the United States, are starving. (2, 3) With our rapid population growth worldwide, we are rapidly outgrowing our resources. Technological advances have produced one solution: Industrialized Agriculture (4) or Agribusiness (“Big Ag”)—growing large quantities of food with a narrow genetic base using hi-tech machinery and ruled by economies of scale. The result is crops based on genetic modification and chemical alteration so that they have a “built in” resistance to disease. The process is known as “Terminator Technology.” (5)

Unfortunately, like all solutions, this solution is also the source of a new problem. Thanks to this “wonderful” new technology, we who are eating regularly in the US and Canada may be poisoning ourselves because our basic food sources aren’t what we think they are.

Are we poisioning ourselves with the food we eat?

Most of what we eat comes from genetically modified, chemically altered crops grown by large, government-subsidized farming operations, that by virtue of size and seed source, are partnered with GMO companies (6). Moreover, the companies producing this chemical seed cocktail are in a position to force all growers to use their products (7, 8, 9). So, even when you “buy organic,” it isn’t the pure food you expect to put in your mouth. And if you check labels, since our own government regulators don’t require manufacturers to declare all ingredients in all packaged products (and virtually none in raw produce or fish (10), you have no way of knowing what you’re really eating.

What you are eating, at least in the agriculturally industrialized countries like the U.S., is likely to cost more because the more we tinker with seed genetics, the more expnsive our food becomes. "In the U.S., we have had food surpluses for a decade, and yet we still have hunger," says Jean Halloran, director of food policy initiatives at Consumers Union, which publishes Consumer Reports. "It's not because we don't have enough genetically modified foods. Some people can't afford food at any price."(34), You think all this "scare tactic" news about the downside of GE and Terminator Technology is just rants from the underground press? Think again. CBS News has an ongong newscast about GMO and featured it on "60 Mintues." (33-34)

GM food raises consumer costs
and can increase rather than cure starvation.

Farmers are at risk, too.
According to NewWest Missoula (7) “The nation’s farmers are in the grip of powerful corporations like Monsanto and find it increasingly difficult to plant seeds of their own choosing.”  An article in Naked Capitalism (8) notes that “Monsanto’s predatory business practices” force farmers to buy their seeds, which have been genetically engineered so as to require the use of Monsanto herbicides and fertilizers. The seeds, which are patent-protected, must be purchased annually (re-use is not allowed, and in fact, most plants are sterile and cannot regerminate. The chemically altered seeds are “one time only.” Monsanto can “check” to make sure their seeds aren’t being used without having been bought and paid for and can sue the farmer when they find a “violation” (easily caused by no fault of the farmer.

In the face of big business,
little farmers can literally “lose the farm.”

The Farmer to Farmer Campaign on Genetic Engineering (FFCGE) (9) further notes that farmers are losing the right to grow conventional crops and are forced to buy GE seeds, which in turn raises the cost of crops and food to your table.

Monsanto, the world’s number One seed developer (followed closely by its arch rival, DuPont), accounts for 60 percent of the corn and soybean seed market, the FFCGE report says. Today, its genetically engineered (GE) traits are planted on more than 80 percent of U.S. corn acres and more than 90 percent of soybean acres. (9

Yet not all of these seeds are productive. According to a recent article in the New York Times, (10) “Some farmers have said they often have to buy traits they do not need—such as protection from the corn rootworm in regions where that pest is not a problem—to get the best varieties.”  Seeds are no longer required to be something common to a specific locale, but genetically re-engineered with insect-resistant and herbicide-resistant genes into the “one seed fits all” theory. The more genetic modification, the higher the costs to the farmer, costs then passed on to the consumer.

A word about soybeans. More soybeans are grown than any other GM crop, according to BioNetOnlline (11).  Soybeans are used for human and animal food, biofuel production, and other products. Employing Terminator Technology, has made the beans produced by the plants sterile. The GM soybean gene can cross-pollinate with non GMO soybeans, making them infertile as well. Jeffrey Smith in the Huffington Post (12), reports on studies done over the past five years show that prolonged and multi-generational ingestion of GM soybeans by hamsters eventually caused disease, then sterility.

According to an article in the Ecologist (13) , by Tom Levitt, “Since the mid-1990s just five biotech giants - Monsanto, Syngenta, Bayer, Dow and DuPont - have bought up more than 200 other companies between them to dominate our access to seeds.” Philip Howard, Michigan State University, produced a unique visual (6) to illustrate this growing concentration of power in the hands of a few companies. “The takeover of the seed market has been ‘dramatic’ and it is getting harder for farmers to find alternatives,” he says.

The manditated takeover of our seed market
is downright scary!
But is it illegal? One would think so. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, this monopoly may violate antitrust laws. To date, nothing has been done to stop it, although the DOJ has begun a series of public forums and opened an antitrust “investigation” into Monsanto’s genetically modified, herbicide-immune, patented soybean, which represents about 90% of domestically grown soybeans, thus giving Monsanto a total monopoly on that crop market. (14)

CBS News reports on the "myth" that the FDA conducts safety tests on all GM foods. They don't test them at all! Instead," says Consumer Union's Jean Halloran, "it takes the word of the companies that develop the foods. "When a company comes in with data, the FDA looks at it and writes a letter saying, "Dear Monsanto, you supplied information regarding the safety of corn variety X and we are confident about what you've shown," Halloran says. "It is your responsibility." (33)

Monsanto is the worlds largest developer of GM foods.

Meanwhile, Big Ag gets bigger, and small farmers risk losing their farms if they don’t buy from the big corporations who have the financial clout to force farmers to buy from them. And we have to eat what we’re given, whatever it’s chemical and genetic makeup. Think about that next time make up a box of mac and cheese. (What is that macaraoni really made of, and is the cheese more “plastic” than dairy?

So, is it safe to eat this GMO stuff?

The answer depends on who you talk to. In a recent Huffington Post article  “Don’t Eat the Mutants: GE Salmon and New Seafood Guidance,” (15) Leslie Hatfield writes that the GE industry, “and the FDA, apparently - would have you think it's all good to tamper with the genetic makeup of a living animal, concerned citizens and watchdog groups (read: people without a financial or political interest in pushing forward technology that could have unexpected and disastrous impacts on human health, the environment and other sea life.”

Andrew Gunther, also writing for the Huffinton Post, agrees. “I am extremely skeptical about the real benefits that GM technology offers. Indeed, I have grave concerns about GM—not only about the potential environmental and health risks associated with the technology, but also the potential control that GM gives “Big Ag” over global food production. These concerns are just as relevant to GM fish production as they are to GM soy, cotton or corn. The difference, of course, is that with fish we are dealing with a living creature, where welfare is also an issue.” (16)

It’s an issue for us as well. Like the salmon, we’re also living creatures. And presumably what we eat keeps us that way. Yet, according to Wikipedia, (17)
most foods we eat contain GMO ingredients. Everything from baby food to produce, even meat, and many personal products (like soap, toothpaste, shampoo) as well. Moreover, US and Canadian food manufacturers are not required to label if their food if it includes GMO ingredients. (18) It’s a pretty sure bet, if you consume beets, corn, canola, rice, papaya, soybeans, salmon, or any kind of dairy, you’re consuming food that has been genetically altered. Dairy is one of the worst, since cows are often injected with GE hormones, then fed GM grains and hay.

And if you use artificial sweetner containing aspartame (Nutrasweet) in most all soft drinks), you’re literally killing yourself. Aspartame, a known neurotoxin, is manufactured using genetically modified E. coli bacteria and in liquids turns to formaldehyde (embalming fluid). (19)Diet soda is a liquid. Drink enough and you could save the undertaker a lot of work. Aspartame, fyi, is especially bad for diabetics, who tend to drink copious quantities of diet soda.

Many studies like these suggest that GM foods can cause human disease and infertility. In NewsWithViews, author Rosalind Peterson suggests that “Introducing these altered plants into the environment will have long-range, and as yet undetermined, effect on human health and the environment. (25) A study published by Raw-Wisdom (26) outlines 50 harmful effects of GM foods, products of recombinant DNA technology that gives us the capacity to redesign living organisms. The article asserts that bioengineering of our fod supply poisions everything. Deaths and near deaths caused by GM foods, the article says, were caused by allergies, cancer and degenerative diseases, viral and bacterial illness (superviruses), antibiotics, resurgence of infection disease, toxins, decreased nutrition, and birth defects.

Bioengineering poisons soil, water, air, the very environment that supports all living things.

According to Dr. Richard Lacey, a medical microbiologist at the University of Leeds, who predicted mad cow disease,  “wedging foreign genetic material in an essentially random manner…causes some degree of disruption…It is impossible to predict what specific problems could result.” (27) Dr. Lacey’s view is echoed by many other scientists, including Michael Hansen, Ph.D., Senior Staff Scientist with Consumers Union (publisher of Consumer Reports), who states that "Genetic engineering, despite the precise sound of the name, is actually a very messy process." (28)

A well-referenced article in Livestrong.com (29) addresses “the Toxic Dangers of GMO foods” and relates that most GM foods have not been proven safe and many are banned in Europe, which has stricter laws than we do about labeling and genetic modification. (31)  Livestrong’s article (29) states: Three varieties of Monsanto's GMO corn that were genetically modified to contain insecticide- and herbicide-absorbing genes were the subject of a report by the International Journal of Biological Sciences.  (30)The report states that Monsanto had used crude data from insufficient 90-day studies in its claim that the corn was safe for human consumption.

Researchers in the IJBS study found that all three GMO corn varieties were toxic and affected liver and kidney function. Effects differed between the three corn varieties, and between male and female rats in the lab studies. Problems outside the laboratory also exist. Iowa farmers have reported problems with livestock sterility, and have traced the cause back to the genetically modified corn used in the livestock feed.
Eating Organic.
Supposedly, eating foods sold as “organic” will keep you safe. However, in the U.S., there are no requirements at all as to what a manufacturer can call “organic.”  And remember, with the Big Five monopoly controlling all seeds, regardless of how or where food is grown (17), even “organically grown” food has probably been affected to some degree by genetic modication. (Think birds, bees, winds, haphazard cross pollination). Kellog’s Consumer Specialist, Christina Calleros, in her most recent letter to consumers (20), notes that “Even organic ingredients can contain biotech ingredients due to cross pollination.” Calleros also states that “sixty to 70% of packaged foods in the U.S. include biotechnology crops.” When you slurp up your morning cereal (of GM grains)  and milk (produced from cows injected with hormones after eating GM hay), ask yourself, “What am I really eating?”

An attempt was made to market products labeled “Non-GMO.” The attempt failed when the FDA outlawed labeling food as NON-GMO, claiming that “extra labeling only confuses the consumer.” (21)  Or really? Are we all that stupid? Natural News “Health Ranger” Mike Adams reports that the U.S. is attempting to censor all GMO labeling worldwide. (22) The reasons for “making it illegal for a non-GMO food product to even claim "non-GMO" on the label,” Adams believes, is that “If the U.S. succeeds in this global GMO cover-up, the FDA could seize any products in the USA that make "non-GMO" claims. Additionally, the USA could file lawsuits through the World Trade Organization against any country that allows non-GMO labeling or claims on its products.

What to do? NaturalNews’ Ranger Mike suggests the best way to avid GMO foods, is “to just say no!” (23) Easier said than done if everything you put in your mouth is likely tainted by GM.

Ranger Rick suggests: "Just say No to GMO!"

Conclusion
The world is starving, and what we’re doing to feed it might just kill it. We now have the technology to alter all components of our food production including living organisms. We have developed and sold to farmers chemicals that kill pests and disease. Then we, utilizing Terminator Technology, we genetially modify the seeds do do that same. But the bugs get badder and diseases more virulent. Hence, stronger pesticides and herbicides are called for. And more genetically altered seeds to grow what amounts to mutant crops. We feed those crops to us and to the animals that feed us. And as growing organisms become more resistant, The Terminator acts again, genetically altering the seeds even further. It’s a vicious cycle. All of this chemical and genetic intervention is costly, costs passed on to the consumer at a time when the world economy is faltering. And costly GM technology also limits the number of participants, creating a tightly controlled, well-funded, monopoly partnered with  government agencies (10 of 15 Monsanto-funded candidates won races this November! (32) at the expense of the farmer and consumer. The inevitable result: Expensive, unhealthy food.

The problem (starvation) and solution as our government see it (implementation of technological silver bullets that ignore socio-economic consequences,) is uniquely American. In Europe, as in many other places in the world, the philosophy for GMO industrialized farming is somewhat different. Proposals there would: introduce legistaltion to ensure existence of GMO-free food and farming; implement compulsory measures to prevent contamination of organic food; enforce the polluter pays principal, and; introduce strict liability for all economic, health, and environmental harms caused by GMOs. (30)

What's the resolution?
So what to do about our collapsing food system? Perhaps it is time we take a lesson from “the old country” and start policing our burgeoning Big Ag business and take control of GM technology before it kills us. All it takes is the courage to stand up to Big Ag and Big Governemnt and demand we allow some alternatives in the form of truly organic farming. The kind without genetic modification or chemical intervention.

On the other hand, you could just open another bag of (genetically engineered) potato chips, pop open another can of diet soda (sweeted with aspartame), and flop your big belly back down on the couch to watch another newscast  interview with one of those Monsanto-funded candidates who will smile sincerely as they tell you, “there is nothing to worry about; our food is perfectly safe.”


Top: CBS News reporting on GMO Foods.
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Last updated: November 17, 2010