Food Fight: Organics Gain Ground as GMOs and Biotech Wreak Havoc on Food Supply

Food Fight: Organics Gain Ground as GMOs and Biotech Wreak Havoc on Food Supply
By Helke Ferrie

Vitality July/August 2009

There’s a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in.”
- From “Anthem” by Leonard Cohen

In May, the food labeling committee of the international food standards authority (Codex) had its annual meeting – this time in Calgary. Its new chair is Health Canada’s Paul Mayers, well-known for his unconditional support of genetically modified foods. At the meeting, he tried is best – unsuccessfully – to ensure that genetically modified (GM) foods would not be labelled as such. The European Union and others kicked up a big fuss and the matter is, once again, postponed to next year’s meeting.

When Codex was founded in 1963, genetic engineering was not even on the radar; today, it is a living science nightmare that 97% of Canadians would like to awake from. In direct contradiction to well documented public rejection of GM foods in Canada, our government supported representatives of those countries present at the Codex meeting which are producers of GMO foods, namely the USA, Argentina, New Zealand, and Australia. The citizens of these countries are also opposed to GM foods, but their governments don’t listen to them either. According to the US National Health Federation’s lawyer Scott Tipps, who represented anti-GMO groups at the Calgary Codex meeting, these GM-pushing countries have decided that “the consumer is too stupid to understand [that GM foods are good for us and] and wished to see GM-food labeling disappear into a black hole.”

However, international scientific consensus supports the rights of the consumer to have access to clean, unadulterated food. Last year, the 63-nation committee on International Assessment of Agricultural Science and Technology Development (IAASTD) stated in their final unanimous report that “the agriculture of the future is one that works with nature and the people – not against them” and that “genetically engineered crops will not play a substantial role in addressing the key problems of climate change, biodiversity loss, hunger, and poverty.” Indeed, the report urged “governments to recognize consumer preference with respect to GM foods, protect farmers’ seed rights, and ensure that no cross contamination takes place.” Included in this international committee were enlightened scientists from those same countries fighting labeling in Calgary. (Vitality, July 2008)

Eleven European countries banned GM crops in 2008. Interestingly, Monsanto’s top executives saw the writing on the wall a year earlier and started selling off their own (once highly prized) shares in their company, as reported by Forbes Insider Trading on July 17, 2007. That same month, the U.S. Patent Office reversed some of Monsanto’s key patents on which their genetic engineering products depend, finding that Monsanto did not actually have the intellectual property rights to them (Vitality October 2007).  Perhaps encouraged by this development, 26 leading biotech scientists formally declared, also in 2008, that the patent system has effectively caused science to be monopolized by corporations and thus actively prevents scientists from working for the public interest. (Andrew Pollack, New York Times February 20, 2009)

SCIENTIFIC BACKLASH AGAINST GMOs AND BIOTECH

Back in 1999, 136 scientists from all over the world had already called for a moratorium on GM crops and a total ban on patents for crops. Since patents are only useful if they hold the promise of future profits, dealing in GM crops may be even worse these days than dealing in the automotive industry; the Genetic Engineering News reported on September 1, 2008, that there just isn’t any money for such “inherently risky business,” and that the greatest competition to biotech now comes from the “emerging clean energy” sector.

And food technology experts like John Floros observe that funding for biotech has been drastically reduced over the past 15 years: “You can see the zero” he lamented, when addressing a biotech conference in early June.  He blames the “Slow Food and organic lobby [which caused] the perception that food technology is about ‘messing’ with food – and that threatens to undermine food safety efforts,” which for him means biotechnology. With apologies to Dr. Floros, I was cheering.

Also heartening was the news that the U.S. Department of Agriculture suggested a moratorium on cloned beef to achieve “an acceptance process … given the emotional nature of this issue.”  More than 50% of Americans don’t want cloned meat in any form anywhere.

INCONVENIENT TRUTHS

When profit becomes synonymous with control, reliance on secrecy and lies becomes the order of the day. Jeffrey Smith’s outstanding books on biotech foods take the reader through a carefully documented maze of deception and criminal disregard for health and ecology that makes your head spin.  The first time I read his Seeds of Deception I literally got a headache. What astounded me was the long list of documented cases of all those animals refusing to eat GM foods: geese, hogs, squirrels, elk, deer, raccoons, mice, rats and cows – which crashed through fences in order to get at non-GM food in the adjoining fields.  In every case, when forced to eat GM foods, they became sick, sometimes after one feeding, or died. The most recent, 2007 research shows that Monsanto’s biotech corn is toxic to the liver and the kidneys of animals tested.

We humans can avoid genetically modified foods, but only with great difficulty. According to the Centre of Food Safety, about 60% of all processed foods have GM content.

The scientists who dared to report their truthful research results about GM foods were silenced one way or another (see Dr. Chopra’s book on our government’s tactics), and their research was kept from the public by a specially appointed guardian, Michael Taylor, who also happens to be the cousin of former U.S. Vice President Al Gore’s wife. President Clinton made Taylor the Deputy Commissioner for Policy in 2000, a new office he created to control biotech information at both the FDA and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Once Taylor had sanitized all available science, he was rewarded with the Vice-Presidency of Monsanto. (This information is now available, and shows this technology to be unfit for human and animal consumption and a potential ecological disaster.)

BIOTECH AND GMOs WREAK HAVOC ON THE ECONOMIES OF PARTICIPATING NATIONS

As for the U.S. taxpayer, the losses in international trade for just 1999-2001 alone amounted to $12 billion – and are continuing unabated. Biotechnology is history’s most spectacular economic failure. In Canada, the entire canola export went down the drain with annual financial losses of hundreds of millions, for the simple reason that GM canola oil is known to cause health problems ranging from hypertension to cancer. Its rapeseed oil content was found to be carcinogenic in China when cooks breathed it in while stir-frying their food (Wall Street Journal June 7, 1995).

Today, the U.S. government has to subsidize farmers up to $5 billion annually to cover GM-related crop failures and damage. This may become as expensive as their wars, because long predicted “superweeds” have emerged in the Sun Belt states, where pigweed has mutated into chemical invincibility through constant applications of Roundup (glyphosate), devastating cotton and soybean crops. In 2008, about 45% of all those vast fields had to be hand weeded. (www.naturalnews.com)

Last year, 80% of South Africa’s GM corn harvest failed: 82,000 hectares grew fine-looking corn, but with no kernels at all.

Actually, this really is all about control, not health or global food security. When the U.S. invaded Iraq, American diplomat Paul Bremer issued a series of directives to serve as building blocks for the “new Iraq.” Among them was Order 81, which compelled Iraqi farmers to abandon their 10,000 years of agricultural history and instead use Monsanto’s seed and plant products if they wanted to do business with the U.S. The concern is that Iraqi farmers will have the same fate as those in India, where some 1,500 farmers committed suicide because their crops failed year after year and their biotech contracts could not be fulfilled. (www.INEAS.org, www.alternet.org)

HEALTH IMPACT OF GMO AND BIOTECH

Prince Charles, ignoring the pressure to shut up exerted by Prime Ministers Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, called for an end to biotech farming, quoting Mahatma Gandhi’s warning against “commerce without morality” and “science without humanity.” He was referring to the suicides among Indian farmers, terminator technology, and recent research conducted by Syngenta which used children for GM food trials – sponsored by Bill Gates and the Rockefeller Foundation.

The Prince also called attention to the lie that biotechnology is necessary to feed the world. In fact, according to organizations studying hunger and food shortages, the world produces annually about twice as much food as required – through non-biotech farming. Organic methods consistently outperform conventional and biotech, methods: Brazil and Ethiopia increased their yields by 250% when they switched to organic methods. (Independent, October 5, 2008; Daily Mail, February 17, 2009)

What will happen when antibiotic resistance spreads, as it inevitably will even more than it has already, because animal genes coding for this resistance are used in some biotech foods? Consumption of such foods can cause horizontal gene transfer to consumers because digestion is not as simple as biotech would like it to be. Back in 1992, when biotechnology began, the FDA warned about this “serious health hazard.” Human extinction is another interesting side effect to contemplate: the Austrian government released research results in November last year confirming that GM crops threaten human fertility in both sexes. As a result, Austria banned all biotech foods.

In May of this year, the American Academy of Environmental Medicine formally warned against GMO consumption in any form; their member physicians advise patients to avoid such foods totally, especially GM soy products (download their report from mailto:newsletter@responsibletechnology.orgnewsletter@responsibletechnology.org, May 20, 2009).

Eventually, inherent inconsistencies cause cracks in the edifice and let in some light. Back in 1999, when it looked like GM foods were going to take the world by storm, the cafeteria in Monsanto’s U.K. headquarters at High Wycombe posted a policy notice stating that “in response to concerns raised by our customers … we have decided to remove, as far as possible, genetically modified soy and maize from all food products served [here]… to ensure that you, the customer, can feel confident in the food we serve.”

The colossal stupidity on which biotech is based truly boggles the mind: it took some four billion years for all of life’s genes to evolve in an intricate dance with changing environments, conjuring up a complexity of interdependence that is characterized by myriad interactions of absolute specificity. Then, along come these yahoos and mix and match genes to serve some nutbar dream of wealth and world domination, developed from the economical models fantasizing about limitless growth – a pipe-dream that came up during a mere nano-second in life’s evolutionary process. What are these guys smoking?

If you want a quick, thumbnail sketch of what they are thinking (such as it is), take a look at one of their colouring books for children (www.whybiotech.com).

FURTHER PROBLEMS WITHIN THE CONVENTIONAL FOOD INDUSTRY

  • Biotech food production is just part of the problem. Go see the newly released documentary, Food Inc. In it, director Robert Kenner “pulls back the curtain on the industrial food system in the United States and connects the dots between factory farming and E.coli outbreaks, government subsidies and the diabetes epidemic – even slaughterhouses and illegal immigration [and finds that] it is “fundamentally unsustainable” and “as unrealistic as our credit system. But you know what? It’s going to crack!” (Philadelphia Daily News, June 15, 2009).
  • A University of Michigan study, reported in February 2009, showed a clear association between risk of stroke and the number of fast-food restaurants in the neighbourhood.  Neighbourhoods with the lowest number of such restaurants had the least number of strokes. The more processed a food, the more biotech content.
  • The Canadian Food Inspection Agency recently confirmed that all fresh cut, ready to eat vegetables are treated with chlorine. And neurotoxic and carcinogenic MSG is routinely sprayed on conventional fruits, vegetables, nuts, grains, and seeds, even on what goes into baby food (www.rense.com, April 20, 2009).
  • A new book Squeezed: What You Don’t Know About Orange Juice by Alissa Hamilton is a real stomach churner – after reading this book I decided on fresh-squeezed organic oranges for me only, forever.
  • About 70% of conventionally raised broiler chickens are loaded with antibiotics (even those which Tyson Foods claims are “raised without antibiotics” – they inject the eggs). Both chickens and pigs have plenty of arsenic in their conventional feeds (www.noccawood.ca and www.pressandguide.com).
  • Furthermore, the soy protein used in some “natural” foods and baby formula is often saturated with a toxic solvent called hexane (www.naturalnews.com May 20, 2009).
  • Irradiated cat food proved a killer for cats; in the U.K. cat food may not be irradiated anymore. Farmed fish not only have less essential fatty acid content than wild ones, but are now the victims of a new bacterium which threatens to wipe out the fisheries, and also may cause Mad Cow disease. Here come the Mad Fish (Norwegian School of Veterinary Science, November 21, 2008.)
  • Now, what really scares me is the recent discovery, described by neonatologist Dr. Paul Winchester, that the health problems caused by exposure to pesticides can be transferred to the baby via sperm or eggs: in other words the toxin-induced disease state can be passed on to the next generation (mailto:ahhaq@aeha-quebec.caahhaq@aeha-quebec.ca, April 12, 2009).

TOWARDS POSITIVE SOLUTIONS

  • I am most grateful to the McGuinty government for passing the province-wide ban on use and sale of some 250 pesticides and some 80 additional ingredients for lawn and garden use.  This is especially impressive when considering that Dow Chemical’s plan to sue Canada over Quebec’s earlier ban under NAFTA Chapter 11 did not deter Ontario from passing this legislation. We should all support the federal bill C-363 (NDP – Pat Martin, Winnipeg) to have this ban throughout Canada.
  • McDonald’s, the largest potato buyer in North America, will now have a positive impact on all potato farming because shareholders, in collaboration with Investor Environmental Health Network, demanded a substantial reduction in pesticide use on potatoes destined to feed McDonald’s billions of customers.
  • Research in the 2002 Jeffrey Smith reports showed that food molecules act like hormones and neurotransmitters. Young rats fed biotech food became like ADHD kids. The European Journal of Clinical Nutrition (December 5, 2007) reported that junk food was indeed a major cause of well-known behaviour problems and stopping its availability resulted in the kids’ behaviour returning to normal. This, and a study on food colouring in the Lancet that same year, prompted Australia’s largest supermarket chain (Aldi) to remove food colouring and certain preservatives like benzoate, propionates and synthetic antioxidants from packaged foods.
  • In September last year, California passed a law that protects farmers from biotech companies who now are responsible for genetic contamination from biotech field crops.
  • Meanwhile, organic manure has been proven to be superior to synthetics, and Dr. Shiv Chopra reported that bovine growth hormone has been stopped in the US as well. And thank you – Guelph University’s organic agriculture program continues to thrive. Happily, on June 17, Canada agreed to adopt the U.S. organic farming and food standards; occasionally our friends down south force us into something good.

When Michelle Obama scared the biotech honchos with her organic garden at the White House, she was signaling a return to the great tradition of good sense as demonstrated by Auburn University, Alabama, which has maintained traditional farming plots for 110 years. They still outperform “modern” methods in every way (Agronomy Journal, 2008; 100 (5):1493ff). We can do the same.

UPDATE ON BILL C-6

In the September issue of Vitality, lawyer Shawn Buckley of Truehope fame, founder and director of the national Natural Health Products Protection Association, will be updating readers on bill C-6, intended to amend the Hazardous Products Act.  It has potentially serious implications also for the Food and Drugs Act. C-6 passed third reading in Parliament on June 12, and the responsible Senate Committee will be deliberating on it after the summer recess. Then Senators need to hear from Canadians why this bill must be rejected or drastically altered, seeing it is an even worse reincarnation of the previous bill C-52.

Helke Ferrie’s book on that bill, Which Part of No! Don’t they Understand? is available for free downloading here. It lays out in detail what C-52 and C-6 are really about.

References

 

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