The GMO Cover-Up

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack was getting lots of appreciative applause and head nods from the packed hall at the Community Food Security Coalition conference today, held in Des Moines, Iowa. He described the USDA’s plans to improve school nutrition, support local food systems, and work with the Justice Department to review the impact of corporate agribusiness on small farmers. But then, with time for only one more question, I was handed the microphone.

“Mr. Secretary, may I ask a tough question on GMOs?”

He said yes.

“The American Academy of Environmental Medicine this year said that genetically modified foods, according to animal studies, are causally linked to accelerated aging, dysfunctional immune regulation, organ damage, gastrointestinal distress, and immune system damage. A study came out by the Union of Concerned Scientists confirming what we all know, that genetically modified crops, on average, reduce yield. A USDA report from 2006 showed that farmers don’t actually increase income from GMOs, but many actually lose income. And for the last several years, the United States has been forced to spend $3-$5 billion per year to prop up the prices of the GM crops no one wants.
“When you were appointed Secretary of Agriculture, many of our mutual friends—I live in Iowa and was proud to have you as our governor—assured me that you have an open mind and are very reasonable and forward thinking. And so I was very excited that you had taken this position as Secretary of Agriculture. And I’m wondering, have you ever heard this information? Where do you get your information about GMOs? And are you willing to take a delegation in D.C. to give you this hard evidence about how GMOs have actually failed us, that they’ve been put onto the market long before the science is ready, and it’s time to put it back into the laboratory until they’ve done their homework.”

Read entire article here.

The GE Process

What is a GMO?

A GMO (genetically modified organism) is the result of a laboratory process where genes from the DNA of one species are extracted and artificially forced into the genes of an unrelated plant or animal. The foreign genes may come from bacteria, viruses, insects, animals or even humans. Because this involves the transfer of genes, GMOs are also known as “transgenic” organisms.

This process may be called either Genetic Engineering (GE) or Genetic Modification (GM); they are one and the same.

What is a gene?

Every plant and animal is made of cells, each of which has a center called a nucleus. Inside every nucleus there are strings of DNA, half of which is normally inherited from the mother and half from the father. Short sequences of DNA are called genes. These genes operate in complex networks that are finely regulated to enable the processes of living organisms to happen in the right place and at the right time. 

How is genetic engineering done?

Because living organisms have natural barriers to protect themselves against the introduction of DNA from a different species, genetic engineers must force the DNA from one organism into another. Their methods include:

  • Using viruses or bacteria to “infect” animal or plant cells with the new DNA.
  • Coating DNA onto tiny metal pellets, and firing it with a special gun into the cells.
  • Injecting the new DNA into fertilized eggs with a very fine needle.
  • Using electric shocks to create holes in the membrane covering sperm, and then forcing the new DNA into the sperm through these holes.

Is genetic engineering precise?

The technology of genetic engineering is currently very crude. It is not possible to insert a new gene with any accuracy, and the transfer of new genes can disrupt the finely controlled network of DNA in an organism.

Current understanding of the way in which DNA works is extremely limited, and any change to the DNA of an organism at any point can have side effects that are impossible to predict or control. The new gene could, for example, alter chemical reactions within the cell or disturb cell functions. This could lead to instability, the creation of new toxins or allergens, and changes in nutritional value.

But haven’t growers been grafting trees, breeding animals, and hybridizing seeds for years?

Genetic engineering is completely different from traditional breeding and carries unique risks.

In traditional breeding it is possible to mate a pig with another pig to get a new variety, but is not possible to mate a pig with a potato or a mouse. Even when species that may seem to be closely related do succeed in breeding, the offspring are usually infertile—a horse, for example, can mate with a donkey, but the offspring (a mule) is sterile.

With genetic engineering, scientists can breach species barriers set up by nature. For example, they have spliced fish genes into tomatoes. The results are plants (or animals) with traits that would be virtually impossible to obtain with natural processes, such as crossbreeding or grafting.

What combinations have been tried?

It is now possible for plants to be engineered with genes taken from bacteria, viruses, insects, animals or even humans. Scientists have worked on some interesting combinations:

  • Spider genes were inserted into goat DNA, in hopes that the goat milk would contain spider web protein for use in bulletproof vests.
  • Cow genes turned pigskins into cowhides.
  • Jellyfish genes lit up pigs’ noses in the dark.
  • Artic fish genes gave tomatoes and strawberries tolerance to frost.

Field trials have included:

  • Corn engineered with human genes (Dow)
  • Sugarcane engineered with human genes (Hawaii Agriculture Research Center)
  • Corn engineered with jellyfish genes (Stanford University)
  • Tobacco engineered with lettuce genes (University of Hawaii)
  • Rice engineered with human genes (Applied Phytologics)
  • Corn engineered with hepatitis virus genes (Prodigene)
  • Potatoes that glowed in the dark when they needed watering.
  • Human genes were inserted into corn to produce spermicide.

Does the biotech industry hold any promise?

Genetic modification of plants is not the only biotechnology. The study of DNA does hold promise for many potential applications, including medicine. However, the current technology of GM foods is based on obsolete information and theory, and is prone to dangerous side effects. Economic interests have pushed it onto the market too soon.

Moreover, molecular marker technologies – so called Marker Assisted Selection (MAS) used with conventional breeding – show much promise for developing improved crop varieties, without the potentially dangerous side effects of direct genetic modification.

Source

Biotech industry wants organic farmers to pay for GMO contamination of their own crops

Thursday, November 29, 2012 by: Ethan A. Huff, staff writer

(NaturalNews) A U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) committee dominated by representatives from the biotechnology industry, seed companies, and academia has decided to make an official recommendation to the public agency that organic farmers be forced to bear financially responsible for the genetic contamination of their own organic crops by genetically-modified (GM) crops.

The USDA Advisory Committee on Biotechnology & 21st Century Agriculture, also known as AC21, is largely of the persuasion that agricultural coexistence means organic farmers should have to foot the bill when their fields are destroyed by unintentional GMO drift. According to an advisory report recently issued by the committee, this means requiring that organic farmers purchase their own crop insurance to pay for potential damages resulting from transgenic contamination.

“Of particular concern in the report is the recommendation that organic and non-GE conventional farmers pay to self-insure themselves against unwanted GE contamination,” said a recent statement issued by the National Organic Coalition (NOC). “This proposal allows USDA and the agricultural biotechnology industry to abdicate responsibility for preventing GE contamination while making the victims of GE pollution pay for damages resulting from transgenic contamination.”

Organic and conventional farmers have long had to deal with the threat of transgenic contamination from nearby GM crop fields, the pollen of which occasionally drifts or is carried by bees into organic crop fields. In the past, violated farmers have had to basically suck up their resultant losses, or even face litigation from the company whose seed materials trespassed onto their properties.

Real coexistence between GMOs, organic crops is impossible

The contamination issue has become so problematic in recent years that a number of industry groups have tried to pursue so-called coexistence measures that, in some sort of alternate universe, would allow GMOs, conventional crops, and organic crops to peacefully coexist in harmony with one another. But as anyone with any knowledge of GM crops already knows, it is virtually impossible to contain GMOs and prevent their eventual spread.

With this in mind, AC21 seems fully aware of the fact that GMO spread and contamination is inevitable. Its solution to the problem; however, is not to restrain GMOs in any way, but rather to set them free and leave it to organic farmers to clean up the mess. And this, of course, is the apparent position of the federal government as well, which continues to unleash new and unnecessary GMOs like Monsanto’s GM alfalfa into the wild without any concern for the irreversible damage this will cause.

“We urgently need meaningful regulatory change that institutionalizes mandatory GE contamination prevention practices,” added the NOC about the inherent failures of the committee proposal. “USDA needs to stop dragging its heels, get serious and focus on making this happen.”

 

Scientific studies conclude GMO feed causes organ disruption in animals

Wednesday, October 05, 2011 by: Jeffrey M. Smith – Natural News

(NaturalNews) A new paper reviewing data from 19 animal studies shows that consuming genetically modified (GM) corn or soybeans leads to significant organ disruptions in rats and mice, particularly in livers and kidneys (http://www.enveurope.com/content/23/1/10). “Other organs may be affected too, such as the heart and spleen, or blood cells,” stated the paper. In fact some of the animals fed genetically modified organisms had altered body weights, which is “a very good predictor of side effects in various organs.”

The GM soybean and corn varieties used in the feeding trials “constitute 83% of the commercialized GMOs” that are currently consumed by billions of people. While the findings may have serious ramifications for the human population, the authors demonstrate how a multitude of GMO-related health problems could easily pass undetected through the superficial and largely incompetent safety assessments that are used around the world.

The researchers, lead by French Professor Gilles-Eric Seralini, found that nearly 1 out of every 10 measured parameters in the studies, including blood and urine biochemistry, organ weights, and microscopic analyses, were significantly disrupted in the animals fed GMOs. The kidneys of males fared the worst, with 43.5% of all the changes. The liver of females followed, with 30.8%. The report, published in Environmental Sciences Europe on March 1, 2011, confirms that “several convergent data appear to indicate liver and kidney problems as end points of GMO diet effects.” The authors point out that livers and kidneys “are the major reactive organs” in cases of chronic food toxicity.

Feed’em longer!

One of the most glaring faults in the current regulatory regime is the short duration of animals feeding studies. The industry limits trials to 90 days at most, with some less than a month. Only two studies reviewed in this new publication were over 90 days — both were non-industry research.

Short studies could easily miss many serious effects of GMOs. It is well established that some pesticides and drugs, for example, can create effects that are passed on through generations, only showing up decades later. IN the case of the drug DES (diethylstilbestrol), “induced female genital cancers among other problems in the second generation.” The authors urge regulators to require long-term multi-generational studies, to “provide evidence of carcinogenic, developmental, hormonal, neural, and reproductive potential dysfunctions, as it does for pesticides or drugs.”

Pesticide Plants

Nearly all GM crops are described as “pesticide plants.” They either tolerate doses of weed killer, such as Roundup, or produce an insecticide called Bt-toxin. In both cases, the added toxin — weedkiller or bug killer — is found inside the corn or soybeans we consume.

When regulators evaluate the toxic effects of pesticides, they typically require studies using three types of animals, with at least one feeding trial lasting 2 years or more. One third or more of the side effects produced by these toxins will show up only in the longer study — not the shorter ones. But for no good reason, regulators ignore the lessons learned from pesticides and waive the GM crops-containing-pesticides onto the market with a single species tested for just 90 days. The authors affirm that “it is impossible, within only 13 weeks, to conclude about the kind of pathology that could be induced by pesticide GMOs and whether it is a major pathology or a minor one. It is therefore necessary to prolong the tests.”

GMO approvals also ignore the new understanding that toxins don’t always follow a linear dose-response. Sometimes a smaller amount of toxins have greater impact than larger doses. Approvals also overlook the fact that mixtures can be far more dangerous than single chemicals acting alone. Roundup residues, for example, have been “shown to be toxic for human placental, embryonic, and umbilical cord cells,” whereas Roundup’s active ingredient glyphosate does not on its own provoke the same degree of damage. One reason for this is that the chemicals in Roundup “stabilize glyphosate and allow its penetration into cells.”

Furthermore, toxins may generate new substances (metabolites) “either in the GM plant or in the animals fed with it.” Current assessments completely ignore the potential danger from these new components in our diets, such as the “new metabolites” in GMOs engineered to withstand Roundup. The authors warn, “We consider this as a major oversight in the present regulations.”

“It’s not the same stuff that farmers spray”

Regulators claim that the Bt-toxin produced inside GM corn is safe. They say that the Bt gene comes from soil bacteria Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt), which has been safely applied as a spray-on insecticide by farmers in the past. But the authors insist that “the argument about ‘safe use history’ of the wild Bt protein . . . Cannot, on a sound scientific basis, be used for direct authorizations of . . . GM corns,” without conducting proper long-term animal feeding studies.

In order to justify their claim that the wild Bt-toxin is safe, the authors state that it must first be separately tested on animals and humans and then authorized individually for food or feed, which it has not. And even if the wild variety had been confirmed as safe, the GM versions are so different, they must require their own independent studies. The paper states:

“The Bt toxins in GMOs are new and modified, truncated, or chimerical in order to change their activities/solubility in comparison to wild Bt. For instance, there is at least a 40% difference between the toxin in Bt176 [corn] and its wild counterpart.”

Even though the isolated Bt-toxin from GM corn has not been tested on animals, rodent studies on corn containing the toxin do show problems. Male rats fed Monsanto’s MON863 corn, for example, had smaller kidneys with more focal inflammation and other “disrupted biochemical markers typical of kidney filtration or function problems.”

Stop with the dumb excuses

If statistically significant problems show up in their studies, biotech company researchers often attempt to explain away the adverse findings. But the authors of this review paper describe their excuses as unscientific, obsolete, or unjustified.

When male and female animals have different results, for example, biotech advocates claim that this couldn’t possibly be related to the feed. Since both genders eat the same amount, they argue, both would have to show the same reaction in all of their organs, etc. And if the group of animals fed with less of the GMO feed exhibit more severe reactions than the group fed the larger amount, advocates claim that this discrepancy also means that the GMOs could not be the cause, since there must always be a linear dose relationship.

The authors of this paper, however, point out that effects found in a GMO animal feeding study “cannot be disregarded on the rationale that it is not linear to the dose (or dose-related) or not comparable in genders. This would not be scientifically acceptable.” In fact, most “pathological and endocrine effects in environmental health are not directly proportional to the dose, and they have a differential threshold of sensitivity in both sexes. This is, for instance, the case with carcinogenesis and endocrine disruption.”

What’s the culprit, pesticide or plant?

The shortcomings of the feeding studies make it impossible to determine whether a particular problem is due to the added pesticide, such as Roundup residues or Bt-toxin, or due to the genetic changes in the modified plants’ DNA.

Mice fed Roundup Ready soybeans, for example, showed numerous changes indicating increased metabolic rates in the liver (i.e. irregular hepatocyte nuclei, more nuclear pores, numerous small fibrillar centers, and abundant dense fibrillar components). Since studies on Roundup herbicide also show changes in the liver cells of mice and humans, the Roundup residues within the soybeans may be a significant contributing factor to the metabolic changes.

Similarly, rats fed Roundup Ready corn showed indications that their kidneys leaked. Such an effect “is well correlated with the effects of glyphosate-based herbicides (like Roundup) observed on embryonic kidney cells.” Thus, the rats’ kidney problems may also be caused by the Roundup that is accumulated within Roundup Ready corn kernels.

In addition to the herbicide, the Bt-toxin insecticide produced inside GM corn might also cause disorders. The authors state, “The insecticide produced by MON810 [corn] could also induce liver reactions, like many other pesticides.” Studies do confirm significant liver changes in rats fed Bt corn.

On the other hand, “unintended effects of the genetic modification itself cannot be excluded” as the possible cause of these very same health problems. The process of gene insertion followed by cloning plant cells (tissue culture) can cause massive collateral damage in the plant’s DNA with potentially harmful side-effects. In MON810 corn, for example, the insertion “caused a complex recombination event, leading to the synthesis of new RNA products encoding unknown proteins.” The authors warn that “genetic modifications can induce global changes” in the DNA, RNA, proteins, and the numerous natural products (metabolites), but the faulty safety assessments are not designed to adequately identify these changes or their health impacts.

Population at risk

In addition to the shortcomings mentioned above, the paper shows how GMO feeding trials are “based on ancient paradigms” with “serious conceptual and methodological flaws,” employ statistical methods that obscure the findings, add irrelevant control groups that confuse and confound the analysis, and rely on numerous assumptions that either remain untested or have already proved false.

Unlike drug approvals, biotech companies do not conduct human studies. They would therefore fail to identify both general human health reactions, and the potentially more serious ones endured by sub-populations. “If some consumers suffer from stomach problems or ulcers,” for example, the paper states, “the new toxins will possibly act differently; the digestion in children could be affected too.” The paper recommends the implementation of post market monitoring, which, among other things, “should be linked with the possibility of detecting allergenicity reactions to GMOs in routine medicine.”

But even if authorities wanted to conduct epidemiological studies on GMOs, the authors acknowledge that they “are not feasible in America, since there is no organized traceability of GMOs anywhere on the continent.” Not only is labeling of GMOs urgently needed to allow such studies to proceed, the study says:

“The traceability of products from animals fed on GMOs is also crucial. The reason for this is because they can develop chronic diseases which are not utterly known today…. Labeling animals fed on GMOs is therefore necessary because some pesticide residues linked to GMOs could pass into the food chain.”

They also point out that “even if pesticides residues or DNA fragments are not toxic nor transmitted by themselves” nevertheless, “nobody would want to eat disabled or physiologically modified animals after long-term GMOs ingestion.”

“New experiments,” they concluded, “should be systematically performed to protect the health of billions of people that could consume directly or indirectly these transformed products.”

In the meantime, for those not willing to wait for the new studies, we recommend consulting the Non-GMO Shopping Guide at www.NonGMOShoppingGuide.com

Jeffrey M. Smith is the author of Seeds of Deception (http://www.seedsofdeception.com/Public/Home/index.cfm), the world’s bestselling book on GMOs. He is also the author of Genetic Roulette (http://www.geneticroulette.com), and the Executive Director of the Institute for Responsible Technology (http://www.responsibletechnology.org). The Institute’s Non-GMO Shopping Guide website (http://www.nongmoshoppingguide.com), iPhone app ShopNoGMO, and pocket guide, help people navigate to healthier non-GMO foods. Join the Institute’s Non-GMO Tipping Point Network (http://action.responsibletechnology.org/p/salsa/web/common/public/sig…) to connect with others in your area, to bring the truth about GMOs to your friends and community.

 

Throwing Biotech Lies at Tomatoes

By Jeffrey Smith
Institute For Responsible Technology
Saturday, Jan 1, 2011

Part 1: Killer Tomatoes

Remember the pictures of the fish tomatoes? For years they were an unofficial emblem of the anti-GMO movement. They depicted how anti-freeze genes from an Arctic fish were forced into tomato DNA, allowing the plants to survive frost. Scientists really did create those Frankentomatoes, but they were never put on the market. (Breyers low-fat ice cream, however, does contain anti-freeze proteins from Arctic fish genes, but that’s another story.)

The tomato that did make it to market was called the Flavr Savr, engineered for longer shelf life. Fortunately, it was removed from the shelves soon after it was introduced.

Although there are no longer any genetically modified (GM) tomatoes being sold today, the FDA’s shady approval process of the Flavr Savr provides a lesson in food safety—or rather, the lack of it—as far as gene-spliced foods are concerned. We know what really went on during the FDA’s voluntary review process of the Flavr Savr in 1993, because a lawsuit forced the release of 44,000 agency memos.

(Those same memos, by the way, also showed that FDA scientists had repeatedly warned their superiors about the serious health risks of genetically modified organisms [GMOs]. They were ignored by the political appointees in charge, who allow GMOs onto the market without any required safety studies.)

Bleeding stomachs

Calgene, the tomatoes’ creator-in-chief (now a part of Monsanto), voluntarily conducted three 28-day rat feeding studies. Before I share the gory details, I must commend the Calgene scientists who were committed to transparency and full disclosure with the FDA. Unlike all other subsequent voluntary submissions from biotech firms to the agency, Calgene provided detailed feeding study data and full reports. Dr. Belinda Martineau, one of Calgene’s tomato makers, writes in First Fruit about their commitment to an open process while they attempted to introduce the world’s first GM food crop.

Calgene tested two separate Flavr Savr tomato lines. Both had the same gene inserted into the same type of tomato. The process of insertion and the subsequent cloning of the cells into GM plants can cause lots of unique and unpredicted consequences. The two lines, therefore, were not considered identical.

The rats that ate one of these Flavr Savr varieties probably wished they were in a different test group. Out of 20 female rats, 7 developed stomach lesions—bleeding stomachs. The rats eating the other Flavr Savr, or the natural tomatoes, or no tomatoes at all, had no lesions.

If we humans had such effects in our stomachs, according to Dr. Arpad Pusztai, a top GMO safety and animal feeding expert, it “could lead to life-endangering hemorrhage, particularly in the elderly who use aspirin to prevent thrombosis.”

The lab that performed the study for Calgene acknowledged that the results “did suggest a possible treatment related” problem. FDA scientists repeatedly asked Calgene to provide additional data in order to resolve what they regarded as outstanding safety questions. The director of FDA’s Office of Special Research Skills wrote that the tomatoes did not demonstrate a “reasonable certainty of no harm,” which is the normal standard of safety. The Additives Evaluation Branch agreed that “unresolved questions still remain,” and the staff pathologist stated, “In the absence of adequate explanations by Calgene, the issues raised by the Pathology Branch … remain and leave doubts as to the validity of any scientific conclusion(s) which may be drawn from the studies’ findings.”

Oh yeah, some rats died

The team that had obtained the formerly secret FDA documents sent the full Flavr Savr studies to Dr. Pusztai for review and comment. While reading them, he happened across an endnote that apparently the FDA scientists either did not see or chose to ignore. The text nonchalantly indicated that 7 of the 40 rats fed the Flavr Savr tomato died within two weeks. The dead rats had eaten the same tomato line as those that developed lesions. In the other groups, fed the other Flavr Savr line, a natural tomato control, or a water control, only one rat had died.

But the endnote summarily dismissed the cause of death as husbandry error, and no additional data or explanation was provided. The dead rats were simply replaced with new ones.

When I discussed this finding with Dr. Pusztai over the phone, he was beside himself. He told me emphatically that in proper studies, you never just dismiss the cause of death with an unsupported footnote. He said that the details of the post mortem analysis must be included in order to rule out possible causes or to raise questions for additional research. Furthermore, you simply never replace test animals once the research begins.

Questionable follow-up study

Calgene repeated the rat study. This time, one male rat from the non-GM group of 20, and two females from the GM-fed group of 15, showed stomach lesions. Calgene claimed success. They said that the necrosis (dead tissue) and erosions (inflammation and bleeding) were “incidental” and not tomato-related. The FDA staff pathologist, however, was not convinced. He responded that “the criteria for qualifying a lesion as incidental were not provided.” Further, he said that the disparity between the studies “has not been adequately addressed or explained.”

In reality, the new study was not actually a “repeat.” They used tomatoes from a different batch and used a freeze-dried concentrate rather then the frozen concentrate used in the previous trial. Dr. Martineau explained to me that by freeze-drying, it allowed them to put more of the concentrated tomato into each rat. But Dr. Pusztai said that altering the preparation of the food can lead to different results. He also pointed out that humans were more likely to consume frozen concentrate compared with freeze-dried.

In spite of the outstanding issues, the political appointees at the FDA concluded that the lesions were not related to the GM tomatoes. To be on the safe side, however, Calgene on its own chose not to commercialize the tomato line that was associated with the high rate of stomach lesions and deaths. The other line went onto supermarket shelves in 1994.

Faulty science rules the day

This was the very first GM food crop to be consumed in the US. It was arguably the most radical change in our food in all of human history. It was the product of an infant science that was prone to side-effects. Yet it was placed on the market without required labels, warnings, or post-marketing surveillance. One hopes that the FDA would have been exhaustive in their approval process, holding back approvals until all doubts were extinguished. But the agency was officially mandated with promoting biotechnology and bent over backwards to push GMOs onto the market. As a result, their evaluation was woefully inadequate.

Having discovered problems in the stomach, for example, Dr. Pusztai said they should have looked further down the digestive system at the intestines as well, but they didn’t. They should have increased the number of animals in the experiment to strengthen the findings, but they didn’t. And they should have used young (e.g. month-old) and pregnant animals as is done with pharmaceutical studies, but they didn’t.

They did, however, use rats with vast differences in starting weights. This invalidates any conclusions that there were no significant differences in weight gain, feed intake, or organ weights between GM- and non-GM-fed groups. The starting weights in the Flavr Savr experiment ranged from 130 to 258 grams for males, and 114 to 175 grams for females. Contrast that with the hundreds of rat feeding trials conducted by Dr. Pusztai, where the starting weights were within a range of 1 or 2 grams.

Dr. Pusztai also pointed out that the experimental tomatoes were grown at different locations and harvested at different times, which further increases the variability of results.

The FDA’s defense that the bleeding stomachs did not come from the Flavr Savr diet was also an exercise in faulty science. They blamed the lesions on mucolytic agents in the tomato (i.e. components that dissolves thick mucus); but according to Dr. Pusztai, tomatoes are not known to contain mucolytic agents. The FDA also claimed that it might be the food restriction in the rats’ diet—but the rats ate as much as they wanted. Or maybe it was the animal restraint—but the rats were not restrained.

The explanation that stuck to the wall was that the process of force-feeding the tomatoes through tubes was the reason for the stomach lesions. But as Dr. Pusztai and FDA scientists both observed, there was no adequate explanation as to why the rats fed GM tomatoes in the earlier study had the higher rate of lesions.

Dr. Pusztai said the “study was poorly designed and executed and, most importantly, led to flawed conclusions.” He warned, “the claim that these GM tomatoes were as safe as conventional ones is at best premature and, at worst, faulty.”

Fortunately, the Flavr Savr tomatoes lacked flavor. They also got mushy (unless they were handled in such a way that the company spent more money getting them to market than it could sell them for). They were taken off the market by the time Monsanto bought Calgene in 1997.

After the Flavr Savr’s superficial review and controversial approval, no subsequent GMO producer has ever presented such detailed safety test data to the FDA.

Part 2: The Liars

I write about the Flavr Savr in Genetic Roulette: The Documented Health Risks of Genetically Engineered Foods. Two biotech advocates, Drs. Chassy and Tribe, created a GMO disinformation site that allegedly discredits all 65 health risks highlighted in the work. I have already shown that their attack on the first risk, Dr. Pusztai’s potatoes, was based on pure PR spin and scientific sleight of hand. Below I respond to their accusations regarding the Flavr Savr.

1. (Chassy and Tribe) FDA records clearly show that experts stated that the process of introducing stomach tubes can damage the rats’ stomachs and/or end up placing test material in the lungs. . . The reader is not told that regulators approved the tomato because their concerns had been fully satisfied that the GM tomato was not toxic.

As indicated in Part 1, the actual scientists at the FDA wrote memo after memo declaring that the higher rates of lesions in the GM-fed group could not be explained away, and that they were not fully satisfied by the explanations. The discrepancy between what the political appointees at the agency stated publicly, and the concerns expressed in private memos by the scientific staff, has been clearly documented.

In fact, one memo reveals that during their Flavr Savr review, the FDA was making blatant and possibly illegal exceptions. One person wrote, “It has been made clear to us that this present submission [Flavr Savr] is not a food additive petition and the safety standard is not the food additive safety standard. It is less than that but I am not sure how much less.” According to attorney Steven Druker, who is an expert in US food safety law, the FDA’s own regulations clearly state that a lower standard should not have been applied in this instance.

As for the stomach lesions, without repeating the study with the same tomatoes, in the same concentration, with larger sample sizes, we can’t be confident that the GM line was the cause. But likewise, we can’t be confident that they were not. It’s another example of too few data.

2. No real differences were seen between groups of animals in the study. Contrary to Smith’s claims, expert pathologists stated that mild gastric erosions were seen at similar levels in both GM and non-GM fed rats.

This is quite a bizarre statement, given that seven female rats had stomach lesions in the first study, compared to none in the other feeding groups. Even the experimenters said that the results suggest a treatment-related effect. I guess if you completely ignore the main rat study in question, which apparently Chassy and Tribe would like us all to do, then you will not see significant differences. But putting blinders on to ignore inconvenient evidence does not prove safety or demonstrate good science.

3a. Rats might have been injured . . . by accidental administration of test material into the lung instead of the stomach.

3b. Gastric lesions can be caused by acidosis brought on by fasting.

Neither of these arguments address why 7 of 20 females fed GM tomatoes had lesions while the controls, reared under the same conditions, did not. Furthermore, since the rats did not fast but ate as much as they wanted, why would they throw in this irrelevant point (if not to obscure the truth)?

4. Smith is actually asking the reader to believe that the FDA would approve a lethal product.

Believe it! The FDA approves lethal products all the time. According to a report by the United States General Accounting Office, more than half of the drugs approved by the FDA between 1976 and 1985 had severe or fatal side-effects that had not been detected during the agency’s review and testing. In other words, after drug companies spent an estimated 12 years and $231 million dollars to research, test, and secure new drug approval through a very hands-on FDA approach, most of the drugs had to be taken off the market or required major label changes due to missed safety issues.

With GMOs, the situation is far more dangerous. The FDA doesn’t require a single study, the complex biology of GM crops may produce far more side-effects than drugs, GM foods are fed to the entire population, and they are not labeled or monitored, so symptoms are difficult or impossible to track.

5. There is no evidence of animal deaths. . . . Smith may have confused the words necrosis and dead cells with animal deaths. Careful reading reveals that the regulatory record does not mention any animal deaths which surely would have been of concern had they occurred. . . . This claim (in Pusztai and others 2003) appears to be blatantly untrue.

They would hope it was untrue. But just because they didn’t have access to the 44,000 documents made public from the lawsuit does not mean that the deaths did not occur. I can assure you they did, and that Dr. Pusztai, widely recognized as the world’s leading expert in his field and author of more than 300 studies, would not mistake dead cells for animal deaths.
In fact, on page 18 of the IRDC Report, it refers to “necroscopy data” on each animal. Necroscopy is an examination of a dead body, not dead cells.

The reason why the FDA scientists did not raise this issue is that they apparently either did not read the endnote, or simply accepted the unsupported conclusion on face value, which said that the necroscopy suggested that the deaths were due to a husbandry error and not test-article related. Even the Calgene scientists didn’t raise eyebrows at the finding. It wasn’t until a highly experienced animal feeding study expert like Dr. Pusztai reviewed the original papers that this oversight became apparent.

6. Interestingly, eating too many tomatoes can kill rats.

It is odd that Chassy and Tribe first claim that no rats died and then try to argue that if rats did die, tomato overdose could be the culprit. Since all the rats were fed under similar conditions, their killer-tomato argument fails to explain why 7 of 40 GM-fed animals died, compared to only 1 in the other groups.

7. These products are assessed carefully for safety before they are marketed, and—more importantly—there is no scientific reason to believe they pose and (sic) new or different risks.

To claim that there are no new potential health hazards from GMOs is absurd. Fran Sharples, the Director of the Board on Life Sciences at the US National Academy of Sciences (NAS), told me, “The academies have issued numerous reports on assessing the risks of transgenic plants. If the academy believed there were no such potential risks, why would we have delved into these matters in these reports?” One of those NAS reports even acknowledged that the current system of regulating GMOs might not detect “unintended changes in the composition of the food.”

The Royal Society of Canada stated that it is “scientifically unjustifiable” to presume that GM foods are safe and that the “default presumption” is that unintended, potentially hazardous side-effects are present. A WHO spokesperson said that current regulations are not adequate to determine the health effects; the Indian Council of Medical Research called for a complete overhaul of existing regulations; and the American Academy of Environmental Medicine called for a moratorium of GM foods altogether.

Since Chassy and Tribe are fond of using the FDA policy as support for their position, I am happy to quote Linda Kahl, an FDA compliance officer, who directly contradicts their ridiculous assertion. In a memo that summarized the position of FDA scientists about GMOs, she stated, “the processes of genetic engineering and traditional breeding are different, and according to the technical experts in the agency, they lead to different risks.”

What’s Chassy and Tribe’s real motive?

Many of the arguments presented by Chassy and Tribe are easily and completely countered by the evidence. If one were feeling especially generous, one might guess that they simply weren’t aware of the strong concerns voiced in quotes by FDA scientists, the incidence of stomach lesions in the first study, or the fact that the rats didn’t fast. But these points were contained within the very passage of Genetic Roulette that they were supposedly critiquing. If they actually read the book, which we must assume they did, then they absolutely knew that their counter-arguments were directly contradicted by FDA memos and study reports, and thus were utterly false.

Why then did they construct their website in the first place? It appears that they are not really motivated to make cogent scientific counter-arguments, but instead are hoping that the readers blindly accept their baseless condemnation of Genetic Roulette and never actually read the book.

This tactic is similar to other techniques used by the biotech industry that I describe in Genetic Roulette. GMO advocates, for example, often write up lengthy studies or reports that hardly anyone ever reads in detail. Instead, people generally look at the abstract and/or conclusion and accept the authors’ declaration that the findings demonstrate GMO safety. But when an expert actually takes the time to go through the details, he or she discovers that the conclusions are entirely unsupported and unjustified. In some cases, they are in direct opposition to the data.

It took the biotech industry three years to create their so-called academic review of Genetic Roulette. The mere fact that after all that time they could not put together even the most basic scientific arguments is a tribute to the authenticity of the book. If they could have used science to counter it, they would have. But they didn’t. They used spin.

It will continue to be my delight to go through each of their pages to expose their “scientific” sleight-of-hand. But I am much more motivated to spend my time taking steps that will end the genetic engineering of the food supply, rather than trying to convince the handful of people who accidentally wander onto Chassy and Tribe’s disinformation site. So have patience.

Bees, Honey and Genetically Modified Crops

Original on Friends of Earth

Introduction

Bees are extremely important to the pollination of UK crops, particularly oilseed rape and beans. In the UK there are estimated to be between 100,000 and 300,000 hives1, working out at one hive per square kilometre. A hive may contain up to 50,000 bees and individual bees may visit up to 100 flowers on each trip out from the hive. The value of honey bees’ services as pollinators in the European Union has been estimated at around £3 billion per year2.

Genetically modified (GM) crops are very near to being grown commercially. GM maize and oilseed rape varieties are in the last stages of the regulatory procedure which will allow them to be grown anywhere in the UK. A farming industry organisation, the Supply Chain Initiative on Modified Agricultural Crops (SCIMAC) has developed guidelines for farmers growing GM crops. But there are no provisions within these for protecting beehives from contamination with GM pollen, or even to inform beekeepers if GM crops are to be grown in their area.

In 1999 the Government started a series of ‘farm-scale trials’ of GM herbicide-tolerant crops. Each of these GM crop trials covers ten hectares (25 acres) and it is planned to have at least 25 sites for each GM crop involved – winter and spring oilseed rape, maize and sugar beet. These trials are meant to examine the environmental effects of GM crops, but they have not been designed to prevent pollen escaping from the test sites or to protect nearby beekeepers from contamination of their honey.

GM Crops

Oilseed rape is an extremely important crop for bees and beekeepers. It is the crop to which commercial hives are most often moved3, and pollination contracts for oilseed rape provide an important source of income to many beekeepers. It is very attractive to bees, and has ‘sticky’ pollen, which the bees can get covered in. Most GM oilseed rape in the UK has been engineered to resist herbicides.

GM maize is also close to commercial production and being growing at farm-scale trials. Bees collect pollen for food and in the US it has been found that pollen from maize fields can make up to 20 per cent of the total collected by bees from nearby hives4.

Is GM Honey safe?

Genetic engineering is imprecise and unpredictable. Genes are inserted from organisms which have never been eaten as food, and so new proteins are introduced into the human and animal food chains. There is concern that these could cause allergic reactions or other health effects.

A study by Government researchers found that there are between 20,000 and 80,000 pollen grains in a portion (10g) of shop-bought honey5. There are already cases of people who are allergic to honey, and this has been linked to pollen in the honey6. The novel proteins or toxins produced by GM crops may also be in the pollen they produce. This means that honey containing GM pollen could pose a potential health risk. The researchers who studied this problem concluded that if GM pollen contained novel toxins or proteins it “could pose problems, not only to man who consumes honey as a food, but also to bee populations which rely on pollen as the sole source of protein”7.

As well as this, research into honey has found that bees can pass proteins from nectar unchanged into honey8. If GM crops produce novel proteins or toxins in the nectar as well, this may further threaten the safety of honey produced from GM crops.

GM plants may also contain genes which provide resistance to commonly used antibiotics such as ampicillin. There is concern that these could be passed on to the bacteria that live in humans and animals. DNA from pollen has been found to be able to survive in honey for seven weeks9. It may be that this could be a route for such gene transfer.

In spite of the risks, there has been almost no safety testing of GM pollen, either for humans or for bees. Even the food safety tests of GM crops have been limited to short-term tests on animals. The Government’s advisors on the safety of GM foods rely on results of tests conducted by the GM companies themselves. Recently Dr Andrew Chesson, a leading food scientist from the Rowett Research Institute, expressed concern that current safety tests may be insufficient to detect new, unexpected chemicals in GM foods10. Although the Government is conducting its own independent research into GM food safety, the results will not be ready until 2001.

Bees and gene pollution

Honey bees commonly forage up to two km from the hive, but oilseed rape fields are such an attractive source of nectar that bees may travel at least five km to get to them11. In a recent study, a bee hive was placed 800 m from a field of GM oilseed rape. When the oilseed rape was in flower, it made up 70% of the pollen that the bees carried back to the hive. One bee returning to the hive had 60,000 oilseed rape pollen grains stuck to its body12. As the bees brush past each other in the hive any GM pollen is spread throughout the colony and taken out again by other bees.

In summer 1999, Friends of the Earth commissioned research to study this issue. The researchers put pollen samplers on the entrances to beehives around a ten hectare farm scale test site of GM oilseed rape. The pollen samplers measured how much pollen the bees were carrying into the hive. The bee hives were 150m, 2.5 km and 4.5 km away from the test site. GM pollen was found in all the samples from the different beehives, including the one furthest away. The results show that even if a beehive is 4.5 km from a field of GM oilseed rape, the honey can still become contaminated with GM pollen. This has serious implications for all beekeepers.

Not only are bee hives near to GM oilseed rape fields likely to become contaminated with GM pollen, but the bees may spread GM pollen to non-GM crops several miles away. It is likely that in the future farmers will be growing oilseed rape for the ‘GM-free’ market. In such cases, contamination of the crop could cause financial loss to the farmer. At the moment it is unclear who would be held liable for this, and whether the beekeeper might be held responsible as well as the farmer who grows the GM crop.

Impact on Beekeepers

At the moment, companies or farmers planting GM crops do not have to consult with neighbouring beekeepers, or even tell them that there is a GM crop nearby. Even if the beekeeper finds out that there is a GM crop nearby, it is up to them to test their honey for contamination. Because of this, it is very possible that beekeepers have already unwittingly sold GM honey to the public.

The former Food Safety Minister Jeff Rooker stated that honey containing GM pollen would have to be labelled before being sold13. But this only applies to honey containing pollen from GM crops which have gained permission to be sold as food. GM test sites, including at present the farm-scale trials of GM oilseed rape, grow GM crops which have not yet got such permission. In these cases, the law states that any GM material from them cannot be sold in food, including GM pollen. This means that if honey becomes contaminated with pollen from a test site or the farm-scale trials it could be illegal to sell it.

As it stands, GM crops pose a serious threat to beekeepers and honey production in the UK. Honey contaminated with GM pollen will either have to be disposed of safely or sold as a GM product. Either of these options is likely to cause financial harm to beekeepers. Despite this, there is no system to ensure that beekeepers are consulted about GM crops growing nearby nor are there any provisions for compensation in the event of financial losses which might result.

Impact on Wild Bees

Wild bees are vital for the survival of many of our wild plants, as well as being important for crops. Some species of wild plants are dependent on wild bees for their pollination and survival. Several species of bumblebees and solitary bees are also important pollinators for food crops.

Bumblebees are very important in the UK, as they fly around at lower temperatures and in worse weather than honeybees. In addition, bumblebees are best able to pollinate some wild flowers, such as foxgloves. Natural populations of bumblebees are in decline in the UK and across the EU. Solitary bees are bees that live on their own, rather than in hives or nests. There are several hundred species across Europe, but very little is known about them apart from the fact that, like bumblebees, they are in decline.

The decline of bumblebees and solitary bee populations has been linked to modern intensive farming 14. The widespread use of herbicides and the increased intensity of farming has removed the habitats that wild bees make nests in, and reduced the numbers of wild plants which they use for food. There is concern that the introduction of GM herbicide tolerant crops, such as oilseed rape, will reduce still further the diversity and number of wild plants found in UK farmland. Such concerns have been expressed by English Nature, the Government’s own wildlife advisor, as well as the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds and the Wildlife Trusts. The widespread use of GM herbicide-tolerant crops is likely to threaten further wild bee populations.

Summary

It is clear that growing GM crops in the UK will pose a serious threat to beekeepers and honey production in the UK. Issues around food safety, liability, the cost to beekeepers and the threat to wild bee populations have yet to be resolved. Vital questions need to be answered and there needs to be a full public debate on the acceptable uses of genetic engineering.

Friends of the Earth (FOE) is opposed to the untested introduction of GM crops and foods in the UK. We are campaigning against outdoor testing of GM crops, including the farm scale trials. FOE is calling for a full public debate on the future of farming and how our food is produced. A moratorium, or freeze, on the commercial production and importation of GM food and crops is now urgently required.

Emily Diamand, September 1999

The Real Food Campaign
Friends of the Earth
26-28, Underwood Street
LONDON
N1  7JQ
Tel 020 7490 1555
Fax 020 7490 0881
Email – info@foe.co.uk
Website – www.foe.co.uk


1. Williams, I. 1994. “Dependence on Crop Production within the European Union on pollination by honey bees” Agricultural Zoological Review Vol 6 pp 229-257


2.Carreck, NL. Pollination Ecology Research at IACR-Rothamsted


3.Williamson, I. 1996 “Aspects of bee diversity and crop pollination in the European Union” in A Matheson, SL Buchmann, C O’Toole, P Westrich and I Williams (eds) The Conservation of Bees Academic Press.


4.Erickson, EH, Erickson BH, Flottum PK, Wyman JA, Wedberg JL & Page RE. 1997. “Effects of selected insecticide formulations, phased applications and colony management strategies on honey bee mortality in processing sweetcorn” Journal of Apical Research 36(1) pp 3-13


5.MAFF Research & Development and Surveillance Report: 376. Undated. Honey from genetically modified plants: integrity of DNA and entry of GM-derived proteins into the food chain via honey MAFF project No 2B 067


6.Bauer, L et al. 1996 “Food allergy to honey: Pollen or bee products? Characterisation of allergenic proteins in honey by means of immunoblotting” Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology Vol 97 1(1) pp 65-73


7.Wilkinson, JE, D Twell and K Lindsey. 1997 “Activities of CaMV 35S and nos promoters in pollen: implications for field release of transgenic plants” Journal of Experimental Botany Vol 48 (307) pp 265-275


8.Coghlan, A. 1999 “Healing Honey: flowers are being turned into vaccine factories” New Scientist 23 June 1999


9. Eady, C, D Twell & K Lindsey. 1995 “ Pollen viability and trans-gene expression following storage in honey” Transgenic Research Vol 4 pp 226-231


10. Daily Express, 4 September 1999. “New GM warning over danger chemicals entering food chain”


11.Ramsay, G, CE Thompson, S Neilson, GR Mackay, 1999. “Honeybees as vectors of GM oilseed rape pollen” in Gene Flow and agriculture: relevance for transgenic crops BCPC Symposium Proceedings No 72 pp 209-214


12.Ibid.


13.Rooker, J. House of Commons Hansard Written Answers 15 April 1999 (Part 6) Col 321


14. Williamson, I. 1996 “Aspects of bee diversity and crop pollination in the European Union” in A Matheson, SL Buchmann, C O’Toole, P Westrich and I Williams (eds) The Conservation of Bees pp 63-80 Academic Press

Contact details:

Friends of the Earth
26-28 Underwood St.
LONDON
N1  7JQ

Tel: 020 7490 1555
Fax: 020 7490 0881
Email: info@foe.co.uk
Website: www.foe.co.uk

 

GMO Trilogy

This explosive exposé reveals what the biotech industry doesn’t want you to know – how industry manipulation and political collusion, not sound science, allow dangerous genetically engineered food into your daily diet. Company research is rigged, alarming evidence of health dangers is covered up, and intense political pressure applied. Chapters read like adventure stories and are hard to put down:

  • Scientists were offered bribes or threatened. Evidence was stolen. Data was omitted or distorted.
  • Government employees who complained were harassed, stripped of responsibilities, or fired.
  • Laboratory rats fed a GM crop developed stomach lesions and seven of the forty died within two weeks. The crop was approved without further tests.
  • The only independent in-depth feeding study ever conducted showed evidence of alarming health dangers. When the scientist tried to alert the public, he lost his job and was silenced with threats of a lawsuit.

Read the actual internal memos by FDA scientists, warning of toxins, allergies, and new diseases – all ignored by their superiors, including a former attorney for Monsanto. Learn why the FDA withheld information from Congress after a genetically modified supplement killed nearly a hundred people and disabled thousands. The GMO Trilogy’s was released in April 2006 in conjunction with Earth Day (April 22) and International GMO opposition Day (April 8)—a coordinated 30-nation campaign to raise awareness about genetically modified (GM) food.

Unnatural Selection (parts 1 – 5)





Hidden Dangers in Kids’ Meals: Genetically Engineered Foods (parts 1-3)



You’re Eating WHAT?