Horse Gulch Blog

Watchdogging for the greater Durango area

9 Feb 2013

How can you say that genetically modified crops are safe?

Posted by Tony Schlauch

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How can you say GM crops are safe?

8460_wpm_lowresI am writing this in response to Garth Buchanan’s op-ed piece in the Herald on 1/5/13, titled “Genetically modified crops are as safe as other produce”.  His first assertion is that genetic engineering is a type of cross breeding.  This is almost laughable.  Since when do frogs, spiders, and bacteria breed with corn, soy beans, and beets?  He also states that these engineers have more control over the resulting organism.  This is false.  The engineers have very little control over where the genes get overwritten, and then select for traits they are looking for after it grows, if it grows.

He says that scientists “believe” that risks can be controlled.  Besides not sounding very scientific, most fifth graders understand how plants propagate and understand that once released into the environment these genes cannot be contained in any way.  The Supreme Court also agrees stating that you cannot build a fence high enough to control wind and bees.  Besides the risk to wild populations since most GM crops produce sterile seed, it is a huge risk to the neighboring farmer that saves his or her own seed.  This has forced many farmers to buy their seed from Monsanto, which holds 90% of the market share, or other companies.

He would also have us believe that these GM crops use less water, fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides.  This is false.  In fact the majority of GM crops, about 80%, are Round-up Ready, which are engineered to be able to be sprayed with Round-up almost to the day of harvest.  We are seeing large increases in the use of Round-up with each successive year.  These crops also require more fertilizer as Round-up is a chelator which binds to nutrients not allowing the plant to absorb them.  Eventually the soil becomes basically sterile.  We are also seeing the rise of super weeds that are resistant to Round-up (glyphosate). So of course they are developing 2-4-d ready crops.  2-4-d is one of the main components of Agent Orange.  In 2007 over 208 million pounds of glyphosate were applied to US soil.  This is essentially salting the earth.  No GM crop that is drought resistant was approved until last year, and does not show much promise.

We are also supposed to believe that there are no health risks to humans. This is false.  Over the last twenty years the rates of inflammatory related diseases have gone up at the same rates as GM produce usage.  That is because our body does not recognize it as food and attacks it causing an allergic reaction and inflammation.  Until September of 2012, no lifetime feeding study had been performed on any animal.  The FDA has only required 90-day rat-feeding studies to be performed mostly by the industry, not the FDA or independent scientists.  The companies only have to show that the rats did not die at significantly higher rates.  No attention is paid to what happens after 90 days or to the significant physiological changes that happen even in only 90 days.  The lifetime study published in peer reviewed Food and Chemical Toxicology was performed on rats for two years.  The results are scary:  increased mortality rates, tumors, kidney and liver malfunction, just to name a few.  I encourage the reader to look this up.  There are even studies that show the genes are transferring to the next generation, moving from plant to animal.

I am so tired of “scientists” hiding behind the FDA.  The current Deputy Commissioner for Foods is Michael Taylor, a lawyer with long ties to Monsanto.  The FDA has a long history of being headed by the same people who are making untold billions off of this industry.  Surely there is no conflict of interest there.  Yes I am being sarcastic.  The same goes for the USDA.  Look up who has steered these regulatory agencies over the last twenty years.  Then look up where they worked before and after holding these regulatory positions.  The conflict of interest will be clear.  How can we trust the same people making billions off of this industry to determine its safety?  We might as well let the wolves guard the hen house.

Let us touch on the labeling issue.  Mr. Buchanan would have us believe that this will cause people everywhere to starve.  Why is it, then, that over 80% of the world’s population already has labeling?  If countries like India and China can feed their populations with labeling I think America can.  Look at the next packaged food that you buy; there is a large amount of information there that is required by law.  Will adding the words “Contains GMO,” really cost the industry so much that food prices will skyrocket?  No, it will not.  What they are afraid of is that people will become informed and stop buying GM foods, which is what happens in most countries where labeling is required.

I am not a Luddite.  I do not believe that technology is inherently bad.  However, over the last 120 years we have been inundated with new technologies at an ever increasing rate with little or no oversight.  Each time we are told it is completely safe and not to worry or listen to the “Luddite” naysayers.  Then we find there are significant dangers and we pay the price with disease and death.  Do not worry though technology has a fix, then we find out that the “fix” has problems too.  We need to start analyzing new technologies, especially food and drug related ones, extensively and long term before accepting them into our lives or possibly even allowing them at all.  Of course this will slow “progress,” but it will result in a better quality of life for all of us, instead of just the heads of these companies and their stockholders.

Tony Schlauch

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