Posts Tagged ‘GMO’
Posted on June 6, 2011 - by Crystal Cun
In conjunction with our petition to the FDA to label genetically-engineered foods, we’ve partnered with author Robyn O’Brien to bring you groundbreaking news on toxins that leach from these foods.
New research from Canada has found a food toxin that is produced in insect resistant crops developed in the United States in the blood of pregnant women, their unborn babies and the general population.
It is the first study to show that these toxins, which are produced in genetically modified crops widely used in the United States and patented by the agrichemical industry, have not only survived the digestive tract but also passed the placental barrier and entered the bloodstream of unborn babies.
Pesticides used on crops that have been genetically engineered to withstand increasing doses of herbicides and weed killers were also found in the bloodstreams of these women.
The food toxin found is used in a strain of corn that is widely used in the United States as livestock feed and has been genetically modified to produce an insecticidal protein. This corn has received cultivation approval by the European Union but has not been widely adopted outside of the United States and is currently banned in France, Germany, Austria, Hungary, Luxemburg and Greece. Because of the toxin that this corn contains, the corn is now regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency as an insecticide.
This is the first study to dispute the claim by industry that no genetically engineered protein survives intact in the intestinal tract or can enter the bloodstream, given that this study detected this food toxin, known as Cry1Ab toxin, in the bloodstream of not only pregnant women but also their unborn babies.
The research was conducted by a team of scientists at Sherbrooke University Hospital in Quebec and has been accepted for publication in the peer reviewed journal Reproductive Toxicology. The team took blood samples from 30 pregnant women prior to delivery, 30 samples from umbilical cords immediately after birth and samples from 39 non-pregnant women who were undergoing treatment. All the women were of a similar age and body mass index, and none worked with pesticides or lived with anyone who did.
Traces of the toxin were found 93% of the pregnant mothers and in 80% of the umbilical cords. The research suggested the chemicals were entering the body through eating meat, milk and eggs from farm livestock which have been fed GM corn.
The findings appear to contradict the GM industry’s long-standing claim that any potentially harmful chemicals added to crops would pass safely through the body, according to an article in the UK Telegraph.
“To date, most of the global research which has been used to demonstrate the safety of genetically modified crops has been funded by the industry itself,” states the article.
The findings add to concerns about the toxicity and potential allergenicity of these genetically engineered proteins expressed by many scientists and reinforce the importance of exercising precaution when it comes to protecting the health of the pregnant mothers and their babies.
To avoid these genetically modified proteins and toxins in your family’s diet, you can look for food labeled “USDA Organic” as by law, these foods are not allowed to contain these insecticidal proteins or genetically engineered organisms. You can also look for products labeled “Non-GMO”. To learn more, please see our tips, Want to Steer Clear of GMOs? Here’s How.
The article above was originally published by Allergy Kids Foundation.
About Robyn O’Brien
Robyn authored “The Unhealthy Truth: How Our Food Is Making Us Sick and What We Can Do About It.” A former food industry analyst, Robyn brings insight, compassion and detailed analysis to her research into the impact that the global food system is having on the health of our children. She founded www.allergykidsfoundation.org and was named by Forbes as one of “20 Inspiring Women to Follow on Twitter.” The New York Times has passionately described her as “Food’s Erin Brockovich.” You can learn more at www.robynobrien.com.
Sources and Notes
Aziz A. and Leblanc S., 2010, Reproductive Toxicology, accepted 13 February 2011.
Seralini G-E., Mesnage R. Clair E., Greese S., Spiroux de Vendômois J.ann Cellier D., 2010. Environmental Sciences Europe 2011, 23:10, see www.enveurope.com/content/23/1/10.
Benachour N and Séralini G-E, 2009. Glyphosate Formulations Induce Apoptosis and Necrosis in Human Umbilical, Embryonic, and Placental Cells, Chemical Research in Toxicology Vol22 No1 pp 97-105 available from http://pubs.acs.org/doi/pdf/10.1021/tx800218n.
Posted on February 18, 2011 - by Crystal Cun
Photo: National Geographic
Deep in a lab in Ontario, Canada, scientists are hard at work finding greener solutions for the waste streams generated by large-scale factory farms. No, we’re not talking about toilet-trained pigs. These Enviropigs have been engineered from conception to be less polluting.
The Enviropig is a project from the University of Guelph, and is line of genetically-modified pigs designed to produce manure that contains less phosphorus. Phosphorus is a nutrient necessary for plant growth, but if it is spread too intensively on fields and not absorbed, the phosphorus becomes a pollutant. When there is a deluge of phosphorus runoff, the resultant algae blooms can deplete the water of oxygen, resulting in dead zones and fish kills in local rivers and streams.
In the US and Canada, pigs are mostly fed corn and grains, which contain a form of phosphorus that is indigestible by pigs. To combat this, pigs are usually given a phytase supplement, an enzyme that helps pigs break down this type of phosphorus. However, the phytase does not break down everything, and a significant amount of phosphorus is still excreted by the pig.
The Enviropig has been modified to secrete its own phytase, which works more efficiently than a dietary supplement. Thus, 30 to 70.7% less phosphorus is excreted, reducing phosphorus pollution and manure treatment costs, and decreasing the amount of phytase supplement that is needed (Univ. of Guelph). To accomplish this, researchers isolated a gene in e. coli bacteria that breaks down phosphorus and incorporated it into the pig genome. Not only was the implantation successful, but the offspring of the pigs also inherited the modification (National Geographic).
So, the phytase supplement has been used in large hog operations for over a decade, and now we can have pigs that produce it naturally in their salivary glands. Woohoo, this is an innovative milestone in greener farming, right?
Not so fast. While the Enviropig may reduce phosphorus emissions, it does nothing to address the destructive issues underlying factory farming. Manure and phosphorus are assets in agriculture, and only become liabilities when animals are intensively farmed in a single location. Reducing the amount of phosphorus excreted does not resolve the myriad other issues that factory farming raises, like the spread of disease, animal welfare, nitrogen pollution, the loss of biodiversity, etc. Worse, the availability of the Enviropig may lead farmers, policy makers and consumers to believe that this is a panacea for factory farming, and that the practice is environmentally sound.
Besides, there are alternative ways to reduce phosphorus without resorting to genetic modification. By including fewer grains in the pigs’ diets and using phytase supplements, phosphorus excretions can be reduced up to 50% (CBAN). In addition, the cost of phytase supplements has dropped dramatically in recent years, to less than $5 per kilo, and one metric ton of feed only requires 250 g of phytase supplement, which works out to a cost of less than 25 cents per pig (Sean McGivern).
Commercializing the Enviropig will make it nearly impossible to control the spread and proliferation of this gene, as the pigs intermingle with conventional pigs. Farmers who may not want to raise genetically-modified pigs will be hard-pressed to avoid genetic contamination of their livestock. Finally, consumers are wary of genetically-modified meat, and may not even accept or purchase the product. So why bother genetically modifying animals when there are other solutions at hand?
The answer, as is often the case, is money. The University of Guelph holds patents and is looking to license the Enviropig for use, charging royalties on a product for which there are currently none. This will be an added cost to hog farmers, and require some kind of enforcement mechanism, much like genetically-modified seeds which are sterile. At any rate, in some way or form, someone will have to pay.
By the way, the Enviropig has been submitted for review by the FDA and Canadian regulators, so expect to hear about the Enviropig’s potential commercialization in the near future.
In a debate with the lead researchers from the Univ. of Guelph, Sean McGivern, hog farmer and regional coordinator of the National Farmers Union Ontario, concluded with the following declaration: “We need our universities to work on issues that empower farmers, and not depower farmers, such as the Environpig. The reason universities do not spend their time researching things that empower farmers is simple—most of those things do not return profits to multinational corporations and family farms simply do not have the money to pay for research to help keep the doors open at universities like Guelph. The university researchers are bought and sold, like the Environpig they were hired to create.”
Do the benefits of the Enviropig outweigh the costs? Give that Americans already eat many products with genetically-modified corn and other plants, would you eat genetically-modified meat? What can we do to better align the interests of researchers and scientists with small-scale farmers?
Drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Posted on June 24, 2010 - by Lisa Madison
By Guest Blogger: Lisa J. Bunin, Ph.D.
The media got it wrong and let the public down when it erroneously reported Monsanto’s wholesale victory in its Supreme Court appeal of the GM alfalfa case — the first-ever Supreme Court case on GMOs (Monsanto Co. v Geertson Seed Farms). Despite claims and headlines to the contrary, Monsanto is still prohibited from selling and planting its Roundup Ready GM alfalfa. The true victors in the case are farmers, consumers and environmentalists who have argued that planting GM alfalfa would contaminate conventional and organic crops and lead to spraying noxious pesticides in regions where over 90% of alfalfa farmers do not use or need them.
So, why did the press get it so wrong? Monsanto hit the press early and convincingly and the press failed to do its due diligence by corroborating Monsanto’s facts with both sides in the case. It should have known better and acted more carefully despite the rush to get the first story published, but it didn’t. Monsanto’s Goliath PR machine succeeded in framing the Supreme Court decision as a slam dunk in its favor, to head off a drop in its stock market price. The real news — that it still can’t sell its patented GM alfalfa — would surely have driven impatient investors to sell their stocks.
Not surprisingly, shortly after the publication of multiple stories announcing Monsanto’s unequivocal win, an alternative narrative began to circulate on the web and people started asking questions about whether Monsanto actually “won” the case and what it meant to “win” the case anyway. Fulfilling the role of David against Goliath, bloggers exposed how the rightful victors had been unfairly slain by the press due to the unsavory alliance between the Goliath biotech giant and the major media.
The answer to the question of “who really won the case,” requires examining on what grounds Monsanto appealed to the Supreme Court. Specifically, Monsanto asked the court to reconsider the lower court decision in the GM alfalfa case by:(1) lifting the injunction on GMO alfalfa, (2) allowing the planting and sale of GMO alfalfa, and (3) not allowing contamination from GMO crops to be considered “irreparable harm.”
In truth, the Court only ruled on Monsanto’s first request, which it affirmed by stating that the injunction was too broad to be allowed to remain in place. However, it ruled in favor of the farmers and Center for Food Safety on the two other remaining issues, which in many ways are even more important. First, the Court did not overrule the lower court’s ban on the planting and sale of GMO alfalfa and, therefore, the ban remains intact. Moreover, the Court’s decision to set aside the injunction was based, in part, on the fact that a prohibition on GMO planting was already in effect, due to the lower court’s ruling and, therefore, the injunction was duplicative overkill. Second, the Supreme Court agreed with the lower court that the threat of GMO contamination was a sufficient cause of environmental and economic harm to support future challenges on GMOs. Unfortunately, these critical details about the Supreme Court’s decision were omitted in early press accounts, making it look as though Monsanto prevailed in its quest to deregulate GM alfalfa.
Two and three days later, the real story about the outcome of the GM alfalfa Supreme Court case has emerged in some press accounts. Yet, any analysis about the need for civil society to demand greater corporate accountability in the face of government inaction to halt threats of GMO contamination has yet to surface in the mainstream media. Clearly, the greatest significance of this case is that it shows how Goliath corporations, like Monsanto, BP and the rest, can be held accountable for their actions by members of civil society who have the courage to take on the role of David in the battle to protect our environment and food supply.
Lisa J. Bunin, Ph.D. is the Organic Policy Coordinator at the Center for Food Safety, a national, non-profit, membership organization, founded in 1997, that works to protect
human health and the environment by curbing the use of harmful food production technologies and by promoting organic and other forms of sustainable agriculture. On the web at: http://www.centerforfoodsafety.org
Posted on June 22, 2010 - by Lisa Madison
It comes as no surprise that Monsanto’s PR machine managed to spin the Supreme Court decision on June 21, 2010 (Monsanto Co. v. Geertson Seed Farms) as being a ‘big win’. While the decision is complicated, the decision is by no means the victory that Monsanto was hoping for (and claimed through media outlets who didn’t do their homework). The bottom line is that it is still illegal to sell or plant GMO alfalfa.
“The Justices’ decision means that the selling and planting of Roundup Ready Alfalfa is illegal. The ban on the crop will remain in place until a full and adequate EIS is prepared by USDA and they officially deregulate the crop. This is a year or more away according to the agency, and even then, a deregulation move may be subject to further litigation if the agency’s analysis is not adequate,” said Andrew Kimbrell, Executive Director of the Center for Food Safety. “In sum, it’s a significant victory in our ongoing fight to protect farmer and consumer choice, the environment and the organic industry.”
- If you would like to hear more, the Center for Food Safety has an update on the decision here: http://truefoodnow.org/2010/06/21/update-on-supreme-court-decision/
- Andrew Kimbrell’s diary on the decision is extremely helpful: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/andrew-kimbrell/supreme-court-case-a-defe_b_620087.html
- Berkeley Law & UCLA Law have a helpful analysis of the decision as well: http://legalplanet.wordpress.com/2010/06/21/u-s-supreme-court-issues-decision-in-monsanto-case/
Genetic contamination from GMOs are still considered harmful under the law, both from an environmental and economic perspective. We will keep you updated on any changes regarding the efforts to deregulate GE alfalfa. In the meantime, share this blog and make sure that you help your friends, family and social networks see past Monsanto’s PR campaign and maintain our fight against GE alfalfa!
Please consider donating just a few dollars to help FRESH continue our outreach and educational efforts. Donate today: https://org2.democracyinaction.org/o/5958/t/10286/shop/custom.jsp?donate_page_KEY=1765
Distribution & Outreach Coordinator
Photo from flickr user dbking
Posted on February 3, 2010 - by Lisa Madison
Dear FRESH supporters,
Genetic food giant Monsanto is at it again. Its next target: a new product that could eliminate all organic alfalfa, a key food for raising organic-fed cows and pigs without any genetic engineering.
The USDA is well on its way to approving Monsanto’s genetically modified alfalfa. In its own report, the USDA says that not enough consumers care enough about organic foods for the USDA to block Monsanto’s modified alfalfa seeds.  This is absurd since one of the main reasons people buy organic food is to avoid genetically engineered crops.
The USDA is only accepting public comments for the next two weeks. We need you to write to the USDA right now and tell them they must not approve Monsanto’s mutant alfalfa. We’ll deliver your comments before the deadline. 
Alfafa is one of the major food sources for certified organic animals, not only because of its quality as forage, but because Monsanto’s patented genes are already found in 95% of soybeans and 80% of corn. If the USDA lets Monsanto sell its new alfalfa, it will inevitably overtake organic alfalfa crops through the natural pollination process.  As a result organic farmers may be feeding their cows genetically modified food.
Just like its corn and soy, Monsanto’s alfalfa is designed to tolerate its leading herbicide: Roundup. We can’t allow Monsanto’s greed to take-over one more crop. The consequences to our choice as consumer, to biological diversity, to the survival of our small and organic farmers depends are too dire.
Monsanto’s domination of our food must stop. For the USDA to shrug it off like nobody cares is to add insult to injury. We only have two weeks to submit our comments.The fight for FRESH food will continue, and with your help we’ll make it clear that people care about the food they eat.
Let’s show the USDA and Monsanto that people want food free from Monsanto’s modifications. Write your comments to the USDA now and say no to genetically modified alfalfa.
The fight for FRESH food will continue, and with your help we’ll make it clear that people care about the food they eat.
Thanks for all you do.
ana Sofia joanes
FRESH the Movie
1. United States Department of Agriculture. Glyphosate-Tolerant Alfalfa Events J101 and J163: Request for Nonregulated Status. Draft Environmental Impact Statement-November 2009. P.T-2.
2. Docket: APHIS-2007-0044: USDA Seeks Public Comment on Genetically Engineered Alfalfa
3. United States Department of Agriculture. Glyphosate-Tolerant Alfalfa Events J101 and J163: Request for Nonregulated Status. Draft Environmental Impact Statement-November 2009. P.95.
Reviews Supplemental documents here: http://www.aphis.usda.gov/biotechnology/alfalfa_documents.shtml
10 Things you should know about GE Alfalfa
Photo courtesy of OceanFlynn on Flickr
Posted on January 13, 2010 - by Lisa Madison
When it comes to the Big Bad Wolf of our food system, look no further than Monsanto.
Monsanto squeezes out farmers, seed growers, and practically everyone else in the business of growing food. Monsanto has its patented genes inserted into 95% of soybeans and 80% of all the corn grown in the United States. Their monopoly is so insidious that the Department of Justice is looking into whether Monsanto’s business practices are illegal.
Vu Manh Thang – I Am Superman
And now, Forbes Magazine named Monsanto the #1 company of the year for 2009.
Whatever the selection criteria at Forbes, I don’t support them or the values they embody.
In order to regain control of our agriculture, we MUST raise awareness and inspire MORE people to vote with their dollars. This is our mission at FRESH and we need your support. 2010 can be a huge year for the future of food, but FRESH needs your help to do it.
What Monsanto fears is the public knowing there’s a new way forward for our food, free from genetic engineering and harmful pesticides. That’s why, when Michelle Obama created an organic garden at the White House, Monsanto had the nerve to protest the garden, urging Michelle Obama to use pesticides on her food!
Monsanto is the prime example of everything that’s wrong with our food. They’re a huge corporation that plows down everything in its path in pursuit of cheaper food for bigger profits. And now that Forbes named Monsanto company of the year, it’s clear that fresh, organic food advocates are the David to Monstanto’s Goliath.
We’ve got a mountain to climb in 2010, and we’re convinced we can do it with your help. Please donate today to help us spread FRESH across America. Help us raise our voice and raise the voices of all of the farmers and food producers who we fight for.
Thanks so much for your help in making 2009 a great year for FRESH, and for your support in making 2010 even better.
ana Sofia joanes
FRESH the Movie
Posted on January 5, 2010 - by Lisa Madison
This post and accompanying video, the first in a new series called Seeds of Life, was originally published by our friends at Cooking Up a Story.
In an ongoing David versus Goliath legal battle, Frank Morton, an organic seed breeder in Philomath, Oregon, along with the plaintiffs listed in this lawsuit, have successfully sued the USDA and its Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), for failure to require an environmental impact statement (EIS) prior to deregulation of Monsanto’s Roundup Ready sugar beet plant. In the United States District Court for the Northern District of California, Judge Jeffrey S. White ruled on September 21, 2009 in favor of the plaintiffs— Center for Food Safety, Organic Seed Alliance, Sierra Club, and High Mowing Organic Seeds— requiring that APHIS prepare an environmental impact statement, and setting in place the remedy phase of the trial, scheduled to begin today (December 4) to decide the fate of next year’s transgenic sugar beet crop.
This interview took place this summer prior to Judge White’s September ruling in favor of Frank Morton, and the other plaintiffs.
This ruling marks a resounding renunciation of the USDA/APHIS 2005 decision to deregulate and thus allow the unrestricted commercial development of “Event H7-1”, a Glyphosate tolerant sugar beet engineered by Monsanto and the German company KWS. Deregulation opened the door for transgenic sugar beet production in the Willamette Valley of Oregon, one of the most fertile agricultural regions in the world. The judge ordered that an environmental impact statement be conducted because USDA/APHIS failed to adequately consider the impact on the environment from stated cross contamination concerns, and the socio-economic impacts on consumers (eaters), farmers, and other market participants over the question of the continued availability of non-transgenic sugar beet crops.
In 2006, most of the sugar beet production was from conventional seeds but the Roundup Ready transgenic variety increased sharply in 2008 to about 60% of production, and rose again this year to estimates as high as 95% of the total U.S. market. The United States is among the largest producers of sugar, more than half comes from the production of sugar beets. Most of the U.S. sugar beet seed is produced in the Willamette Valley, where between 3000-5000 acres of sugar beet seeds are grown each year. The sugar beet plants grown from these seeds occupy areas of the western and mid-west regions of the country; the largest concentrations of (harvested) acres are in North Dakota, Minnesota, and Michigan.
From Frank Morton’s perspective, his livelihood depends upon the ability to produce organic seeds that are not contaminated with transgenic genes spread from neighboring GMO related species of plants. In the Willamette Valley, an elaborate, but voluntary system exists to coordinate the growing of a diversity of crops to prevent the accidental cross-pollination and contamination that can occur naturally between related species. In the case of sugar beets, Morton’s Swiss Chard organic seed is commercially threatened by neighboring GMO sugar beet plants; the tiniest of contamination if it were to occur, would prevent him from selling his Swiss Chard organic seeds to his customers here and abroad. In addition, the introduction of any GMO crops into the ecologically unique Willamette Valley without a thorough environmental impact study sets a dangerous new precedent for more unregulated transgenic crops to follow.