Battle Brewing Over Labeling of Genetically Modified Food
Majia here: The NYT is in full propaganda mode this morning concerning genetically modified food. The article operates propagandistically by dismissing research on the dangers of GM and by erroneously universalizing scientific opinion in favor of GM food.
Before I provide an excerpt from the NYT article and explain its bias, let me briefly provide some background on the most common genetic modifications.
First, genetic modification is not referring to hybridization, but rather refers to the process of inserting or silencing genes, usually using a viral vector to deliver the new gene or to silence an existing gene.
Even scientists who believe GM offers some promise (myself included), have reservations about the two most commonly employed genetic modifications.
With food, 2 genetic modifications are most common. First, Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis), a natural bacteria found in soil, is inserted into the plant and the plant subsequently produces its own bacteria in cells throughout the entire plant.
The major concern with this genetic modification is that the plant produces so much Bt that the Bt is contaminating the environment and is being found in human placentas. (research will be cited at end of article)
Second, the plant is genetically modified to withstand round-up. The major concern here is that as the weeds surrounding the plants develop their own resistance (becoming "super-weeds"), the grower uses ever more Round-up.
Round-up is a proven endocrine disruptor that has been demonstrated to cause birth defects in animals.
There are many scientists who have concern about the health implications of our over-consumption of Round-up given its proven risks to embryonic and fetal development.
OK. Now let us look at how the New York Times writes about genetic modification:
[excerpt from the NYT] "Almost all the corn and soybeans grown in the United States now contain DNA derived from bacteria. The foreign gene makes the soybeans resistant to an herbicide used in weed control, and causes the corn to produce its own insecticide...
Farmers, food and biotech companies and scientists say that labels might lead consumers to reject genetically modified food — and the technology that created it — without understanding its environmental and economic benefits.
Majia here: The NYT effectively dismisses any concerns about GM safety, and re-frames the issue of GM as one of labeling transparency.
This is outright propaganda because the NYT fails to explain and examine what the concerns are about the specific types of genetic modifications that are being widely employed.
By failing to detail the concerns, the NYT makes it easy to dismiss summarily these concerns as "discredited" by "many scientists."
Let me now provide some examples of research that have raised substantial concerns about GM. Most of this research focuses on the safety of round-up but other research studies are concerned about Bt contamination of the environment and the relationship between GM and a micro-fungus linked to spontaneous abortions in livestock.
REPORT ON DANGERS OF ROUND-UP
Report found here is authored by extremely well credential scholars who feel that the public has been misinformed about the risks of Round-Up. The report addresses malformations in animal embryos caused by much lower doses than used to spray crops.
GM CONTAMINATION OF STREAMS
Ruitenberg, R. (2010, September 28) Toxin From Biotech Corn Detected in U.S. Streams, Study Finds http://www.businessweek.com/news/2010-09-28/toxin-from-biotech-corn-detected-in-u-s-streams-study-finds.html
ROUND-UP TOXIC TO HUMAN PLACENTAL JEG3 CELLS
Richard, S., Moslemi, S., Sipahutar, H., Benachour, N. Seralini, G. (2005). Environmental Health Perspectives
[abstract] "Here we show that glyphosate is toxic to human placental JEG3 cells within 18 hr with concentrations lower than those found with agricultural use, and this effect increases with concentration and time or in the presence of Roundup adjuvants. Surprisingly, Roundup is always more toxic than its active ingredient…We conclude that endocrine and toxic effects of Roundup, not just glyphosate, can be observed in mammals. We suggest that the presence of Roundup adjuvants enhances glyphosate bioavailability and/or bioaccumulation….”
EFFECTS OF BT ON MAMMAL LIVER AND KIDNEY
Genetically modified crops safety assessments: present limits and possible improvements. Environmental Sciences Europe. Gilles-Eric Séralini1*, Robin Mesnage1, Emilie Clair1, Steeve Gress1, Joël Spiroux de Vendômois2, Dominique Cellier3 http://www.enveurope.com/content/pdf/2190-4715-23-10.pdf
[excerpt] "We reviewed 19 studies of mammals fed with commercialized genetically modified soybean and maize which represent, per trait and plant, more than 80% of all environmental genetically modified organisms (GMOs) cultivated on a large scale, after they were modified to tolerate or produce a pesticide. We have also obtained the raw data of 90-day-long rat tests following court actions or official requests. The data obtained include biochemical blood and urine parameters of mammals eating GMOs with numerous organ weights and histopathology findings...
Scientists warn of link between dangerous new pathogen and Monsanto’s Roundup in the People’s Voice February 20th, 2011 By Rady Ananda http://www.thepeoplesvoice.org/TPV3/Voices.php/2011/02/20/scientists-warn-of-link-between-dangerou
[excerpt] A plant pathologist experienced in protecting against biological warfare recently warned the USDA of a new, self-replicating, micro-fungal virus-sized organism which may be causing spontaneous abortions in livestock, sudden death syndrome in Monsanto’s Roundup Ready soy, and wilt in Monsanto’s RR corn.
Dr. Don M. Huber, who coordinates the Emergent Diseases and Pathogens committee of the American Phytopathological Society, as part of the USDA National Plant Disease Recovery System, warned Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack that this pathogen threatens the US food and feed supply and can lead to the collapse of the US corn and soy export markets. Likewise, deregulation of GE alfalfa “could be a calamity,” he noted in his letter (reproduced in full below)."
Some of my previous posts on Round-up and genetically modified plants