2005, A SCARY YEAR FOR GENETICALLY ENGINEERED CROPS
Genetically modified(GM) crops were introduced 10 years ago, but 2005 saw plenty of evidence that the technology was introduced long before the science was ready. Here are some of last year�s highlights, so to speak.
At a conference in October, a leading scientist from the Russian Academy of Sciences reported that more than half (55.6%) of the offspring of rats fed GM soy died within three weeks. By contrast, only 9% of rats died whose mothers were fed non-GM soy. The study is preliminary, but the American Academy of Environmental Medicine asked the NIH to immediately repeat it.
In June, a German court ordered Monsanto to make a study public, in which rats fed GM corn developed kidney inflammation, altered blood cell counts and organ lesions. These and other changes suggested possible allergies, infections, toxins, anemia or blood pressure problems. The rats were fed corn genetically engineered to produce a pesticide called Bt-toxin. A French expert who reviews GM safety assessments for the government says that these and other studies indicate that Bt crops create reactions similar to chemical pesticides. Monsanto, however, was able to convince regulators to overlook the findings using arguments that were widely criticized as unscientific.
In November, a 10-year, $2 million GM pea project in Australia was abandoned when the peas were found to create immune responses in mice. The results, which indicate that the peas might create serious allergic reactions in people, were discovered only after scientists employed advanced tests that have never been used for evaluating GM food. If those peas had been studied in the normal way, they could have been approved. The findings suggest that undetected problems may be common in GM crops on the market.
Medical reports from India say that farm workers handling Monsanto�s GM cotton developed moderate to serious allergic reactions, forcing some to the hospital. There were also reports that numerous animals died after eating the Bt cottonseed.
The Indian government confirmed that Bt cotton�s disastrous yields cost millions. One state even kicked out Monsanto, after they refused to compensate farmers� losses. Tragically, hundreds of debt-ridden cotton farmers committed suicide.
Monsanto was fined by the US Justice Department for bribing up to 140 Indonesian officials over several years, trying to get Bt cotton approved. But widespread crop failure had left farmers in ruins there too, so even the bribes didn�t work.
A three-year UK study showed that GM crops damage biodiversity and threaten birds and bees. Another study surprised scientists when GM crops cross pollinated with a distant relative. And some Indian farmers found that after planting GM cotton, their fields became sterile and could not support subsequent crops.
According to USDA statistics, much more Roundup herbicide is used due to Monsanto�s Roundup Ready GM plants. Roundup was found to be far more toxic to humans and animals than previously thought. Furthermore, its over use has resulted in the proliferation of herbicide-tolerant weeds in the US.
Contamination was also a big issue.
The Danish government passed a law in which they compensate farmers for losses due to GM contamination and then seek to collect from the offending GM farmer.
Vermont�s proposed Farmer Protection Act, which passed the senate last April by 26-1, offered a different solution. It placed the financial responsibility on the biotech seed company. This allowed contaminated farmers to recover their losses while shielding GM farmers that had planted their crops in accordance with the seed company�s directions. Biotech proponents who lobby around the world to make sure their companies don�t pay for damage created by their products, flocked to Vermont�s state house. Sure enough, on the first day of the 2006 session, a close house vote struck down the bill in a New Year�s gift to industry. A conference committee of senators and representatives may yet take this up and reinstate strict liability for seed producers.
Unwilling to accept GM contamination at all, Switzerland passed a 5-year moratorium on planting GM crops. Likewise, 4500 European jurisdictions, and regions and countries in Africa, South America and Australia have passed bills or resolutions for GM free zones. By contrast, the US biotech industry rushed legislation through 14 states so far, preventing local governments from creating such zones.
Perhaps in the distant future scientists will be able to safely and predictably manipulate and control genes in plants. But for now, feeding the products of this infant science to millions and releasing them into the environment is foolish and dangerous. In the meantime, pregnant women and children in particular, may want to avoid eating GM foods.
of these 2005 stories are elaborated in Jeffrey Smith�s free monthly
column, Spilling the Beans, available at www.responsibletechnology.org
See Jeffrey Smith, Most Offspring Died When
Mother Rats Ate Genetically Engineered Soy
� 2006 Jeffrey M. Smith- All Rights Reserved
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Jeffrey M. Smith is working with a team of international scientists to catalog all known health risks of GM foods. He is the author of Seeds of Deception, the world's bestselling book on GM food, and the producer of the video, Hidden Dangers in Kids' Meals.
In June, a German court ordered Monsanto to make a study public, in which rats fed GM corn developed kidney inflammation, altered blood cell counts and organ lesions.