Genetically engineered foods need labels too
1.Genetically engineered foods need labels too
2.Canada Votes 'No' on GE-Food Labels
3.Film paints picture of a biotech bully
4.Exploring the complex GMO issue
1.Genetically engineered foods need labels too [shortened]
This Week (Barry's Bay), 28 May 2008
To the Editor:
Prime Minister Harper deserves high credit for listening to Canadian farmers, processors and consumers and speaking clearly in favour of redefining the "Product of Canada" label so that the contents actually are Canadian, rather than just the packaging. Eating locally produced food is an increasing trend in both North America and Europe. Supporting local farmers, reduction of travel miles and recent safety concerns about imports (from China, for example) are some reasons why this issue is gaining such prominence.
Mr. Harper clearly stated: "Our government is tightening the definitions of these familiar labels, so Canadians know exactly what they're getting, and get exactly what they want."
However, I would like to point out a jarring contrast between this step and some other, more entrenched policy trends of the current government. Mr. Harper has recently advised his party to vote against the recent Private Member's Bill C-517, which would have made labelling mandatory for Genetically Engineered Foods. Such labelling would allow those who want to support such technology to do so, while those who wished to vote otherwise with their dollars would not have to.
The defeat of Bill C-517 effectively protects the economic interests of GE companies like Monsanto over the rights of Canadians to know what they eat.
How can Stephan Harper say he wants "Canadians (to) know exactly what they're getting, and get exactly what they want" and then deny Canadians that right about GE foods?
Polls clearly show every time that 80 95 per cent of Canadians want mandatory labelling for GE foods. In a democracy that's a very clear majority. The government's choice to ignore and openly defy this reality casts an unfortunate shadow of doubt upon the government's integrity on this issue.
Consumers have the right to know what's in their food and have a reason to be cautious: GE foods have never been proven to be safe to either human health or the environment, and little independent research has studied the long-term effects of GE foods.
Might one suppose that the Conservative Government, which lauds itself as being the "NEW" government of Canada is actually just the same old government of the people, by the wealthy and for the wealthy as they chew up the earth for their short-term comfort and profit?
At UN meetings under the Convention on Biodiversity, taking place right now in Bonn, Germany, Canada intervened to directly eliminate the African request for a UN moratorium on GE trees. Such trees would spread pollen over many, many square miles and cross-pollinate our native trees.
I wonder when Canadians will stop complacently believing the media when it tells us we don't want an election. And when will governments above the local level start listening to the people of Canada instead of to the highest bidder?
Please let Cheryl Gallant and Stephan Harper know your "Made in Canada" opinions.
Article ID# 1047707
2.Canada Votes 'No' on GE-Food Labels
Podcast: 'Deconstructing Dinner' on Bill C-517's defeat in the House of Commons.
By Jon Steinman
The Tyee, May 26 2008
Streaming audio: http://cjly.net/deconstructingdinner/audio/DD052208.m3u
On April 10, Deconstructing Dinner aired a segment on Bill C-517 -- a bill introduced by Bloc Quebecois Member of Parliament Gilles A. Perron. The bill was calling for the mandatory labelling of genetically engineered foods.
Canadians have long been demanding that foods containing genetically engineered ingredients be labelled. Over 40 countries around the world have successfully implemented such requirements.
On April 3, 2008, C-517 was debated in the House by members of all parties. Deconstructing Dinner recorded the debate and followed up with Conservative MP Bruce Stanton who opposed the bill.
The bill was debated yet again on May 5, and on May 7 was defeated by a vote of 156-101.
However, there's one problem; some MPs opposing the bill and joining in the debate on May 5 clearly had very little idea what genetically engineered foods are. Some information in particular, which was shared with the expressed purpose of assuring other MPs and Canadians that GE-foods are safe, was, quite simply, untrue.
The freedom to choose between genetically-engineered foods and non-engineered foods has been negated due to misinformation used to influence the vote.
Of course, as per usual, only one other media source has covered this bill, and that is the country's largest agricultural publication: The Western Producer.
Unfortunately, even they did not pick up on the misinformed MPs speaking on the bill.
[see also "MONSANTO'S PRODUCT RELEASE FORM / MANDATORY LABELLING OF GE-FOODS (BILL C-517)"
3.Film paints picture of a biotech bully
The world according to Monsanto
The Gazette (Montreal), May 24 2008
In 2004, a member of an Indian farmers' union approached investigative journalist Marie-Monique Robin in New Delhi's Indira Ghandi airport.
An epidemic of suicides has plagued Indian farmers. Farm organizations blame indebtedness, unfair trade policies and higher costs since farmers, lured by higher yields, started buying seeds from global agri-businesses instead of saving their own.
"You have to do something about Monsanto," he urged the award-winning documentary-maker, who is based in Paris.
"They're buying up all the seed companies here."
The suggestion led Robin on a three-year investigation of the St. Louis-based agro-giant, the world's biggest maker of genetically modified seeds.
Company executives refused to be interviewed on camera for The World According to Monsanto, a France-Canada-Germany co-production by ARTE France, Canada's National Film Board and others.
But Robin, who grew up on a farm herself, did manage to snag interviews on four continents with a host of regulators, whistle-blowers, farmers and environmental-health victims of the 100-year-old chemical giant whose past products range from aspartame to Agent Orange.
An accompanying book is already a bestseller in France, where foods containing genetically modified organisms (GMO) must be labelled as such. An English translation is due out next year.
In the film, Robin intersperses interviews with footage of herself doing Google searches.
"I wanted to show viewers that they can look up this information for themselves," she said.
The Internet turned up a trove of past corporate misdeeds including company documents showing Monsanto hid decades of pollution that sickened residents of Anniston, Alabama.
"We can't afford to lose one dollar of business," read a 1970 company memo about PCB pollution.
"Can you believe this company when it claims GMOs pose no danger to humans?" Robin asks rhetorically.
News footage of a beaming George Bush senior on a ceremonial visit captures him assuring company execs: "Call me - we're in the dereg business."
Dan Glickman, U.S. Agriculture Secretary from 1995-2001, admits that GMOs probably were approved a tad too quickly but says that his bosses slapped him down every time he tried to raise the topic.
Monsanto spokesperson Trish Jordan, who had seen the film, said it simply "rehashes issues that have long since been put to rest."
"There isn't any balance in the movie whatsoever," she added.
"This concept that Monsanto wants to take over the world is just folklore."
The World According to Monsanto is playing at Ex-Centris, with French subtitles, and at AMC cinema, with English subtitles.
4.Exploring the complex GMO issue
Lake County News, 23 May 2008
"I have not yet seen anyone glow green from eating GM tomatoes from the local supermarket," Supervisor Rob Brown said, responding to a caller on the GMO issue while being interviewed on KPFZ's Future Knowledge Tuesday evening.
This offhand response toward the end of the interview seems an appropriate representation of the extent of research some politicians, local or otherwise, undertake to make important, public policy decisions ... in the context of a strong antagonism towards anything that does not seem to fit their narrow ideology or interests rather than through actual analysis.
Since we now know that objectivity regarding this topic is lost in at least one corner of the Board of Supervisors chamber, let's restore it here and look at the biotech industry objectively, particularly at some very critical, crucial, undisputable facts.
Simply put, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) wasn't allowed to do its job. Documents made public from a lawsuit (has anyone noticed how the public has to sue the government to get any answers to any relevant questions?) show that the overwhelming majority of FDA scientists felt that biotech foods were inherently dangerous and could create poisons or allergens, new diseases, or nutritional problems, particularly in infants and children.
These FDA scientists urged their superiors to require a long-term study. However, the FDA was under orders from the White House to promote the biotechnology industry. They consequently created a new position to bypass the science and the regular FDA channels of research and approval, called the "Deputy Commissioner of Policy," and hired Monsanto's former attorney to this position, Michael Taylor. Yes, you read correctly, an industry insider lawyer made, alone, a "scientific" decision that will affect the American population for the coming centuries.
So Taylor became the lone "decider" at the FDA, under Bush and in the interests of the biotech industry. I wish I was making this up, but it is a sad reality of today's government, that has totally escaped public control and escaped its own morality, if it even had any.
Taylor was in charge of policy when the GMO policy was created. That policy stated that the agency was not aware of any information showing that the foods created from these new experimental methods differed in any meaningful or uniform way from any other. On the basis of that one sentence, the FDA declared, "We require no safety studies whatsoever" ... this regarding a technology that is one of the biggest scientific breakthrough in decades, and radically alters the DNA of our food.
Consequently when Monsanto and others claimed that their foods were safe, the FDA had no further questions, having being reduced to nothing more than an impotent rubber stamp bureaucracy at the service of dominant corporate interests by the Bush administration.
Of course the FDA decision was an outright lie from the top. Not only was the agency aware of the important differences of GM foods, but the overwhelming consensus among its scientists-whose objections were suppressed-was that further studies were necessary before releasing these products to farmers and consumers.
The consistent denials and coverups about the health risks of GM foods are very similar to what went on with the tobacco and particularly the cigarette industry, as researches by the industry are rigged to guarantee conclusions of safety, the GM industry meticulously designing their so called studies to avoid finding problems.
The biotech industry has a genetically engineered counterpart to virtually every fruit, vegetable, grain and bean that is being sold in the United States. More than 172 different species have been field-trialed, with more than 50 000 field trials in the US alone.
Soy, corn, cottonseeds, canola, potatoes, cocoa, Hawaiian papaya, zucchini and yellow squash are currently the major GMO crops. There are many dairy products made from cows injected with rBGH (synthetic growth hormone), and there are genetically modified enzymes and food additives that are usually not listed on the label of processed foods. Many supplements are created from genetically engineered bacteria or microorganisms. The wine industry is looking at GMO grapes.
As GM crops are predictably and unavoidably beginning to contaminate all other forms of agriculture, European standards for organically grown food are being lowered to include trace amounts of GMOs, these amounts expected to rise significantly in the coming years, which is why a biotech industry representative stated cynically that "the cat is already out of the bag," meaning that they had already altered the global food supply and that resistance was futile precisely because of contamination, while stating at the same time that contamination would not be a problem, yet suing farmers whose fields are contaminated...
The transfer of genes is a very serious issue, ignored by the FDA and the industry. The only human feeding study ever conducted on GM foods demonstrated that the genes inserted into soybeans transfer into human intestinal bacteria DNA and remain there, integrated on a stable basis, never eliminated. The implications regarding the genes that produce GM pesticides, that could remain in the intestinal flora, or transfer into our own cellular DNA, causing it to produce foreign proteins, could be devastating.
Back in the 1980s, 100 people died and anywhere between 5,000 to 10,000 fell sick or were permanently disabled after ingesting a brand of L-tryptophan supplement that was manufactured through a genetically modified bacteria. The FDA however, after pulling all such supplements off the market, withheld information from the public and from Congress about the genetic engineering aspect of the problem.
In Europe, a GM food researcher named Arpad Pusztai discovered that supposedly harmless GM potatoes caused massive damages to rats. He was fired from his job after 35 years and silenced with threats of a lawsuit. In Russia, a leading researcher in the Russian Academy of Sciences discovered that female rats that were fed GM soy had an infant mortality rate that was over 50 percent within the first three weeks, compared to only 10 percent of the offspring with mothers who were fed non-GM soy. This scientist has since been told she could not do any more GM food research.
Most people do not realize that there have not been extensive and independent tests on GM foods. Most people do not even know what GMO means, yet they ingest an unproven, experimental, highly controversial, untested, revolutionary "Frankenstein" food that could have devastating consequences for their health and particularly that of their children ...
The points made by Rob Brown on the GMO issue during his interview are all invalid.
It is easy to demonstrate that those who have an "agenda" are not the people who seek to get a moratorium on all GMOs until further studies are completed by independent scientists, a process which any reasonable person would demand and support, the heavy-handed agenda comes from those who have stealthily forced this technology on the American consumer without such proper and prudent studies, without the labeling of GM products as is required in Europe, and with the help of a corrupted bureaucracy; the only existing agenda here comes from the industry itself and those who support it and its distortion and strangulation of science in the name of immediate profits.
Objective scientific research is not an agenda, it is not political ... to ask that FDA scientists be allowed to do their jobs is not an agenda ... to request that a new product be held until considered safe by the FDA after such required studies is not an agenda.
And no, the power to decide whether to have GMOs in Lake County cannot be given exclusively to farmers or the farm bureau, who are not scientists and have no appropriate science upon which to base their decisions, it must be given to the greater public through he restoration of an honest and independent FDA process of scientific research and approval or rejection of GM products. Short of this and under current corrupt conditions, the American public must educate itself and demand to be heard, and to be respected. Alfalfa is not the only issue in Lake County, other GM crops will eventually be available to replace traditional crops, as in the case of winegrapes, and GE pears will certainly be available at some point.
According to the Chicago Tribune, the Bush administration is attempting to force famine stricken third world countries, mostly in sub-Saharan Africa, to plant genetically engineered crops, as part of a $770 million aid package, just as it has bullied Iraq to also plant GE crops.
These untested and mostly unregulated GE crops are considered controversial all over the world; at least 40 nations have restricted GE farming and GE ingredients in foods by requiring, because of public demand, mandatory labeling. (A majority of the American public has also demanded labeling of GMO products, but in America, giant corporations have more rights and apparently more powerful votes than ordinary citizens, particularly under Republican regime). A number of nations and regions have banned GMOs in agriculture altogether, until further research proves it is safe.
Beyond health and environmental concerns, and contrary to industry propaganda, GE crops do not significantly increase yields, but rather force farmers to stop saving their seeds and instead buy toxic chemicals and highly priced patented seeds from biotech companies such as Monsanto, Syngenta, Bayer, Dupont, Dow's and BASF. Once they do, they no longer have a choice, as their fields are contaminated at the DNA level and will remain so forever.
Is forever a good choice concerning an untested and potentially dangerous technology that could affect our own human DNA in unpredictable ways?
Sources of information:
Books: "Seeds of Deception" and "Genetic Roulette," both by Jeffrey Smith; "Genetically Engineered Foods," by Martin Teitel and Kimberley A. Wilson; "Codex Alimentarius: Global Food Imperialism," by Scott Tips.
The Non-GMO Project, a nonprofit organization created by leaders representing all sectors of the organic and natural products industry in the US and Canada.