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Vote Yes on California Prop 37

Posted on 30 October 2012 by Jerry

Several readers have asked if IAmAGuardian.com has taken a position on California Proposition 37 which requires labeling of genetically engineered foods.  Yes, below are two articles which have been posted in support of Proposition 37.

As previously identified, chemical and agricultural conglomerates opposing Prop 37 are grossly outspending supporters of the proposition (funds raised exceed $40 million at this point, still a 10 to 1 advantage).  Opponents have cited very large additional costs to the food industry from the labeling, increased costs to consumers as if prices will be forced up, and the supposed inconsistency of application of the labeling requirement to various products.

All products in California require labels.  There is no requirement to re-label products made before the law’s passage.  There is virtually no cost to redraft future product labels which have to be produced on packaging anyway.  There should be no change in pricing of products to consumers other than hypothesized price reductions to sell newly labeled genetically engineered products that consumers refuse to buy. 

The logic of what is included to be labeled as genetically engineered and what is not, is a function of what farms may be incidentally contaminated by plants from neighboring farms whose crops are genetically engineered.  This is because there is nothing to prevent GE crops from cross pollinating adjacent non GE crops. In addition, labeling a GE product is determined by whether it is eaten directly by a human being.  Meat from animals that have been fed GE products is exempt because the animal itself has not been genetically engineered.  In cases where the animal itself is genetically engineered, for example the proposed genetically modified salmon, there would be a requirement for GE labeling before human consumption.

Those of us who have read the proposed legislation and have studied genetic engineering find the arguments against this simple labeling requirement to be complete fabrications.  This type of product labeling already exists in over 60 countries around the world. These vociferous and wealthy opponents of Prop 37 are only concerned about their profits and being completely unregulated when they genetically engineer their products.  They want to remain completely unfettered by a simple labeling requirement that informs consumers who might care about what they feed themselves and their family.

A U.S. Domino for Genetically Engineered Foods

September 16, 2012 – San Francisco

California may be the last chance for mandatory labeling of genetically engineered foods in the U.S. or the first U.S. governmental entity to require labeling. Unfortunately there has been no progress in the U.S. with a number of labeling bills defeated around the country.  As the birth place of genetic engineering, the U.S. and Canada have the largest adoption of genetically modified foods in the world.

When the U.S. reversed its decades long opposition to allowing other nations to require labels on genetically engineered food (see iamaguardian.com August 2011 posting of “Speed/Slow/Stop….or Label Genetically Modified Foods”) it was clear it would cause labeling dominoes to fall around the world.  We have seen movement in a number of countries including lately the European Union and most recently a committee of the Indian Parliament and separately the Turkish Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Livestock. 

The reality is that when consumers get information, they read it and they act on it.  This is why the opposition to California’s Proposition 37 (Genetically Engineered Foods, Mandatory Labeling Initiative Statute) has put up over $25 million to defeat the proposition. This does not compare favorably to the $2.5 million raised in support of the measure.

If you are judged by the company you keep as a measure of how you should be viewed, the roles of the two sides of the debate are clear.  The proponents number many and have a long history of standing on the side of consumers and their health (see http://www.carighttoknow.org/endorsements/ ).  The antagonists include the largest chemical and food companies.  If you look at this list of opponents what is striking is that many producers on the list are either genetically modifying foods themselves, are the nation’s largest buyers of GE crops or produce products that are only sugar foods which contain nothing but empty calories and pander to the worst eating habits in our nation (http://www.noprop37.com/donors/ ).

Who do you believe has your best health interests at heart, Monsanto, Bayer Crop Science, Cargill, Clorox, and Dow Agro Sciences?  Maybe others have more credibility with you, like Coca-Cola, PepsiCo Inc., Hershey Company, Nestle USA, H.J Heinz, Sara Lee, and the J.M. Smucker Company.   These are the company’s paying the most to defeat a simple labeling requirement.

You should decide for yourself but not be swayed by the avalanche of negative ads that are about to launch in California.  This is simply a labeling requirement, not anything more.  When the antagonists say it is a conspiracy to have a deceptive labeling scheme or a plot to help organic businesses or will cost too much to change labels or will cause a rise in food prices or will be a windfall for trial lawyers or has loopholes for special interests, you should reject these claims. Some of us have read the legislation, are familiar with the genetic engineering of foods in the U.S. and have seen these scare tactics before.  We are only talking about your right to see a label that shows you what is in the food you intend to eat and feed to your family.

Use the following links to obtain more information:

http://www.nature.com/news/companies-set-to-fight-food-label-plan-1.11240

http://www.carighttoknow.org/endorsements/

http://www.noprop37.com/donors/

http://blogs.nature.com/news/2012/08/indian-parliamentary-panel-slams-gm-crops.html

http://www,todayszaman.com/newsDetail_openPrintPage.action?newsld=289724/

 

CA Right to Know Genetically Engineered Food Act

March 27, 2012 – San Francisco

Since the July 5, 2011 reversal of the U.S. position opposing labeling of genetically modified foods internationally (see August 5, 2011 post “Speed/Slow/Stop…or LABEL Genetically Modified Foods), pressure for mandatory labeling of GM foods in the U.S. has been building.

While there are efforts nationally to produce petitions (see www.justlabelit.org ) and to pass laws to require mandatory labeling, many are not optimistic these efforts will be successful in the near term.  The situation in the State of California may be dramatically different however (see www.carighttoknow.org ).

As you probably know California has a history of leading and pioneering in forward looking health and safety issues.  California also has a well developed voter initiative process in which citizens groups can qualify proposed laws for inclusion on the state election ballot once a specific number of voter signatures have been secured.  In the November elections of 2012 California voters will have a unique opportunity to pass ground breaking legislation that requires mandatory labeling of genetically modified foods offered for sale in California.

Called the “California Right to Know Genetically Engineered Food Act” the proposed legislation requires mandatory labeling when a food is:

  • “any genetically engineered raw agricultural commodity”
  • a “processed food that is made with or derived from any genetically engineered ingredient” or
  • any “processed food that is made with or is derived from any ingredient that may be genetically engineered” shall include a conspicuous statement which says “MAY CONTAIN GENETICALLY ENGINEERED INGREDIENT(S)”

While this legislation has elements which do not go far enough, it does represent a landmark step.  An example of an area that could be strengthened is its failure to call for labeling of food from any animal that has not itself been genetically engineered but has been fed or injected with genetically engineered food or any drug that has been produced though means of genetic engineering.  The proposed law also excludes labeling of food solely because it includes one or more genetically engineered processing aids or enzymes.

In any case, this is a ballot initiative you should support with your contributions and votes. Quoting Beyond Animal, Ego and Time, “Successful activists take the progress that is offered and demand more.”  Let us pass this law as written as a beachhead for the rest of the nation.  For voters from other states, use this draft as a template for your own local initiatives.

Remember, this legislation does not change the food choices you are given in your local store.  It also does not limit the genetic engineering the industry performs.  It merely gives you more information about what you may consume yourself or serve to your family.  It only equips you to make a more informed choice.

Use the following links to review the actual wording of the voter initiative and visit the websites of organizations driving this issue:

http://carighttoknow.org (Select “About”, then select “The Initiative”)

http://carighttoknow.org

http://justlabelit.org

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GM Corn Shortens Lives of Study Rats

Posted on 10 October 2012 by Jerry

[Update: Two French scientific organizations have criticized this study as reported in the October 26, 2012 issue of Science magazine.  The French High Council of Biotechnology and the Agency for Food, Environmental and Occupational Health & Safety have both labelled the study referenced in this post as “inconclusive due to methodological, statistical, and interpretative limitations.”  The French government has nevertheless has said it will suggest new European procedures for evaluation, approval, and control of GM organisms.  The government stated this decision was independent of the study findings.]

As could be expected, a new study linking higher numbers of cancers, bigger tumors and earlier deaths of research rats fed Monsanto’s genetically modified corn (NK603) for most of their lives, has created considerable controversy.  The corn, NK603, is widely sold for human and animal consumption in the United States and Canada. A research study published in the peer reviewed journal of Food and Toxicology is the first study to look at the effects of longer term consumption of corn modified to resist the effects of Monsanto’s Roundup, the herbicide glyphosate.

The study rats were fed the GM corn for two years or almost their entire lifetimes.  All earlier studies were no longer than the 90 days required by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and other regulatory bodies.  Once again we see the money and power of the chemical industry as it marshals its resources and the research community it supports to immediately attack the validity of the research findings. We also see the embarrassment of regulatory bodies seeking to defend their earlier superficial studies.

Giles-Eric Séralini, a molecular biologist at University of Caen, France and Joël Spiroux de Vendômois, president of CRIIGEN, co-authors of the study were reportedly “Surprised by the ‘violence’ and immediacy of scientists’ criticisms.  They argue that most of the critics are not toxicologists, and suggest that some may have competing interests, including working to develop transgenic crops.” José Domingo stated the study passed the peer review and raised no red flags at the journal of Food and Toxicology.  Dr Domingo is a toxicologist at Rovira I Vigili University in Reus, Spain, and managing editor of the journal.

Giles-Eric Séralini has been subjected to much criticism from the genetic engineering and chemical communities.  In 2011, in response to public insults, Seralini sued Marc Fellows, president of the French Association of Plant Biotechnology, for defamation and won.  He continues to be quite controversial because of his open stand against genetically modified foods.  Detractors argue it is he that has ulterior motives for releasing this study.

Even with all the immediate criticism of the study, its results cannot be ignored.  Fortunately for the French, their Prime Minister Jean-Mark Ayrault, said that, if the results are confirmed, the government will press for a Europe-wide ban on the genetically modified crop.  U. S. citizens should not look for the U.S. government to call for additional, longer term studies of the negative effects of this GM corn.  

As reported earlier in this blog, see the June 13, 2012 article “Genetic Engineering Influence Peddling and Profit”, support for genetic engineering is explicitly sponsored by the U.S. government. The post states, “Among the many WikiLeaks disclosed cables from within the State Department are a number of cables that reveal the full and explicit U.S. government support for the U.S. chemical and agriculture business’ genetically modified foods.  It is particularly instructive to learn that the strategic policy of the United States is to support and promulgate genetically modified foods.

It is no coincidence that there is significant resistance to genetically modified foods in the French government.  The French government was under assault at many levels by the U.S. government and chemical companies attempting to force them to change their negative position on GM crops.  As shown by WikiLeaks cables reported on in the Atlantic Monthly (see last link below), the U.S. government threatened a “trade war” in retaliation if France didn’t reverse its anti-GM stance.

See additional blog posts, the April 27, 2012 article “Roundup (Glyphosate) and Infertility” and the October 27, 2011 article “Where there’s toxins, there’s….WHAT?” Each article documents different studies pointing to the potential negative effects of human and animal consumption of Monsanto’s genetically modified, Roundup Ready crops (including the GM corn referenced above).

The question posed is when will citizens of the world say enough is enough?  The war over genetically modified, Roundup Ready, crops is reminiscent of the “stonewall” techniques of the tobacco industry in the U.S.  Just consider the decades of debate and hidden studies and documents in the tobacco company’s files that only became public in the last decade, and still cigarettes are sold around the world and in the U.S.  Let us hope that at least a small step of mandatory labeling of genetically modified foods is passed in California in the upcoming election.  This may be the last, best chance the U.S. citizen has to make progress on this issue.

Use the following links to obtain more information:

http://www.nature.com/news/rat-study-sparks-gm-furore-1.11471

http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=hyped-genetically-modified-maize-study-faces-growing-scrutiny

http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2012/sep/28/study-gm-maize-cancer

http://inforrm.wordpress.com/2011/01/23/libel-science-and-gmos-a-french-criminal-case/  

http://www.theatlantic.com/health/print/2011/01/us-presses-europe-to-worship-genetically-modified-foods/69633/

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Roundup (Glyphosate) and Infertility

Posted on 27 April 2012 by Jerry

In a new study the chemical glyphosate, commonly referred to as GLYP, and glyphosate-based products like Monsanto’s Roundup Bioforce®, were found to cause testicular cells in rats to die within 24-48 hours after a dosage that is 10 times below the chemical level in normal agricultural use.  This chemical is used on crops that have been genetically engineered to not be harmed by the herbicide.  In an earlier August 2011 article, “Where there’s toxins, there’s….What?” we identified a study at the University of Sherbrook Hospital Center in Quebec that showed GLYP was found in the blood streams of the women studied.  The unknown of those findings was the physical effects of the exposure in their blood streams.  This new study gives us an indication of some of the long term effects of exposure to this chemical.

The lead French researcher, Gilles-Eric Séralini at the Université de Caen Basse-Normandie, released his report at the same time there were reports of GLYP contamination of ground water in Catalonia, Spain, and GLYP found in human urine samples at 4-20 times the level allowed in drinking water of Berlin City (0.1 micrograms per litre, or 0.1 parts per billion [ppb]).  An article summarizing these findings stated, “American consumers exposed to glyphosate through residual levels in genetically modified (GM) foods are likely to have even higher levels in their system; although no studies appear to have been done.”

Further the article observed, “The concentration of the herbicides used in the experiments ranged from 0.0001% (1ppm) of Roundup Bioforce®, (corresponding to 0.336ppm of pure glyphosate) to agricultural levels of 1% (10,000ppm)….  Further the permitted level of glyphosate residue on food or feed in the U.S. is 400 ppm or 400 times the lowest concentrations tested by Séralini and colleagues.  Thus, the concentrations used in the study are very relevant to human exposure as well as exposure of other animals.  Of particular concern is the scarcity of published data regarding the possible bioaccumulation of this herbicide, leaving us only able to speculate how much is in our bodies….Chronic exposure has not been sufficiently tested, and needs to be investigated.”

In another study also led by Gilles-Eric Séralini at the Université de Caen Basse-Normandie, he and his colleagues tested the effects on human tissue of combined exposure to both glyphosate-based herbicides (like Roundup) and pesticides with the Bt toxins of Cry1Ab and Cry1Ac.  Human embryonic kidney cell line 293 was the human tissue in the experiment.  The study looked at the effects of the combined exposure within a 24 hour period. 

Findings were as follows:

  • Cry1Ab caused cell death from 100 ppm with no effects detected from exposure to Cry1Ac.
  • Roundup, tested alone from 1 to 20,000 ppm, will kill cells from 50 ppm which is far below agricultural dilutions (50% lethal concentration at 57.5 ppm).

The conclusion reached in this research contradicts assertions of the chemical industry over the last 20 years. Unfortunately the dosages administered in a very short time are considered too high to be conclusive.  More prolonged exposure to smaller dosages are required.  The researchers stated however, “In these results, we argue that modified Bt toxins are not inert on nontarget human cells, and that they can present combined side-effects with other residues of pesticides specific to GM plants.”

Use the following link to obtain more information on this story:

http://www.i-sis.org.uk/glyphosate_kills_rat_testis_cells.php

http://www.gmfreecymru.org/pivotal_papers/crucial27.htm

 

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Genetically Modified Crops Score: EU 1, US 0

Posted on 28 January 2012 by Jerry

The worldwide war between chemical companies and environmentalists continues.  There was a victory of sorts this month when BASF, the world’s largest chemical company headquartered in Germany, announced it was no longer developing genetically modified plants solely for cultivation in Europe and was moving its plant-science headquarters from Germany to Raleigh, North Carolina.  When questioned, Stefan Marcinowski, a member of the BASF board of executive directors, cited “a lack of acceptance for this technology in many parts of Europe – from the majority of consumers, farmers and politicians.”  The company indicated it would increase its focus on selling these products in the Americas and Asia.

The back story of this announcement is that BASF is admitting defeat in its efforts to gain acceptance for its genetically modified crops in Europe.  After many years of lobbying and public debate of the merits of these crops, it has thrown in the towel.  As one would expect in a political process, chemical companies would secure regulatory approval from the European Commission (a political agency) only to encounter widespread and vocal opposition in the market.  This is one of those cases where corporate money and political influence was not enough to roll over market forces and consumer sentiment in individual countries.   BASF follows Monsanto who made a similar decision to not develop crops for the EU market some time ago.

This battle in Europe mirrors the struggle that is taking place worldwide where chemical companies are using money, political influence, and detractors charge, false claims to take genetic control of crops that feed the majority of the world’s population. It is not surprising that the two most technically developed regions in the world are at odds over genetic crop utilization. The United States pioneered genetic crop engineering following the lead of Monsanto, headquartered in Missouri, with its “Round-Up-Ready” crops, while the EU looked at the technology with far less enthusiasm and much greater consideration of the potential negative impacts.  Unfortunately, the chemical companies are making inroads in less developed and less sophisticated counties around the world having gained approvals in Africa, South America and smaller countries in Asia.

Use the following links for more information on genetically engineered crops around the world:

BASF relocation:

http://blogs.nature.com/news/2012/01/basf-abandons-gm-crop-market-in-europe.html

GM Crops in Europe:

http://www.reuters.com/article/2010/12/09/us-eu-gmo-petition-idUSTRE6B82JO20101209

GM Crops in Asia:

http://atimes.com/atimes/South_Asia/LB04Df03.html

GM Crops in Africa:

http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=kenya-to-green-light-genetically-modified-crops

GM Crops in South America:

http://healthfreedoms.org/2011/06/09/peru-approves-10-year-ban-on-gm-crops-brazil-speeds-up-approvals/

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“Where there’s toxins, there’s …. WHAT?”

Posted on 27 October 2011 by Jerry

The old adage “Where there’s smoke there’s fire” is prompting the question “Where there’s toxins there’s….what?” for researchers in Canada.  They have identified toxins (pesticides/insecticides) contained within genetically modified (GM) foods in the blood streams of a group of non-pregnant women, pregnant women and their fetuses.  After decades of the genetically modified food industry’s assurances these poisons are destroyed in the digestive tracts of the humans and animals that consume them, this study shows they are not destroyed and in fact, enter the human blood stream.

This is potentially a very significant issue for human health given the vast amount of crops Americans and Canadians consume that now contain these poisons.  In an earlier article entitled “Speed/Slow/Stop…or Label Genetically Modified Foods” we quote statistics from the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service that show that various genetically modified crops now represent the majority of U.S. planted acreage of each crop.  For example between 65% to 72% of all corn planted in the U.S. contains Bt pesticides or HT, herbicide-tolerant, toxins and 94% of all soybeans planted contain HT herbicide-tolerant toxins.  In addition, recent estimates are that 80% of all processed foods purchased in supermarkets have genetically modified ingredients largely as a result of oils and syrups from GM corn, cottonseed, canola, and soybeans.

Not only are we consuming these toxins directly in the crops we eat, we are also exposed to them indirectly in our animal protein (beef, pork, etc.) as these same crops are fed to animals in our food chain.  Researchers Aziz Aris and Samual Leblanc from the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of Sherbrooke Hospital Center in Quebec, Canada believe the toxins found in these human bloodstreams came from meat, eggs, and milk derived from farm livestock which have been fed genetically modified grains or corn.   Their research report appeared in Reproductive Toxicology in early 2011. Genes that produce these toxins have been incorporated into widely grown genetically modified crops both in Canada and in the United States.

This research paper entitled “Maternal and fetal exposure to pesticides associated to genetically modified foods in Eastern Townships of Quebec, Canada” is one of the few research efforts looking for evidence of the toxins.  This is not because of a shortage of people who want to research them but rather because it is so difficult to obtain the necessary information. These genetic modifications have been patented and are therefore proprietary to the chemical companies that produce them.  This means information about these seeds is secret.  Furthermore farmers who buy and use these seeds are required to sign contracts stipulating they will not give seeds to others.  If they fail to honor these agreements, the chemical companies can sue them and deny them future access to the seeds.

This study looked at 69 women and 30 fetuses for herbicide serums GLYP, GLUF, and 3-MPPA.  They also looked for the Bt insecticide toxin CryAb1.   All of these serums and toxins were found in the non-pregnant women although the Bt toxin was found in only 67% of them.  Pregnant women only showed evidence of the 3-MPPA serum and the Bt toxin CryAb1 with the Bt toxin showing up in 93% of the pregnant women.  All fetuses likewise showed evidence of the herbicide 3-MPPA with 80% of them showing the Bt toxin CryAb1.

At this point we do not know what negative effects result from these GM chemicals in the human blood stream.  Further study will be required.  In the interim, to be as safe as possible people should choose organically grown foods to have the least possible exposure to these genetically modified substances.  Finding animal protein where the animals have not been fed genetically modified foods will be much tougher because there is usually nothing that will indicate what these animals were fed.
Note: The genes used in genetically modified crops are to make plants tolerate herbicides such as GLYP, GLUF and 3MPPA.  This is what has been added to produce “Roundup Ready” crops which allow farmers to use Roundup to suppress weeds with no fear of hurting or destroying their crops.  The CryAb1 is a Bt toxin or an insecticide produced by genetically modified crops to make them insect resistant.

 

Background: In Beyond Animal, Ego and Time, Chapter 13: Protect Life Imperative – Synthetic Biology, we discuss the developments of genetic engineering and its successor science, synthetic biology.  We describe the risks associated with both.  This article describes the realization of one of the worst fears of opponents of genetically modified foods.  For more information and other articles on related topics go to www.iamaguardian.com.

Use the following link to access the original study: http://somloquesembrem.files.wordpress.com/2010/07/arisleblanc2011.pdf

August 12, 2011, San Francisco, Synthetic Biology/Genetic Engineering

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