Tag Archive | "toxins"

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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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GM Bt Rice Contaminates Crops in China

Posted on 05 October 2011 by Jerry

Physorg.com reports contaminated rice crops surfacing in China, one of the largest producing rice countries in the world.  Cited is contamination by Monsanto patented versions of genetically modified rice, which produce Bt toxins and have not been approved for wide scale use in China.  Dated on June 15, 2011, the article entitled, “GM rice spreads, prompts debate in China” cites China’s environment ministry officials as stating a joint investigation by four government departments had found that “illegal GM seeds are present in several provinces because of weak management”.  Tong Pingya, a Chinese agronomist criticized Chinese scientists for “treating the people like guinea pigs” at a May conference hosted by Vice-Premier Li Keqiang.  The article further states that “environmentalists and some Chinese scientists warn against the as-yet unknown long-term consequences of using GM rice for biodiversity and human health.”  Finally the article states that should the GM modified Bt producing crop become commercialized, patent holder Monsanto could “demand royalties and compensation from China”.

June 15, 2011, San Francisco, Synthetic Biology/Genetic Engineering

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.  On Page 149 we discuss the contamination of the U. S. rice crop.  This article shows this type of contamination is a worldwide problem.

 

Use the following link to access the physorg.com article:

http://www.physorg.com/news/2011-06-gm-rice-prompts-debate-china.html

 

 

 

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Speed/Slow/Stop…or LABEL Genetically Modified Foods

Posted on 05 August 2011 by Jerry

genetically modified foods

In the early 1990’s advances in genetic engineering changed the nature of the chemical business at firms such as Monsanto, DuPont, Dow Chemical, and Bayer.  They went from manufacturing chemical substances such as herbicides like Roundup, to patenting genetically modified seeds for crops such as corn, rice, soybeans and wheat.  These seeds were genetically engineered to have many different characteristics.  In some cases they added genes to crops that made them impervious to herbicides such as Roundup.  These crops were branded as “Roundup Ready” in that a farmer could use Roundup in his fields to kill weeds with no fear the herbicide would damage their crop.  In other cases they added genes that were from other species of plants that produced natural pesticides. These made the resulting crops impervious to various insect pests.  With active support from the United States government and the deep pockets of these multinational chemical companies, there was a concerted push to have these seeds approved for use and planted throughout the world.

The chemical companies insisted there was little environmental or heath risk from these genetically modified crops.  They said that human or animal consumption involved taking these crops into the digestive tract and that any potentially harmful toxins or chemicals were destroyed in the digestive process.  Opponents claimed there was insufficient research to determine possible effects.  Since these seeds were patented products of their respective companies, information about them was withheld as proprietary and access to them for research was not granted.  Recent research indicates their toxins are not destroyed in the digestive process but instead can be found in the human blood stream, see the related story “Where there’s toxins, there’s….what?” June 1, 2011.

Some governments reacted aggressively, e.g. the United States, while others reacted cautiously, e.g. the European Union.  Different groups of farmers accepted the crops, others rejected them citing consumer concerns about genetically modified foods.  With little regulation and much governmental support, the industry has been very successful in the United States at replacing natural crops with genetically modified crops.  The following chart was published by the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) in 2011.  It shows various modified crops achieving between 65% – 94% of planted acreage in the United States.  This leads to very high reliance on genetically modified ingredients in the American food supply.  A recent estimate is that 80% of the products purchased at an average grocery store in the US contain some ingredient that is from a genetically modified source.

Designations before the crop type refer to the type of genetic modification that has been made:
HT = herbicide-tolerant varieties   Bt = insect resistant varieties

The chemical industry, assisted by the U. S. Government, has actively fought labeling of genetically modified food with every tactic at their disposal.  This has included using provisions in the General Agreement on Trade and Tariffs (GATT) to block any country from requiring mandatory labeling of genetically modified foods.  They have asserted the labeling would amount to adoption of “technical regulations” that erect “unnecessary obstacles to trade” or are more “trade restrictive than necessary” under the Technical Barriers Trade (TBT) Agreement or the Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) Agreement of the GATT.   On this basis they have blocked labeling of genetically modified foods as violations of the GATT and threatened legal challenges through the World Trade Organization (WTO).

In addition, they have derailed progress by the Codex Alimentarious Commission in Geneva which was established jointly by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the World Health Organization (WHO).  As a part of its mission to establish internationally recognized standards for food safety, the Codex has sought an agreement to allow countries to have a valid argument for requiring genetically modified labeling domestically under Article XX of the GATT.

In a surprise move at the July 5, 2011 Codex meeting, the United States, the lone holdout to an agreement on genetically modified food labeling, abruptly reversed its two decades old position and endorsed a labeling guidance document.  While the Codex cannot order labeling, its guidance document gives countries the international permission to require genetically modified labeling of food consumed in their country. Over a hundred countries signed the guidance document and a substantial number will now begin their process to initiate mandatory labeling.

There is little agreement however, on what labeling standards should be followed.  Two major camps have emerged over the years with some arguing for “product” labeling with others endorsing a “process” labeling.  Under the product option, which is the minimalist approach, genetically modified foods would require labeling only when the products are not substantially equivalent to their unmodified cousins in composition, nutritional value or intended use. In addition, labels would be required if the modified food contained allergens or ingredients from certain fats not found in their natural counterparts.  The process option would call for labeling of all genetically modified foods and food ingredients regardless of whether they were substantially equivalent to their natural counterparts or not.  This process option has been adopted and implemented by the European Union (EU), Japan, Australia, New Zealand, South Korea and to some extent China.

It is very doubtful that the chemical industry or the U.S. government will change their long held position against labeling of genetically modified foods.  They adhere to the argument there is no substantial difference between genetically modified foods and their natural counterparts.  This acceleration of labeling internationally can serve as the opportunity for American citizens who favor mandatory labeling of genetically modified foods to renew and redouble their lobbying efforts to secure labeling at home.  In addition, we must encourage organizations which will push for labeling nationally to embrace this as a priority effort.  This is the opportunity to reverse the tide and make progress in this area.

Organizations who are leaders on this issue and who could use support and further encouragement are as follows:

Greenpeace International: http://www.greenpeace.org/international/en/campaigns/agriculture/problem/

Organic Seed Alliance:

http://www.seedalliance.org/ten-ways-to-respond-to-usda-s-ge-alfalfa-and-sugar-beets-decision/

The Center for Food Safety

http://www.centerforfoodsafety.org/

Letters to elected officials are also a required part of lobbying for labeling.  The following link provides access to a data base with which to indentify your elected representative and their address.  You are encouraged to take a stand and demand full “process” labeling of genetically modified foods in the United States.

Congressional Representatives: http://writerep.house.gov/writerep/welcome.shtml

Background:  In Beyond Animal, Ego and Time, in Chapter 13: Protect Life Imperative – Synthetic Biology, there is a description of the history of genetic engineering and synthetic biology and the risks associated with both.  The book calls for “mandatory and detailed” labeling of all genetically or synthetically engineered plant or animal food.  It takes the position “Only an informed citizenry should decide to consume genetically engineered food.”

 

Use the following links for more information:

 

GM Foods in the Supermarket:  http://www.foodconsumer.org/newsite/opinion/comments/supermarket_foods_0520111206.html

Adoption of Genetically Engineered Crops in the U.S.:  http://www.ers.usda.gov/data/biotechcrops/

 

Country Adoption of GM Crops – a recent sampling:

South Africa: http://allafrica.com/stories/printable/201106081109.html  and  http://allafrica.com/stories/printable/201107060142.html

Peru: http://www.farming.co.uk/articles/view/4140 Peru’s Congress bans GM crops

Ireland: http://canadianawareness.org/2011/04/ireland-says-not-in-this-country-bans-genetically-modified-crops/

Canada: http://www.corpwatch.org/article.php?id=5790

European Union: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-14045365

Approval of GM Food Labeling: http://www.consumersunion.org/pub/core_food_safety/017860.html

http://www.codexalimentarious.net/web/archives.jsp?lang=en  See session 39 Codex Committee on Food Labeling, click English pdf, scroll to REP 11/FL Appendix III.

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