This October marks the second non-GMO month. The Non-GMO Project and partners nationwide created non-GMO month as a platform to raise awareness about the GMO issue and risks genetically modified organisms pose to health and the environment. GMOFreeWashington is hosting talks on Tuesday and Wednesday (Oct. 18 and 19) by leading consumer advocate Jeffrey Smith, who will talk about why the proliferation of GMOs must be stopped and practical ways to avoid them at the grocery store. For information go to GMOFreeSeattle.com. Martha Baskin brings us this preview.
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Narration: With Green Acre Radio this is Martha Baskin. Genetically modified organisms or GMO’s have risen sharply in the food supply since they were introduced in 1996. Today 93% of soy, canola oil and cotton seed, 86% of corn and 95% of sugar beets are genetically modified. Leading consumer advocate and author, Jeffrey Smith is behind the effort to label GMO products. He’ll be inSeattle later this month to discuss why GMO’s must be stopped and how to avoid them at the grocery store. Smith, whose books include Genetic Roulette and Seeds of Deception, says while there are only nine genetically engineered food crops, they’re widespread. Between 1997 and 2009, land cultivated with GMO crops rose from 4.2 million acres to 331 million acres. “Soy and corn in particular are practically omnipresent in processed foods. I would say 70 to 80 percent of the food sold in the supermarket has some derivative of genetically modified food crops.”
Genetically modified organisms are plants who’ve had genes, often from bacteria and viruses, forced into their DNA. The safety of such organisms has come under intense scrutiny. FDA scientists warned in the early nineties that GMO foods could create unpredictable allergens, toxins, new diseases and nutritional problems. “But the White House had instructed the FDA to promote biotechnology and so they hired Michael Taylor, Monsanto’s former attorney to be in charge of policy.” Policy under Taylor, says Smith, allows biotech companies like Monsanto, who own half the world’s seed supply, to determine whether their own GMO foods were safe. “This is Monsanto that told us PCBs, DDT and Agent Orange were safe. They can tell us if their genetically modified corn and soy are safe.”
Years after FDA scientists’ warnings were ignored, their concerns have been validated says Smith, who directs the Institute for Responsible Technology. Today the American Academy of Environmental Medicine prescribes a non-GMO diet for everyone. Animal studies indicate serious health risks related to reproduction. “Immune system problems, accelerated aging, organ damage and gastrointestinal disorders.”
After Michael Taylor’s initial stint at the Food and Drug Administration he returned to Monsanto. He’s now back at the FDA as head of US Food Safety. “So he is the person that got GMOs into our food supply and he’s now in charge of food safety.” Revolving door? “You could just take it off the hinge and leave the door open between ‘em because it’s really the same office anyway.”
Growing evidence of harm from GMOs has caused many consumers to come together for solutions. Public outcry by Moms, says Smith, forced companies to remove bovine growth hormone from milk because of its link to cancer. “We know for sure that consumers have the power to stop GMOs. They kicked GMOs out of Europe. A tipping point of consumer rejection was achieved and within about a week most major food companies there publicly committed to stop using GMO ingredients in their european brands.” Smith thinks the tipping point in the United States is close at hand. “We’re seeing an unprecedented uprise of consumer awareness and concern around GMOs.” Rallies are happening all over the country in October demanding labeling of GMOs, “which gives people the right to know but more importantly the right to reject, to choose healthier non-GMO foods.” A Non-GMO Shopping Guide put out by Smith’s Institute for Responsible Technology has become a handy tool even for those who live in food deserts.
While millions are becoming involved, removing gmo crops from the environment won’t be easy. When genes are transferred from different species an entirely new species is created. “In the case of crops they can cross-pollinate, seeds can move by insects and rain and what-not.” Starlink, a genetically engineered corn linked to allergens, was found in 22% of the samples tested by the USDA even though it had been planted in less than 1% of corn acreage. “We don’t have a way to return the gene pool of corn for example to the pristine natural state.” Genetically modified corn has already contaminated indigenous corn varieties in Mexico, the world heritage source of those genetics. For information, go to GMOFreeSeattle.com. And for information about the Institute for Responsible Technology go to ResponsibleTechnology.org.