By Robert Ross
“Controlling the seeds is not some
abstraction. Whoever provides the world’s seeds controls the world’s food
Bartlett and Steele, Vanity Fair
On May 25, 2013, more than two million
people protested Monsanto Corporation for their practice of producing
genetically-modified food. The protest was dubbed: The March Against Monsanto.
What started out as a Facebook musing
by Tami Canal, on February 28, calling for a rally against the company’s
practices, soon went viral. By protest day, in 52 countries and 436 cities,
protestors were carrying signs and giving speeches calling for Monsanto to stop
and examine its practices of genetically engineering the food supply.
At first glance, one could say: “What’s
all the fuss?” After all, if you genetically modify seeds, apparently you have
more food that’s easier and less costly to produce. This has to be good for the
world’s growing population. And California, which is said to lead the nation in
trends, even voted down, in their most recent election, the need to identify
genetically-modified food. So, what’s the big deal?
The Big Deal
Before reading on, have a seat. The
subject is a bit complicated, but once the pieces of the puzzle are put
together, it’s clear, that genetically modifying food is: a big deal . . . a
Genetically-modified food or genetic
engineering (also called GMO — genetically- modified organisms) occurs
when you take one gene found in a species and force it into another species
creating organisms that are unique to nature . . . species that are no longer part of the
Those that are opposed to GMOs are
doing so primarily on grounds of health issues.
In the last 20 years, there has been a
significant increase in inflammatory and chronic illnesses in the U.S.
According to Dr. Robin Bernhoff, M.D. and past President of the Amer-ican Academy
of Environmental Medicine, when discussing GM food he stated: “there is an
increase in incidences, not just in reflux but also in allergies, autoimmunity,
asthma, high cholesterol . . . a wide range of chronic illnesses.”
Other credible sources point to GM
foods to explain the increase incidences of diabetes, Celiac disease, Irritable
Bowel Syndrome, gastroesophageal reflux, and Crohn’s disease.
What’s changed in the last 20 years?
The most radical change in our food supply has been genetic engineering.
An example of this process is Bt corn,
which was introduced in the 1990’s. The Bt bacteria (Bacillus thuringiensis) is
sprayed on crops to kill insects. Monsanto took the toxic gene from Bacillus
thuringiensis and forced it into the corn seed so that every single cell in the
corn plant produces a toxic protein. When the insect eats the corn, the toxin
will break open the insect’s stomach and kill it.
That corn, with the toxic protein in
every cell, is more than likely in your local supermarket. Approximately 86
percent of corn produced in the U.S. is genetically engineered, i.e., has the
toxic protein. Knowing that one is ingesting a lethal pesticide while eating Bt
corn is disturbing, to say the least.
A study done in Norway (released in
2012) by www.Forskning.no, showed that animals fed genetically-engineered Bt
corn ate more, got fatter, and were less able to digest proteins due to
alterations in the micro-structure of their intestines. The impaired ability to
digest proteins is of particular concern to scientists. If the body cannot
digest proteins, it will be less able to produce amino acids, which are
necessary building blocks for proper cell growth and function.
The Institute for Responsible
Technology has examined research showing GM foods have a deleterious effect on
test animals. For example: “Rats were fed Monsanto’s Mon 863 Bt corn for 90
days. They showed significant changes in their blood cells, livers and kidneys
. . .” Experts demanded a follow-up, but Monsanto used unscientific,
contradictory arguments to dismiss concerns.
The decline in the bee population has
also been linked to GMOs. Apparently the evidence was so compelling that in
2012, Poland ruled that both MON810 (GM corn) and the chemicals applied to it
are at least partially responsible for causing Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD),
the worldwide phenomenon in which entire swarms of honey bees disappear or turn
up dead. Poland, along with a handful of other EU countries, has completely
banned the cultivation of GM crops.
In 2011, doctors at the Sherbrooke
University Hospital in Quebec found Bt-toxin in the blood of 93 percent of
pregnant women tested, 80 percent of umbilical blood in their babies, and
67 percent of non-pregnant women.
The study authors speculated that the
Bt-toxin was likely consumed in the normal diet of Canadians — which makes
sense when you consider that genetically-engineered corn is present in the vast
majority of all processed foods and drinks in the form of high fructose corn
syrup. They also suggest that the toxin may have come from eating meat from
animals fed Bt corn.
A similar story applies to soy products
and other plant species.
The current list of plant species being
genetically modified and grown in the U.S. are (2009/2010 data):
canola/rapeseed (87%), corn (86%), cotton (93%), papaya (80%), soybeans (93%),
squash (13%), sugar beet (95%), alfalfa, sugar cane, sweet peppers, potato, and
wheat — all an unknown percent. Rice will be on the market in 2014/2015.
With much of the evidence pointing to
the need to re-examine GMOs in our food supply, one would think that the
government would step in and stop this practice before it’s too late. But,
that’s not the case.
The marriage between agribusinesses and
the government has been well documented with executives moving up the ranks of
the corporate ladder only to find themselves in high positions at the FDA
The government’s lack of concern or
hands-off policy was first seen in 1992 when the following statement was issued
by the FDA concerning GMOs: “The agency is not aware of any information showing
that foods derived by these new methods differ from other foods in any
meaningful or uniform way.” That statement and philosophy still stands
Monsanto is well on its way to
cornering the worldwide market on food and seeds. In the process they are
becoming another “too-big-to-fail” corporate behemoth.
The evidence, both scientific and
anecdotal, is convincing enough to call for a complete cessation of the
creation, distribution and planting of GM seeds, until there is a thorough
examination of all of the ramifications of this process.
Hippocrates, ancient Greek “father of
medicine” said: “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” Let’s hope
it’s not too late to get back to that philosophy!
Robert Ross can be reached by e-mail
by Robert Ross, all rights reserved