US public health trends after GM

October 2013

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Photo credit Sarah Nott on Flickr
Since GM food labelling has become a hot topic in America [1], US physicist, Dr Nancy Swanson, suggests
“It behooves us to educate ourselves about this important issue”.
In a series of articles in the Seattle Examiner, Swanson explains the what, how, and where of GMOs in America, and why the laws which should be protecting the public are simply not there. Data was drawn mainly from government sources (USDA:NASS, CDC) and some health institutes have been used to prepare a graphic description of the increasing disease trends correlated with increasing GM crops and increasing applications of glyphosate herbicide, which the majority of GM crops are genetically transformed to accumulate.

Graph after graph shows the same pattern: disease incidence remained relatively stable until around 1995, after which there has been a steady climb which continues year-on-year. The quantities of applied glyphosate and the percentage of GM corn and soya growing are superimposed on the charts. All trends can be seen to be following disturbingly parallel courses.

The remarkable scientific consensus

October 2013

Planet -  Jones Valley Urban Farm
Image credit: Alby Headrick on Flickr
“Genetic engineering has aroused an unprecedented controversy in the scientific world. It has been described by one Nobel prize-winner as creating the greatest ethical problem that science has ever had to face” (Straton).
This apparently topical quote is from an article entitled “The Genetic Engineering debate” and dates from 1977. At this time, the GM being debated involved microbes, viruses and fungi, all much simpler that the higher plants and animals being genetically transformed today.

Since then, what's happened to the GM debate?

Gaming the 'experts'

October 2013

2013 March Against Monsanto DC 24
March against Monsanto - Washington, USA.
Photo by Stephen Melkisethian on Flickr
The recent global 'Millions Against Monsanto' movement with its global network of 'Marches Against Monsanto', and our own local 'Scotland Against Monsanto', reveal an unprecedented awareness of the modern corruption of our food supply. A single company has been not only permitted, but encouraged to seize total control of a whole swathe of our food from farm to fork. And what's being forced upon us is not a kind of food we want to eat.

GM: a tool or a dangerous distraction?

October 2013

Wheat field (Kingsnorth 2008)
Wheat field, Kent. Photo by Zohar Manor-Abel on Flickr
In the 1990s, we were told all farming and food would be GM in less than a decade. Biotech crops were going to beat the stresses of drought, heavy metals and salinity, they would increase yields, reduce pesticides and fix their own nitrogen.

GM is failing to deliver on any of these promises.

Crop yields continue to improve entirely due to conventional breeding and yield increases in comparable crops have been greater in Europe without GM crops than in the US with its vast GM monocultures.

Lower pesticide use has also been achieved in Europe without GM. Where biotech crops have been grown year on year, pesticide use has begun to escalate after a few seasons.

UN says wake up before it's too late

October 2013

NP India burning 59
Photo credit: CIAT International on Flickr
In September 2013, a “doorstop” of a UN Report on how future generations can be fed was released.

The essence of the Report is in its title: “Wake-up Before It Is Too Late”.

Contributions from 60 leading world experts, including the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, called for a paradigm shift away from conventional export-oriented, input-intensive, monoculture agriculture and towards “ecological intensification”, small-scale, crop-diverse, local, food production.

Food genes inside you

October 2013

Photo by By Engl101caison (Own work)
[CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)]
via Wikimedia Commons
Unless it's been processed out of existence, DNA is present in all food and feed. Because the amount of DNA is low compared with other constituents and doesn't have a significant nutritional value, few studies have been carried out on how the body handles it.

This has allowed regulators to issue blandly reassuring advice about the safety of GM DNA based on generalisations and dogma, and very little in the way of science.

For example, DNA in food has long been claimed to be rapidly degraded in the digestive tract. This assertion is backed up by: “a large number of experimental studies on livestock” have failed to detect GM DNA in animal tissues and fluids. And just in case anyone points out the foregoing aren't quite true, be reassured that, even if an occasional DNA fragment does end up in animal produce, this is no different from the occasional non-GM fragment which also ends up there.

The messages of mere “fragments” of GM DNA which occur only “occasionally” and are “no different” from any other DNA is clear: there is nothing to worry about.

Recent research, however, is repainting the picture.

Sickly GM-fed cows

October 2013

Photo credit: See page for author [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Dairy farming is a major industry. Modern veterinary science has well-established normal reference values for the blood chemistry of cows: a rise or fall in key blood components signals disease in specific organs.

The expected norm in a dairy herd is healthy animals demonstrating normal blood biochemistry.

European dairy cows are now routinely fed on commercial concentrated feed consisting of soya, maize and other grains. The feed is designed to promote optimum milk production.

Strange, therefore, that a study of 240 cows drawn from eight different (run-of-the-mill) farms in Denmark should all show signs of liver and muscle toxicity, and some had impaired kidney function also.

It seems the new norm in our dairy herds is that they are sickly.