Vermont's GM labelling first

June 2014


Demonstrators hold placards aloft which read label GM food
March against Monsanto in Washington US, May 2014.
CC photo by Stephem Melkisethain on Flickr
On 8 May, the Governor of the US State of Vermont signed into existence a State Law which will require all GM ingredients to be labelled from July 2016. Foods so labelled will no longer be able to be called 'natural'.
 
Marking the importance of this first-of-its-kind law*, the occasion merited an outdoor signing ceremony.

*Unlike the bills passed last year in Maine and Connecticut, which require four or five other states to pass GMO labelling laws before they can be enacted, Vermont's law contains no "trigger" clauses.
 
Certainly no one in the US Government, biotech companies, nor food industry is underestimating the significance of this event.

Addressing the wrong questions

June 2014

Two demonstrators hold a placard which says real food not fake, save the bee, protect, not profit
March against Monsanto Washington, US October 2013.
CC photo: Stephen Melkisethian on Flickr
In 2008, US food writer, Michael Pollan, produced an “Eater's Manifesto” whose short answer to the question of healthy eating was: “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”
He says now “The fact that it was even noteworthy is what's noteworthy about it. It's a measure of how perplexed we've become about food as a result of what the food industry has done. You have to be pretty lost for that to come as news.”

How did Americans become so lost that they don't know what food is, nor know when their bodies have had enough of it? (And the rest of the world seems to be fast following them down that path.)

Pest and pesticide problems

June 2014
CC photo by Roger Smith on Flickr
A recent report on GM crop-growing in America since 1996 prepared by the US Department of Agriculture made specific mention of the burgeoning problem of weeds resistant to glyphosate herbicide which is used on most GM crops (see THE GM DEBATE: 'OVER', OR BARELY STARTED? - June 2014).
 
The report came just too late to include the latest study on what may be the next big problem with GM crops: emerging pest-resistance to the 'Bt' insecticides generated by GM maize.
 
Pest-resistance has previously been found in laboratory studies, but these have been shrugged off as too artificial to extrapolate to what would actually happen in the field.

The GM debate - 'over', or barely started?

June 2014 
 
European Chief Scientific Officer, Anne Glover, and Mark Lynas, the 'voice' of Owen Paterson, our Environment Secretary, may be happy to announce that the GM debate is over, but the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) would give them an argument.
 
A review of GM crop-growing in America since 1996 has been prepared by the USDA economic Research Center (ERC).
 
The ERC noted that uptake of the three main GM crops (commodities soya, maize,and cotton) has been rapid, and that, as of 2013, nearly 8,000 field trials (mainly by biotech companies) were approved by the USDA. Reduction of the workload for farmers was identified as the key advantage of these crops.
 
Also observed was that “questions persist” in four major areas.

RNAi in GM food crops - risks supressed

June 2014
Photo from Creative Commons
In something of a re-run of the orchestrated defamation of Arpad Pusztai in Scotland in 1998, a respected American professor with 30 years experience to her credit has found herself unable to get funding for her latest biotech-unfriendly research, nor get it published.

She also found Monsanto breathing down her neck in a very unpleasant way.

Glyphosate links to blood cell cancer

June 2014

Picture of tractor spraying crops in a field
Photo from Creative Commons
Modern science has filled our environment with the fruits of chemical- and genetic-engineering. Modern farmers are exposed to more than their fair share of both.

Although farmers experience a low overall mortality, they are subject to a high rate of some types of cancer.

During the last 30 years, as chemical use escalated, there has been a striking increase in a diverse group of lymph-node and associated blood cell cancers referred to non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL).  In the UK, NHL ranks 10th most common cancer (3% of the total in 2008) and forms 41% of blood cancers.  Some 60 subtypes have been identified.

Because of the huge range of potentially damaging materials (including pesticides and fertilizers, besides viruses, and microbial toxins) to which farmers are routinely exposed, disentangling the effects of all such possible factors is “challenging”, and indeed expensive.

A valiant attempt to make a start with such a study was published in April.

GM potatoes no one needs

June 2014
Picture of hands full of potatoes
Photo from Creative Commons
In America, 'acceptance' of GM foods has been guaranteed  by blindfolding the public.  Attempts to reveal the GM food in their shopping baskets with labelling have, so far, been brushed aside with cash.  The deep coffers of the biotech industry have enabled top-notch PR, lobbying and clever marketing to keep American consumers compliant.

With the exception of animal feed (where farmers are allowed to know what they are feeding their livestock but the end-consumer isn't), GM foods are labelled in Europe and acceptance is effectively zero.  However, the UK Government in league with ambitious scientists has found other ways of using cash to shoe-horn GM down our throats.

Using Government money (your taxes) scientists at the Sainsbury Laboratory are developing GM potatoes.

Glyphosate in breast milk

June 2014

Photo from Creative Commons
Awareness is rising that we are subject to an exponential exposure to herbicide, glyphosate. Besides widespread use in landscaping and conventional agriculture, many GM crops are designed to accumulate this herbicide and they have become ubiquitous in our food chain, adding hugely to the burden.

Experiments on rats suggest 35-40% of ingested glyphosate enters the body.  Because glyphosate is highly soluble in water, it would be expected to disperse throughout body fluids.

Indeed, studies have confirmed that glyphosate is circulating in human blood and is excreted in urine [1,2].  Testing of cows fed GM glyphosate-tolerant GM feed  indicates an even dispersion of glyphosate in the intestine, liver, muscles, spleen, kidneys and urine, and the levels of the herbicide there are correlated with dietary presence.

A senior Monsanto scientist has asserted that “If ingested, glyphosate is excreted rapidly, does not accumulate in body fat or tissues, and does not undergo metabolism in humans.  Rather, it is excreted unchanged in urine”.

Regulators seem happy to accept this view.

However, is glyphosate really doing nothing as it passes through our bodies, as Monsanto says?