Monday, February 18, 2013

Editorial: Be skeptical of Initiative 522 on GMO labeling (Response)

Editorial: Be skeptical of Initiative 522 on GMO labeling | Editorials | The Seattle Times

Editor, The Times,

Today (Feb. 18) you published an editorial called Skepticism on GMO Labels.

In the second paragraph you state that there is no reliable evidence that GMO
foods pose any risks. Why then has the Academy of Environmental Medicine
issued a position statement on GMO food stating, “...several animal studies
indicate serious health risks associated with GM food consumption including
infertility, immune dysregulation, accelerated aging, dysregulation of genes
associated with cholesterol synthesis, insulin regulation, cell signaling, and
protein formation, and changes in the liver, kidney, spleen and
gastrointestinal system.

“There is more than a casual association between GM foods and adverse health
effects. There is causation as defined by Hill's Criteria in the areas of
strength of association, consistency, specificity, biological gradient, and
biological plausibility. The strength of association and consistency between
GM foods and disease is confirmed in several animal studies.” [1] They further
state that “because GM foods have not been properly tested for human
consumption, and because there is ample evidence of probable harm,” they call
on physicians to educate the public and warn their patients to avoid GM foods.
GMOs were introduced into the food supply in the mid-1990s. The rate of
chronic health conditions among children in the United States increased from
12.8% in 1994 to 26.6% in 2006, particularly for asthma, obesity, and behavior
and learning problems [2]. The rate of chronic disease in the entire U.S.
population has been dramatically increasing with an estimated 25% of the U.S.
population suffering from multiple chronic diseases. [3]

Case studies are piling up of patients who have shown dramatic improvement
after taking their doctor's advice and eliminating GMO food. [4] Wouldn't that
be so much easier if they had labels?

You say we don't need labels because we can buy organic or buy from
manufacturers who self-label. Have you any idea how much more expensive
organic food is than conventional? Do you think that families can afford to do
this? And there is no guarantee that the organic food has not been
contaminated by cross-pollination as there is no requirement for testing, even
in organics. 

You also stated in your editorial that GMO food is “identical to non-GMO

A new study led by Nancy Podevin, of the European Food Safety Authority and
Patrick du Jardin, of the Plant Biology Unit at the University of Liege in
Belgium discovered that 54 of the 86 GM plants approved for commercial growing
and food in the US, including corn and soya, contain a viral gene, which is
known as 'Gene VI'. They concluded that the presence of segments of Gene VI
'might result in unintended phenotypic changes', including the creation of
proteins that are toxic to humans. [5]

In addition, the gene modification in these crops typically involves inserting
bacterial genes into the plant cells to either render them resistant to
herbicides (“Round-Up Ready” is a brand name) or insect pests. Not only are
the bacteria genes potential toxins, but the plants can be sprayed directly
with herbicides, up-taking the herbicide into the plants that we eat.

Finally, you state that GMO crops are a way of “increasing yields while
reducing chemical use.” Perhaps you are unaware of the study by the Union of
Concerned Scientists that showed that GMO crops actually have less yield than
conventional crops. [6] According to another recent study, “Herbicide-
resistant crop technology has led to a 239 million kilogram (527 million
pound) increase in herbicide use in the United States between 1996 and 2011,
while Bt crops have reduced insecticide applications by 56 million kilograms
(123 million pounds). Overall, pesticide use increased by an estimated 183
million kgs (404 million pounds), or about 7%.

“Contrary to often-repeated claims that today’s genetically-engineered crops
have, and are reducing pesticide use, the spread of glyphosate-resistant weeds
in herbicide-resistant weed management systems has brought about substantial
increases in the number and volume of herbicides applied. If new genetically
engineered forms of corn and soybeans tolerant of 2,4-D are approved, the
volume of 2,4-D sprayed could drive herbicide usage upward by another
approximate 50%. The magnitude of increases in herbicide use on herbicide-
resistant hectares has dwarfed the reduction in insecticide use on Bt crops
over the past 16 years, and will continue to do so for the foreseeable

You stated in the editorial that the “dialogue should center on science,” but
it seems your information is outdated. Please give your sources as I have

  1. The Academy of Environmental Medicine position statement,
  2. Van Cleave J, Gortmaker SL, Perrin JM Dynamics of obesity and chronic health conditions among children and youth. JAMA. 2010;303:623-30.
  3. “Incidence and prevalence of chronic disease,” , 2012, Autoimmunity Research Foundation
  4. “Dramatic Health Recoveries Reported  By Patients Who Took Their Doctor’s Advice and Stopped Using GMO Foods,” by Jeffrey M. Smith , Vitality Magazine, 2013,
  5. Uncovered, the 'toxic' gene hiding in GM crops: Revelation throws new doubt over safety of foods,” by Sean Poulter, UK Daily Mail, Jan. 21, 2013,
  6. Gurian-Sherman D. Failure to yield: Evaluating the performance of genetically engineered crops. Union of Concerned Scientists. 2009.
  7. Impacts of genetically engineered crops on pesticide use in the U.S. -- the first sixteen years,” by Charles M Benbrook, Environmental Sciences Europe 2012, 24:24 
Dr. Nancy L. Swanson
Abacus Enterprises
Ban GMOs -- Ask me why!

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