Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Idaho group backs mandatory GMO food labeling law | (Rebuttal)

Read Capital Press Article:
Idaho group backs mandatory GMO food labeling law |

Excerpt/summary from: GMO Myths & Truths (2012)

Rebuttal By
Dr. Nancy L. Swanson
Abacus Enterprises
Ban GMOs -- Ask me why!

1. George Gough, who oversees Monsanto's government affairs division, said the safety and effectiveness of Roundup Ready crops has been proven by multiple federal agencies and farmers themselves.

Before new drugs are approved by the FDA they must go through a series of rigorous animal testing.  If adverse effects are not found in the animal tests, they must then proceed to a series of rigorous clinical trials with human beings.  The chemical companies who have developed the GE seeds have made the claim to the FDA that their products do not qualify as a new drug because they are essentially identical to non-GMO crops and therefore do not require the same rigorous testing.  The EPA agreed and as a result, the FDA’s GMO policy is  that Monsanto and others can determine if their own foods are safe. There are no required safety studies. [See excerpts from the FDA Federal Register at the end of this document.]
 A genetically modified plant may or may not require FDA approval (depending on whether or not the modification can be considered an “additive.”  If it does require approval, it is up to the producer to perform the tests to insure safety.  The tests that have been performed for FDA approval have all been performed and/or paid for by the petitioner and those data are not published in journals or subjected to peer review.  Most of these studies were done on rats, none were undertaken for more than 90 days and many were much less; not nearly long enough for adverse effects to show.  There have been no safety studies done by any federal agencies or farmers, as stated.

There have, however, been numerous reports of infertility, death and disease as a result of feeding livestock GMO feed.  “Infertility rates as high as 20% are being seen in cattle and pigs, and spontaneous abortions are occurring at rates of 45% among cattle. This is still early in the Roundup Ready era—and it's clearly unsustainable.” [1] 

When sheep grazed on Bt cotton plants after harvest, within a week 1 in 4 died. Shepherds estimate 10,000 sheep deaths in one region of India.[2] Farmers in Europe and Asia say that cows, water buffaloes, chickens, and horses died from eating Bt corn varieties.[3]  A pig farmer in Denmark cured his pigs of chronic diarrhoea, birth defects, reproductive problems, reduced appetite, bloating, stomach ulcers, weaker and smaller piglets, and reduced litter sizes by taking them off of GMO feed. [4]

[2]"Mortality in Sheep Flocks after Grazing on Bt Cotton Fields-Warangal District, Andhra Pradesh" Report of the Preliminary Assessment, April 2006,
[3] Mae-Wan Ho,
"GM Ban Long Overdue, Dozens Ill & Five Deaths in the Philippines," ISIS Press Release, June 2, 2006; and Mae-Wan Ho and Sam Burcher, "Cows Ate GM Maize & Died," ISIS Press Release, January 13, 2004
[4] [note: original article is in Danish]

2.  He said 16 million farmers around the world grew 395 million acres of biotech crops in 2011, and producers grow the crops every year because they increase productivity and decrease input costs.

A study by the Union of Concerned Scientists  showed that GMO crops actually have less yield than conventional crops.  [5]

There have been widespread reports of GM crop failures in India. Of course it's only anecdotal...There is almost no research on the subject. Monsanto manages to prevent it by refusing to allow their seeds to be used in studies that might demonstrate the truth.”

[5]  Gurian-Sherman D., “Failure to yield: Evaluating the performance of genetically engineered crops,” Union of Concerned Scientists, 2009

3.   If you sell them one thing one year that doesn't work, they're not going to come back and use it again," said Gough, who used corn as an example of how biotechnology has resulted in significant production gains.

Do they have a choice?

4. While the average corn yield in this country was 72.4 bushels per acre in 1970, he said, it was 122 bushels per acre in 2012 and Monsanto officials project it will reach 300 bushels by 2030.

Curious that he would  choose 1970 because much of the U.S. corn crop was wiped out by Southern Corn Leaf Blight causing a full-blown crisis in that year. [6]  A lack of biodiversity in the corn varieties was a large part of the problem. [7] 

In fact, a study by Mike Tannura, Scott Irwin, and Darrel Good has shown that the increase in corn yield from 1996-2007 was the same as the increase from 1960-1995 after adjusting for weather effects. [8]  Their study examined data from 1960-2007 for Iowa, Illinois and Indiana comprising nearly half of the U.S. corn production.

“The sensitivity of the results was examined by also fixing the  breakpoint at 1994, 1995, 1997, and 1998.  The magnitude of the estimated change in trend yields was not sensitive to the alternative breakpoints.  In sum, the regression models did not indicate that a notable increase in trend yields for corn occurred in the mid-1990s.”  Turns out that corn production is most sensitive to weather.

Increase in corn yield/acre

 +1.8 bu./yr.
+2.0 bu./yr.

+1.8 bu./yr.
 +1.8 bu./yr.

+1.9 bu./yr. 
  +2.1 bu./yr.

[8] Mike Tannura, Scott Irwin, and Darrel Good,Are Corn Trend Yields Increasing at a Faster Rate?”, February 20, 2008, Marketing and Outlook Briefs, Department of Agriculture and Consumer Economics, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

5. Gough said similar biotechnology gains among other crops are needed to feed an increasing global population projected to reach 8.4 billion by 2030.

Besides the fact that it is far from clear that GE crops increase yield, Round-up Ready crops result in higher applications of herbicides.  In 2009, Dr. Don Huber, Professor Emeritus of Purdue University noted for his expertise in plant pathology, co-produced a paper with G.S. Johal, of Purdue's botany and plant pathology department. Entitled, "Glyphosate effects on diseases of plants" [9], it was published in the European Journal of Agronomy. It has, of course, been routinely ignored by the USDA.

Note that glyphosate is the scientific and generic term for Roundup.

The paper stated:
“[The widespread uses of glyphosate] significantly increase the severity of various plant diseases, impair plant defense to pathogens and diseases, and immobilize soil and plant nutrients rendering them unavailable for plant use. “

The authors further warned:
“[I]gnoring potential non-target detrimental side effects of any chemical, especially used as heavily as glyphosate, may have dire consequences for agriculture such as rendering soils infertile, crops non-productive, and plants less nutritious. To do otherwise might well compromise not only agricultural sustainability, but also the health and well-being of animals and humans. “

We are to pin our hopes of feeding the world on GE crops?  How is this sustainable?

Roundup Ready seeds were created by Monsanto to leverage glyphosate. The GMO plants are resistant to it. Therefore, farmers can spray glyphosate recklessly in huge quantities. The result is, of course, profits from sales of the seeds, along with hugely inflated profits from sales of glyphosate. Monsanto makes money coming and going.

[9] G.S. Johal and D.N. Huber, “Glyphosate effects on diseases of plants,” European Journal of Agronomy, Vol. 31, No. 3, Oct. 2009, pp. 144-152

Excerpts from the
FDA Federal Register
Volume 57 - 1992
Friday, May 29, 1992

“In most cases, the substances expected to become components of food as a result of genetic modification of a plant will be the same as or substantially similar to substances commonly
found in food,...”
“Finally, the principles discussed in this notice do not apply to "new drugs" as defined by section 201 (p) of the act (21 U.S.C. 321(p)), "new animal drugs" as defined by section 201(w) of the act (21 U.S.C. 321(w)), or to "pesticide chemicals" as defined by section 201(q) of the act. As discussed in section IX., EPA is responsible for pesticide chemicals, including those produced in plants as a result to genetic modification.”
[note “the act” is the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act ]
“Any genetic modification technique has the potential to alter the composition of food in a manner relevant to food safety, although, based on experience, the likelihood of a safety hazard is typically very low. The following paragraphs describe some potential changes in composition that may require evaluation to assure food safety.”

“Section 402(a)(1) of the act imposes a legal duty on those who introduce food into the market place, including food derived from new crop varieties, to ensure that the food satisfies the applicable safety standard.”
“In enacting the amendment [food additive amendment, 1958], Congress recognized that many substances intentionally added to food do not require a formal premarket review by FDA to assure their safety, either because their safety had been established by a long history of use in food or because the nature of the substance and the information generally available to scientists about the substance are such that the substance simply does not raise a safety concern worthy of premarket review by FDA. Congress thus adopted a two-step definition of "food additive." The first step broadly includes any substance the intended use of which results in its becoming a component of food. The second step, however, excludes from the definition of food additive substances that are GRAS [generally recognized as safe]. It is on the basis of the GRAS exception of the "food additive" definition that many ingredients derived from natural sources (such as salt, pepper, vinegar, vegetable oil, and thousands of spices and natural flavors), as well as a host of chemical additives (including some sweeteners, preservatives, and artificial flavors), are able to be lawfully marketed today without having been formally reviewed by FDA and without being the subject of a food additive regulation. The judgment of Congress was that subjecting every intentional additive to FDA premarket review was not necessary to protect public health and would impose an insurmountable burden on FDA and the food industry.  It is the responsibility of the producer of a new food to evaluate the safety of the food and assure that the safety requirement of section 402(a)(1) of the act is met.”
“With respect to transferred genetic material (nucleic acids), generally FDA does not anticipate that transferred genetic material would itself be subject to food additive regulation. Nucleic acids are present in the cells of every living organism, including every plant and animal used for food by humans or animals, and do not raise a safety concern as a component of food. In regulatory terms, such material is presumed to be GRAS. Although the guidance provided in section VII. calls for a good understanding of the identity of the genetic material being transferred through genetic modification techniques, FDA does not expect that there will be any serious question about the GRAS status of transferred genetic material.”

“Section VII. of this notice provides guidance to producers of new foods for conducting safety evaluations. This guidance is intended to assist producers in evaluating the safety of the food that they market, regardless of whether the food requires premarket approval by FDA. This guidance also includes criteria and analytical steps that producers can follow in determining whether their product is a candidate for food additive regulation and whether consultation with FDA should be pursued to determine the regulatory status of the product. Ultimately, it is the food producer who is responsible for assuring safety.”

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