Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Iowa Farmer Warns Of GMO Dangers

Written By Charles Mesh

In his first experiment with GM crops back in 1997, it didn’t take Iowa farmer Howard Vlieger long to figure out that his cows were smarter than the Bio Tech scientists.

Initially excited by the potential of this new technology, he decided to see for himself what would happen when he fed his cows both GM and natural corn. Result: all 25 cows walked right past the GM corn to get to the natural corn.
A vigorous, unpretentious man with a determined look and boundless energy, Vlieger recently completed a two-week lecture tour here in Washington state to educate the public about the hazards of GM food. He said he wanted to help Washington voters make an informed choice on I-522, the GMO labeling initiative whose fate will be decided November 5.

“We have a road map on how to win the battle of keeping GMO out of the food supply: educate the consumer,” Vlieger said. “I don't tell people what to think.I just put facts in front of them and let them make up their own minds.” Vlieger took over the family farm after his father's death in 1981.

By 1989 Vlieger had taken up alternative farming, or what he calls biological crop production as well as organic methods. In 1992 he founded Verity Farms, a company offering nutritional advice on crops to farmers transitioning out of chemically intensive agriculture.

In his work, Vlieger draws not only on his own experience, but also on the experience of his fellow farmers. He tells the story of a farmer who wrote to the Farm Bureau of West Central Iowa that his hogs were having reproductive and intestinal problems at an unusually high rate (miscarriages, bloody bowels, ileitis, salmonella).

When the story was circulated in the Bureau’s newsletter, several farmers called the office and reported the same kind of problems. Eventually it was discovered that all the farmers in the area were using the same type of GM corn.

When they switched back to feeding their hogs the natural corn, the problems vanished, Vlieger said. When the situation was brought to the attention of the local Ag school scientists, they did not see a connection between the GM feed and the pigs’ problems. “Anecdotal information,” they said. “Inconclusive.” Here too, it did not take long for Vlieger to realize that the hog farmers were smarter than the scientists.
Not to say that Vlieger is against science per se. Quite the opposite. When he had the good fortune to meet Dr. Don Huber, Professor Emeritus at Purdue, Huber told him that the Vlieger’s boots-on-the- ground, hands-on experiences and observations were the first step of science, Vlieger said. Huber was happy to work with a farmer who noticed problems and patterns in his practice of agriculture.

Huber said the next step would be to conduct a full-fledged scientific experiment with protocols and controls.
This year, in collaboration with Dr. Judy Carmen of Australia, Vlieger co-authored and published the world’s first peer-reviewed, double-blind, independent long-term study of hogs fed GM grain and non-GM grain for their life span as a meat animal.

This study showed statistically significant findings: first, the uteruses were 25% heavier in sows fed GM grain; second, the boars were 2.6 and the sows 2.2 times more likely to seek to have severe inflammation in the stomach.

The study brought Vlieger international recognition, and continued the work begun by scientists such as Arpad Pusztai (UK 1999), Gilles Seralini (France 2012) and others—all conducting long-term studies on animals showing serious adverse effects—e.g., organ damage, tumors, reproductive problems.

Almost unbelievably, Vlieger said, in our country the FDA did not require even one long-term animal study. The biotech industry’s testing was voluntary and no study longer than 90 days was ever submitted. When you get past 90 days, that's when the problems begin, he said.
This work is not for the faint of heart. Consider the case of Dr. Arpad Pusztai, a well-respected scientist at the prestigious Rowett Institute in Scotland with over 300 peer-reviewed published articles.

When he sounded the alarm in regards to the foreign protein in GMO crops, he was brutally and viciously attached by the biotech industry. The industry literally tried to destroy him, Vlieger said.
A similar fate befell Seralini in France. When he reported massive tumors, organ damage, and reproductive problems in his long-term study of lab rats, the biotech industry mounted a furious attack despite the fact that he merely replicated the biotech industry’s own study in every detail but one—Seralini’s was was a lifetime study, not 90 days.

Bizarrely, the industry was in effect attacking its own study.

Nevertheless Vlieger is upbeat that the tide of public opinion is finally starting to shift. People are realizing that when we quit using GM seeds and chemicals and return to re-balancing and revitalizing the soil, the soil improves.

When we take away the GM feed, the animals improve. When we humans remove GM food from our diet, doctors report 100% of their patients improve, he said.

Vlieger likes to end his lectures with a quote from his friend and mentor Dr. Don Huber:

“Will future historians look back and write about our times, not about the pounds of pesticides we did or did not apply, but how willing we were to sacrifice our children and future generations for this massive experiment we call genetic engineering, that is based on failed promises and flawed science, just to benefit the bottom line of a commercial enterprise.”

The last slide in the lecture shows the image of Vlieger’s smiling 6-month-old granddaughter. “I'm doing this work for her,” Vlieger said.

Charles Mish taught English, film, and journalism for 37 years at Edmonds Community College. Now retired, he and his wife Clarissa live in a solar home and grow biodynamic fruit and vegetables on Lopez Island.

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