Busting Myths About GMOs (Genetically-Modified Foods)

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The cost of food is skyrocketing, and it is affecting not just people shopping at grocery stores, but those all over the world in third-world countries as well. In the midst of all the news about rising food prices, companies like Monsanto are using their P.R. muscle to convince everyone that genetically-modified foods will be our solution to “feed the world”.

Both the food industry and the FDA continue to make claims that genetically modified (GM) foods are safe to consume, have undergone proper testing, and are essential to feed a growing planet. All of these claims are false. Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are a radical alteration to the way we produce and consume food. The majority of genetically-modified substances are unregulated ingredients, and those can be identified in 60-70% of the foods grown in the U.S.

It is the intent of the food industry and the FDA to convince consumers that these substances have been approved through thorough long-term testing and studies. However, there exists absolutely no real testing standards or requirements. “Research” supporting their claims about the safety of these substances comes from the companies themselves. Monsanto emphatically claims through their own “non-biased” testing that GM foods are safe, and the type of testing done is intended to avoid revealing the inherent problems of these foods. Read more about the non-existent regulation or testing on Dr. Mercola’s site.

Our food buying habits have a tremendous impact on our food system. The more we support sustainable farmers, the more we will send a message to those producing foods that are not sustainable that we don’t want these substances in our food supply.

Watch this important video interview with Dr. Don M. Huber, Professor and plant pathologist from Purdue University, discussing the discovery of a pathogenic bacteria in GM crops which poses a threat to plant, animal, & human health


Ten commonly forwarded myths or ideologies about genetically-modified foods and the truth about their impact on the planet*:

1. GMO foods won’t solve the food crisis.

A 2008 World Food Bank report concluded that increased biofuel production is the major cause of the increase in food prices. GM giant Monsanto has been at the heart of lobbying for biofuels (crops grown for fuel rather than food) – while profiting enormously from the resulting food crisis and using it as a PR opportunity to promote GM foods!

“The climate crisis was used to boost biofuels, helping to create the food crisis: and now the food crisis is being used to revive the fortunes of the GM industry,” writes Daniel Howden, Africa correspondent of The Independent.

Professor Denis Murphy, head of biotechnology at the University of Glamorgan in Wales, had this to say about the issue: “The cynic in me thinks that they’re just using the current food crisis and the fuel crisis as a springboard to push GM crops back on to the public agenda. I understand why they’re doing it, but the danger is that if they’re making these claims about GM crops solving the problem of drought or feeding the world, that’s B.S.”

2.  Genetically-modified crops do not produce yield potential.

Despite the promises, GM has not increased the yield potential of any commercialized crops. In fact, studies show that the most widely grown GM crop, GM soya, has suffered reduced yields.

A report that analyzed nearly two decades worth of peer-reviewed research on the yield of the primary GM food/feed crops, soybeans and corn (maize), reveals that despite 13 years of commercialization, genetic engineering has failed to significantly increase crop yields in the U.S. EPA and U.S. FDA biotech specialist Dr. Doug Gurian-Sherman, concludes that when it comes to yield, “Traditional breeding outperforms genetic engineering hands down.”

“Let’s be clear,” he wrote in 2008. “As of this year, there are currently no commercialized GM crops that inherently increase yield. Similarly, there are no GM crops on the market that were engineered to resist drought, reduce fertilizer pollution or save soil. Not one.”

3. GM crops increase pesticide use.

Data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture shows that in the States, GM crops have produced an overall increase, not decrease, in pesticide use compared to conventional crops.

“The promise was that you could use less chemicals and produce a greater yield,” writes Bill Christison, president of the U.S. National Family Farm Coalition. “But let me tell you, none of this is true.”

4.  There are better ways to feed the world.

A major UN/World-Bank sponsored report compiled by 400 scientists and endorsed by 58 countries concluded that GM crops have little to offer global agriculture and the challenges of poverty, hunger, and climate change, because better alternatives are available. In particular, the report championed “agroecological” farming as the sustainable way forward for developing countries.

5.  Other farm technologies are more successful than GM farming.

Integrated Pest Management and other innovative low-input or organic methods of controlling pests and boosting yields have proven highly effective, particularly in the developing world. Other plant breeding techonlogies, such as Marker Assisted Selection (non-GMO mapping), are widely expected to boost global agricultural productivity more effectively and safely than GM.

“The quiet revolution is happening in gene mapping, helping us to understand crops better,” writes Professor John Snape, head of the department of crop genetics at the John Innes Center. “That is up and running and could have a far greater impact on agriculture [thah GM].”

6. Genetically-modified foods have not been shown to be safe to eat.

Genetic modification is a crude and imprecise way of incorporating foreign genetic material (e.g. from viruses and bacteria) into crops, with unpredictable consequences. The resulting GM foods have undergone little rigorous and no long-term safety testing, but some animal feeding tests have shown worrisome health effects. Only one study has been published on the direct effects on humans of eating a GM food. It found unexpected effects on gut bacteria, but was never followed up. (Fore more information on the effects of GM food on health, visit Seeds of Deception).

Advocates claim that Americans have eaten GM foods for years with no ill-effects. But these foods are unlabeled in the U.S. and no one has monitored the consequences. With other novel foods like trans fats, it has taken decades to realize that they have caused millions of premature deaths. “We are confronted with the most powerful technology the world has ever known, and it is being rapidly deployed with almost no thought whatsoever to its consequences,” writes Dr. Suzanne Wuerthele, a toxicologist with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

7. Stealth GMOs are used in animal feed – without consumers’ consent.

Meat, eggs, and dairy products from animals raised on the millions of tons of GM feed imported into Europe do not have to be labeled. Some studies show that, contrary to GM and food industry claims, animals raised on GM feed are different from those raised on non-GM feed. Other studies show that if GM crops are fed to animals, GM material can appear in the resulting products and that the animals’ health can be affected. Eating “stealth GMOs” may affect the health of consumers.

8. GM crops are long-term economic disaster for farmers.

A 2009 report showed that GM seed prices in America have increased dramatically, compared to non-GM and organic seeds, cutting average farm incomes for U.S. farmers growing GM crops. The report concluded, “At the present time there is a massive disconnect between the sometimes lofty rhetoric from those championing biotechnology as the proven path toward global food security and what is actually happening on farms in the U.S. that have grown dependent on GM seeds and are now dealing with the consequences.”

9. GM and non-GM cannot coexist.

GM contamination of conventional and organic food is increasing. An unapproved GM rice that was grown for only one year in field trials was found to have extensively contaminated the U.S. rice supply and seed stocks. In Canada, the organic canola industry has been destroyed by contamination from GM canola. In Spain, a study found that GM maize “has caused a drastic reduction in organic cultivations of this grain and is making their co-existence practically impossible.”
The time has come to choose between GM-based and a non-GM based world food supply.

“If some people are allowed to choose to grow, sell, and consume GM foods, soon nobody will be able to choose food, or a biosphere, free from GM.” Roger Levett, a specialist in sustainable development, writes. “It’s a one-way choice, like the introduction of rabbits or cane toads to Australia, once it’s made, it can’t be reversed.”

10. We can’t trust GM companies.

The big biotech firms pushing their GM foods have a terrible history of toxic contamination and public deception. GM is attractive to them because it gives them patents that allow monopoly control over the world’s food supply. They have taken to harassing and intimidating small farmers for the “crime” of saving patented seed or “stealing” patented genes – even if those seeds got into the farmer’s fields by accidental contamination by wind or insects.

Tom Wiley, a North Dakota farmer, explained the situation in a 2004 news story: “Farmers are being sued for having GMOs on their property that they did not buy, do not want, will not use, and cannot sell.”

*Source: GM Watch

These companies could still make profits by producing biofuel crops that are not harmful to the entire planet, and are sustainably-produced. The Sustainable Biodiesel Alliance believes GMOs should be avoided in producing biofuel, and that if they are used they should be labeled. And this article from Renewable Energy World discusses how possible it is to produce non-GMO algae for producing biofuels as well. Ban GM Foods has many examples of non-GM successes in technology that do not involve the use of GM which clearly has many uncertainties and risks.

For more information:

Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund site and learn about the lawsuit over Monsanto seed.

Monsanto GM Corn Causing Organ Failure in Rats

The World According to Monsanto – ground-breaking film by French film maker Marie Monique Robin about the hostile takeover Monsanto has executed over the agricultural world.

Non-GMO Shopping Guide

25 Comments

  • May 31, 2011 - 11:04 AM | Permalink

    Great article, once again! Science, with its partial understanding, can never come close to matching nature. We need full and complete labeling, so we can boycott every GMO tainted food.

    We should not be guinea pigs just so a few huge corporations can make money.

    We have a basic human right to choose our food, and to choose the food designed by nature, not greedy companies!

  • May 31, 2011 - 11:20 AM | Permalink

    Hi Stanley –

    You are right, we do need labeling. Of course both of our preferences would be that there were no GMO foods at all, but at least with labeling consumers could be informed about what they are buying and could opt to not purchase. I think that would make a difference, and that’s exactly what Monsanto is counting on, and so they continue to get lobbyists to fight against labeling on products. We do have a basic right not only to choose our food, but to know what exactly is in our foods without all the lack of transparency in our system, no thanks to corrupt corporations and our fine government.

    I have been meaning and meaning to reply to your and Keren’s message that you sent some weeks ago, so I really appreciate your comment! Things have been so busy here, I’m on the GAPS diet and I’m experiencing a lot of improvement in the symptoms I’ve had plaguing me for so many months. I have Bruce doing the GAPS diet as well, and he’s more skeptical about these things, so I feel fortunate that he’s doing it at about 75 percent. Keep your fingers crossed for us. My son is also doing the broths and smoothies with yogurt and kefir, as well as any nourishing foods I can get down him. I’m afraid to say that with all the other influences in his life from friends and family, he’s starting to really resent healthy foods I make for him and can’t wait to go to Grandma and Grandpa’s house or somewhere else to eat foods that aren’t good for him. My parents don’t think the foods they feed him are a problem, no matter how much we’ve talked about it. And they persist in feeding him wheat, pasteurized dairy, factory meats, etc. I’ve tried sending foods with him, but they seldom get eaten. I can either stricken him from seeing his grandparents or just let him go and hope that what I feed him here at home will support him. It’s very difficult.

    I’ve been incredibly busy with jobs for clients, and we are waiting for a word on when our house will sell and we’ll be moving…probably sometime in July or August. Paperwork and underwriting takes forever to go through, as you know. Ugh. The banks are no better than government or big corporations. It’s up in the air about where we’ll be living and what we’ll be doing for the next couple of months, but until then I will just keep on producing posts as often as I’m able. I hope you and Keren are doing well. Thanks so much for your support and comments, as always.

  • May 31, 2011 - 12:56 PM | Permalink

    Raine, you are right, I would prefer to see all GMOs banned. The only “benefit” they have is that you can put more poison on a plant without killing it, which is no benefit at all, as it results in the life in the soil being killed by an even heavier does of pesticides.

    I understand busy, and appreciate your bringing us up to date with what is going on with you.

  • Erica
    June 1, 2011 - 5:51 AM | Permalink

    This is why there is no better reason than to purchase food from a trusted local farmer. GMOs make me sick to my stomach just thinking about them. I would never purchase meats or non-organic produce from the supermarket anymore. In truth, nobody knows what is all in the food, and how if affects the human body. I would spend more money if I had to for exceptional quality food that will keep me from spending a fortune in the future on health issues correlated to diet. After all, Hippocrates did say that all diseases originate in the gut. If there is only a 2-3 year lifespan for a confinement cow who is suppose to live nearly 12 years being fed total junk and given loads of antibiotics, imagine what happens to the average American who inevitably does the same. The results are horrifying when we look around in our own communities to witness how sick and confused America truly is.

  • June 1, 2011 - 6:22 AM | Permalink

    Hi Erica – thanks for your comments. There is now evidence that GMO organisms alter our bodies from the digestive tract out: http://lachicaorganica.wordpress.com/2011/05/31/health-news-genetically-engineered-food-alters-our-digestive-systems-say-no-to-gmos/

    The evidence just keeps mounting everyday that GMOs are harmful to us and everything around us. Your analogy about cows that are supposed to live for 12 years that only live 2-3 years and how that could likely affect us the same way is chilling and very telling about what is going on in our food supply. America is very sick and confused, and I hope somehow we’ll figure out a way to defeat all this technology that is slowly, bit by bit, bringing our civilization to its knees.

    • Erica
      June 1, 2011 - 10:44 AM | Permalink

      Hi Raine,

      Thanks for your reply! These past two months I purchased pastured eggs from a local farmer who fed the chickens soy, corn, vegetable oil, etc, and I didn’t even know until now. I don’t know if the soy and corn were GMOs, and these are pastured eggs from a local farmer that I’m talking about here. This is pretty scary. I’m not for sure how much of the soy, corn, vegetable oil shows up in the eggs. Do you know?

    • Erica
      June 1, 2011 - 11:21 AM | Permalink

      Also,

      Raine, that is an amazing article regarding the effects of GMOs on the human gut. Since most of our immune system is located in the gut, I wouldn’t be surprised that the very nature of GMOs will be totally distructive to one’s overall health.

  • June 5, 2011 - 9:12 AM | Permalink

    Erica – I don’t know how much of those substances – soy, corn, and other vegetable products show up in eggs or chickens. But I do know that I don’t want to take any chances of consuming products with those substances in them if I can help it. I believe that eating even low levels of those substances on a regular basis can be very harmful to your health, because you are putting those things in your body continually, if that is how you are eating them.

    Most soy and corn is GMO, unless the farmer specifies otherwise. And sometimes, I’ve found, the farmers don’t seem to even be aware of what the feed is that they are giving to their birds or animals, which is scary. My best advice is to find a farmer who understands the implications and dangers of feeding animals and birds feeds like this, and also the types of feed they are designed to consume (cattle, for instance, are not intended to digest grain as their primary dietary feed, and should only glean small amounts of grains in the fields as they graze), and the importance of correct, sustainable farming practices.

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  • raquel
    January 29, 2013 - 3:59 PM | Permalink

    I meant to say know

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