January 6, 2015
Organic Consumers Association
Ronnie Cummins
January 6, 2015

"Monsanto should not have to vouchsafe the safety of biotech food," said Phil Angell, Monsanto's director of corporate communications. "Our interest is in selling as much of it as possible. Assuring its safety is the FDA's job." – New York Times, Oct. 25, 1998

"[GMO] Labeling advocates say the issue is about transparency, not safety. Scott Faber, head of the national Just Label It campaign, testified that consumers want to know what they are buying and how the food was produced. He said advocates are not seeking a warning label, but a “factual, non-judgemental disclosure” on the back of all food packages that contain GMO ingredients.”  Mary Clare Jalonic, Associated Press, December 14, 2014

“Glyphosate is the active ingredient in Monsanto's flagship herbicide, Roundup. 80% of GMO crops are engineered to withstand Roundup and GMO crops now make up 90% of the United State's corn, soy, sugar, canola, and cottonseed. Roundup is also used as a desiccant (drying agent) at harvest on 160 conventional crops. It is in our soil, in our food, and in our bodies.” GMO Free Lancaster County 

“… Monsanto literature regarding Roundup encourages… farmers to apply… Roundup applications on many crops – including wheat, feed barley, oats, canola, flax, peas, lentils, and dry beans – right before harvest….” WashingtonsBlog, November 17, 2014

The technology of agricultural genetic engineering (GE) is the controversial practice of gene-splicing and disrupting the genetic blueprints of plants and trees in a lab, to produce patented seeds. The seeds are generally one of two types. One type, which includes Monsanto’s Roundup-resistant crops, produces plants that survive the spraying of poisons, while all the other plants around them die. The other type produces a plant that manufactures its own pest-killing poison, designed to target a specific pest.

Contrary to what some in the biotech industry and the media claim, genetic engineering of plants is not the same thing as selective breeding, or hybridization. Genetic modification involves inserting foreign genetic material (DNA) into an organism. Selective breeding does not.

For two decades, Monsanto and its cohorts (Syngenta, Dow, DuPont, Bayer, and BASF) have been randomly inserting the genes of one species into a non-related species, or genetically “interfering” with the instructions of an organism’s RNA—utilizing viruses, antibiotic-resistant genes and bacteria as vectors, markers and promoters—to create gene-spliced seeds and crops. Through clever marketing, they’ve captured the loyalty of North America’s (and many other nations’) chemical-intensive farmers, grain traders and Junk Food corporations. Fortunately, in the 28 member states of the European Union, where GMOs must be labeled and independently safety-tested, there are little or no GMO crops planted, and few GMO foods or food ingredients on supermarket shelves or restaurant menus. 

Although Monsanto, industry scientists and corporate agribusiness claim that GMO crops and foods, and the chemicals that accompany them, are perfectly safe and therefore need no labeling or independent safety-testing, hundreds of independent scientists, that is, those not on the payroll of Monsanto or its minions, cite literally hundreds of studies showing that GMOs and their companion chemicals, such as Roundup, are extremely toxic. 

Self-appointed GMO (Genetically Modified Organism) labeling “leaders” such as Scott Faber of the Just Label It campaign (a former lobbyist for the pro-GMO Grocery Manufacturers Association) need to stop repeating Monsanto and Big Food’s lies that there is no “evidence” that GMOs are dangerous for human health or the environment. As Faber stated at a Congressional Hearing on December 10, 2014:

“We do not oppose… genetically modified food ingredients. We think there are many promising applications of genetically modified food ingredients… I am optimistic that the promises that were made by the providers of this technology will ultimately be realized…that we will have traits that produce more nutritious food that will see significant yield…”

Given the current barrage of pro-GMO propaganda in the mass media, “GMO-Free” proponents need to put far greater emphasis on the fact that it isn’t just the imprecise and unpredictable nature of gene-splicing itself—a process that produces toxin and allergens, and shuts down essential gene functions—that threatens human health and the environment. The billions of pounds of systemic toxic pesticides (herbicides, insecticides, and fungicides), especially Roundup, that are used on GMO and so-called conventional crops, are equally, if not more, hazardous to human health and the environment.

These systemic agro-toxins, for the most part, cannot be washed off before eating. These biocides end up on our dinner plates and in our drinking water. They lodge in our bodies and in the bodies of our children, slowly but surely degrading our health and killing us. The world needs a food and farming system that is organic, climate-friendly and regenerative, one that is free of pesticides, animal drugs and chemical fertilizers—not one that is merely GMO-free.

GMOs—Just as ‘safe’ as toxic ‘conventional’ foods

When Monsanto, the FDA, or the Biotechnology Industry Organization are asked whether GMO-tainted foods are safe, notice that they always say that GMOs as “just as safe” as “conventional” (i.e. chemical and drug-tainted) foods, and pose no “unique” risks to human health or the environment. In a twisted sense they are right, because both GMO and non-GMO chemical-intensive, factory-farmed crops and foods are dangerous. They all destroy public health, animal health, soil health, the environment and contribute to global warming.

GMOs and Roundup, neonicotinoids, 2,4 D, atrazine, glufosinate, and dicamba—and all the other chemicals being sprayed on the food that we eat, and ultimately running off into water that we drink—are poison. The major reason chronic diseases like cancer, autism, diabetes and obesity, along with reproductive, behavioral, endocrine and immune system disorders, are spiraling out of control is that our environment is toxic, and we are ingesting, from the womb, to the hospital, to the grave—poisoned, pesticide-laden food.

Certainly we want mandatory labeling of GMOs at the state level (the feds are obviously too corrupt to trust on GMO labeling). But the main reason we want labeling is to defend ourselves, our families and the environment from further assault—by boycotting and driving GMO food, animal feed (most GMOs go into animal feed and biofuels, not human food), and Roundup off the market. This means that organic and grass-fed or pasture-based foods must move from being 5 percent of the market to becoming the dominant force in U.S. food and farming, as soon as possible. To achieve this, we need to boycott not just GMO foods, but all chemically contaminated foods, including factory farmed GMO-fed meat and animal products, and foods from crops sprayed with Roundup “pre-harvest,” not just in the U.S., but globally as well.

Fifteen years ago I wrote a book with Ben Lilliston on the alarming hazards of genetically engineered foods and crops: Genetically Engineered Food: A Self-Defense Guide for Consumers. Even then, it was obvious that out-of-control agro-toxic corporations like Monsanto (producers of aspartame, Agent Orange, DDT, dioxin, and PCBs) were not really interested in increasing yields, producing healthier food or reducing pesticide use—even though they made, and continue to make, these fraudulent claims ad nauseum. What Monsanto was, and is, really up to is maximizing the sales, by any means possible, of their proprietary herbicides (Roundup, dicamba), insecticides (Bt), seeds (corn, soy, cotton, canola, sugar beets, alfalfa) and animal drugs (recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone or rBGH, now owned by Elanco). 

Already in 1989, scores of consumers had been killed, and thousands permanently injured after they ingested a heretofore-safe over-the-counter nutritional supplement called L-tryptophan, which for the first time had been laced with genetically engineered enzymes. Although the FDA tried to cover up the deadly consequences of this first product of genetic engineering, the Japanese pharmaceutical company, Showa Denka, which manufactured the genetically engineered supplement, ended up paying out $2 billion to the consumers it had poisoned.

In 1994, Monsanto’s minions in the FDA (including Monsanto lawyer, and later Obama Food Czar, Michael Taylor) forced onto the market the controversial recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone (rBGH). rBGH was marketed to dairy farmers who injected the hormone into dairy cows to force them to produce more milk. It was brought to market, despite mounting evidence of increased antibiotic resistance and cancer risks, and over the objections of the General Accounting Office (Congress’ watchdog agency), and the Consumers Union, the Cancer Prevention Coalition and the Pure Food Campaign. Although approved for sale in the U.S., rBGH was subsequently banned in Europe, Canada, and most industrialized nations.

A few years later, a gene-spliced soybean patented by Pioneer Hybrid, designed as an “improved” animal feed which would be planted on millions of acres, was pulled from production when scientists realized that it would set off deadly allergies in humans who unwittingly ingested the Brazil nut-spliced soybeans.

Also in 1996-98, as soon as Monsanto’s genetically engineered, “Roundup- Resistant,” soybeans, corn, canola and cotton hit the market—over the objections of independent scientists, environmentalists, and food safety experts—the use, contamination and residues on food of this toxic herbicide began to skyrocket.

Pesticides and flawed, industry-manufactured ‘science

Genetic engineering corporations and their indentured journalists, scientists and government bureaucrats have proclaimed since 1992 that their mutant GMO foods and animal feeds—and the toxic chemicals used along with them—are perfectly safe, basing their claims on 1,700 (Monsanto’s current number) so-called “scientific studies.”

Of course the problem with these Monsanto-endorsed studies “proving” that GMOs and Roundup are safe is that they are typically industry-funded, distorted, short-term, typically non-peer-reviewed, and commonly omitting or hiding crucial data as “proprietary.” In addition to ignoring the hundreds of peer-reviewed articles in the public domain that clearly show damage from GMOs or Roundup, many of the 1700 studies purporting to prove the safety of GMOs actually do show harm.

When pro-GMO scientists look at the safety of GMO foods, 80 percent of which are heavily sprayed with Roundup, they typically look only narrowly at the “active” ingredient in Roundup, ignoring the chemical breakdown agent or metabolite AMPA, which is linked to liver disease, and the highly toxic “inert” ingredients in the herbicide, including: ammonium sulfate, benzisothiazolone, glycerine, isobutene, isopropylamine, polyethoxylated alkylamines, polyethoxilated, tallowamine, and POE-15.

As André Leu points out in his critically-acclaimed recent book, “The Myths of Safe Pesticides:”

“There are numerous studies that show that Roundup is more toxic than its active ingredient, glyphosate. These studies link the pesticide to a range of health problems such as cancer, placental cell damage, miscarriages, stillbirths, endocrine disruption, and damage to various organs such as the kidney and the liver… [inert ingredients in pesticides] amplify up to 1000 times the toxicity of their AP [active ingredient].” – “The Myths of Safe Pesticides,” p. 11, Acres USA, 2014).

In addition to ignoring the dangers of Roundup’s metabolites and “inert” ingredients, industry-sponsored scientists overlook the fact that multiple pesticide residues are routinely found on most (non-organic) GMO and “conventional” foods—and that these multiple-residue chemical cocktails are often far more toxic, even in tiny doses, than the pesticide being studied.

As Leu states:

“The ever increasing body of peer-reviewed science shows that the current methodology of only testing the active ingredient as a single agent and not testing common combinations is flawed and insufficient to determine the safety of chemical exposure in a real world situation where humans are exposed to daily cocktails of chemicals.” – “The Myths of Safe Pesticides,” p. 8).

In allowing supposedly safe “maximum residue limits” and “average daily intake” (ADI) levels of toxic poisons like Roundup in our food and water, government regulators are recklessly ignoring the fact that most (non-organic) foods today, GMO and non-GMO alike, are being sprayed with Roundup, either as an herbicide or a pre-harvest desiccant. The nearly omnipresent accumulation of these Roundup residues in produce, processed foods, meat and animal products (unless they are organic) is extremely hazardous, causing birth defects, gene mutations, chromosomal aberrations and cancer. They destroy our essential gastrointestinal biome (gut) health by killing off the beneficial microorganisms and bacteria in our stomach and promoting the “bad” microorganisms that can lead to gastrointestinal disorders, obesity, diabetes, heart disease, depression, autism, infertility, and Alzheimers. (“The Myths of Safe Pesticides,” pp.69-70).

Moreover Monsanto and the pesticide industry conveniently hide the fact that hormone receptors in human body cells often “misidentify” tiny parts-per-billion, or even parts-per-trillion, of pesticides as if they are human hormones, converting these pesticide residues into potent and deadly hormone disruptors. In other words, there really is no “safe limit” for Roundup or other pesticide residues in human food, animal feed, municipal drinking water or breast milk.

Even though the government claims that it is using sound science to determine “safe” residue levels of pesticides such as Monsanto’s Roundup, a USDA official recently admitted to a Reuters reporter that they are not even testing for glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup:

“As has been the case with past analyses, the USDA said it did not test this past year for residues of glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup herbicide and the world's most widely used herbicide. A USDA spokesman who asked not to be quoted said that the test measures required for glyphosate are ‘extremely expensive… to do on a regular basis’…”

When the FDA sends out a letter to Monsanto (or Dow, Dupont, Syngenta or any other biotech company) approving the commercialization of a new GMO, they basically admit that they, the FDA, have not conducted their own independent studies on the GMO, but rather are accepting the studies submitted by the company as proof of efficacy and safety.

As Dr. Michael Hansen of the Consumers Union pointed out in his testimony to the American Medical Association on March 19, 2012:

“The lack of adequate safety testing can be seen in the letter FDA sends to the company after completion of a ‘safety consultation.’ For example, the letter sent to Monsanto on September 25, 1996, about one of their first Bt-corn varieties, MON810, states, ‘Based on the safety and nutritional assessment you have conducted, it is our understanding that Monsanto has concluded that corn, grain, and forage derived from the new variety are not materially different in composition, safety of other relevant parameters from corn, grain, and forage currently on the market, and that they do not raise issues that would require premarket review or approval by FDA.’ Note that FDA does not state its own opinion about the safety of this crop; it only states what the company believes. The letters for all 84 ‘safety consultations’ done since the Flavr Savr tomato [1994] contain basically the same language. This clearly shows that the FDA does not conduct safety assessments.”

Monsanto and the genetic engineering lobby have incessantly proclaimed, with little or no evidence whatsoever, that these controversial crops and foods will reduce pesticide use, eliminate world hunger, cure disease, mitigate climate change and vastly improve public health. However, a close look at their actual business practices, sales figures, political lobbying and bullying in court (suing hundreds of farmers for the “crime” of saving seeds) reveal Monsanto’s true goals: to monopolize the global market for seeds, foods and fiber, and to sell as many toxic herbicides, insecticides, and fungicides as possible.

An increasing number of scientists and consumer advocates warn that current gene-splicing techniques are crude, inexact and unpredictable, and that the toxic chemicals, especially Monsanto’s Roundup, sprayed on these genetically engineered seeds and plants are incredibly dangerous. In October 2013, more than 200 scientists, physicians, academics and experts from disciplines relevant to the scientific, legal, social and safety assessment GMOs issued a statement which said, “we strongly reject claims by GM seed developers and some scientists, commentators, and journalists that there is a ‘scientific consensus’ on GMO safety and that the debate on this topic is ‘over.'"

It is now blatantly obvious that GMOs are nothing more than patented Pesticide Delivery Systems (PDS) designed to increase sales of poisonous agrochemicals such as Roundup, glufosinate, Bt, 2,4 D and neonicotinoids. To claim that GMOs are perfectly safe is equivalent to saying that pesticides, herbicides and fungicides—systemically laced at ever-higher levels into GMO-tainted human food and animal feed—are perfectly safe. And to make matters worse, hundreds of millions of pounds of Monsanto’s Roundup, the most widely used herbicide in the world, are now routinely sprayed on 160 different crops, just before harvest, including wheat, potatoes, oats, canola, flax, peas and dried beans. In other words, just about every non-organic item in your supermarket, or every item on your restaurant menu (bread, potatoes, meat, milk,) is now tainted with Roundup.

A 12-point agenda for driving GMOs off the market

The anti-GMO and organic Movement has come a long way in the past two decades. But given the dangers posed by GMOs and Roundup, it’s time to move aggressively forward. Here are a dozen crucial steps we need to take in 2015 to drive GMOs and Roundup off the market.

1.    Stop Congress from passing the Pompeo bill (HR #4432) in 2015, which would take away states rights to pass mandatory GMO food labeling bills, and make it legal for unscrupulous food and beverage companies to continue mislabeling  GMO-tainted foods as “natural” or “all natural.”

2.    Stop Congress from “fast-tracking” and passing secretly negotiated “Free Trade” agreements (the TPP-Trans-Pacific Partnership, and TTIP-Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership) that would weaken consumer and states rights to label and safety test GMO and factory-farmed foods.

3.    Pass more state laws requiring mandatory labels on GMOs.

4.    Pass more bans on GMOs, neonicotinoids and pesticides at the township, city, and county levels.

5.    Support Vermont, Maui (Hawaii), Jackson and Josephine counties (Oregon) in their federal and state legal battles to uphold their laws requiring labels and/or bans on GMOs.

6.    Educate the public on the dangers and cruelty of GMO-fed, factory-farmed meat, dairy and egg products, and organize a “Great Boycott” of all factory-farmed foods.

7.    Support mandatory state legislation to label dairy products and chain restaurant food coming from factory farms or CAFOs (Confined Animal Feeding Operations).

8.    Pressure retail natural food stores and coops to follow the lead of Whole Foods Market and the Natural Grocer to label and/or ban all GMO-derived foods, including meat and animal products and deli foods, from their stores.

9.    Pressure restaurants to follow the lead of organic/grass fed restaurants and ban, or at least label, all GMO ingredients.

10.    Support consumer efforts to test for Roundup/glyphosate contamination in drinking water, human urine, breast milk, and in non-GMO food products such as wheat, potatoes, oats, peas, lentils and dry beans that are currently sprayed with Roundup before harvest.

11.    Educate the public on the positive health, environmental, ethical and climate-friendly (greenhouse gas sequestering) attributes of organic, grass-fed, and pasture-raised food and farming.

12.    Boycott the “Traitor Brand” products of the Grocery Manufacturers Association, International Dairy Foods Association, and the Snack Food Association.

Ronnie Cummins is international director of the Organic Consumers Association and its Mexico affiliate, Via Organica