May 23, 2011
We have addressed before the threats
posed by genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in the food
We say “in the food production system”
rather than “in food,” because these GMOs, once introduced into the
environment, may have effects far beyond a particular genetically
modified food and whether or not we eat it.
In a striking analogy, GMO researcher and activist Jeffrey Smith
compares the spread of genetically modified material to BP’s massive
oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico. As he points out, as devastating as
the leak was, it could eventually be capped. In time physical and
biological processes will break down the pollutants, however
devastating a toll on wildlife is wreaked along the way.
By contrast, genetic pollution not only
spreads from one organism to another but, by definition, carries its
own self-perpetuating mechanism.
No new oil is being produced in Prince
William Sound after the
Exxon Valdez spill, and oil that does leave
the ecosystem, as opposed to being trapped there, has moved a step
GMOs, on the other hand, will continue to
reproduce themselves and disperse until the time of their individual
extinction or the end of life on Earth, whichever comes first.
Many maps of the prevalence of GM agriculture throughout the world
are tied to national boundaries, since policies on GMOs are often
set nationally. While useful for knowing where to apply pressure at
the national level, such maps have two inherent flaws:
Global versions are less likely to account for local resistance to
GM agriculture, struggles which may take place on the level of state
or province, or as in Vermont, township by township.
Even more fatally, such maps fail to account for biology not
generally respecting national boundaries - as Smith remarks in
another context, dispersing bacteria don’t always read the signs.
One source of current (and apparently updated)
dispersal data (below chart) uses
circular representations, good insofar as they break the connection
of dispersion with national boundaries, more closely approximating
how GMOs spread in nature:
This above map shows global distribution of Genetically Modified (GM) crops.
Key findings of 2010:
Growth remains strong, with biotech hectarage increasing 14 million hectares - or 10 percent - between 2009 and 2010.
Farmers in Pakistan and Myanmar, planted insect-resistant Bt cotton for the first time.
Sweden (the first Scandinavian country to commercialize biotech crops) planted a new biotech high-quality starch potato approved for industrial and feed use.
Germany also planted the same biotech potatoes as Sweden in 2010, resuming its place among the eight EU nations now growing either biotech maize or potatoes.
The most popular crop is soya, while the most common modification is tolerance to herbicides.
International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA) expects an additional 12 countries to adopt biotech crops by 2015.
As recently as a decade ago, Genetically Modified (GM) agriculture was virtually non-existent, but has since expanded rapidly, both in terms of total area planted and the number of countries involved.
GM crops is the fastest adopted crop technology, 80-fold increase from 1996 to 2010, year-to-year growth of 9 million hectares or 7%.
What is Genetically Modified (GM) crops?
Genetically modified (GM) crops are crops derived from genetically modified organisms.
Genetically modified organisms have had specific changes introduced into their DNA by genetic engineering techniques. These techniques are much more precise than mutagenesis (mutation breeding) where an organism is exposed to radiation or chemicals to create a non-specific but stable change.
These plants will have increased resistance to herbicides or improved nutritional content.
For example (Deborah B. Whitman 2000), plant geneticists can isolate a gene responsible for drought tolerance and insert that gene into a different plant. The new genetically-modified plant will gain drought tolerance as well. Not only can genes be transferred from one plant to another, but genes from non-plant organisms also can be used.
The best known example of this is the use of B.t. genes in corn and other crops. B.t., or
Bacillus thuringiensis, is a naturally occurring bacterium that produces crystal proteins that are lethal to insect larvae.
B.t. crystal protein genes have been transferred into corn, enabling the corn to produce its own pesticides against insects such as the European corn borer.
Last updated - March 2011
To this, add the knowledge that GM agriculture acreage has increased
by 10% just in the last year.
Go ahead; try to visualize that. You
will see a metastasizing growth at least as scary as the “plumes”
from the BP oil leak or the crippled Japanese nuclear plants.
As noted, this plague of mutant foods and related organisms not only
spreads beyond its theoretical boundaries, but reproduces itself
throughout foreseeable time. Much of the discussion about the spread
of genetically modified material focuses on plants and how their
seeds and pollen are made for dispersal into all corners.
from any sources we were able to find online is projection of how
intended dispersal of GMOs and the inevitable contamination of
adjacent crops are affected by Earth’s patterns of wind and weather.
Transgenic animals are also part of the agenda of giant biotech. The
latest issue to arise in the U.S. is the pending introduction of
transgenic salmon. In the short term, if you are buying salmon, you
probably already know that Pacific salmon, wild-caught, remains the
gold standard for nutritional value and relative freedom from
For now, the new Frankenfish proposal covers only
so-called “Atlantic” salmon - essentially all of which is already
farmed (including regular infusion of antibiotics and dyeing its
gray flesh to resemble natural salmon), and arrives at your butcher
or fishmonger offering less protein per pound, along with more of
the wrong kinds of fat - i.e., not the omega-3s valued in fish oil.
(Hint: Practically all canned salmon is wild-caught and immediately
canned at sea.)
Already on the market, of course, are dairy products from cows
treated with rBGH, recombinant bovine growth hormone (it’s the
recombinant part that involves genetic tinkering).
In several ways
the introduction of this genetically engineered hormone encapsulates
the dangers of GMOs and of
BGH is a direct threat to human health, according to the
European authorities who banned it, because it increases
Insulin-like Growth Factor 1 (IGF-1) in milk, posing a cancer risk
increase of up to sevenfold.
Some of you will be familiar with use
of IGF-1 for therapeutic purposes; without going deeper into
endocrine chemistry than we are qualified to do, we’ll note that
hormones are both powerful and wide in their reach, and the idea of
introducing any hormonal modification into the general
diet - particularly in this case as a matter of increasing yield and
thus profit without regard to human health - is virtually impossible
to justify by any scientific or ethical criterion.
risks, including contamination of our gut flora, are detailed on
Apart from direct threats,
rBGH illustrates the kind of cascading
effect such deep-level tinkering can have. The fiddled hormone makes
cows lame and increases udder inflammation, which in turn invites
infection - which are, of course, treated with increasing levels of
It is a system practically designed to breed
antibiotic- resistant bacteria. So what arrives in the store? Milk
contaminated not only with the artificial hormone and elevated
IGF-1, but with pus from dairy cattle’s attempts to fight infection,
plus the residue of veterinary- and industrial-strength doses of
This massive, uncontrolled experiment on human health comes to you
courtesy of a long tradition:
American industries and the government
agencies that supposedly regulate them are connected by a revolving
door of careerism.
Michael R. Taylor, former lawyer
for and officer of one of the largest agri-giants, a global
megacorporation that seeks to own the planet’s agriculture, manages
to get periodically appointed to positions at the Food and Drug
Administration - he’s back there now, overseeing food safety.
his tenure from 1991-1994 he quashed all scientific opposition to
approving use of rBGH in the food supply.
Consumers and producers familiar with this history may not have much
hope for protection from any protective agency, certainly not at the
Information, however, may be available through local
agricultural extension programs, which may or may not have bought
into the federal-corporate agenda. Knowledge is probably your best
ally in self-protection. We note also that both official and
activist information sites on the web have been built with
If there is a struggle or incursion going on in
your area, you may be able to connect to or emulate online databases
for other concerned citizens.
Non-GMO Shopping Guide is just what it says.
Mike Adams interviews Jeffrey Smith for NaturalNews.com. Smith
quickly and lucidly lays out the range of currently known dangers
Food activist John Robbins gives more detail on the particular risks
of rBGH, with research references, and expands on the sordid
political history of its approval.