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There is currently a battle waging across the planet over genetically modified (GM) crops. It seems like not a month goes by when a new report is released on the health, environmental or productivity aspects of GM organisms. The GM biotech industry tries to assure governments and the public about the safety and efficacy of their products, while study after study calls into question its claims.
The industry has succeeded in getting its GM foods onto the commercial market in the US largely due to its political leverage within government and regulatory authorities (1). However, Europe and elsewhere have so far not been the pushovers that the industry and the US State Department, which actively promotes the US GM biotech sector courtesy of the taxpayer (2), thought they would. The sector continues to push at the doors of Europe and India but is meeting stiff resistance.
And there is good reason for this resistance; one reason (among many) being that the introduction of GM crops leads to an increase in the use of the herbicide gyphosate (3). This is of concern because gylphosate could be linked to a range of health problems and diseases, including Parkinson's, infertility and cancers, according to a peer-reviewed report from 2013, published in the scientific journal Entropy. The study concluded that residues of glyphosate have been found in food, and these residues enhance the damaging effects of other food-borne chemical residues and toxins in the environment and disrupt normal body functions and induce disease (4). Other evidence from Argentina shows that as GM crops have become more prevalent, the use of gyphosate has spiraled as have cancer rates and birth defects (5).
The GM debate may ultimately not be decided by scientific debate or on the pages of journals, however. The battle could be lost for those opposing GM crops by default, or to be more specific, by the flagrant contamination of our food supply – and our air and water as well.
Don Westfall, biotech industry consultant and vice-president of Promar International some 13 years ago, was quoted by the Toronto Star on 9 January 2001 as saying that the hope of the GM industry is that over time the market is so flooded with GM organisms that there's nothing you can do about it; you just sort of surrender. However, Westfall did not go far enough. It is not just a vague hope. It's a deliberate strategy by the industry.
Genetically engineered wheat is not approved to be grown for commercial use in the US or anywhere else in the world. Yet last year the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced that unapproved GE wheat had been found growing in an Oregon wheat field. Since 1994, Monsanto has conducted 279 field trials of RoundUp Ready wheat over more than 4,000 acres of land in 16 US states (6). The USDA has admitted that Monsanto's GMO experiments from 1998 to 2005 were held in open wheat fields. The genetically engineered wheat escaped and found its way into commercial wheat fields in Oregon (and possibly 15 other states), causing self-replicating genetic pollution that now taints the entire US wheat industry.