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"Anyone that says, 'Oh, we know that this is perfectly safe,' I say is either unbelievably stupid, or deliberately lying. The reality is, we don't know. The experiments simply haven't been done, and now we have become the guinea pigs." ~ David Suzuki, geneticist
Now that the mainstream media is catching on to the public sentiment against GMO food, or at least against unlabeled GMO food, to the tune of millions of Americans who made it a point to drag themselves out of their homes to protest Monsanto last month (as well as at least 40 additional countries), inevitably the indictment will be made: "the anti-GMO movement is "unscientific."" Is that really so?
What we do know is that the unintended consequences of the recombinant DNA process employed to create genetically engineering organisms are beyond the ability of present-day science to comprehend. This is largely due to the post-Human Genome Project revelation that the holy grail of molecular biology, the overly-simplified 'one gene > one trait' model, is absolutely false.
Only recently, for instance, a previously unidentified viral gene fragment was discovered to be present in most of the GM crops commercialized to date; a finding which calls into question the safety of 54 commercialized crops already commercialized and being used in both food and feed. There could be hundreds of viral-gene altered proteins within these foods, whose complex interactions with DNA and toxicity have never been characterized.
Which statement therefore is more unscientific?
1) GMO food safety cannot be proven
2) GMO food harms cannot be proven
The scientific and logical answer would be that both GMO food safety and harms cannot be sufficiently proven; for reasons that include the fundamentally unethical nature of a human clinical trial that could result in poisoning the test subjects.
But, the weight of evidence actually indicates that statement #2 is the more unscientific one, as there is a growing body of scientific research produced by independent scientists indicating that GMO food harms can be clearly demonstrated, and through a simple process of extending feeding studies beyond the 90-day cut-off mark established by biotech corporations with a vested interest in hiding chronic adverse health effects. [see the latest long-term feeding study]
In other words, a failure of science to positively identify a problem does not mean that a problem does not exist. To err on the side of caution, is no less scientific than to err on the side of reckless abandon. When we fail to exercise the precautionary principle in our risk assessments, we are basically saying that GM foods are innocent until proven guilty. Juxtapose that to the burden of proof applied to nutritional or dietary supplements, which despite billions of doses taken in the US each year, have never been found to take anyone's life. These are increasingly defined as guilty unless proven innocent through multi-million dollar clinical trials.
The problem, of course, is that the burden of proving safety or toxicity falls on the exposed populations (Suzuki's "guinea pigs), which only after many years of chronic exposure reveal the harms in their diseases, and then only vaguely in hard-to-prove post-marketing surveillance and epidemiological associations and linkages.
So, with this in mind, let's bring up one dimension of the toxicity of GM foods and agriculture that cannot be thrown out as 'unscientific,' because it is clearly proven to be a health problem in the peer-reviewed and published literature: Roundup herbicide.
First, GreenMedInfo.com would like to announce that we are providing a free PDF download of all the research we have accumulated on the dangers of the glyphosate-based herbicide formulations, the most well-known being Monsanto's patented glyphosate-based formulation known as Roundup. This document contains over 100 study abstracts from the National Library of Medicine (NLM) linking these herbicides to over 40 adverse health effects. Each study in the document is hyperlinked back to the original citation location on the NLM's bibliographic citation database MEDLINE. Download the document for free here: Glyphosate formulation research.
As the research in this document will clearly show (and the related open access research page on our website which also contains all the abstract) Roundup's main ingredient glyphosate is now a ubiquitous poison, found in virtually all water, air and rainfall samples tested. It contaminates the groundwater, the source of most of our natural drinking water, and the soil to the point where it has suppressed and destroyed the microbial biodiversity in certain regions of the world, including probiotic organisms of major food importance. Moreover, it has been found to exhibit toxicity and carcinogenicity in cell studies at concentrations several orders of magnitude lower than found in agricultural applications (within the parts per trillion range). When you calculate that several hundred millions of pounds are produced and used globally each year, this chemical is producing a health and environmental nightmare that is running completely out of control, with the future outlook looking even grimmer. With the discovery of glyphosate-resistant weeds and insects, companies like Dow and Monsanto are planning on 'stacking' herbicide resistance GM traits, and producing plants that are resistant to a multitude of highly toxic agrichemicals, including the Agent Orange ingredient 2,4-D, guaranteeing the ratcheting up of a chemical arms race against the biosphere (and ourselves).
Another fundamental point that many miss with GM food safety is that not only is genetically engineered no longer food (food, by definition, are organisms that we have co-evolved with and consumed for hundreds of thousands, and sometimes millions of years), but in the case of the Bt gene-containing commercial crops are actually classified by the EPA as biopesticides.
But it gets worse. Roundup-ready foods have been engineered to survive the application of glyphosate-based herbicide poisoning. The toxic compounds in herbicides like Roundup, which include toxicity-amplifying surfactants like polyethoxylated tallow amine, end up in the tissue of the plants that we consume, or that our animals consume, bioaccumulating and amplifying their toxicity when we consume them as food. One major metabolite of glyphosate called Aminomethylphosphonic acid (AMPA), which accumulates in the plant tissues of all Roundup Ready GM plants, is itself highly toxic, but which has not fallen under stringent regulatory oversight. Essentially, if you eat GM food, it is not just the transgenes and the unintended toxic proteins they produce that are the problem. Rather, the 'food' is guaranteed to contain residues of highly toxic chemicals.
While it can be argued that it is 'unscientific' to claim the transgenes and their proteins in GMO food cause harm, it is foolish to argue that the continual exposure to known biocides like Roundup residues in our food is safe. Those who make this argument are the ones who lack the guidance of good science, or use the term 'science' as a political weapon against those who would seek out and express the truth.
Next time the invective "Unscientific!" comes up in a discussion about GMO food safety, arm yourself with the research that already exists proving GM food is harmful to animal, human and environmental health. And please help us share this article and the PDF far and wide.
Looking to voice your opinion on GMOs? Join the upcoming Monsanto Video Revolt: http://monsantovideorevolt.com/