The biotech industry recently launched a GMO Answers website as a place for consumers to get their information on genetic modification. The site is funded by the Council for Biotechnology Information with companies that include BASF, Dow Agro Sciences, DuPont, Monsanto, Syngenta, America Farm Bureau Federation, America Soybean Association and the National Cotton Council.
Many of these organizations are large producers of GMO crops using seeds from the patent holders. It’s a bit disconcerting that three of these companies have control of 53% of all seeds grown globally according to a recent Center for Food Safety Report. These patents prevent the saving of seeds for future generations and prohibit any independent research done on the seeds without their permission. We know from the Profile of Monsanto complied by Food and Water Watch that Monsanto has not always had the best social and environmental track record. So I dug in a bit to see what they were presenting in terms of content.
I reviewed their Core Principles:
- Respecting people around the world and their right to choose healthy food products that are best for themselves and their families;
- Welcoming and answering questions on all GMO topics;
- Making GMO information, research and data easy to access and evaluate and supporting safety testing of GM products; including allowing independent safety testing of our products through validated science-based methods;
- Supporting farmers as they work to grow crops using precious resources more efficiently, with less impact on the environment and producing safe, nutritious food and feed products;
- Respecting farmers’ rights to choose the seeds that are best for their farms, businesses and communities and providing seed choices that include non-GM seeds based on market demands.
In response to these values I offer up my own observations:
- The right to choose healthy food includes the right to have transparent labeling in order to make informed decisions. Over 64 Countries have some kind of labeling or restrictions on GMO products.
- Are they asking and responding to the right questions?
- Why would food need a warning if it was safe to eat? – We are asking for a label not a warning.
- Hasn’t the rise in obesity been linked directly to when GMOs were introduced into our diet? – Obesity is not the issue at hand. Labeling is.
- Does a “patent” allow a private company to own the seeds created? – Yes, that’s what a patent means. They own the ability to conduct exclusive testing and reproduction rights. .
- Is the research being funded by the patent holders? Anyone who buys GMO seeds is required to sign a technology stewardship agreement that says, in part, that they cannot perform research on the seed. Without express permission from the biotech patent-holder, scientists and farmers risk facing lawsuits for conducting any studies
- According to the Wall Street Journal Insecticide sales are surging after years of decline, as American farmers plant more corn and a genetic modification designed to protect the crop from pests has started to lose its effectiveness. The sales are a boon for big pesticide makers, such as American Vanguard Corp. and Syngenta AG. It has sparked fresh concerns among environmental groups and some scientists that the resurgence of insecticides could expose both farmers and beneficial insects to potential harm. You can learn more by listening to this NPR story.
- How easily can a farmer find Non GMO seeds when the percentage of commercialized GM crops in the U.S. is so staggeringly high: 94% of soy, 90% of cotton, 90% of canola, 95% of sugar beets, 88% of corn and more than 50% of Hawaiian papaya?
It will be interesting to see what sorts of questions are allowed and the answers that are given. It behooves us all to stay tuned in to this website and to monitor it for truth and transparency. This is obviously a marketing campaign to try to defeat our right to know what is in our food and how it is produced. Let’s be sure we are asking the right questions and that the answers are unbiased.