As most of you know, I am an outspoken advocate for labeling GMOs in our food supply. My family is well aware of this, so I was perplexed recently when my sister sent me an article titled, “GMOs Are Nothing to Fear” . She was flummoxed by the contradictory nature of what this article touted and what I have been preaching. This article, being an opinion piece written in a widely read publication, made me skeptical. I wanted to know more about the actual scientific content the author cited, and I was quite curious about the actual studies. I decided to take a deeper dive and look into the facts around such messaging.
The article reported, “Italian scientists recently read and summarized 1,783 scientific studies to conclude that there is, in fact, scientific consensus around the safety of genetically modified organisms.” How many and who were these scientists? Where are the studies and were they peer reviewed? Where in Italy and over which wines?
The GMO labeling movement has traditionally stayed out of the science debate. The argument is not whose science is better. The point is we have the right to know if we are consuming a genetically modified organism (GMO). It’s a fact that the biotech companies can put scientists together in a room, give them papers to read and tell them the desired message they are paying to be produced. With apparent scientific credentials in hand (and perhaps a glass of Chianti), much of the resulting messaging appears to be editorials expounding on ideals without any substantive facts.
My friends at Compass Natural have constructed an exhaustive list of scientific research studies that can be viewed on their website. This list displays the growing number of peer reviewed science that proves there is a clear risk to people and the planet. The findings are numerous: genetically modified DNA can transfer into the genes of other plants and animals; the pesticide BT, bio-engineered in GMO crops, is showing up in 93% of pregnant mothers; rats fed BT corn suffer large and grotesque tumors, liver failure and early death; finally, the use of GMO corn may constitute a risk to our honeybees, yet another blow to the hive! This is a MUST READ, and it should be well noted that none of these were sponsored by the patent holders. They are just plain science.
The article my sister forwarded blithely goes on to state, “GM technology is more environmentally friendly as well. From 1996 to 2011, biotech crops have collectively reduced global pesticide applications by 1.04 billion pounds.”
The fact is that pesticide use increased 6% and glyphosate use increased 6,504% from 1991 to 2010, according to data from the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS). Glyphosate is the active ingredient in Roundup™, the herbicide used on Roundup Ready GMO crops. It’s showing up in water, rain and our air. The Farm Wars website has some telling graphs that come directly from data collected by the USDA.
Additionally, a report authored by the esteemed researcher Chuck Benbrook labeled, “Genetically Engineered Crops and Pesticide Use in the United States: The First Sixteen Years,” outlines that pesticide use on conventional crops has risen by 404 million pounds since 1996 when GMOs were first introduced. Similarly, herbicide use has increased by more than 527 million pounds.
A great resource paper complied by Michael Antoniou, Claire Robinson and John Fagan is, “GMO Myths and Truths”. Published by Earth Open Source, it is a well-documented evidence based examination of the claims made on GMO crops. The evidence revealed in this report indicates that GMOs:
● Are laboratory-made, using technology that is totally different from natural breeding methods, and pose different risks from non-GM crops
● Can be toxic, allergenic or less nutritious than their natural counterparts
● Do not increase yield potential
● Do not reduce pesticide use but increase it
● Create serious problems for farmers, including herbicide-tolerant “superweeds”, compromised soil quality and increased disease susceptibility in crops
● Harm soil quality, disrupt ecosystems and reduce biodiversity
As we march steadily forward, sifting through media headlines, remember to dig deeper. Try to locate links to actual scientific studies and papers in the article. If they aren’t there, you’re probably not reading peer reviewed science. Determine if the research or science has been paid for by an entity with a vested interest in the outcome or message. Always separate opinion from fact and develop a critical mind.
Is it science or is it fiction? Let’s keep the two separate in the GMO conversation.