The scientific debate has been going on for as long as GMO’s have entered the labs, our fields and ultimately our food. According to ABC News, “The FDA has said that “labeling isn’t necessary because there’s no evidence genetic engineering changes a food’s quality, safety, ‘or any other attribute.'” What are the origins of this statement and is it a universally agreed upon sentiment?
Some would have us believe it is so. The message that springs forth from the agribusiness-funded pundits is that science beats ideology. The debate is over! Why? According to the Genetic Literacy Project (GLP), “Genetic research and biotechnology can improve food security, the environment and public health.” They also said, “the words ‘gene’ and ‘genetic engineering’ and ‘biotechnology’ and ‘synthetic biology’ often stir fear and misunderstanding…” Besides that they said, “Intricate science scares people who don’t understand risk and complexity.” Should we be frightened or emphatically curious about the truth on GMO’s?
If you pick up Steven Drucker’s book, “Altered Genes, Twisted Truth,” it tells us that we should be downright demanding on the scientific debate. The book, in a suspenseful, very-readable fashion highlights the corporate shenanigans that led to a “massive enterprise to restructure the genetic core of the world’s food supply.” It explains, “how it was advanced by consistently violating the protocols of science, and how for more than three decades, hundreds of eminent biologists and esteemed institutions have systematically contorted the truth in order to conceal the unique risks of its products–and get them onto our dinner plates.” The book is the result of more than 15 years of research and alleges that the FDA lied about facts, covered up warnings and permitted these foods to enter the market without rigorous standard testing protocols.
It’s worth the read, and it comes highly recommended. Jane Goodall endorses the book in the forward by stating, “I shall urge everyone I know who cares about life on earth, and the future of their children, and children’s children, to read it.”
In many instances when the science proves the biotech industry wrong that science often gets discredited. A recent report by Professor Sheldon Krimsky from Tufts University examines the scientific claims that GMO crops and foods are safe. In it, he identified 26 studies that reported adverse effects or uncertainties of GMOs fed to animals. When he focused on two of them, the he found that the scientists in both (Stanley W B Ewen, Arpad Pusztai and Gilles-Eric Se´ralini) were all heavily criticized and attacked for their findings. Their studies have never been replicated, and one has been retracted essentially leaving their scientific careers tarnished and feathered.
In a recent piece by Jonathan R. Latham, PhD entitled “Growing Doubt: a Scientist’s Experience of GMOs,” the author concludes, “Criticism of science and technology remains very difficult. Even though many academics benefit from tenure and a large salary, the skeptical process in much of science is largely lacking. This is why risk assessment of GMOs has been short-circuited and public concerns about them are growing. Until the damaged scientific ethos is rectified, both scientists and the public are correct to doubt that GMOs should ever have been let out of any lab.”
Meanwhile, another debate in Congress will heat up in earnest this fall. The “Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act” that would ban states’ rights to label GMO’s passed the House last July and is poised to rear its head in the Senate. While 98 percent of Americans agree that the government should require labeling on genetically modified ingredients, our Congressional leaders can’t seem to listen.
Despite overwhelming constituent sentiment opposing it, the House passed the Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act by a vote of 275-150. Why would Representatives vote against the 98 % public opinion? A recent analysis revealed that on average the House members who voted in favor of the bill received three times more money from big agribusiness as the average lawmaker in Congress. Reps. Mike Pompeo (R-Kan.) and G.K. Butterfield (D-N.C.), two original sponsors of the legislation, were the top two current House members receiving the most money from the Grocery Manufacturers Association in 2014.
Our spiritual leaders cannot be bought off. Of note, Pope Francis has weighed in on the GMO debate in his letter to every living person on the planet. While he stated there was no conclusive proof that GMO’s are harmful, he calls for open scientific debate on the subject. “Certainly, these issues require constant attention and a concern for their ethical implications. A broad, responsible scientific and social debate needs to take place, one capable of considering all the available information and of calling things by their name. It sometimes happens that complete information is not put on the table; a selection is made on the basis of particular interests, be they politico-economic or ideological.”
He goes on to point out that, “The expansion of these crops has the effect of destroying the complex network of ecosystems, diminishing the diversity of production and affecting regional economies, now and in the future.”
Let’s call for open and sound peer reviewed science untethered from corporate influence and support those scientists who dare to speak out in the face of tarnishing their careers. We must demand that our Congressional Leaders listen to our wishes when it comes to public sentiment on labeling. It is essential that we listen to our spiritual leaders closely and follow heed.
The debate must be fair and open in all arenas so we can truly embrace our food supply and the future of our biosphere for centuries to come.