According to the USDA, Roundup Ready seeds were planted on about 95 percent of all sugar-beet acreage earlier this year, and will be harvested in spite of a federal judge throwing out the approval of the crop for commercial planting; the judge said the department had not properly considered the potential environmental impacts.
The Agriculture Department said that it planned to have interim rules governing genetically modified sugar beets in place by the end of the year, and would give priority to completion of a study on Monsanto’s Roundup Ready sugar-beet seeds for potential re-approval within two years.
What Crops Are Genetically Modified?
According to the National Agricultural Statistics Board annual report, dated June 30, 2010, by 2009/2010, 93% of the US planted area of soybeans, 93% of cotton, 86% of corn and 95% of sugar beets were genetically modified varieties. And the derivatives of these GM crops — corn syrup, high-fructose syrup, cotton seed oil, flour, lecithin, and more — are found in the majority of processed foods sold in the US. Additionally, genetically engineered micro-organisms are also used as sources of enzymes in the manufacturing of processed foods. And virtually all animal feed is genetically modified.
In one form or another, genetically modified food is immersed deep within the entire US food chain, and none of these GM products are labeled anywhere, except in the Price Look-Up (PLU) codes — numbers affixed to produce and other products in grocery stores and supermarkets — that begins with the digit 8. Even GM animal products have been developed, although reportedly not currently on the market. In 2006, a pig was engineered to produce omega-3 fatty acids through the expression of a roundworm gene.
Behold the docile nature of US federal regulatory agencies that willingly further the agenda of corporate behemoths like Monsanto. Since 1996, the United States has planted more GM crops than any other country, and the US accounts for nearly two-thirds of all biotechnology crops planted globally.
In 1994, the company Calgene, later a subsidiary of Monsanto, released the first commercially grown genetically modified tomato called FlavrSavr. Althought production for the FlavrSavr was discontinued in 1997, eighty percent of US grown Hawaiian papaya is genetically modified, as well as ninety-three percent of rapeseed, ninety-five percent of sugar beets, thirteen percent of squash, and genetically modified rice is scheduled to hit the market in 2012.
Monsanto recently petitioned for the Supreme court to reverse a 2007 California US District Court ruling that the USDA illegally approved Monsanto’s GE alfalfa without carrying out a full Environmental Impact Statement. The ruling was upheld in 2009 by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals which placed a nationwide ban on Monsanto’s Roundup Ready alfalfa.
In June of this year, the Supreme Court sided with Monsanto and struck down the 2007 California US District Court ruling. “The ruling doesn’t immediately clear farmers to plant the genetically engineered seed, but it could allow the U.S. Department of Agriculture to permit the interim planting of Roundup Ready alfalfa, with some restrictions, while the agency completes an environmental study.”
Claims that genetically modified crops will solve world hunger or net higher crop yields have been widely disputed. Food shortages are a result of politics, price fixing, and commodity hedging, not lack of production. But if companies like Monsanto can convince farmers otherwise, farmers unwittingly become prisoners in a seed monopoly, subject to licensing contracts that prevent them from following the traditional age-old practice of saving their own seeds from year to year.
No Epidemiological Studies
The Royal Society of Medicine and the US National Academies of Sciences both claim there have been no adverse health effects on humans as a result of genetic engineering of food. But there have been no epidemiological studies designed to measure the effects of GM crops on the US population at large. In fact, despite FDA approval of GMO’s in 1992, no peer-reviewed publications of clinical studies on the human health effects of GM food exist.
But according to a report in the Guardian, a Rowett Research Institute scientist, Árpád Pusztai, claimed the immune system in rats were adversely effected when fed a diet of GM potatoes, and that unusual changes to their gut tissue occurred causing intestinal problems. Pusztai also claimed the GM process itself somehow rendered the potatoes less nutritious.
Pusztai eventually published a paper, co-authored by Stanley Ewen, in the journal, The Lancet, but his research was, of course, summarily dismissed as quackery, and he was even accused of fabricating data. That was 12 years ago.
This year, a Russian biologist determined third generation hamsters fed genetically modified soy were unable to produce offspring. The study was conducted by Alexey V. Surov, at the Institute of Ecology and Evolution of the Russian Academy of Sciences and the National Association for Gene Security. Prior to Dr. Surov’s study, Irina Ermakova, also with the Russian National Academy of Sciences, reported in 2005 that more than half the babies from mother rats fed GM soy died within three weeks.
Jeffery Smith, author of Seeds of Deception, and founder of the Institute for Responsible Technology, notes that scientists who discover adverse findings from GMOs are regularly attacked, ridiculed, denied funding, and even fired.
According to Smith, animals fed GM crops developed potentially precancerous cell growth, smaller brains, livers and testicles, damaged immune systems, bigger livers, partial atrophy of the liver, lesions in the livers, stomachs, and kidneys, inflammation of the kidneys, problems with their blood cells, higher blood sugar levels, and unexplained increases in the death rate.
And finally, in a study released by the International Journal of Biological Sciences, researchers found that three varieties of GMO corn — Mon 86, insecticide-producing Mon 810, and Roundup® herbicide-absorbing NK 603 — are linked to organ damage in rats. These GM corns can be found in products such as animal feed, corn syrup, and thousands of products found in the grocery store.
The researchers concluded these three GMOs are too dangerous to be distributed commercially because the kidneys and liver in rats displayed toxicity levels when exposed to all three GM corn varieties.