In Soylent Green, the 1973 science fiction film staring Charlton Heston, we see a dystopian future where a population suffering from pollution, depleted resources, poverty, dying oceans, and climate change survives largely on processed food rations produced by the Soylent Corporation. Soylent Green is a green wafer advertised to contain “high-energy plankton.” The climax of the film occurs when it is revealed that the oceans no longer produce the plankton from which Soylent Green is reputedly made. Soylent Green is people. Like all great science fiction, the story of Soylent Green sticks with us because it is a prescient metaphor for real life. Today, we have a population suffering from pollution, depleted resources, poverty, dying oceans, and climate change, and we’re surviving largely on processed foods derived from plants that have been genetically modified by
the Monsanto Corporation.
Very few of us, only 26%,know that there aregenetically modified organisms (GMOs) in our food.http://www.pewtrusts.org/uploadedFiles/wwwpewtrustsorg/Public_Opinion/Food_and_Biotechnology/2006summary.pdf
but, when polled, 93% of Americans say that they want the right to know.IFIC works on behalf of companies like Coca-Cola, Dannon, Kraft, McCormick and Mars to block the will of the 9 out of 10 people who want the right to know what we’re eating. Why?
What is the truth, like the protein source in Soylent Green, that is a science-fiction horror so terrible that it has to be hidden from the 9 out of 10 consumers who are demanding our right to know?
The genetically engineered food we’re eating today has never been safety tested. But, IFIC, which opposes the pre-market safety testing of GMOs insists that the lack of safety-testing is evidence of safety.
IFIC has a handy, nicely Orwellian, guide to language for proponents of GMOs. IFIC’s “Food Biotechnology: A Communicator’s Guide to Improving Understanding” http://www.foodinsight.org/foodbioguide.aspx has a list of “Words to Use, Words to Lose” that says to “lose” phrases like “not a direct danger to human health” or “most research has not found an adverse effect” and just say “safe, healthful, sustainable.”
The American Medical Association says GMOs have been “consumed for close to 20 years, and during that time, no overt consequences on human health have been reported and/or substantiated in the peer-reviewed literature.” So, no scientist has proven that GMOs are causing disease in humans. Does that mean that GMOs don’t cause disease? Is the lack of proof of harm evidence that GMOs are safe? Here’s how two different doctors associations explain it. The AMA has a glass half-full approach.
But they acknowledge that the reason we think everything’s fine is that we haven’t adequately addressed the potential harms of bioengineered food. The AMA wants U.S. regulators to do something they’ve never done before: require companies to submit to mandatory pre-market safety assessments instead of the current voluntary notification process.
The American Academy of Environmental Medicine has a glass half-empty approach. While the AMA talks about “potential harm”, the AAEM talks about “probable harm”. Just like the AMA, they support a change in US law to require mandatory pre-market safety testing, but instead of waiting around for it, as we have been for the last 20 years, the AAEM encourages doctors to recommend non-GMO diets.
Despite the difference in policy positions between the two groups of doctors, there’s one thing they can both agree on: GMOs haven’t been safety-tested yet and they need to be.
IFIC says, “Consuming foods produced through biotechnology is safe for children and women who are pregnant or nursing.” I’d certainly like that to be true. Despite my best efforts, I wasn’t able to completely avoid GMOs while I was pregnant and I can’t make sure that my children never eat them. But now that I know that to IFIC “safe” just means “hasn’t been safety tested”, I knew I needed to look into this.
Okay, so here’s where I found this claim.
And here’s the reference: U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Genetically engineered plants for food and feed, 2012. I wasn’t aware the FDA had issued a statement on GMOs in 2012, so I clicked the link.
And I found the old FDA statement of policy that hasn’t been updated since 1997. I’ve read it before, but I read it again, and found that it says absolutely nothing about the safety of biotechnology for children or women who are pregnant or nursing. Ironically, I did notice something I hadn’t before. A little asterisk at the bottom of the page that says, “Effective June 18, 2001, the Office of Premarket Approval is now the Office of Food Additive Safety.” Once it had decided not to put GMOs through premarket safety tests, it couldn’t say it was the office of premarket approval anymore.
I’ll add the FDA to the dictionary of GMO newspeak: Lack of premarket safety testing is food additive safety.
So what do we know about the safety of GMOs for children and pregnant or nursing women? Genetically engineered DNA survives in our bodies and is passed on to our children before birth. 93% of pregnant women and 80% of their babies have genetically engineered DNA in their blood. Is this causing disease? We don’t know yet. The researchers in this study said that babies developing in the womb are highly susceptible to the adverse effects of xenobiotics, chemicals found in an organism which are not normally produced or expected to be present in it. In this case, they’re talking about crops that are genetically engineered to grow insecticides inside the plant. The researchers warn that GMOs could disrupt the biological events that are required to ensure normal growth and development. They say we need a new field of multi-disciplinary research, combining human reproduction, toxicology and nutrition.
In the meantime, we need to label GMOs and let people make their own choices about what they want to eat.
Many people are finding that their health and their children’s health improves when they go non-GMO. The type of person I most frequently meet through my activism these days is a mother who had to address a health problem of her own or a health problem in her children and she found that going non-GMO improved that condition. This is case for Robyn O’Brien who started Allergy Kids, Kathleen Hallal who started Moms Across America (her son had an autoimmune problem), Tara Cook-Littman who is responsible for passing the country’s first GMO labeling law with GMO Free CT (she had two kids with fertility treatments and then had a third baby by surprise after she stopped eating GMOs), and Diana Reeves who started GMO Free USA (she treated health problems in her two daughters by going non-GMO after her son died from cancer at age 4.
Now, one question you might have is, if we label GMOs and more people start eating non-GMO diets, could we be steering people away from healthy food? Is there nutrition that only GMO plants provide? IFIC says, “Food biotechnology is being used to improve nutrition.”
But only if you think high fructose corn syrup, partially hydrogenated vegetable oils and refined sugar provide nutrition.
Genetically engineered crops are used to make the worst junk-food ingredients. GMOs are primarily used to produce high-fructose corn syrup made from genetically engineered corn, refined sugar made from genetically engineered sugar beets,
and partially hydrogenated vegetable oils made from genetically engineered corn, soy, canola and cotton. If you don’t think you’re eating cotton. Look at the ingredients on a box of Ritz crackers.
Beyond talking about what genetic engineering might produce someday, there’s really no way for IFIC to spin the fact that genetic engineering hasn’t produced any uniquely nutritious foods.
IFIC says thatGMOs have reduced the amount of insecticide used on crops.
That’s one way to look at it, if you’re concerned about pesticide residues on your food and you’d actually like to have all of the pesticides that would be applied to your food grown in your food.
Independent scientists have reviewed industry’s claims of insecticide reduction and found that overall, when you balance a supposed reduction in insecticide use against how GMOs have increased herbicide use, GMOs have actually increased the use of pesticides by 404 million pounds. Herbicides used to be sprayed around your food. Now, thanks to genetic engineering, they can be sprayed directly on your food. Insecticides used to be sprayed on your food. Now, thanks to genetic engineering, they’re produced by your food. And, as we saw on the earlier slide, the genetically engineered insecticide gene stays in your body and can be passed on to your children before birth. The picture on this slide which is largely obscured by the text is a very disturbing photo of a baby born in Argentina in a crop-sprayed town where the people live so close to the genetically engineered RoundUp Ready soy plantations that they are regularly sprayed with the herbicide. They’ve had extremely high rates of birth defects in these towns and this is a picture of a baby with a birth defect that was included in a report from the 1st National Meeting of Physicians in the Crop-Sprayed Towns.http://www.reduas.fcm.unc.edu.ar/wp-content/uploads/downloads/2011/10/INGLES-Report-from-the-1st-National-Meeting-Of-Physicians-In-The-Crop-Sprayed-Towns.pdf
If consumers knew about genetically engineered food, would they still eat it? The New York Times poll that showed nearly unanimous support for GMO labels also revealed that about half us would not to eat genetically engineered food, if we knew how to avoid it. This is why IFIC has to hide the truth about GMOs.
And why they can’t say “genetically altered”, and have to use the word “enhanced” instead. Why they avoid saying “pesticides”, and talk about “crop protection” or even “organic”. Why they replace “transgenic” with “high-quality”. Why they’re losing “chemical” and using “natural”. Why they don’t use the words “insect- or drought-resistant”; and just say “plentiful”.
Why they talk about “ancestors”, not “DNA”. Why they substitute “biology” for “genetically modified”. Obviously, I think the way IFIC talks about GMOs is ridiculous and deceiving, but I’ll give them this: Talk about GMO food any way you like, just label it.
It’s possible that I’m in a room filled entirely with people who are outside the 93% who want GMOs labeled, but just in case anyone here agrees with me, you can help make history this year by supporting the I-522 campaign for GMO labels in Washington State.
THE INTERNATIONAL FOOD INFORMATION COUNCIL’S
How IFIC* Trains Junk Food Companies Like Coca-Cola
and Mars to Hide the Truth AboutGMOs
*scientific without the science
want to know if our food has been genetically engineered.
What is the
GMOs that is so
bad it has to be
hidden like the
THE INTERNATIONAL FOOD INFORMATION COUNCIL’S
LACK OF SAFETY-TESTING IS
EVIDENCE OF SAFETY
“Bioengineered foods have been consumed for close
to 20 years, and during that time, no overt
consequences on human health have been reported
and/or substantiated in the peer-reviewed
“To better characterize the potential harms of
bioengineered foods, the AMA believes that
pre-market safety assessment should shift from a
voluntary notification process to a
…because GM foods have not been properly tested
for human consumption, and because there is ample
evidence of probable harm, the AAEM asks:
• Physicians to educate their patients, the medical
community, and the public to avoid GM foods when
possible and provide educational materials
concerning GM foods and health risks.
Consumers deserve the right to know about
GMOs and decide whether or not to eat novel
foods that haven’t been safety tested.
THE INTERNATIONAL FOOD INFORMATION COUNCIL’S
“Consuming foods produced through
biotechnology is safe for children and
women who are pregnant or nursing.”
THE FOOD & DRUG ADMINISTRATION’S
LACK OF PREMARKET SAFETY TESTING IS
FOOD ADDITIVE SAFETY
Genetically engineered DNA survives in our bodies and
is passed on to our children before birth.
“The fetus is considered to be highly susceptible to the adverse effects of xenobiotics
[chemicals found in an organism which are not normally produced or expected to be
present in it]. This is because environmental agents could disrupt the biological
events that are required to ensure normal growth and development. Pesticide-
associated genetically modified foods are among the xenobiotics that have recently
emerged and extensively entered the human food chain, paving the way for a new
field of multi-disciplinary research, combining human reproduction, toxicology and
nutrition, but not as yet explored. Generated data will help regulatory agencies
responsible for the protection of human health to make better decisions. Thus, the
aim of this study was to investigate whether pregnant women are exposed to
pesticide-associated genetically modified foods and whether these toxicants cross
the placenta to reach the fetus.”
“Cry1Ab toxin was detected in 93% and 80% of maternal and fetal
“The Cry1Ab toxin is an insecticidal protein produced by the naturally occurring soil
bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis. The gene (truncated cry1Ab gene) encoding this
insecticidal protein was genetically transformed into maize genome to produce a
transgenic insect-resistant plant (Bt-maize; MON810) and, thereby, provide specific
protection against Lepidoptera infestation.
“The Cry toxins (protoxins) produced by GM crops are solubilized and activated to
Cry toxins by gut proteases of susceptible insect larvae. Activated toxin binds to
specific receptors localized in the midgut epithelial cells, invading the cell membrane
and forming cation-selective ion channels that lead to the disruption of the epithelial
barrier and larval death by osmotic cell lysis.
ArisA, Leblanc S. Maternal and fetal exposure to pesticides associated to genetically
modified foods in Eastern Townships of Quebec, Canada. ReprodToxicol (2011), doi:
THEINTERNATIONAL FOOD INFORMATION COUNCIL’S
LESS NUTRITION IS MORE NUTRITION
www.foodinsight.org/foodbioguide.aspxFood Biotechnology: A Communicator’s Guide to Improving Understanding
Foods From Crops &Animals Raised
• Sweet Corn
• Dairy Products
• Food ingredients
(e.g. corn syrup, sugar)
• Vegetable oils
• Corn starch
• Soy protein
• And more
THEINTERNATIONAL FOOD INFORMATION COUNCIL’S
MORE PESTICIDES IS LESS PESTICIDES
Herbicides used to be sprayed around your food.
Now, they’re sprayed on your food.
Genetically engineered crops have led to an increase
in overall pesticide use by 404 million pounds from
the time they were introduced in 1996 through 2011.
Insecticides used to be sprayed on your food.
Now, they’re produced by your food.
half of us
has to hide the truth
Organic Consumers Association