By Dr. Mercola
Across the US and much of the world, farmers are planting Monsanto’s genetically modified (GM) “Bt corn,” which is equipped with a gene from the soil bacteria Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt).
It produces Bt toxin—a pesticide that breaks open the stomach of certain insects and kills them. In addition to Bt corn, Monsanto also created Roundup Ready corn and soy, which are engineered to withstand contamination with otherwise lethal doses of Monsanto’s herbicide Roundup.
Yet, genetic modification isn’t only being used to create plants with built-in pesticides and herbicide tolerance. Plants and animals alike are also being genetically engineered to express pharmaceutical products and various other traits.
‘Pharming’ Turns Plants and Animals into Drugs
“Pharming,” or modifying plants and animals with pharmaceuticals began around the year 2000 and has steadily increased since.
Like all genetic modification, this is a highly experimental process that could have disastrous outcomes if the end products become intermingled with the natural environment. As reported by Nutrition Prescription:1
“In animal pharming the host animals’ DNA is genetically engineered to express a pharmaceutical in the animals milk… hopefully.
For example, a cow or goat can be genetically engineered to give milk that will provide medication. Specific examples include vaccinations, blood clotting medications, and medications that fight eye and lung infections.
It’s a risky prospect for the animal because the genetic engineering disrupts normal gene function and DNA processes. Of course there are animal rights issues here, however the major concern is that food systems could become contaminated with pharmaceutical products.
…Pharming projects are also being conducted with plants, using corn and potatoes bioengineered with, for example, cystic fibrosis and antibacterial medications. The biotech companies are in France and Germany, but they work with farms in the US…
Major concerns with bio-pharming are, again, that food or feed crops may become contaminated with the pharmaceutical products, and also that the products may have negative effects on natural ecosystems.”
Vaccines in Your Milk?
In 2009, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the first drug produced by livestock that had been bioengineered to express a human gene. In that case, the protein was extracted from the milk of GM goats.
In 2012, researchers introduced DNA coding for the malaria parasite into the goat genome linked to milk production. The DNA was supposed to “switch on” only in the mammary gland when the goat produces milk.
The experiment was geared toward producing a malaria vaccine for third-world countries, with the ultimate goal being that eventually children will be able to become vaccinated simply by drinking the milk.
As we’ve seen in the past with genetically modified plants, genetically engineered vaccine-producing animals might enter the food supply unexpectedly — exposing unintended recipients to the vaccine.
Or the animals might escape and breed with others, passing these bioengineered genes on with unpredictable consequences. Even the technology itself is risky at best, because when animals are exposed to foreign DNA, literally anything can happen…
Lamb with Jellyfish Gene Enters the Food Supply, Probably Eaten
A perfect example of the seriously lacking safety surrounding GMOs occurred in France late last year. Researchers were working with a sheep, Emeraude, that had been genetically modified with the green florescent protein gene of a jellyfish.
The gene reportedly helped the researchers study the sheep heart while looking for ways to restore heart function after heart attacks.
A ewe of the GM sheep, Rubis, which would therefore also carry the jellyfish gene, was then mixed with non-GM sheep and sent off to a slaughterhouse, where it most likely ended up in the food supply for human consumption. This is thought to have occurred in October 2014 in the Paris region.2
Adding another layer to the story, it doesn’t look like this was a mistake. Rather, it’s thought one of the researchers intentionally did away with the GM lamb as a “malicious act” after an internal dispute. According to the Washington Post:3
“…allegedly, the modified lamb was purposefully mixed in with non-modified sheep and sent off to a slaughterhouse… INRA [the National Institute for Agronomic Research] representatives blame the tension between researchers at the facility for the act, and have suspended one individual pending an investigation.”
INRA was quick to say there was no risk to public health from the experimental meat, but no safety studies were given to back up this assessment. The sheep were being produced for research purposes only, so it’s likely no safety assessments on consuming the animals were conducted. It’s also illegal to sell GM food in France.
GM Corn Modified with Hepatitis B Vaccine Grown with Little Oversight
Clearly the supposed safeguards in place to keep experimental GM crops and animals separate from the food supply are not working. In many cases, many experimental GM crops are not getting the oversight necessary to prevent environmental or public-health catastrophes.
GM “pharmaceutical” corn that is being used in an experimental trial for hepatitis B vaccine is being grown in an environmentally sensitive area along California’s central coast, just 100 feet from a critical habitat for threatened wildlife species.
According to data obtained by Hearst Newspapers under Freedom of Information laws, already two ‘incidents’ have been reported. SF Gate reported:4
“At a secret location among the vineyards of California’s Central Coast, a plot of genetically engineered corn is producing proteins for industrial and pharmaceutical uses, including an experimental vaccine for hepatitis B.
The altered corn is growing with federal approval 100 feet from a steelhead stream in San Luis Obispo County, in designated critical habitat for the threatened California red-legged frog.
Agriculture Department inspectors have reported two ‘incidents’ at the site, including conventional corn sprouting in a 50-foot fallow zone, but the findings did not rise to the level of a fine or even to a formal notice of noncompliance for the company that planted it, Applied Biotechnology Institute Inc.”
The founder and president of Applied Biotechnology, John Howard, had previously founded another biotech company that has been banned from GMO trials because of contaminations in the Midwest that required a half-million bushels of soybeans and 150 acres of corn to be destroyed.5
GMO Trials Often End up Contaminating Nearby Land, But US Government Allows Them Anyway
The USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), which is tasked with overseeing GMO trials, typically takes a decidedly “industry-friendly” approach. In one unusual case, APHIS gave Gebbers Farms of Washington an approximately $20,000 fine for growing GM apples less than 100 feet from conventional apple trees.
The farm had already been previously cited for the same, along with failure to keep proper records and keep animals away from the test plot.6 This fine was a rarity, and according to investigations by Hearst, one of just two civil penalties issued since 2010, despite nearly 200 notices of non-compliance.
Issues uncovered by Hearst include paperwork violations, lost seeds, and GM plants growing where they’re not allowed. Monsanto alone, which conducted about one-quarter of the field trials in the US, has received 35 notices of non-compliance from 2010 to 2013.
They received one civil penalty in 2010 after experimental GM cotton was ginned, making its way into cottonseed meal and hulls that were consumed by livestock. Inspection reports revealed many problems with GM trials that show the challenges, and the impossibility, of keeping GM crops restrained to a designated area:7
- Heavy rains washed out test plots, increasing risks of GMO dispersal
- Wild pigs and cows have eaten GM crops, including GM sugarcane and GM corn, in once case after a gate was accidentally left open
- Government researchers planted GM barley in the wrong county and also moved GM soybeans across state lines without authorization
- An automobile plowed through a test plot of corn and was abandoned about a mile away (with GM corn found in the ditch)
The Risks of GM Crops Are Already Known…
While the risks of consuming foods that contain pharmaceutical drugs or genes from creatures typically not eaten have yet to be fully disclosed, there’s very convincing evidence that GM foods, including those already on the market in the US, spell nothing but trouble for your health. In one review of GMOs — an analysis of 19 animal studies — it was revealed that nearly 10 percent of blood, urine, organ, and other parameters tested were significantly influenced by GMOs, with the liver and kidneys faring the worst.
In a human feeding study on GM foods, seven volunteers ate Roundup-ready soybeans. These are soybeans that have herbicide-resistant genes inserted into them in order to survive being sprayed with otherwise deadly doses of Roundup herbicide. In three of the seven volunteers, the gene inserted into the soy transferred into the DNA of their intestinal bacteria and continued to function long after they stopped eating the GM soy. In addition, Jeffrey Smith, founder of the Institute for Responsible Technology, has documented at least 65 serious health risks from GM products of all kinds. Among them:
- Offspring of rats fed GM soy showed a five-fold increase in mortality, lower birth weights, and the inability to reproduce
- Male mice fed GM soy had damaged young sperm cells
- The embryo offspring of GM soy-fed mice had altered DNA functioning
- Several US farmers reported sterility or fertility problems among pigs and cows fed on GM corn varieties
- Investigators in India have documented fertility problems, abortions, premature births, and other serious health issues, including deaths, among buffaloes fed GM cottonseed products
Nutritional differences are also apparent. A 2012 nutritional analysis of GM versus non-GM corn showed shocking differences in nutritional content. Non-GM corn contained 437 times more calcium, 56 times more magnesium, and 7 times more manganese than GM corn. GM corn was also found to contain 13 ppm of glyphosate (the active ingredient in Roundup), compared to zero in non-GM corn. The EPA “safe” level for carcinogenic glyphosate in American water supplies is 0.7 ppm, and organ damage in animals has occurred at levels as low as 0.1 ppm
From a regulatory perspective, GM crops are considered “substantially equivalent” to their non-GM counterparts. This means, in essence, that they are essentially the same, with no meaningful differences for your health or the environment. Yet, the problem, and it’s a major one, is that research has shown GM crops are not substantially equivalent to their conventionally grown counterparts, and they’re already being unleashed into the environment.
The FDA has (so far) not required labeling of GM foods because they are deemed to be “substantially equivalent” to non-GM foods. It is also due to substantial equivalence that no oversight or long-term safety testing has been required of GM crops.
Help Support GMO Labeling
The Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA)—Monsanto’s Evil Twin—is pulling out all the stops to keep you in the dark about what’s in your food. For nearly two decades, Monsanto and corporate agribusiness have exercised near-dictatorial control over American agriculture. For example, Monsanto has made many claims that glyphosate in Roundup is harmless to animals and humans. However, recently the World Health Organization (WHO) had their research team test glyphosate and had labeled it a probable carcinogen.
Public opinion around the biotech industry’s contamination of our food supply and destruction of our environment has reached the tipping point. We’re fighting back. That’s why I was the first to push for GMO labeling. I donated a significant sum to the first ballot initiative in California in 2012, which inspired others to donate to the campaign as well. We technically “lost” the vote, but we are winning the war, as these labeling initiatives have raised a considerable amount of public awareness.
The insanity has gone far enough, which is why I encourage you to boycott every single product owned by members of the GMA, including natural and organic brands. More than 80 percent of our support comes from individual consumers like you, who understand that real change comes from the grassroots.
Recently, Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-Kan) has reintroduced a bill (HR 1599) that would preempt states’ rights to enact GMO labeling laws. This bill would create a federal government program to oversee guidelines for voluntary labeling of products that do not contain GMOs. It would specifically prohibit Congress or individual states from requiring mandatory labeling of GMO foods or ingredients. It would also allow food manufacturers to use the word “natural” on products that contain GMOs.
The Pompeo bill, ironically named “The Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act,” is proposing nothing if not inaccurate labeling of foods, by preventing you from ever learning which foods may contain GMOs. Critics of the bill have dubbed it the DARK Act, aka “Deny Americans the Right-to-Know” Act, which is exactly what the bill does.
Stopping the passing of the Pompeo bill is THE most important action anyone concerned about GMOs can possibly take right now, and the outcome will quite possibly determine the future of agriculture. It’s the choice of a regenerative or degenerative food system; a choice of monoculture or diversity, of obesity or wellness, pollution, or nutrition.
TAKE ACTION NOW! Your local representatives need to hear from you! Please contact them today by CLICKING HERE.
Thankfully, we have organizations like the Organic Consumers Association (OCA) to fight back against these junk food manufacturers, pesticide producers, and corporate giants.
Internet Resources Where You Can Learn More
Non-GMO Food Resources by Country
Together, Let’s Help OCA Get the Funding They Deserve
Let’s Help OCA get the funding it deserves. I have found very few organizations who are as effective and efficient as OCA. It’s a public interest organization dedicated to promoting health justice and sustainability. A central focus of the OCA is building a healthy, equitable, and sustainable system of food production and consumption. Please make a donation to help OCA fight for GMO labeling.