French Study Finds Tumors and Organ Damage in Rats Fed Monsanto Corn

By: No More GMOs

This video provides a summary of the recently published, unprecedented study on the potential human health impacts of Monsanto’s genetically engineered (also called genetically modified or GM) corn NK603.

It is the first-ever GM food safety study to test laboratory rats over their entire life span (2 years). The study also evaluates the impact of Monsanto’s herbicide Roundup. The rats fed GM corn and Roundup herbicide developed tumours and multiple organ damage, or died prematurely (Séralini, G.-E., et al. , (2012). “Long term toxicity of a Roundup herbicide and a Roundup-tolerant genetically modified maize.” Food and Chemical Toxicology).

Why is it important to see this video? 
Monsanto’s NK603 corn was approved in Canada and Canadians have been eating this particular corn since 2001! 

In addition, this study is unique for two main reasons:
(1) First, because it is the first 2-year study, it goes beyond anything previously done. While the results themselves can be challenged (like all science), it means that outside of the science itself, the study shows us what industry and governments need to do in order to urgently address safety questions.
(2) Second, the team of scientists is highly credible and exceeds the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) guidelines for testing. In contrast, and what this study exposes, is the problem with the fact that GM foods are approved based on corporate studies. Corporate animal feeding trials stop at 90 days which is, according to the authors Gilles Eric-Séralini, et al. premature and inadequate. Please see CBAN’s website for further analysis.

Additional Sources:

More information on the Peer-Reviewed Study
http://research.sustainablefoodtrust.org/

GMO Global Alert Video (if link is not functioning)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Njd0RugGjAg&feature=youtu.be

CBAN Human Health Risks page (if link is not functioning)
http://www.cban.ca/Resources/Topics/Human-Health-Risks

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Uneasy Allies in the Grocery Aisle

By
The New York Times

Giant bioengineering companies like Monsanto and DuPont are spending millions of dollars to fight a California ballot initiative aimed at requiring the labeling of genetically modified foods. That surprises no one, least of all the proponents of the law, which if approved by voters would become the first of its kind in the nation.

But the companies behind some of the biggest organic brands in the country — Kashi, Cascadian Farm, Horizon Organic — also have joined the antilabeling effort, adding millions of dollars to defeat the initiative, known as Proposition 37.

Their opposition stands in sharp contrast to smaller, independent organic companies, which generally favor labeling products that contain genetically modified organisms, or G.M.O.’s. And it has raised a consumer reaction on social media that has led some of the organic brands to try to distance themselves from their corporate parents.

“We want to be clear that Kashi has not made any contributions to oppose G.M.O. labeling,” the brand said in a statement issued late last month after its Facebook page was inundated with comments from consumers saying they would no longer buy its products because its corporate owner, the Kellogg Company, has put more than $600,000 into fighting the ballot initiative.

But as recently as last week, consumers were still peppering the sites of Horizon, owned by Dean Foods; the J. M. Smucker Company, which has a number of organic products, and Kashi with expressions of betrayal and disappointment. “It is unconscionable for you to be funding the effort to defeat Proposition 37,” one post said.

“Consumers aren’t always aware that their favorite organic brands are in fact owned by big multinationals, and now they’re finding out that the premium they’ve paid to buy these organic products is being spent to fight against something they believe in passionately,” said Mark Kastel, a co-founder of the Cornucopia Institute, an organic industry watchdog and farm policy group that has been tracking corporate contributions in the ballot fight. “They feel like they’ve been had.”

The uproar highlights the difference between large organic brands that have driven the double-digit growth of the organic market and the smaller, independent businesses and farms that most shoppers envision when they buy an organic peach or shampoo — companies like Nature’s Path, one of Kashi’s largest competitors.

Although certified organic products are prohibited by law from containing genetically engineered ingredients, organic companies generally favor the labeling law, contending that consumers have a right to know what is in the products they buy. What is left unsaid is that it may also be a marketing advantage for organic companies, distinguishing them from conventional food producers.

The parent companies, among them Kellogg, General Mills, Dean Foods, Smucker’s and Coca-Cola, declined to talk about their opposition to the labeling initiative, which is on the November ballot, referring questions to Kathy Fairbanks, the spokeswoman for the No on 37 campaign.

Last week, the organization released a study it had commissioned that estimated the initiative would add $1.2 billion in costs for California farmers and food producers. Ms. Fairbanks said that the higher costs could add as much as $350 to $400 to an average family’s grocery bill.

In addition, she said, the opponents believe the labeling would heighten what they call unfounded concerns about the safety of genetically engineered crops.

The European Union has required such biotech labeling since 1997, and companies by and large have formulated their products so that they do not contain any genetically engineered ingredients and thus do not need labeling. Also, David Byrne, the former European commissioner for health and consumer protection, has said that there was no impact on the cost of products.

But for more than a decade in the United States, most processed foods like cereals, snack foods and salad dressings have contained ingredients from plants whose DNA was manipulated in a laboratory. Regulators and many scientists say they pose no danger.

Americans, however, are becoming much more aware of the role that food plays in their health and well-being, and consequently want much more information about what they eat, including whether it contains genetically engineered ingredients as well as salt and trans fats. So far, opponents of Proposition 37 have committed roughly $25 million to defeat it, with the largest contributions coming from Monsanto ($4.2 million) and DuPont ($4 million), which have made big investments in genetically engineered crops.

Several food companies are not far behind. PepsiCo, Nestlé, ConAgra Foods and Coca-Cola, which owns the Odwalla and Honest Tea brands, have each put more than $1 million in the fight, while General Mills, which owns organic stalwarts like Muir Glen and Cascadian Farm as well as popular upstarts like Lärabar and Food Should Taste Good, has spent more than $900,000.

“We believe labeling regulations should be set at the national level, not state by state,” General Mills said in a statement on its Web site.

Supporters of the measure thus far have mustered only $3.5 million from donors like Organic Valley, which has given $50,000, and Clif Bar and Amy’s Kitchen, which each have put in $100,000.

On Tuesday, Whole Foods, the retail mecca of the organic and natural foods movement, said it supported the California proposal, though with some reservations over the details — and without putting any money into the effort in accordance with its policy, a spokeswoman said.

Nature’s Path, an independent business, has put more than $600,000 into supporting the ballot initiative — even though it is a Canadian company. Some 70 percent of its sales and most of its production take place in the United States, said Arran Stephens, president of the company, but that is not why it is one of the biggest supporters of Proposition 37.

“We get to know what the salt content of our food is and the nutritional content, and producers have to state whether there are preservatives in it,” Mr. Stephens said. “But in the case of genetically modified organisms and whether they are in a product or not, we don’t know.”

Ronnie Cummins, founder and national director of the Organic Consumers Association, which represents some 850,000 members, said he expected the food and biotech companies that oppose the measure to spend roughly twice what they have already contributed by the time of the Nov. 6 election.

Nonetheless, Mr. Cummins said he expected it to pass. In a poll of 800 likely California voters in July by the California Business Roundtable and Pepperdine University, 64.9 percent said they were inclined to vote in favor of Proposition 37 based on their knowledge at that time.

“The more ads they put out, the more they remind people that they’re already eating foods with G.M.O. ingredients in them,” he said.

Brand experts say the companies also risk tarnishing the very brands that they have worked so hard to keep separate from their conventional businesses, if at all possible keeping their corporate ownership to microscopic print buried somewhere on a Web site.

“In a world where everyone can see everything, you can’t have silos any more, you can’t have one side of the company doing one thing and the other doing something else,” said Allen P. Adamson, managing director at Landor Associates. “People will look for inconsistencies and call you out on it.”

The Organic Trade Association supports labeling food products that contain genetically engineered ingredients even though two of its board members are from companies — Dean Foods and Smucker’s — that oppose the California ballot measure.

Christine Bushway, the association’s executive director, said the issue was fairly clear-cut for the organization, since genetically modified organisms are banned from organic foods. “Our question has always been, if companies don’t feel that G.M.O.’s are in any way an issue for consumers, what is the concern about putting them on the label?” Ms. Bushway said.

She said that as a trade association, the organization did not typically put money into campaigns.

Just Label It, an organization that has fought for genetically engineered labeling nationally since 2011, came out in support of the ballot measure on Wednesday — but it also will not put money into the fight. Gary Hirshberg, the campaign’s chairman and also chairman of Stonyfield Farm, the organic dairy brand now 85 percent owned by Groupe Danone, said his organization had already used much of its resources by the time the California initiative got under way.

“To be candid with you, I understand exactly what they’re trying to accomplish, and I’m supportive of their goal, but I don’t believe that in the long run we can solve a problem like this on a state-by-state level,” Mr. Hirshberg said. “Even if California succeeds, and we hope it does, there is still a national policy question before us.”

Others say that the reason the food and biotech companies are investing heavily to fight the ballot measure in California is because that market is so large that it would effectively cause them to adopt labeling or reformulate their products nationally. “That’s why they are fighting this so hard,” Mr. Kastel said.

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: September 15, 2012

An article on Friday about a food-labeling referendum in California that is putting some organic food brands at odds with their corporate parents misidentified the owner of the yogurt brand Stonyfield Farm. It is majority-owned by Groupe Danone, not by Dannon. (The Dannon Company is a subsidiary of Groupe Danone.)

5 Ways the Stanford Study Sells Organics Short

By
Mother Jones

Is organic food little more than a trumped-up marketing scheme, another way for affluent consumers to waste money? A just-released paper by Stanford University researchers—and the reaction to it by the media—suggests as much. (Abstract here; I have a copy of the full study, but can’t upload it for copyright reasons.)

“Stanford Scientists Cast Doubt on Advantages of Organic Meat and Produce,” declared a New York Times headline. “Organic food hardly healthier, study suggests,” announced CBS News. “Is organic healthier? Study says not so much, but it’s key reason consumers buy,” the Washington Post grumbled.

In reality, though, the study in some places makes a strong case for organic—though you’d barely know it from the language the authors use. And in places where it finds organic wanting, key information gets left out. To assess the state of science on organic food and its health benefits, the authors performed what’s known among academics as a “meta-analysis”—they gathered all the research papers they could find on the topic dating back decades, eliminated ones that didn’t meet their criteria for scientific rigor, and summarized the results.  

In another post I’ll get to the question of nutritional benefits—the idea, expressed by the Stanford authors, that organic and conventional foods are roughly equivalent in terms of vitamins and other nutrients. What I want to discuss now is the problem of pesticide exposure, and why I think the Stanford researchers are underestimating the risks.

 In short, the authors’ findings confirm what the Environmental Working Group, crunching USDA data, has been telling us for years: that organic fruits and vegetables harbor significantly fewer pesticide residues than their chemically grown peers. Summing up the evidence of the studies they looked at, the Stanford researchers find what they call a 30 percent “risk difference” between organic and conventional food—which to the mind not trained in statistics, sounds like organic foods carry 30 percent less risk of exposing you to pesticides. And they immediately undercut that finding by noting that the pesticide traces found in both organic and conventional food tend to be at levels lower than the Environmental Protection Agency’s maximum allowed limits. Takeaway: Conventional produce carries trivially small levels of pesticides, and you might as well save your money and forget organic.

What’s wrong with this comforting picture? 

1. Conventional produce is much worse than organic on the pesticide-exposure question than the 30 percent number suggests. That’s what Chuck Benbrook, research professor at Washington State University’ Center for Sustaining Agriculture and Natural Resources, shows in a detailed critique of the study. To get the 30 percent number, the authors used an odd statistical construct they call “risk difference.” By their method, if 5 percent of organic vegetables contain at least one pesticide trace and 35 percent of conventional vegetables contain at least one trace, then the “risk difference” is 30 percent (35 minus 5). But that’s a silly way of thinking about it, because there’s a much greater difference between those numbers than “30 percent” suggests. Crunching the authors’ own raw data, Benbrook finds “an overall 81% lower risk or incidence of one or more pesticide residues in the organic samples compared to the conventional samples.”

But even that doesn’t get to the full extent of the study’s underestimation, since:

2. To arrive at their “risk difference” metric, the authors didn’t distinguish between a single pesticide trace and multiple traces; or between light traces and heavier traces. For their purposes, an organic apple carrying a tiny residue of a relatively innocuous pesticide is equivalent to a conventional apple containing a cocktail of several relatively toxic pesticides. Here’s Benbrook on why that’s silly:

a) most residues in organic food occur at much lower levels than in conventional food, b) residues are not as likely in organic foods, c) multiple residues in a single sample are rare in organic food but common in conventional produce, and d) high-­risk pesticides rarely appear as residues in organic food, and when they do, the levels are usually much lower than those found in conventional food (especially the levels in imported produce).

Now, the authors might reply that all of this is trivial, because the traces that researchers find on produce, whether conventional or organic, almost always come in at levels below the EPA’s safety threshold. But:

3. This ignores a growing body of research that pregnant women’s fetuses can be harmed at low exposures of organophosphate pesticides, as can young children.

And what’s more:

4. The authors—like the EPA itself—ignore the “cocktail effect” of exposure to several pesticides, say, from a single apple. As Environmental Working Group’s analysis of USDA data shows, conventional produce like apples, blueberries, and bell peppers often carry traces of many pesticides. The EPA regulates pesticide traces only on an individual basis, disregarding possible synergistic effects. The European Commission is starting to take them more seriously. Here’s a report commissioned by the European Commission in 2009:

There is a consensus in the field of mixture toxicology that the customary chemical-by-chemical approach to risk assessment might be too simplistic. It is in danger of underestimating the risk of chemicals to human health and to the environment.

Which brings us to the fifth point:

5. We probably know more about how exposure to low levels of multiple pesticides affect amphibians than we do about how they affect people—and what our amphibious friends are telling us isn’t pretty.

In short, the Stanford study seriously underplays the benefit of going organic to avoid pesticide traces, especially for vulnerable populations like pregnant women and kids. In a future post, I’ll show why it does the same for exposure to antibiotic-resistant pathogens in meat, and doesn’t give organic its due with regard to nutritional benefits.

Our Hunger Games

by Vandana Shiva
Common Dreams
 

Hunger and malnutrition are man-made. They are hardwired in the design of the industrial, chemical model of agriculture. But just as hunger is created by design, healthy and nutritious food for all can also be designed, through food democracy.

We are repeatedly told that we will starve without chemical fertilisers. However, chemical fertilisers, which are essentially poison, undermine food security by destroying the fertility of soil by killing the biodiversity of soil organisms, friendly insects that control pests and pollinators like bees and butterflies necessary for plant reproduction and food production.

Industrial production has led to a severe ecological and social crisis. To ensure the supply of healthy food, we must move towards agro-ecological and sustainable systems of food production that work with nature and not against her. That is what movements that promote biodiversity conservation, like our NGO Navdanya, are designing on the ground.

Industrialisation of agriculture creates hunger and malnutrition, and yet further industrialisation of food systems are offered as solution to the crisis. In the Indian context, agriculture, food and nutrition are seen independent of each other, even though what food is grown and how it is grown determines its nutritional value. It also determines distribution patterns and entitlements. If we grow millets and pulses, we will have more nutrition per capita. If we grow food by using chemicals, we are growing monocultures — this means that we will have less nutrition per acre, per capita. If we grow food ecologically, with internal inputs, more food will stay with the farming household and there will be less malnutrition among rural children.

Our agriculture policy focuses on increasing yields of individual crops and not on the output of the food system and its nutritional value. The food security system — based on the public distribution system — does not address issues of nutrition and quality of food, and nutritional programmes are divorced from both agriculture and food security.

Wherever chemicals and commercial seeds have spread, farmers are in debt.

The agrarian crisis, the food crisis and the nutrition and health crisis are intimately connected. They need to be addressed together. The objective of agriculture policy cannot be based on promoting industrial processing of food. The chemicalisation of agriculture and food are recipes for “denutrification”. They cannot solve the problem of hunger and malnutrition. The solution to malnutrition begins with the soil.

Industrial agriculture, sold as the Green Revolution and the second Green Revolution to Third World countries, is chemical-intensive, capital-intensive and fossil fuel-intensive. It must, by its very structure, push farmers into debt and indebted farmers off the land. In poor countries, farmers trapped in debt for buying costly chemicals and non-renewable seeds, sell the food they grow to pay back debt. That is why hunger today is a rural phenomenon. Wherever chemicals and commercial seeds have spread, farmers are in debt. They lose entitlement to their own produce and hence get trapped in poverty and hunger.

Industrial chemical agriculture also creates hunger by displacing and destroying the biodiversity, which provides nutrition. The Green Revolution displaced pulses, an important source of proteins, as well as oilseeds, thus reducing nutrition per acre. Monocultures do not produce more food and nutrition. They take up more chemicals and fossil fuels, and hence are profitable for agrochemical companies and oil companies. They produce higher yields of individual commodities but a lower output of food and nutrition.

Industrial chemical agriculture’s measures of productivity focus on labour as the major input while externalising many energy and resource inputs. This biased productivity pushes farmers off the land and replaces them with chemicals and machines, which in turn contribute to greenhouse gases and climate change. Further, industrial agriculture focuses on producing a single crop that can be globally traded as a commodity. The focus on “yield” of individual commodities creates what I call a “monoculture of the mind”. The promotion of so-called high-yield crops leads to the destruction of biodiversity.

Biodiverse systems have higher output than monocultures, that is why organic farming is more beneficial for farmers and the earth than chemical farming.

Industrial chemical agriculture also causes hunger and malnutrition by robbing crops of nutrients. Industrially produced food is nutritionally empty but loaded with chemicals and toxins. Nutrition in food comes from the nutrients in the soil. Industrial agriculture, based on the NPK mentality of synthetic nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium-based fertilisers, lead to depletion of vital micro-nutrients and trace elements such as magnesium, zinc, calcium, iron.

Biodiverse systems have higher output than monocultures, that is why organic farming is more beneficial for farmers and the earth than chemical farming.

The increase in yields does not translate into more nutrition. In fact, it is leading to malnutrition. To get the required amount of nutrition people need to eat much more food.

The most effective and low-cost strategy for addressing hunger and malnutrition is through biodiverse organic farming. It enriches the soil and nutrient-rich soils give us nutrient-rich food.

Earthworm castings, which can amount to four to 36 tons per acre per year, contain five times more nitrogen, seven times more phosphorus, three times more exchangeable magnesium, 11 times more potash and one-and-a-half times more calcium than soil. Their work on the soil promotes the microbial activity essential to the fertility of most soils. Soils rich in micro organisms and earthworms are soils rich in nutrients. Their products, too, are rich in nutrients. On an average, organic food has been found to have 21 per cent more iron, 14 per cent more phosphorous, 78 per cent more chromium, 390 per cent more selenium, 63 per cent more calcium, 70 per cent more boron, 138 per cent more magnesium, 27 per cent more vitamin C and 10-50 per cent more vitamin E and beta-carotene. And the more biodiversity on our farms, the more is the nutrition per acre, at little cost.

Plants, people and the soil are part of one food web, which is the web of life. The test of good farming is how well it works to increase the health and resilience of the food web.

© 2012 The Asian Age

Chinese children used in US-backed GE food trial

by Monica Tan
Greenpeace

How would you feel if I told you that a group of scientists had come to the United States, and fed a group of 24 children aged between six and eight years of age a potentially dangerous product that had yet to be fully characterized?

What if I told you that state authorities had come out publically with clear directives against this very experiment, and yet the experiment had continued regardless?

You’d be pretty outraged, right?

Well, this is what we believe is happening, EXCEPT that it is happening on Chinese soil and on Chinese children (and I hope you’ve managed to maintain that outrage.)

We discovered this in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition that published a study backed by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) and that involved feeding genetically engineered (GE) Golden Rice to a group of 24 boys and girls in Hunan province, China, aged between six and eight years old.

It was actually back in 2008 that we first heard of this experiment and immediately informed the Chinese Ministry of Agriculture. The Ministry came back and assured us no Golden Rice had been imported and the trial had been stopped – something that unfortunately appears not to be the case.

Gambling with the health of these 24 children isn’t the only travesty here. From the bigger picture we’re also seeing a huge amount of time, energy and talent being wasted on what is essentially yet another example of big business hustling in of one the world’s most sacred things: our food supply.

The study hopes to propose that this genetically engineered rice is a solution to vitamin A deficiency among malnourished child populations. Fact is, we don’t need this “silver bullet” rice, because: (1) we have a solution – it’s called overcoming poverty and accessing a more diverse diet; and (2) like so many silver bullets it’s going to cause more trouble and potential harm than existing solutions.

Here are some of the big “cons” behind this so-called magic rice, according to our food and agriculture team:

  1. By promoting GE rice you encourage a diet based on one staple rather than an increase in access to the many vitamin-rich food plants. These plants would address a wide variety of micronutrient deficiencies, not just vitamin A deficiency (VAD).
  2. We simply do not know if GE crops, including GE rice, are safe for human or animal consumption. GE crops certainly have the potential to cause allergenic reactions.
  3. The majority of patents for genetically engineered plants are held by a few large multinational companies. So it’s in their financial interest – and not ours, the public – to get us hooked on their seed.

After 20 years of development, this not so-Golden Rice is still just a shadowy research project with no applications for commercialization anywhere in the world. Tens of millions of dollars have been spent on what is a smoke and mirrors product, and that could have been better spent on programs that have actually proven to make a lasting and meaningful difference: programs that combine supplementation with home gardening in order to give the poverty-stricken access to a more diverse diet (something that has been successful in Bangladesh).

The battle to keep GE rice out of China has been a long, seven year struggle, and clearly it’s not over yet.