|Soybeans in a plantation (Photo credit: Wikipedia)|
By Dr. Mercola
In a recent article titled "Monsanto GM Soy is Scarier than You Think," Mother Jones1 went into some of the details surrounding our genetically engineered (GE) food supply.Soybeans are the second-largest food crop grown in the US, and more than 90 percent of it is genetically engineered. Some have been modified to withstand the herbicide Roundup (i.e. Roundup-Ready soy), while other varieties have been designed to produce its own pesticide, courtesy of the Bt gene (so-called Bt soy).As noted in the featured article, organic soy production is miniscule, accounting for less than one percent of the total acreage devoted to soy in the US. The rest is conventionally grown non-GE soy.Even if you don't buy soy products such as tofu or soy milk, you're undoubtedly consuming plenty of soy if you're eating any processed foods and/or meats from animals raised in confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs). A large portion of the GE soy grown actually ends up in your meat, as soy is a staple of conventional livestock feed. Much of the rest ends up as vegetable oil.According to the US Soy Board, soybean oil accounts for more than 60 percent of all the vegetable oil consumed in the US—most of which is used in processed foods and fast food preparation. As noted in the featured article:2"Given soy's centrality to our food and agriculture systems, the findings of a new study published in the peer-reviewed journal Food Chemistry3 are worth pondering.The authors found that Monsanto's ubiquitous Roundup Ready soybeans... contain more herbicide residues than their non-GMO counterparts. The team also found that the GM beans are nutritionally inferior."
New Research Questions Quality and Safety of GE Soybeans
Three varieties of Iowa-grown soybeans were investigated in this study:4
- Roundup Ready soybeans
- Non-GE, conventional soybeans grown using Roundup herbicide
- Organic soybeans, grown without agricultural chemicalsAll of the Roundup Ready soybean samples were found to contain residues of glyphosate, which is the active ingredient in Roundup, along with its amino acid metabolite, aminomethylphosphonic acid (AMPA).On average, GE soy contained 11.9 parts per million (ppm) of glyphosate. The highest residue level found was 20.1 ppm. Meanwhile, no residues of either kind were found in the conventional non-GE and organic varieties.In terms of nutrition, organic soybeans contained slightly higher levels of protein and lower levels of omega-6, compared to both conventionally-grown non-GE and GE soy. Similar results were found in a 2012 nutritional analysis of GE corn, which was found to contain 13 ppm of glyphosate, compared to zero in non-GMO corn.It may be worth noting that the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) actually raised the allowable levels of glyphosate5, 6 in oilseed crops such as soy, from 20 ppm to 40 ppm just last summer. It also raised the levels of permissible glyphosate contamination in other foods—many of which were raised to 15-25 times previous levels!
Why Glyphosate Contamination Matters
Nearly one BILLION pounds of Roundup are used each year for conventional crop production around the globe, but genetically engineered (GE) crops see some of the heaviest use. This is especially true for Roundup Ready crops, which are designed to withstand otherwise lethal doses of this chemical.The issue of glyphosate contamination is well worth considering if you value your health. Recent research suggests glyphosate may in fact be an instrumental driver of many chronic diseases, and in my view, avoiding glyphosate is a major reason for buying organic, in and of itself.Labeling GMOs could help you select products that are less likely to have heavy contamination, although you'd also avoid many other hazardous chemicals used in conventional farming by opting for products labeled 100% organic.It's important to understand that these glyphosate residues CANNOT be washed off, as the chemical is actively integrated into every cell in the plant. Dr. Don Huber, who is one of the most prominent scientific experts in plant toxicology, firmly believes glyphosate is FAR more toxic and dangerous than DDT. A number of other studies have raised serious questions about the safety of glyphosate, including but not limited to the following:
- Research published in the International Journal of Toxicology7 in January revealed that glyphosate-based formulations like Roundup pose a threat to human health through cytotoxicity and oxidative effects. Such formulations were also found to be lethal to human liver cells
- A 2012 study8 found that 3 ppm of Roundup in water induced morphological changes in frogs
- A German study9 on poultry, published in 2013, showed that glyphosate tends to be more harmful to beneficial gut bacteria like Lactobacillus, while pathogenic bacteria like Salmonella entritidi tend to be largely resistant to the chemical. Subsequently, the microbial balance tends to shift toward pathogenic overgrowth when exposed to glyphosate, and can predispose the animal to botulism
Victory! Vermont Passes First Effective GMO-Labeling Bill
On April 16, 2014, the Vermont Senate passed the first no-strings-attached GMO labeling bill (H.112) by an overwhelming margin—28-2. The bill sailed through a House/Senate conference committee and was approved by the House of Representatives on April 23.
Governor Shumlin has already indicated he will be signing the bill into law—which will require any genetically engineered food sold in Vermont to be labeled by July 1, 2016.10 Food served in restaurants, alcohol, meat, and dairy products would be exempt from labeling however. Foods containing GMO ingredients would also not be allowed to be labeled "natural.""I am proud of Vermont for being the first state in the nation to ensure that Vermonters will know what is in their food,"Governor Shumlin said in a statement. "The Legislature has spoken loud and clear through its passage of this bill. I wholeheartedly agree with them and look forward to signing this bill into law."This is truly an historical moment that will likely reverberate across the US in coming years. As noted by Ronnie Cummins in a recent Huffington Post article:11"Strictly speaking, Vermont's H.112 applies only to Vermont. But it will have the same impact on the marketplace as a federal law. Because national food and beverage companies and supermarkets will not likely risk the ire of their customers by admitting that many of the foods and brands they are selling in Vermont are genetically engineered, and deceptively labeled as 'natural' or 'all natural' while simultaneously trying to conceal this fact in the other 49 states and North American markets. As a seed executive for Monsanto admitted 20 years ago, 'If you put a label on genetically engineered food you might as well put a skull and crossbones on it.'"The Burlington Free Press12 recently ran an excellent article on how the Vermont GMO labeling bill was won. I would highly encourage you to read it in its entirety, to get a real-world view of just how effective a grassroots campaign can be. It really boils down to letting your representatives know what you want. Despite the threat of a lawsuit from food manufacturers, Vermont legislators realized that their constituents were serious about wanting GMOs labeled. And they voted accordingly. Indeed, the chemical technology and food industry knows this, which is why they've fought tooth and nail to stop any and all GMO labeling efforts in the US. They've even threatened to sue any state that passes a labeling law—a threat taken seriously by Vermont.
Vermont Braces for Legal Challenge
Vermont Senate agreed to establish a state defense fund to pay for legal costs associated with defending the law against any legal challenge by the food industry, which will undoubtedly be spearheaded by the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA). It's unlikely that the industry would win such a legal challenge, however. As reported by the Burlington Free Press:13"Rep. Teo Zagar, D-Barnard, told House members that... changes the Senate made will help the state prevail in court. 'This bill has been re-engineered to be more resistant to legal challenge,' he said."As you may recall, after getting caught laundering money and narrowly defeating the Washington labeling campaign, the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) sued the state of Washington, arguing they should be allowed to hide their donors—which is a direct violation of state campaign disclosure laws—in order to "speak with one voice" for the interests of the food industry.14 I subsequently named the GMA "the most evil corporation on the planet," considering the fact that it consists primarily of pesticide producers and junk food manufacturers who are hell-bent on violating some of your most basic rights, just to protect their own profits.The GMA was initially forced to reveal their donors, but has since removed their online membership list—again hiding their members to prevent consumer awareness of who is behind this radical front group. You can find the cached members list on web.archive.org15 however. Not surprisingly, Pepsi, Coke, and Nestle—top purveyors of chronic ill health—were the top funders trying to hide their identity during the Washington State GMO labeling campaign.There's no doubt that the GMA—at the behest of its members—is trying to end the right of consumers, and control US food policy to ensure that subsidized, genetically engineered and chemical-dependent, highly processed junk food remains the status quo. Think about it: the primary GE crops are corn, soy, and sugar beets. And the primary ingredients in processed food are high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), hydrogenated vegetable oils (trans fats), and refined sugar. Add in all the pesticides and hazardous fertilizers used in this chemical agriculture system, and you have the perfect formula for death, disease, and environmental destruction. This is the business model the GMA is protecting—at your expense.
Oregon Up Next
The next major GMO labeling initiative will take place in Oregon, which will come up for vote this fall. Jackson County, OR, is also considering a proposal to ban GE crops from being grown altogether. According to an April 17 report in the Statesman Journal,16 supporters of the measure, which includes more than 100 local health professionals, have raised just over $180,000, while opponents have collected nearly $857,000. According to the article:"Jackson County voters only get one chance to consider the issue. In September, the Oregon legislature passed a bill prohibiting local jurisdictions from regulating genetically modified crops and seeds. Jackson County's measure was exempt from the legislation because it already had qualified for the May 20 ballot...'The out-of-state chemical companies flooding the county with money to try to defeat 15-119 are doing it for one reason: genetically engineered crops mean they sell more herbicides that end up in our county and our bodies. They sell a product that puts our health at risk and they just want to sell more of it,' said Dr. Matt Sheehan. 'Measure 15-119 makes good sense from a public health perspective and that's why I'm voting yes,' said Dr. Lanita Witt, who is also co-owner of Willow-Witt Ranch. 'Why would we want crops that put our family farmers at risk while significantly increasing the herbicides in our food, water and kids?'"
Chemical Technology Industry Counters by Trying to BAN GMO Labeling
Besides Oregon, there are no less than 66 active bills and ballot initiatives in 27 different states, aimed at getting GE foods labeled. The GMA is trying to make an end run to head off this avalanche by cooking up legislation that would effectively BAN individual states from passing their own food labeling laws. As recently reported by Reuters,17 Kansas congressman Mike Pompeo has introduced a bill that would amend the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act and nullify all state efforts to label GE foods."The bill, dubbed the 'Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act'... is aimed at overriding bills in about two dozen states that would require foods made with genetically engineered crops to be labeled as such," Reuters reports.18 "The bill specifically prohibits any mandatory labeling of foods developed using bioengineering... Makers of biotech crops and many large food manufacturers have fought mandatory labeling, arguing that genetically modified crops are not materially different and pose no safety risk. They say labeling would mislead consumers. Pompeo reiterated those claims, stating that GMOs are safe and 'equally healthy' and no labeling is needed." [Emphasis mine]
Ridiculous Example of How Far a Company Will Go to Silence Dissent
Take a Stand Against Industry Bullying
As you can see, we really cannot afford to let our guard down for even a moment, lest our rights be stripped away from us by greedy corporations that couldn't care less about public health or consumer rights. Vermont isn't the only state that has had to muster up a backbone to face a potential legal challenge by the chemical technology industry, which really does not want the food industry to be forced to give up on GE ingredients.Rhode Island and Florida have also introduced GMO labeling laws this year, which would open them up to such industry bullying tactics. No matter where GMO labeling laws are considered, you can be sure of one thing—GMA lobbyists will be present, spewing falsehoods and threatening lawmakers. The Organic Consumers Association has created an Action Page where you can voice your opinions with the lawmakers in your state. Please tell them to stand firm; ignore the threats from the food industry, and do what's right for the people they were elected to represent.
Vote with Your Pocketbook, Every Day
Remember, the food companies on the left of this graphic spent tens of millions of dollars in the last two labeling campaigns—in California and Washington State—to prevent you from knowing what's in your food. You can even the score by switching to the brands on the right; all of whom stood behind the I-522 Right to Know campaign. Voting with your pocketbook, at every meal, matters. It makes a huge difference.
As always, I encourage you to continue educating yourself about genetically engineered foods, and to share what you've learned with family and friends. Remember, unless a food is certified organic, you can assume it contains GMO ingredients if it contains sugar from sugar beet, soy, or corn, or any of their derivatives.If you buy processed food, opt for products bearing the USDA 100% Organic label, as organics do not permit GMOs. You can also print out and use the Non-GMO Shopping Guide, created by the Institute for Responsible Technology. Share it with your friends and family, and post it to your social networks. Alternatively, download their free iPhone application, available in the iTunes store. You can find it by searching for ShopNoGMO in the applications. For more in-depth information, I highly recommend reading the following two books, authored by Jeffrey Smith, the executive director of the Institute for Responsible Technology:
- Seeds of Deception: Exposing Industry and Government Lies about the Safety of the Genetically Engineered Foods You're Eating
- Genetic Roulette: The Documented Health Risks of Genetically Engineered Foods.For timely updates, join the Non-GMO Project on Facebook, or follow them on Twitter. Please, do your homework. Together, we have the power to stop the chemical technology industry from destroying our food supply, the future of our children, and the earth as a whole. All we need is about five percent of American shoppers to simply stop buying genetically engineered foods, and the food industry would have to reconsider their source of ingredients—regardless of whether the products bear an actual GMO label or not.