It's been a busy week for food policy on Capitol Hill. Committees have already been convened to discuss antibiotic abuse in the meat industry (commendable) and improving the nutrition of school lunches (intriguing). Today starts a series of lobbying days for Senate Bill 510. Already having won bipartisan support, this FDA power grab vows to make our food system more “safe” and “modern” (frightening).
But with all the talk about food safety, traceability, FDA empowerment, and the cost of foodborne illnesses on the healthcare industry, a critical element will be missing from this week's discourse. If the FDA continues to shirk its responsibilities and fails to investigate the health risks associated with Genetically Modified (GM) food products, consumers will continue to ingest novel and potentially dangerous substances without informed consent.
When the American Academy of Environmental Medicine released its position paper on GM foods last May, which provided significant evidence that GMOs pose a health risk, one would think the FDA would have immediately investigated the matter with safety reviews of its own. According to Dr. Amy Dean, PR chair and Board Member of AAEM, “Multiple animal studies have shown that GM foods cause damage to various organ systems in the body. With this mounting evidence, it is imperative to have a moratorium on GM foods for the safety of our patients' and the public's health.” The FDA's response: absolutely nothing.
A summation of the independent research condemning GMOs can be found in a piece entitled "Doctors Warn About Dangers of Genetically Modified Food,” published by Natural News last week. The facts uncovered by its author bear repeating here:
A large number of studies and incidents have implicated GM foods in a wide variety of health problems, including accelerated aging, immune dysfunction, insulin disorders, organ damage and reproductive disruption. For example, female rats fed a diet of GM soy experienced a drastically higher infant death rate, and their surviving infants were smaller and less fertile than the offspring of rats fed on a non-GM soy diet. Male rats fed the GM soy had their testicles change from pink to blue, and the GM soy was also observed to damage the DNA of sperm and embryos. Fertility problems such as abortion, infertility, premature delivery, prolapsed uteri, infant death, and even delivery of unformed infants (bags of water) have been observed in farm animals fed GM cottonseed and corn.
Animals consuming crops that have been genetically modified to produce the pesticide Bt (approved for human consumption in the United States) have died by the thousands, while animals grazing on a non-GM version of the same crops remained unharmed. Upon autopsies, researchers have found black patches in the animals' livers and intestines, internal bleeding and other signs of Bt poisoning. Farm workers in India have begun developing allergic reactions upon handling Bt corn, similar to the effects experienced by people exposed to Bt spraying. In addition to these risks, GM soy and corn contain significantly higher concentrations of allergens than unmodified varieties. Evidence also suggests that the genetic abnormalities of GM foods may transfer to bacteria in the human gut, thereby exposing people to their detrimental effects long after a food has been consumed.
“Yet in spite of all this evidence and the prevalence of GM crops in the U.S. food supply,” writes David Gutierrez, author of the article, “not a single clinical trial of any GM crop has ever been published.” I suppose the only trial the agency wishes to observe is the real world health catastrophe already unfolding.
Proponents of GM foods rely on the argument of “substantial equivalence” to bypass safety reviews required of all novel food additives if they are to be generally recognized as safe (GRAS). Currently all genetically modified crops are already GRAS, considered by the FDA to be “substantially equivalent” to their whole food counterparts. Without a shred of evidence in support, the FDA has accepted the notion that inserting a gene from say, Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt), a highly toxic bacteria, into the genome of maize in order to express a particular pesticide inherent in that pathogen, yields the substantial equivalence of corn.
If it looks like corn, tastes like corn and fattens cattle like corn, it must be substantially equivalent to corn, right? Well, the existing evidence says otherwise. This is worrisome news considering over 80 percent of corn grown in America is genetically modified with Bt toxins.
But it's not just corn that is being frankenfooded: soybeans, cottonseed oil, tomatoes and rice, amongst others, now have trans-genetic proteins residing within. Some worry that GMOs might have profound and far reaching negative impacts not just on individual health, they might threaten to destabilize our ecosystems.
Dr. Rima Laibow, MD and former independent health practitioner, advocates much more than simply labeling GMOs. “The USDA admits that there is no way to track or contain these plants and animals, or prevent them from permanently contaminating the environment. The companies that grow them admit that they cannot contain them. They are actively invading our food supply, creating super bugs, super weeds, damaged DNA throughout the biosphere,” writes Dr. Laibow. Her solution: “The only way to stop this is a total ban on all GMO foods, drugs and products plus an enormous research project to identify the damage and find ways to counter it.”
Whatever policy needs to be advanced now to stop the GMO threat certainly won't be coming from the FDA. The agency has a consistent track record of protecting the profit margins of its corporate benefactors at any social cost.