FELIX J ROGERS, DO
I’ll admit it: I didn’t pay any attention to the fuss about crops with genetically modified organisms (GMOs). After all, for centuries humans have selectively bred plants to produce crops that are bigger or better in some way. I remember learning about Luther Burbank when I was in high school, and his innovative studies on peanuts. As I listened to the critics, the only concern I had was a curiosity about why Monsanto would be in the business of developing genetically modified crops.
Using the latest genetic techniques, seeds can be modified to increase the yield of the crop, to grow crops which can survive with salty water, and to make crops whose fruits or vegetables are resistant to mold and rot. All of these are laudable goals, and would increase yield to produce more food and reduce hunger.
However, nearly all of the emphasis on genetically modified crops now involves producing plants that are resistant to herbicides. Presently, more than 90% of the corn and soybeans raised in America are grown with GMOs. We are not aware of this in part because the FDA does not require labels on these crops.
The idea here is to develop a plant that can be sprayed with weed killer, and no damage occurs to the plant itself. The first weed killer employed for this purpose was glyphosate, also known as Roundup, which was first introduced by Monsanto in the 1970s. Since that time, there has been a sharp increase in the use of this herbicide and its use in the USA has increased by a factor of 250 from 1974 to 2014. Worldwide, its use has increased tenfold.
Predictably, weeds have evolved that are resistant to Roundup. These weeds have now been identified in thirty-six states in the USA. Therefore, farmers are now using multiple herbicides on crops, including 2,4-dichlorophenoxyacetic acid (2,4-D). 2,4-D is best known as a component of Agent Orange, a defoliant used in Vietnam. Because of the increasing likelihood of the resistance to glyphosate, Monsanto is now requesting approval by the FDA to produce Enlist Duo, a combination of products that includes Roundup and 2,4-D.
7 Reasons We Need to Wake Up About GMO Foods
1 Real cancer concerns
In March of this year, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classified glyphosate (Roundup) as a “probable human carcinogen.” It also classified 2,4-D as a “possible human carcinogen.”
2 Contamination of rivers and streams
A survey by the US Geological Society found glyphosate in the majority of rivers, streams, ditches and wastewater in the thirty-eight states that were tested. Not much was found in groundwater because it binds tightly to soil.
3 Consumption of GMO soy and corn is hard to avoid
When three hundred samples of soybeans were tested, traces of glyphosate were found in 90% of them. You may not consider yourself a soy-lover, but soy is used in countless products from cereal and processed meats to low-fat peanut butter. Similarly most corn is grown with GMOs and widely used in everyday products.
4 Our soil is contaminated with GMO residues
A field test showed that lettuce, carrots and barley contained glyphosate residues up to one year after the soil was treated.
5 There’s a major failure to properly label foods
Sixty-four other countries require labeling of GM foods. In the USA, the advertising for Monsanto sidesteps that, by identifying their GM products as “Roundup Ready.” In mid-July 2015, the US House of Representatives approved a bill that would block states and localities from requiring mandatory labeling of food made from genetically modified organisms (GMOs). It would also set up a voluntary program for manufacturers to certify foods that do not contain GMOs. The bill’s future in the Senate is unclear and the White House has yet to weigh in.
Sign a petition here to protect your food!
6 Most developed countries restrict GMOs—but not USA!
Most developed nations do not consider GMOs to be safe. In more than 60 countries around the world, including Australia, Japan, and all of the countries in the European Union, there are significant restrictions or outright bans on the production and sale of GMOs. In the U.S., the government has approved GMOs based on studies conducted by the same corporations that created them and profit from their sale. (Source: The NonGMO Project)
7 A toxic combo of Roundup and 2, 4-D has been approved by the FDA
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has approved Enlist Duo, a new combination of Roundup and 2,4-D. They anticipate that the use of 2,4-D will increase three to sevenfold over the near term once this product is in widespread use. Many experts feel the decision to approve Enlist Duo was made in haste with outdated studies and incomplete assessment of human exposure, and environmental effects.
What can you do?
- Urgent: Sign a Petition to give Americans the right to have foods labeled as GMO.
- Buy organic and foods labeled “verified non-GMO.”
- Be familiar with the foods most likely to be GMO. See the Consumers Guide to Avoiding GMOs from the Environmental Working Group,.
Felix Rogers is a cardiologist with the Henry Ford Health System in Detroit. Much of the material for this report originated in a perspective from the August 20, 2015, issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.