Francis Moore Lappe: GM foods not safe

On Octobert 23, Renee Shur wrote an in-depth post on California’s Prop 37 and the fight to label GMOs (genetically modified organisms). You can read it here. GMO producers have spent millions to defeat this proposition because they fear the growing backlash against their products. The outcome of this vote will affect, not only California, but also the entire country. Whether Prop 37 passes or not, the tide is turning against genetically modified food. That’s why Monsanto and other companies are spending so much money to defeat the labeling of GMOs.

Leading the charge against GMOs are food activists Francis Moore Lappe and Anna Lappe. Recognizing that Monsanto and other producers are spending millions to deliberately confuse the public, the Lappes have provided seven easy to remember points about the dangers of GM foods. Feel free to share them with your friends. All of them are supported by authoritative studies.

1. GMOs have never undergone standard testing or regulation for human safety. And now that they’re in 70 percent of processed foods, it’s extremely difficult for scientists to isolate their health risks.

2. GMOs have proven harmful in animal studies. A 2009 review of 19 studies found mammals fed GM corn or soy developed “liver and kidney problems” that could mark the “onset of chronic diseases.” Most were 90-day studies. In a new two-year study, rats fed GM corn developed two to three times more tumors — some bigger than a quarter of their total body weight — and these tumors appeared much earlier than in rats fed non-GM corn. Among scientists, the study has its defenders and critics, but even the critics underscore that we need more long-term studies.

3. The most widely used GMOs are paired with an herbicide linked to serious reproductive problems and disease. GM crops — Roundup Ready soy and corn — are treated with the herbicide glyphosate, which in exposed humans has been associated with DNA damage. In the lab, it’s proven toxic to human liver cells.

4. The consequences of GMO technology are inherently unpredictable. Inserting a single gene can result in multiple, unintended DNA changes and mutations. “Unintended effects are common in all cases where GE [genetic engineering] techniques are used,” warn scientists. One such environmental consequence — genetic contamination of other plants — is already documented. Note that unlike food, once released into the environment, seeds can’t be “recalled“!

5. GMO makers intimidate and silence farmers and scientists. GMO corporations use patents and intellectual property rights to sue farmers, block research, and threaten investigators. “For a decade,” protested Scientific American editors in 2009, GMO companies “have explicitly forbidden the use of the seeds for any independent research,” so “it is impossible to verify that genetically modified crops perform as advertised.”

6. GMOs undermine our food security. Within the biotechnology market, Monsanto alone controls 90 percent of GE crops worldwide. And Monsanto is one of three GMO companies including DuPont and Syngenta that control 70 percent of the global seed market, reinforcing monopoly power over our food. GMO seeds are costly and must be purchased every year, so they worsen farmers’ indebtedness, dependency, and vulnerability to hunger.

7. GMOs aren’t needed in the first place, so why would we take on these risks and harms? Studies show that safe, sustainable farming practices applied worldwide could increase our food supply as much as 50 percent. And keep in mind that the world’s already producing 2,800 calories for every person on earth every day — more than enough. And that’s just with what’s left over after using half the world’s grain for feed, fuel and other purposes, and wasting one-third of all food. So the urgent question isn’t about “more” anyway. It is, How can all of the world’s people gain the power to secure healthy food? And a good start is knowing what’s in our food.

Whether or not Prop 37 and other efforts to label GMOs are successful, there are things you can do to avoid them. The Lappes offer the following guidelines for grocery shopping:

Shopping in the Know (Not GMO)

• Avoid processed foods! It’s a simple way to reduce exposure to the four most common GM ingredients: non-organic forms of soy, canola, cottonseed and corn, including high-fructose corn syrup.

• Look for the voluntary “non-GMO” label.

• Buy “certified organic,” which ensures that no GMO ingredients were used.

• Visit for a list of thousands of GMO products and brands.