Genetically Engineered Disappointments

Posted on by

By Jomo Kwame Sundaram,  former UN Assistant Secretary General for Economic Development and Anis Chowdhury, former Professor of Economics, University of Western Sydney, who held various senior United Nations positions in New York and Bangkok. Originally published at Inter Press Service

Advocates of genetically engineered (GE) crops have long claimed that genetic engineering is necessary to raise crop yields and reduce human exposure to agrochemicals. Genetic engineering promised two major improvements: improving yields affordably to feed the world, and making crops resistant to pests to reduce the use of commercial chemical herbicides and insecticides.

Genetic modification of crops through natural evolution or artificial crossbreeding has been happening for millennia, giving rise to more productive or resilient crop species. Thus, the term ‘genetic engineering’ more accurately refers to the artificial introduction of genetic material to produce new GE varieties.

Trans-Atlantic Divide

A report by the United States National Academy of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine – picked up by the New York Times – found that US GE crop yield gains have slowed over the years, leaving no significant advantage in yield gains compared to non-GE plant varieties. Over two decades ago, Western Europe largely rejected GE crops while North America – the United States and then Canada – embraced them. More than twenty years later, US crop yield gains are not significantly higher than in Western Europe.

Since the adoption of GE crops, US use of herbicides has increased. In the US, decreasing use of some herbicides has involved large increases in the use of glyphosate, a key ingredient in herbicides used for GE crop cultivation. This is in contrast to France, which bans GE crop cultivation, where overall use of herbicides has been reduced due to EU efforts.

Glyphosate-resistant GE crops survive herbicide spraying while killing non-resistant weeds. However, rising weed resistance to glyphosate has led to the application of larger doses. For example, although land planted with GE soybeans has grown by less than a third over the last two decades, herbicide use has doubled. Herbicide use for maize production was declining before the introduction of GE crops, but has increased since 2002.

Glyphosate was assessed as carcinogenic by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) under the World Health Organization. Some glyphosate-based herbicides also contain other more toxic herbicides – such as 2,4-D, a key ingredient in Agent Orange, the infamous Vietnam War defoliant – to increase their efficacy against resistant weeds.

Diversity Declining

GE crops, typically with traits which tend to result in monoculture, have been promoted as more productive than non-GE crops. As farmers adopt GE crop varieties, others varieties are abandoned, and access to such seeds are increasingly in the hands of giant transnational seed companies rather than government facilities.

But when farmers lose confidence in GE crops or wish to turn to non-GE varieties for other reasons, they are no longer able to simply revert to their old non-GE varieties or to crossbreed them. Instead, they now need to buy seeds from these very same monopolistic transnational seed companies.

Similarly, the impact on ecological diversity, important for maintaining fragile ecosystems, cannot be underestimated. Biodiversity reduction fundamentally transforms ecosystems. Rich, diverse traditional farmer knowledge – of the use of plants and other natural resources to maintain soil and plant health, and to conserve water and other natural resources – is also being ignored in favour of ‘hi-tech’, genetically-engineered, agro-chemical and other ‘industrial’ solutions, which invariably engender new problems. For example, pesticides are intended to be toxic only to pests, but not to others, but most are carcinogenic or otherwise dangerous to human health.

While GE crops offer some benefits, unclear productivity advantages and rising pest resistance are reducing the edge it once claimed over conventionally developed crops. GE crops seem to be harmless, but there is still much uncertainty over their longer-term effects, including increased pesticide resistance and reduced diversity. The scientific ethic advising precaution in the face of uncertainty seems to have been abandoned in favour of profitable expediency, ostensibly to increase productivity and reduce agro-chemical reliance, neither of which have been achieved.

Corporate Power Growing

As many of the same corporations or conglomerates sell both GE seeds as well as the agro-chemicals needed to increase yields, the potential for other types of innovation is inevitably diminished. Recent mergers and acquisitions have further consolidated oligopolies selling both seeds and agrochemicals, exemplified by the acquisition bid for Monsanto by Bayer. Not surprisingly then, companies have less incentive to develop new traits, or to invest heavily in tackling other problems when greater pest resistance increases sales of their pesticides and overall profits.

All this is often justified in terms of the urgent need to feed the hundreds of millions of hungry people in the world. However, although there already is enough food being produced to feed everyone in the world, the real problem is one of access, as most of the hungry do not have the means to buy or produce the food they need.

Therefore, while US agribusiness has long claimed that GMOs will “save the world”, there has been little compelling evidence to this effect after two decades. Proponents select evidence to support their exaggerated claims that GE varieties meet many needs in different parts of the world, although their actual track records are much more modest and chequered.

Much of the resistance against GE crops is due to the interests and methods of the agribusiness transnationals dominating food production, both directly and indirectly through their control and promotion of seeds, agrochemicals, etc.

Print Friendly
Tweet about this on TwitterDigg thisShare on Reddit0Share on StumbleUpon0Share on Facebook0Share on LinkedIn0Share on Google+2Buffer this pageEmail this to someone

44 comments

  1. PlutoniumKun

    There has been a very obvious concerted effort by the industry to tar anti-GMO protestors with the same ‘anti-science’ brush by lumping them in with anti-vaxxers and global warming deniers. I’ve heard the meme from people who should know better – including otherwise sensible scientists. So its very important to disseminate facts like this – GMO’s are to a large extent simply a scam to sell more herbicides and pesticides. There is simply no evidence that they lead to greater yields in the long term and plenty of evidence that they create ever more vulnerable food supply chains.

    1. Larry

      This 100%. It is designed to be a massive profit center. Monsanto and Du Pont don’t care if people go hungry, they care about quarterly earnings calls. The feeding the world part is just great marketing and ad copy.

    2. Sputnik Sweetheart

      Monsanto happens to have a program called “Let Nothing Go,” in which they have (seemingly third party) people post positive comments about them and attack anyone who dares to challenge them on Facebook posts and news sites. https://usrtk.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/MDLLetNothingGomotion.pdf
      With them sponsoring scientists and influencing research developed as well, it’s very hard to offer a critique of GMOs without being labeled as anti-science, particularly when there’s so much noise and false information going around (especially when it’s spread by the biotech companies themselves). A technology with so many different implications for human health, intellectual property, and the environment should not be treated in such an opaque and hyperbolic manner. With treaties such as TTIP and CETA being pushed behind closed doors, even the precautionary principle that the EU has been using is under attack.

    3. Howard

      Yes. There is a basic difference between anti-GMO activism on the one hand and anti-vax/climate change denial on the other. In the first case, everyone agrees on what the science is. The disagreement is about how (or whether at all) to use the science.

      1. gepay

        Actually, I am anti-Monsanto and the main present day use of GMO products but not entirely – I looked into the use of GMO to save the domestic papaya crop in Hawaii. and found it worked as advertised – it protected the crop from ringspot virus infection – was developed by a university team rather than a commercial company. but not without some drawbacks such as increased susceptibility to a fungal infection. I have not found any reports of humans reacting differently to GMO papaya.(although as usual there was not extensive testing before its release) There is GMO contamination of organically grown papaya. but the actual fruit (that part you eat) of organically grown papaya are GMo free – the seeds are contaminated. I believe traditional plant breeding has recently produced a resistant variety in the Phillipines but it took much longer.The biggest problem is that countries such as Japan with more rigorous standards only recently allowed its importation. What I’m getting at is the main reason i am against GMO in say corn or soybeans is inadequate testing of whether there are any ill effects and its promulgation of glyphosate use. It should also be followed and traccked for about ten years to make sure. I am also anti the use of the CDC vaccine schedule – and the overuse of most vaccines especially the useless flu vaccine – It is absurd just on the face of it to vaccinate newborns with their immature immune systems with the HEP B vaccine. it is absurd on the face of it that vaccines unlike every pharmaceutical drug would not have individual adverse reactions to them (even just a different brand of similar medicines can cause adverse reactions) – they can not be safe for everybody – and they aren’t as the vaccine damage commission pays out damages for vaccine damgaed children every year (even though reactions are vastly unreported and it is very difficult to prove that the vaccine caused the damage) – Yet the mainstream says vaccines are safe for everyone. Where is the research to find who is susceptible and who isn’t? Anecdotally, I raised my children to get the absolute minimum of vaccines and on a very stretched out schedule – they had no allergies no asthma no ear infections my daughter didn’t use an antibiotic til she was 21. It is absurd on the face of it that a chemical concoction that is designed to activate the immune system would not have different effects depending on the state of the immune system (the timing) of the child it is being administered to -like if they were already ill with some infection. But you’re right – some parents don’t use science but what their own lying eyes tell them – they observed their children being damaged by vaccinations. Also, many vaccines are administered at the same time while there is no testing of combinations. Not to mention the injecting of merecury now being somewhat discontiunued but not from the advocacy of the scientific community or aluminum aduvant and others The question of vaccine safety in the mainstream is very unscientific.

      2. PKMKII

        Well to be fair there are opportunistic fearmongers who are exploiting ill-defined notions of “natural” and “chemical” in order to push their own brand of crunchy woo in order to make a buck (see: food babe). The problem is that the Monsanto apologists lump anyone who so much as expresses a reservation about how GMO’s are used in with the quacks.

    4. Vatch

      GMO’s are to a large extent simply a scam to sell more herbicides and pesticides.

      Excellent summary! Thank you.

    5. clarky90

      To what degree are Genetically Modified Foods affecting (destroying) the physical and mental health of the population? How is the physical and mental health of the population affecting (enhancing) the profit growth of the pharmaceutical and health care industry?

      Here is a photo of what a normal old man should look like.

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hunter-gatherer#/media/File:Bathurst_Island_men.jpg

      “Three Indigenous Australians on Bathurst Island in 1939. According to Peterson (1998), the island was a population isolated for 6,000 years”

      In my lifetime (67ys) I have seen diabetes, autism, obesity, cancer, auto-immune….. go through the roof- and still climbing. And it is not confined to the poor and those without health insurance. (Our rates of dis-ease in NZ are similar to USA, in spite of our better social safety nets and our universal health service)

      Anybody who imagines that the authors of this mess have got it all figured out are wrong. (Jeffery Epstein will organize a safe-space, haven for them on Mars?).

      If they (TPTB) had any deep knowledge, they would stop making omelettes! Leave our perfect eggs alone!

    6. Plenue

      Anti-GMO activists don’t exactly help themselves by putting so much effort into claiming that GMOs are evil frankenfood that is going to give us all cancer. There are real reasons to be skeptical of, and even oppose, GMOs, as this article here clearly demonstrates. But activists don’t seem to much focus on them. I don’t know how much of it is that they are aware of these other issues but feel that talking about supply chains, corporate monopoly, and broken promises just isn’t ‘sexy’ enough for PR, and how much is activists themselves being grossly ignorant of the issue they’re advocating on, parroting fraudulent memes while imploring other people to ‘get informed’.

  2. Colonel Smithers

    Thank you, Yves.

    My parents and I have small holdings in Buckinghamshire and Mauritius. We grow a lot of fruits and vegetables. We have noticed that seeds sown from vegetables bought in England do not grow, but seeds from vegetables bought in France do grow.

    “However, although there already is enough food being produced to feed everyone in the world, the real problem is one of access, as most of the hungry do not have the means to buy or produce the food they need.” I would just add from visits to Africa and chats with a friend who works for the UK’s Department For International Development (DFID) and with dad who worked for DFID’s predecessor in 1991 – 2 that poor infrastructure does not help either.

  3. John

    Great article!

    I’m not surprised at all by the results of this study. We’re so obsessed with the idea that we can do a better job than nature at its own work that we forget that our own track record with this kind of thing is not exactly stellar.

    What I will say though is that there are some circumstances where GMOs are clearly superior, and I wish the organic movement would be a little less dogmatic at times. I think consumers should at least be offered the choice of buying ‘organic lite’ products that are organic in every other way but come from GMOs. Bt cotton, for example, utilizes much less water than the natural varieties, and if Bt cotton were widely grown using organic farming techniques, it could save huge amounts of water in stressed regions in places like India and Pakistan (and, ultimately, lives).

    1. ger

      The Bt cotton may require less water but it does not matter if the subsistent farmer in India cannot afford the seed…..totally controlled by multinational monopolies. Even a casual reading of this situation can lead to understanding why suicide is rampant among India’s marginal cotton farmers. Their traditional low cost seeds disappear and are replaced by “patented seeds”.

    2. JTMcPhee

      Yaas, we must be so very cautious and careful not to throw the baby out with the bath water, mustn’t we? We must keep in our hearts a warm, tolerant, wise place, an opening to accept that the purveyors of GMO technology can use to keep us from anything so rash as the banning of GM’d crops, especially something like cotton, which is such a big part of world trade, and for which there are no more sensible substitutes that are legal. Yaas, Bt cotton has been a real panacea, hasn’t it? Or has it? https://source.wustl.edu/2011/02/new-findings-in-indias-bt-cotton-controversy-good-for-the-field-bad-for-the-farm/ And actually maybe not even “good for the field”? Let alone good for the farmers pushed onto Monsanto’s treadmill of debt and dependence and despair? https://fieldquestions.com/2013/02/09/bt-cotton-is-failing-blame-the-farmers/

      And as to “reducing water use,” is rainfall not the principal source of H2O for the crop?

      Amazing how there’s always voices around to add a little doubt and uncertainty to loci of policy discourse, doubt and uncertainty that favors the interests of public benefactors like Monsanto. And us reasonable people will of course judiciously lean toward the reasonable-seeming pitch… God forbid that we get lumped in with anti-vaxxers and climate change deniers. Cuz’ technology and its cousin, FIRE, cant be ALL bad. Antibiotics, and the internet, and autonomous vehicles, after all…

      1. zapster

        Last I heard bt cotton was toxic to anything that ate it, including a farmer’s other livestock, and to the farmer if he ate the meat from them. Also to the biostructure of the soil. Nor did it use less water or have higher yields.

  4. garden breads

    A good counterexample to GMO propaganda are the results of the “System of Rice Intensification” (SRI) in India and many other countries. SRI produces much higher yields (even record-breaking yields) using non-GMO, non-hybrid rice varieties and no or few chemical inputs than do conventional methods with GMO or hybrid varieties and chemical fertilizers and pest control. The essence is that small farmers are introduced to general principles of intensive organic methods and how to conduct on-farm trials and then share what worked and didn’t work with other farmers in their own communities but also across their country and even internationally. Thus SRI evolves each year to a better system and is adapted to the climate and soils and varieties planted in each location. See for example https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2014/may/13/miracle-grow-indian-rice-farmer-sri-system-rice-intensification-record-crop
    but there are many more detailed descriptions on sustainability or permaculture sites and in academic literature.

  5. Ed

    There is an armada of pro-GMO people on message boards and social media that insult and berate anyone who questions the boundless good they provide humanity. I don’t know if it’s just the science is God mentality I see so much or they are actually being paid by Monsanto. Great article.

  6. ian shepherd

    GE is a scam to produce a monoply by patenting genes and using that monopoly to enslave people through debt.

  7. RickM

    About 30 years ago when this “science” was getting started in earnest, I worked with and around a group of plant molecular biologists who were absolutely, positively certain that Bt and Roundup Ready commodity crops were the wave of the future, and more importantly they were the only answer to the problem(s) of agricultural productivity in a stressed world. TINA! I generally replied that these interventions were technical fixes for problems that shouldn’t exist, and that in any case they were unlikely to work, because industrial agriculture is an oxymoron, period, as any sentient biologist understands. And they haven’t worked, unless vertical integration of food and commodity crop production and herbicide resistance were the goals (Hmm…Monsanto, is that you?). The other GMO cure-all was Golden Rice, which was to be the technical fix to vitamin-A deficiency in the Global South. Not so much, as it turns out, by any objective assessment. However, as Alfred Sommer and his colleagues at Johns Hopkins showed, a simple low-tech regimen of, oral high-dose vitamin-A supplementation does prevent blindness and premature death in at-risk children for less than a dollar per child per year. But that’s all icky, low-tech stuff that requires someone to go out and give the capsules to people. Can’t have that!
    http://www.jhsph.edu/news/stories/2003/sommer-vita.html

    1. lyman alpha blob

      A relative of mine did research on Bt corn when it was suspected of killing off monarch butterflies. His conclusion was that Bt corn was not responsible for killing the butterflies (turns out it was the Roundup killing off the milkweed that was largely responsible) but that’s as far as the study went – he told me that this definitely does not mean it’s actually good for you. That’s the problem with all of this – there have been no long term studies and the entire global population are the guinea pigs.

      I can’t remember if it’s a new federal regulation or just a state one, but my state now requires GE food to be labeled. The first time I noticed the label I tried to buy something different but practically everything is now made with this stuff and there was precious little in the store that did not have the GE label. I don’t remember anybody asking the rest of us if it was OK.

      Back when anything could have been done about it, these companies screamed bloody murder that it wasn’t fair to make them label their GE food as it implied it wasn’t as good as non-GE products. Now that everything is GE I guess the labeling hardly matters to them anymore when there isn’t much of an alternative left.

      1. clarky90

        The argument goes; “We have to Genetically Modify our crops to feed ALL of the people! What about the people??”

        Then, the same brainiacs say, “We have to kill most of the people to save the planet. What about the Planet??”

        It is a circular argument that leads directly to The Wasteland.

        1. Vatch

          Here are some of the the roll call votes on this bill, so you can see how your Representative and Senators voted:

          http://clerk.house.gov/evs/2016/roll466.xml

          https://www.senate.gov/legislative/LIS/roll_call_lists/roll_call_vote_cfm.cfm?congress=114&session=2&vote=00121

          Here’s the web page about the bill:

          S.764 – A bill to reauthorize and amend the National Sea Grant College Program Act, and for other purposes.

          No, that is not a typographical error. The GMO labelling bill became part of this bill.

    2. different clue

      There is a centuries-old legacy-traditional-heirloom variety of rice called Carolina Gold Rice which almost went extinct from neglect and has just lately been rescued and boutique-mainstreamed by some growers and suppliers.
      http://www.carolinaplantationrice.com/store/products/Carolina-Plantation-Gold-Rice.html

      https://images.search.yahoo.com/search/images;_ylt=A0LEVzs3PB5Zw0IA8BxXNyoA;_ylu=X3oDMTEyZ3Z1b2hvBGNvbG8DYmYxBHBvcwMxBHZ0aWQDVUkyQzNfMQRzZWMDc2M-?p=carolina+golden+rice&fr=sfp

      What puts the yellow color in this Carolina Gold Rice? If it is pre-vitamin-A type carotenes, then that would mean the GMO Golden Rice is redundant on top of everything else.

  8. Harold

    “GE is a scam to produce a monopoly by patenting genes and using that monopoly to enslave people through debt.”
    I agree with this statement, but the effort to save the American Chestnut through genetic engineering seems genuinely disinterested and beneficial (not being used for corporate enrichment or achieve rentier income through patenting). BTW Monsanto now owned by Bayer, no?
    https://phys.org/news/2016-01-genetically-american-chestnut-decimated-iconic.html

    1. Vatch

      BTW Monsanto now owned by Bayer, no?

      Almost. In 2016, Monsanto agreed to be purchase by Bayer, but they’re still waiting for regulatory approval by the U.S. government and the European Union.

      I think DuPont and Dow Chemical are also awaiting regulatory approval for merger. I guess competition in the free market is some kind of commie hippy doctrine that no large corporation would espouse.

    2. different clue

      I also have read about this effort to implant Chinese Chestnut blight-immunity genes into the American Chestnut while leaving the American Chestnut the same as before in every other way. I hope it works out well.

      It would be good to restore a situation of billions of American Chestnut trees being the eco-dominant tree species over thousands of square miles as they were before the blight.

  9. Carey

    In my opinion, GMOs and their complementary pesticides and herbicides have a for-profit purpose not mentioned above: sickening and eventually and killing humans.
    With plausible deniability, of course.

    1. different clue

      It all comes back to the big question: if the Global Overclass wanted to kill 7 billion people over the coming century and make it look like an accident, what methods would they use?

  10. JimTan

    Yves – this is an important topic which I’m glad you’re covering. GMO companies should not be free to misrepresent the benefits of their products, or monopolize agricultural markets.

    Interestingly the GMO company Monsanto is currently fighting extensive litigation questioning the safety of Glyphosate in its Roundup herbicide. Glyphosate resistance, or ‘Roundup-ready’ is by far the biggest and most common trait engineered into most GMO seeds. Monsanto includes this herbicide resistance trait in their own seeds, and makes billions by widely licensing it to their competitors.

    What’s interesting about Monsanto’s legal fight is that it has revealed some of the deceptive tactics and intrigue they are willing to employ in order to maintain the monopoly position of this product. This includes employing EPA officials to block pesticide Cancer Studies, and ‘ghostwriting’ favorable Cancer Studies used to determine GMO pesticide safety.

    As John Kenneth Galbraith once said “People of privilege will always risk their complete destruction rather than surrender any material part of their advantage”.

  11. mauisurfer

    did you know
    that glyphosate was first used as an industrial metal cleaner because it absorbs/affects/releases embedded metals?
    that glyphosate is a registered antibiotic, the most used antibiotic on earth?
    that sugar workers in central america and in Sri Lanka are suffering from painful incurable liver disease that is killing strong young men in their prime, and this only started happening when glyphosate use began, and is linked to metals absorbed by sugar workers who sprayed glyphosate?

    that Vice President Al Gore called up Prime Minister of France
    to support Monsanto when France was considering banning GMO corn?
    quote
    While Monsanto played God during the 1990s, the Clinton Administration had its back — a policy consistent with its corporate-friendly approach to environmental issues. When, for example, the French balked at allowing GMO corn into their country, the president, the secretary of state, the national-security adviser, and assorted U.S. senators pleaded Monsanto’s cause. (The French finally caved when Gore himself phoned the prime minister to lobby on the corporation’s behalf.)2 In addition, Washington’s revolving door whirled many Clinton Administration officials onto the Monsanto payroll, while the president’s committee of science and technology advisers included Virginia Weldon, the corporation’s senior vice president for public policy.
    http://harpers.org/archive/2015/09/weed-whackers/5/

    that Sec/State Hillary Clinton acted as marketing arm of Monsanto?
    http://www.motherjones.com/tom-philpott/2013/05/us-state-department-global-marketing-arm-gmo-seed-industry

    there is a lot more, some of it here:
    http://harpers.org/archive/2015/09/weed-whackers/5/

  12. mauisurfer

    did you know that every cell of gmo corn contains Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) which is a powerful insecticide?
    This is not confined to the kernels of the corn, it is in every cell of the plant, the plant has become a grower of the insecticide, and it cannot be washed off, it is inside every cell.
    So when you eat gmo corn you are eating Bt. And it affects your microbiome, it kills helpful organisms living inside you, organisms that aid digestion, and protect your digestive tract.
    I use Bt on lettuce and on arugala, when little white butterflies lay their eggs and little larva eat my plants. But I use very little, and it is sprayed on, and it washes off readily.

    1. different clue

      The Bt which organic gardeners/ farmers use is the dried spores of the Bt bacteria itself. They stay dormant unless eaten by a caterpillar. If a caterpillar eats them they germinate into live bacteria who replicate inside the caterpillar and kill it with gut-destroying Bt toxins. They can live inside the caterpillar gut because the caterpillar gut is alkaline the way Bt bacteria like it. If such spores entered the highly-acid stomach of the human or perhaps other mammals, the acid would kill the spores.

      The “Bt” in GMO-BT crops is not the bacteria. It is the bacterial poison toxin itself. If acid-stomach mammals ingest the toxin itself . . . from the Bt corn plant . . . would stomach acid destroy it? Or not? And even if stomach acid would destroy it, what would it do inside the gut of the mammal if it got past the de-acidified stomach of someone taking antacids or proton pump inhibitors or etc.? It seems like Bt-toxin ingestion from Bt frankenplants is a risk well worth avoiding.

  13. mauisurfer

    Monsanto made agent orange, which USA used to defolitate Vietnam and Cambodia (a nation with which USA was NOT at war).

    Monsanto made PCB’s in Los Angeles, and has contaminated that area including the Pacific Ocean.
    In fact scientists determine where fish have lived by examining their pcb content, if content is high, they have been near LA.

    ThinkProgress’ Natasha Geiling reported earlier this year on other suits against Monsanto related to PCBs, including one filed by the city of San Diego. Geiling writes:

    In a 1970 internal memo, agrochemical giant Monsanto alerted its development committee to a problem: Polychlorinated Biphenyls — known as PCBs — had been shown to be a highly toxic pollutant.

    PCBs — sold under the common name Aroclor — were also huge business, raking in some $10 million in profits. Not wanting to lose all of these profits, Monsanto decided to continue its production of Aroclor while alerting its customers to its potentially adverse effects. Monsanto got out of the PCB business altogether in 1977 — two years before the chemicals were banned by the EPA — but just because the company no longer produces the toxic substances doesn’t mean it can forget about them completely.

    summary of lawsuits against Monsanto here
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monsanto_legal_cases

    Monsanto also made PCB’s in Alabama, which contaminated the Hudson River in NY.
    An internal GE memo from 1969 entitled “PCB:
    An Industry Problem?” states that the capacitor
    division used 10 million pounds of the chemicals
    annually, “probably more than the rest of the
    company combined,” and discloses that only 9
    million could be “accounted for in terms of prod-
    ucts shipped.” Beginning in the 1940s, GE received
    bulk shipments of PCBs by rail from Monsanto’s
    chemical works in Anniston, Alabama, a place
    beyond blight. The tanker trucks were drained in
    the offl oad areas of both GE plants in an oily
    frolic of hoses and spillage. Fuller’s earth, a kitty-
    litter-like substance, was used to refi
    ne the PCBs,
    then given away to local residents as “clean, non-
    combustible” fi
    ll. Thousands of scrap capacitors
    were tossed in area landfi
    lls.

    http://archive.harpers.org/2009/12/pdf/HarpersMagazine-2009-12-0082753.pdf?AWSAccessKeyId=AKIAJXATU3VRJAAA66RA&Expires=1473539038&Signature=AzdgW0mqurWXZhGqfa8yzFhEn8Q%3D

    Monsanto Given Legal Shield in a Chemical Safety Bill
    By ERIC LIPTON FEB. 29, 2016
    https://www.nytimes.com/2016/03/01/business/monsanto-could-benefit-from-a-chemical-safety-bill.html?_r=0

    1. DMC

      In Indiana, in the early 80’s, a bunch of those capacitors wound up in old quarries. Rain filled them up and kids were swimming in them by the time I was in Bloomington for graduate school, say 1986 or so. Always wondered what the long term “down stream” effect was.

  14. different clue

    Thanks to the Obama DARK Act, it is illegal for states to pass and enforce laws requiring genuine legitimate actually-informative labeling of food for GMO content or process.

    Certified Organic still forbids the use of GMO in its products or processes. Many minor crops and plants are still no-GMO by definition and default because no GMOing has been done on them yet. Lentils, chick peas, etc. People could find out which are the default no-GMO crops still in existence and focus on eating those.

    People in suburbia with yards big enough to garden in could grow no-GMO plants of various sorts to go ahead and eat.

    GMO is still avoidable at the price of inconvenience and some dietary boredom.

  15. downunderer

    The excellent comments here on GMOs and Monsanto touch on several of the relevant scandals (though there are too many to even mention here), but missed one major point: each gene codes for amino acid sequences (enzymes, proteins) that are not single-purpose tools or end-products, but that both participate in and control a myriad of essential chemical reactions in our exceedingly complex biochemistry. So changing even just one gene (an ideal seldom achieved even with CRISPR) really calls for research on the organism’s edibility that is as careful as that we should perform on any new drug. Each GMO product necessarily includes many unexpected characteristics, and requires its own (expensive) testing regime. Which is of course a feature that Monsanto somehow avoids talking about.

    1. teri

      Thank you for pointing this out. The interactions of the manipulated genes with our own DNA (you are what you eat, literally) are not understood and are, as it turns out, completely unpredictable. We do not know – nor does Monsanto/Syngenta/Bayer know – how much of our own DNA strand is being altered as the now-different DNA of the food we eat is attached to our DNA and therefore changes it. Scientists have been able to show that GMOs do alter our own DNA, but cannot predict exactly how it will happen in each case, nor can they accurately say what these alterations mean. (I.e., they can see that the genetic sequence is different, but may not be able to tell what effect the difference will make in the long run. The manipulated enzymes and proteins seem to shoot off and randomly attach to and alter existing genes.) It’s a dangerous game to play with the human genome, especially without any enforced investigation into this particular question.

Comments are closed.