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In November 2011, about 250 Boulder County residents attended a public meeting to discuss the planting of GM (genetically modified) crops on county-owned land.
Their turnout, together with an anti-GMO (genetically modified organism) recommendation from the county’s Food and Agriculture Policy Council, led county officials to vote for a phase out of genetically engineered crops on open space.
This is a powerful testimony to the influence residents can have on their local regulations when they stand together for a cause; you, too, can work toward enacting such a phase out in your area as well.
Boulder Residents, County Officials Say “No” to GMOs
Boulder’s Parks and Open Space Advisory Committee voted 5-4 in support of the Food and Agriculture Policy Council’s recommendation to phase out the planting of GM crops on the county’s open space.
Currently, about 16,000 acres of county-owned land are planted with genetically engineered corn; the new rule will mean these crops will be transitioned out in favor of traditional GMO-free farming practices.
The area has been a hot-spot for GMO debate since 2009, when local farmers wanted to plant genetically engineered sugar beets in the county.
Following public outcry, County commissioners delayed the farmers’ request. Since then, a local survey showed that 56 percent of Boulder County residents supported a ban on GM crops, and now their voices have been heard. As reported by the Boulder Daily Camera, Parks and Open Space Advisory Committee member John Nibarger said:
“There’s the voters’ side of this, and there’s the farmers’ side of this … I think we heard rather strongly … (that a lot of voters) don’t want to see GM crops.”
Americans Already Eating GM Foods, While Other Countries Have Banned Them
GM corn, soybeans, canola, and sugar beets have made their way into approximately 80 percent of current U.S. processed grocery store items, now that up to 90 percent of several U.S. grown crops are grown with genetically engineered seed. So if you live in the United States, you have most certainly already been exposed to GM foods — most likely a lot of them.
This is why Boulder’s move to phase out GM crops is such a breath of fresh air, as finally a governing body in the United States is stepping up to protect its residents from this massive, uncontrolled experiment — a move that has already taken place in other parts of the world, and in four counties in California and a city in Maine.
Genetically engineered seeds are banned in Hungary, as they are in several other European countries, such as Germany and Ireland. Peru is also following the precautionary principle, and has even passed a law that bans genetically modified ingredients within the nation for 10 years.
The issue of protecting farmland from invading GMOs is a serious one, so much so that Hungary recently destroyed nearly 1,000 acres of corn crops because they were found to be mistakenly grown with GM seeds. The discovery that the farmland was planted with GM seeds came when the season was already underway, so the harvest was completely lost.
What would prompt the Hungarian government to take such a drastic step?
Perhaps it is the fact that GM crops simply cannot be contained, and inevitably will contaminate the environment with GM DNA. Or it could be that they do not want superweeds, triggered by the overuse of Roundup herbicide on GM Roundup Ready crops, overtaking their farmland the way they are now doing in the United States. Then again, it could be the unknown threats to human health — and the fact that new research shows toxins from GM crops are now appearing in human blood — that made them think twice.
The other, and more serious issue, is the hidden one. Nearly all GM crops are designed with genes to resist a potent herbicide called Round Up or glyphosate. The newest science is showing that glyphosate is actually FAR more dangerous than people realize. It just is not widely appreciated yet, and the U.S. is spreading massive amounts of it every year. The consequences of this chemical abuse will have profoundly devastating consequences and the longer we wait to remove this toxin the worse it will be.
Either way, they, and a growing number of people around the world, are clearly well educated about the dangers of GM foods … which is a lesson the U.S. government still needs to learn.
Genetically Engineered “Pesticide” Toxin Now Found in Human Blood
Upwards of 65 percent of U.S. corn crops contain a special gene added that allows them to produce an insecticide. This way, when bugs attempt to eat the corn they’re killed right away (specifically their stomach is split open) because the plant contains an invisible, built-in pesticide shield.
The particular gene added to most corn crops is a type of Bt-toxin — produced from Bacillus thuringiensis bacteria. Genetic engineers remove the gene that produces the Bt in bacteria and insert it into the DNA of corn (and cotton) plants. They claim that Bt-toxin is quickly destroyed in human stomachs — and even if it survived, it won’t cause reactions in humans or mammals.
But studies are now showing that this is not the case, as Bt-toxin is readily passing into the human bloodstream and animal studies have already shown that Bt-toxin does cause health effects in animals, including potentially humans. As Jeffrey Smith, executive director of the Institute for Responsible Technology, wrote:
“Mice fed natural Bt-toxin showed significant immune responses and caused them to become sensitive to other formerly harmless compounds. This suggests that Bt-toxin might make a person allergic to a wide range of substances. Farm workers and others have also had reactions to natural Bt-toxin, and authorities acknowledge that “People with compromised immune systems or preexisting allergies may be particularly susceptible to the effects of Bt.”
In fact, when natural Bt was sprayed over areas around Vancouver and Washington State to fight gypsy moths, about 500 people reported reactions—mostly allergy or flu-like symptoms. Six people had to go to the emergency room.
… The Bt-toxin produced in the GM plants is probably more dangerous than in its natural spray form. In the plants, the toxin is about 3,000-5,000 times more concentrated than the spray, it doesn’t wash off the plants like the spray does, and it is designed to be more toxic than the natural version. In fact, the GM toxin has properties of known allergens and fails all three GM allergy tests recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO) and others.”
It’s reasons such as this why the precautionary principle should absolutely be used in regard to exposing humans and the environment to GM crops. Unfortunately, it appears Cry1Ab, a specific type of Bt toxin from GM corn, is already quite prevalent in humans; upon testing 69 pregnant and non-pregnant women who were eating a typical Canadian diet (which included foods such as GM soy, corn and potatoes), researchers found Bt toxin in:
- 93 percent of maternal blood samples
- 80 percent of fetal blood samples
- 67 percent of non-pregnant women blood samples
Other potential dangers have also been uncovered, including:
- GM peas caused lung damage in mice
- Offspring of rats fed GM soy showed a five-fold increase in mortality, lower birth weights, and the inability to reproduce
- GM potatoes may cause cancer in rats
- Male mice fed GM soy had damaged young sperm cells
- Bacteria in your gut can take up DNA from GM food
- The embryo offspring of GM soy-fed mice had altered DNA functioning
- GM foods lead to significant organ disruptions in rats and mice, specifically the kidney, liver, heart and spleen
- Several U.S. farmers reported sterility or fertility problems among pigs and cows fed on GM corn varieties
- Bt corn caused a wide variety of immune responses in mice, commonly associated with diseases such as arthritis, Lou Gehrig’s disease, osteoporosis, and inflammatory bowel disease
- Investigators in India have documented fertility problems, abortions, premature births, and other serious health issues, including deaths, among buffaloes fed GM cottonseed products
Intense Lobbying Efforts Aim to Keep Americans in the Dark about GM Foods
The food and agriculture biotechnology industry has spent more than $572 million in campaign contributions and lobbying expenditures in just over a decade, according to an analysis by Food & Water Watch. Key among the goals of this intense lobbying effort is to prevent GM food labeling and keep Americans in the dark about the contents of their food. The analysis states:
“The food and agriculture biotechnology industry has been flexing its financial political muscle to ease the regulatory oversight of genetically modified foods. Lobbying efforts for some of these firms and groups have included approval of cloned food and genetically engineered food, animals and livestock.
Companies are also fighting to eliminate or prevent labeling on genetically modified foods in the United States and preventing other countries from regulating genetically modified foods. These efforts have dovetailed with lobbying to tighten intellectual property law protections over patented seeds and animals in attempts to further benefit the biotech industry.”
Over 95 percent of Americans polled said they think GM foods should require a label, stating it’s an ethical issue and consumers should be able to make an informed choice.
Like Europeans, Americans are suspicious of GM foods, and a large part of why many continue to buy them is because they are unaware that they’re already in the food. A prominent GM food label would be a death sentence to U.S. GM crops, which are right now enjoying a free for all when it comes to entering the food market.
Industry lobbying is clearly working, as to date biotech companies have evaded mandatory labeling laws (although a new California initiative may change all of that). They also succeeded in getting GM alfalfa approved, which quite literally threatens the entire organic industry.
A large part of the problem, and one of the reasons why the United States has not taken a precautionary stance the way other countries have, is that the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) are heavily influenced by biotech giant Monsanto. In the first quarter of 2011 alone, Monsanto spent $1.4 million on lobbying the federal government — and this was a drop from a year earlier, when they spent $2.5 million during the same quarter.
The FDA, the USDA, and the U.S. Trade Representative all have a special set of revolving doors leading straight to Monsanto, which has allowed this transnational giant to gain phenomenal authority and influence, as well as get their genetically engineered crops planted on the lion’s share of U.S. farmland.
However, just as changes in Boulder could prove to be a tipping point that begins a trend toward eliminating GM crops from American soil, a 2012 ballot initiative has been launched in California, which will require mandatory labeling of genetically engineered foods and food ingredients — also an important step toward ultimately eliminating these toxic foods from the market.
You Can Join the Fight Against GMOs
The people of Boulder County have made it clear that they will not tolerate GM crops on their local land; now you, too, can let your opinion be heard. Several organizations, including Mercola.com, the Organic Consumers Association, the Institute for Responsible Technology, and the Environmental Working Group, are working to generate a tipping point of consumer rejection to make GMOs a thing of the past.
Here’s how you can get involved:
- If you live in California and are willing to attend a short training session and then start collecting petition signatures (you will be part of a team of 2-4 people) for the California Ballot Initiative, sign up here. (For more information see: The California Ballot Initiative: Taking Down Monsanto.) Also remember to share this information with family and friends in California!
- Whether you live in California or not, please donate money to this historic effort
- Talk to organic producers and stores and ask them to actively support the California Ballot. It may be the only chance we have to label genetically engineered foods.
- Distribute WIDELY the Non-GMO Shopping Guide to help you identify and avoid foods with GMOs. Look for products (including organic products) that feature the Non-GMO Project Verified Seal to be sure that at-risk ingredients have been tested for GMO content. You can also download the free iPhone application that is available in the iTunes store. You can find it by searching for ShopNoGMO in the applications.
- For timely updates, please join the Organic Consumers Association on Facebook, or follow them on Twitter
- Look for in-depth coverage of the issue at the Institute for Responsible Technology, subscribe to Spilling the Beans, and check out their Facebook or Twitter.
- You can also join the Non-GMO Project on Facebook, or Twitter
In the meantime, the simplest way to avoid GM foods is to buy whole, certified organic foods. By definition, foods that are certified organic must never intentionally use GM organisms, must be produced without artificial pesticides and fertilizers and come from an animal reared without the routine use of antibiotics, growth promoters or other drugs. Additionally, grass-fed beef will not have been fed GM corn feed, although now that GM alfalfa is approved, grass-fed will not always mean GMO free.
You can also look for foods that are “non-GMO verified” by the Non-GMO Project.
Important Action Item: Support California’s Ballot Initiative to Label GMO’s!
In 2007, then-Presidential candidate Obama promised to “immediately” require GM labeling if elected. So far, nothing of the sort has transpired.
Fortunately, 24 US states have (as part of their state governance) something called the Initiative Process, where residents can bring to ballot any law they want enacted, as long as it has sufficient support. California has been busy organizing just such a ballot initiative to get mandatory labeling for genetically engineered foods sold in their state. The proposed law will be on the ballot for 2012.
Michigan and Washington are also starting similar campaigns.
Since California is the 8th largest economy in the world, a win for the California Initiative would be a huge step forward, and would affect ingredients and labeling nation-wide. Last month, a coalition of consumer, public health and environmental organizations, food companies, and individuals submitted the California Right to Know Genetically Engineered Food Act to the State Attorney General. Now, they need 800,000 signatures to get the Act on next year’s ballot.
I urge you to get involved and help in any way you can.
If you live in California, volunteer to gather petition signatures. If you live outside of California, please donate to help support this Initiative and spread the word to everyone you know in California. Be assured that what happens in California will affect the remainder of the U.S., so please support this important state initiative, even if you do not live there!