The Shocking Reality About GMOs

by Dave Opiyo
AllAfrica.com
July 12, 2011

The spectre of people developing new and strange allergies, indigenous seeds losing their genetic codes and disappearing altogether, farmers making bumper harvests — or no harvests at all — is in the air.

Two weeks ago on July 1, Kenya became the fourth African nation to permit imports of GMO crops, joining South Africa, Egypt and Burkina Faso.

Supporters of the move say it is essential in helping to stabilise prices and feed millions of hungry Kenyans, but matters are not that straightforward.

The online encyclopedia Wikipedia defines a genetically modified or genetically engineered organism (GEO) as one “whose genetic material has been altered using genetic engineering techniques.”

These techniques, generally known as recombinant DNA technology, explains the encyclopaedia, use DNA molecules from different sources, which are then combined into one molecule to create a new set of genes.

This DNA is then transferred into an organism, giving it modified or novel genes. Transgenic organisms, adds Wikipedia, are a subset of GMO organisms which have DNA that originated in a different species.

To put it more clearly, think of an orange with tomato genes. The coming into force of the Bio-Safety Act, 2009 on July 1 that allows the growing and sale of genetically modified crops has elicited mixed reactions.

GMOs are modified in the laboratory to enhance desired traits such as increased resistance to herbicides or improved nutritional content.

But, as expected, anti-GMO lobbyists have kicked up a storm, saying the safety of genetically engineered crops has not been proven beyond reasonable doubt.

“The developers of GMOs have exerted great pressure to ensure that the Bio-Safety Act serves the interests of foreign agribusiness, rather than farmers and consumers,” Ms Anne Maina, an advocacy coordinator for African Biodiversity Network (ABN), says.

Recently, anti-GMO lobbyists, mainly from the ABN, Unga Revolution and Bunge La Mwananchi, protested the move, urging the government to revoke it.

 On May 25, Jeffrey Smith, who describes himself as a “consumer advocate promoting healthier, non-GMO choices”, argued in a blog:

“When US regulators approved Monsanto’s genetically modified “BT” corn, they knew it would add a deadly poison into our food supply. That’s what it was designed to do.

“The corn’s DNA is equipped with a gene from soil bacteria called BT (Bacillus Thuringiensis) that produces the BT-toxin.

“It’s a pesticide; it breaks open the stomach of certain insects and kills them.” Monsanto is a market leader in bio-technology and production of GMOs.

According to the blogger, Monsanto and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) swore up and down that it was only insects that would be hurt.

The BT-toxin, they claimed, would be destroyed in the human digestive system and not have any impact on all of the trusting, corn-eating consumers.

“Now,” he continued, “doctors at Sherbrooke University Hospital in Quebec found the corn’s BT-toxin in the blood of pregnant women and their babies, as well as in non-pregnant women.”

This is one of the many fights in Monsanto’s hands. In its website, the firm says food derived from authorised genetically-modified (GM) crops is as safe as the conventional (non-GM-derived) version.

Putting the matter into perspective, Monsanto says the first large acreage plantings of GM crops — herbicide-tolerant soybeans and canola — took place in 1996 after successfully passing US regulatory review.

Since then, additional GM crops with herbicide tolerance, insect tolerance and virus resistance have been given clearance for planting and consumption.

 These include varieties of corn, sugar beets, squash and papaya. All of these crops have been assessed for food and feed safety in producing countries, “and many more countries have approved the import of food or food ingredients that contain GM products”.

Hundreds of millions of meals containing food from GM crops have been consumed. There has not been a single substantiated instance of illness or harm associated with GM crops, the company argues.

According to Monsanto, some of the negative health effects associated with GMOs could be caused by other considerations.

In one response, it says: “There has been an increased interest in food allergies. Unfortunately, there are no stable diagnostic criteria for testing for food allergies and food intolerance.

“Together, these two factors have probably resulted in an increase in reporting of allergies. Therefore, rates of allergies may not have actually increased as much as it would appear.”

Implications on health

Such is the nature of the GMO controversy Kenyans will soon find themselves embroiled in. Anti-GMO groups say scientific evidence has shown that continued consumption of GM food is likely to have serious implications on not only health, but also the environment and food production.

Studies such as the one by Sherbrooke University Hospital have shown that those who eat genetically modified foods tend to see an increase in their allergic reactions to the types of foods they are already allergic.

Further, by eating these genetically modified foods, people also form allergies to foods which they were never allergic to before.

 Naturally, Monsanto refutes such findings with its own, sometimes poking holes on the research methodology and the findings by its critics.

In lab tests done on animals, there were cases where once the animals ingested genetically modified food, they became completely sterile in a matter of weeks.

In other cases, experimental animals died in a matter of weeks of liver, kidney and pancreatic complications. But that’s one side of the story.

The University of Nairobi’s Centre for Biotechnology and Bio-informatics Director, Prof James Opiyo Ochanda, was quoted in the Business Daily recently as saying that the use of GMOs could be beneficial to Kenya’s attainment of food security because genetically engineered crops are resistant to pests and diseases that often require expensive and harmful chemicals to eradicate.

“Instead of applying chemicals, scientists have engineered the plants to introduce genes or molecules that allow the crop to protect itself.

This is better than the application of chemicals that pollute the environment and harm the body, thus posing dangers to our systems,” he said.

Similar remarks were also made by Prof Samuel Gudu, a plant breeding specialist and Moi University’s Deputy Vice chancellor in-charge of planning and development.

In an interview with the same paper, Prof Gudu reckons that GM technology could help Kenya increase the production of key crops such as maize.

“GMOs are meant to improve the quality of maize. They can protect the crop against insects and what Kenyans should be asking for are the details of the consignment to be brought in as opposed to fear-mongering,” he says.

However, increasing yields and food safety are come at a risk, as the Sherbrooke University Hospital findings show.

And, as the debate rages, the National Bio-Safety Authority (NBA), which is tasked with ensuring that GMOs imported into Kenya are safe both to human beings and the environment, has called for caution.

“Propaganda should not be used as justification as to whether to accept or deny individuals from using GMOs in the country…. We are solely relying on scientific facts,” says NBA chair Prof Miriam Kinyua.

“We have to make sure that what is brought into the country is safe. By doing so, we have to ensure that the risk assessment is well done scientifically,” adds Prof Kinyua, who is also a lecturer at Moi University’s Department of Biotechnology.

“If the importer proves to us that the GMO is good, we approve it and inform the public of the same. If we have reservations because of some findings, we shall say ‘Sorry’.”

According to the Bio-Safety Act, the regulatory authority will communicate its final decision of approval or rejection of an importing license after three months of receiving the application.

After allowing an importer to place a genetically modified organism on the market, the law also allows any person to submit a written opposition within 30 days from the date the notice is posted.

Organisations and individuals opposed to the importation of GMOs will most likely seize this opportunity.

“Is Kenya ready for GMOs?” we asked Prof Kinyua, and she curtly replied that the fact that the government had created a specialised institution and “put in place systems means that we are moving somewhere”.

But “moving somewhere” certainly doesn’t mean full capacity. According to Prof Kinyua, the authority is yet to publish regulations that will guide the process, but that will be done soon.

How will the authority ensure that GM seeds don’t end up in the stomach unprocessed — or the shamba, because Kenyans tend to eat what they grow?

Dr Roy Mugiira, the acting head of the National Bio-Safety Authority, says millers licensed to import genetically modified maize must ensure that this does not happen to avoid the possibility of anybody planting them as seeds. A tall order, this one.

Any lapse on their part that could allow the seeds to be planted will lead to a fine of more than Sh20 million or 10-year prison terms or both. If this happens unintentionally, they will have to meet the cost of removing such seeds from circulation.

According to Dr Mugiira, one of the options being considered is to have the maize milled at the point of landing and then transported as flour, hence avoiding any deliberate or accidental escaping of seeds.

 Widespread opposition

GMO seeds, just like conventional maize, have the capacity to germinate and produce.

Initially, bio-technology firms sterilised GM seeds to forestall germination; but the technology, called terminator, was never commercialised following widespread opposition.

The maize being targeted by the millers has been engineered to develop resistance against weeds and pests.

Another type of GM maize is being tested in Kenya for drought resistance, but it is not yet ready for commercialisation.

If the current bio-safety laws are to be followed strictly, then the earliest the first GM maize can land in to the country legally is around October.

 In 2008, The Daily Mail published a story to validate a claim by Prince Charles that Indian farmers were killing themselves after the improved yields promised by a bio-technology firm failed, therefore ruining the farmers economically.

Some had borrowed heavily. A farmer, Shankara Mandaukar, couldn’t take it anymore when a promised unheard-of-harvest turned into two crop failures after he abandoned indigenous seeds.

“Ranged against the Prince” reported the papers, “are powerful GM lobbyists and prominent politicians, who claim that genetically modified crops have transformed Indian agriculture, providing greater yields than ever before.”

Humanitarian crisis

“However”, wrote the paper, “official figures from the Indian Ministry of Agriculture do indeed confirm that, in a huge humanitarian crisis, more than 1,000 farmers kill themselves here every month.

“It seems many are massively in debt to local money-lenders, having over-borrowed to purchase GM seed.”

Pro-GM experts blamed the suicides on rural poverty, alcoholism, drought and ‘agrarian distress’.

Back to Monsanto, the bio-technology market leader says claims from anti-biotechnology activists that genetically-modified crops don’t increase yields, and that GM crops actually have lower yields than non-GM ones are simply false.

“In agriculture, desirable crop characteristics are known as traits. One of the most important traits is yield.

“Improving crop yield can be accomplished through both breeding and bio-technology. GM crops generally have higher yields due to both breeding and bio-technology,” explains Monsanto.

True, but Indian farmers will tell you of the other side of increased yields.

The Downfall of Science and the Rise of Intellectual Tyranny

By Mike Adams
January 21, 2011

The very reputation of so-called “science” has been irreparably damaged by the invocation of the term “science” by GMO lackeys, pesticide pushers, mercury advocates and fluoride poisoners who all claim to have science on their side. It seems that every toxin, contamination and chemical disaster that now infects our planet has been evangelized in the name of “science.”

Where “science” used to be highly regarded in the 1950’s, today the term is largely exploited by pharmaceutical companies, biotech giants and chemical companies to push their own for-profit agendas. Actual science has little to do with the schemes now being pushed under the veil of science.

To make matters even worse for the sciences, many so-called “science bloggers” have been revealed to have financial ties to the very same companies whose profits are shored up by their activities (http://www.ageofautism.com/2010/08/…).

Rather than defending any sort of scientific truth, science bloggers have become the internet whores of Big Pharma, Monsanto, pesticide manufacturers, chemical companies and toxic mercury factories. There’s hardly a dangerous chemical in widespread use today that the science bloggers haven’t venomously defended as safe and effective. Many are just blatantly paid off by corporate entities to run around the internet pushing GMOs, chemicals and vaccines.

This realization has caused the science bloggers to be widely ridiculed by intelligent people who see right through their thinly-veiled (but well-funded) disinformation campaigns. Where science bloggers once had credibility, they now are seen as intellectual prostitutes for dangerous corporate agendas that benefit powerful companies at the expense of environmental health and human health.

If they weren’t doing all this in the name of science, it wouldn’t be so bad, actually. If they called themselves “corporate whore bloggers” instead of “science bloggers,” their actions wouldn’t be so harmful to the reputation of science itself. But, to the great detriment of actual science, they insist on calling themselves “science bloggers.”

Now the reputation of “science” itself is suffering

Because the for-profit GMO sellouts, poison pushers, vaccine zealots and corporate front groups continue to conduct their activities under the false name of “science,” the term is losing its meaning. This should be cause for alarm among those who practice legitimate science. (Where are the astrobiologists when you need them?)

As we’ve seen all too frequently, “science” can be easily distorted or exploited to achieve a desired political or profiteering goal. But the ruse is rather apparent — the public is awakening to the science fraud and learning that the term “science” doesn’t really mean what it used to. It’s suffering a loss of reputation to such a degree that the term “science” no longer means a system whereby intellectually honest people search for the underlying truths of how nature operates. Today, “science” is used not to search for truth, but to distort the truth.

Replace “science” with “fraud” to understand the spin

Instead of seeking knowledge and understanding, for example, “science” is used as an intellectual bludgeon to halt rational skepticism and discussion on topics such as GMOs, vaccines, mercury fillings, fluoride in the water, the mysterious deaths of animals, the collapse of honeybee populations and so on. It’s a kind of intellectual tyranny that has been invoked against those who oppose any kind of corporate agenda that can be dressed up to look like actual science.

In several contexts, the term “science” has become synonymous with “fraud.” As in the following headlines (replace “science” with “fraud” as you read them):

“It has now been revealed that the researchers who made up the fictitious study results were engaged in SCIENCE.”

Or:

“When asked how he came up with the fabricated clinical trial data upon which the FDA approved the drug, discredited researcher Humphrey Brokendata explained he was only engaged in SCIENCE.”

In fact, the vast majority of the popular news reports you might read about so-called “scientific” findings make a whole lot more sense if you replace the word “science” with “fraud.” For example, imagine the words being exchanged in these headlines:

GMOs backed by solid SCIENCE

• FDA insists its drug approvals are based on SCIENCE

• Monsanto claims the SCIENCE behind its seed technology is better than ever

• Vaccines stand their ground this flu season thanks to SCIENCE

You see how suddenly everything makes more sense on these particular topics when you replace “science” with “fraud?”

This isn’t a stretch, either. The “scientific” agenda behind GMOs, for example, has absolutely nothing to do with real science. It is a corporate for-profit agenda that seeks control over the world’s food supply while forcing farmers to buy seeds year after year from one centralized corporate entity. That’s not science. It’s just a monopolistic crime against humanity to assault the basic rights of people to be able to grow their own foods and harvest their own seeds without worrying about those seeds being contaminated with genetic pollution from genetically engineered crops.

The real science on GMOs indicates that reasonable people have every right to be concerned about the DNA pollution of the foods that feed our world. But through the blasphemous invocation of the term “unscientific,” the GMO pushers attempt to characterize rational, reasonable people who hold concerns about GMOs as “unscientific.” As if they didn’t believe in the Law of Gravity or Newtonian physics for macro-sized objects.

The scientific community loses credibility by the day

This endless assault on common sense by those who use the term “science” as a cover for dangerous global experiments in plant and human biology will only further discredit the scientific community. When you see “scientific” doctors and dentists putting their reputations behind things like water fluoridation — which is the blatant mass pollution of the water supply with a toxic hazardous waste chemical — it’s no surprise why the street cred of so-called “scientific thinkers” continues to erode.

This is all very sad to see, of course. I consider myself a proponent of scientific thinking, and I strongly value the Scientific Method as one approach to gaining knowledge. I’m educated in microbiology, genetics, physics and have acquired a considerable amount of scientific knowledge in many other areas. I’m currently studying M-theory (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/M-theory) and the intersection of quantum physics with consciousness. (There’s a taboo topic in conventional scientific circles for ya — don’t talk about consciousness, for God’s sake! To quote Einstein, God may not play dice with the universe… but consciousness does!)

As a proponent of scientific discovery, even I have to admit that science has lost its credibility due in large part to the corporate takeover of science. Whereas science was once a popular and highly respected field of study for young thinkers, very few people in America enter the sciences these days. More and more people are waking up to the reality that many of the great evils that have been unleashed upon our world have been conducted in the name of science: GMOs, seasonal flu vaccines, plastic food containers, pesticides, mercury poisoning, fluoride in the water supply, psychiatric pharmaceuticals and so on.

Science, it turns out, hasn’t saved us: It has quite possibly doomed us. The destruction that has already been unleashed upon our world in the name of science may not be reversible in the era of humankind. We may be setting ourselves up for a global food supply catastrophe due to GMOs and pesticides, for example, and literally billions of human beings may ultimately die from it. “Science” was the invocation behind GMOs and pesticides, even though in truth the whole scheme was pulled off through what can only be called “junk science” or “selected science.”

Real science is a valid tool when used with integrity

Again, it saddens me to see science misappropriated in this way, because true science is a valid and valuable method by which human beings can seek to gain understanding about the universe in which we live. It is not the only pathway to knowledge, of course (a frequent mistaken assumption by those who are steeped in it), but it is a valuable one nonetheless. Yet thanks to today’s corporate-led “scientific” schemes involving GMOs, vaccines, pesticides and other chemicals, the value of science itself is being rapidly lost to the intellectual tyranny demonstrated by those who destroy our world in the name of science.

Where real scientists once used to welcome debate and discussion, today’s “science” advocate operate with the intellectual finesse and flexibility of a two-ton block of granite. You either agree with them or you are branded an idiot. There is no discussion, no debate, no thought and no real science involved. On so many of the big issues that matter today — vaccines, GMOs, mercury, fluoride, pesticides and so on — the “science” position is that of a self-proclaimed dictator (or tyrant) who believes he causes things to be true and factual through the mere act of stating them. That isn’t science. It’s just an advanced form of arrogant bullying framed in the language of science and carried aloft by a never-ending stream of corporate dollars.

It is, in essence, intellectual tyranny.

Science may yet destroy us

It was Oppenheimer who, after playing a key role in the invention of the atomic bomb, quoted these words from the ancient Hindu text known as the Bhagavad Gita: “Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.”

Today, a very large segment of the scientific community is engaged in much the same behavior: Destroying our world through the incessant and utterly unscientific advocacy of dangerous, destructive interventions that threaten our food, our waterways and the very future of life on Earth.

So-called “science,” it seems, may ultimately be the destroyer of life as we know it on our planet. And yet “science” is worshipped by its followers as the savior of life on Earth. There is a dangerous disconnect in that situation. Perhaps one of Biblical proportion.

I suspect that one day a future alien civilization will study the history of humankind and attempt to determine how we destroyed ourselves. After sorting through the decomposed rubbish of the long-extinct human civilization, one alien will turn to the other alien and nod its head to say, “It seems their civilization was based on SCIENCE FRAUD.”

P.S. For the record, I am not opposed to actual science, nor the use of the Scientific Method as one avenue through which wisdom may be gained. There are other methods of gaining wisdom, however, such as spirituality, meditation, the study of consciousness and even quantum connections between sentient beings. All of these non-science methods are utterly disregarded by the “scientific” community which believes so strongly in its own dogma that the brains of its top scientists have no room left for any ideas other than their own. That is, by the way, the very definition of a closed mind. It also happens to be the reason why conventional science only advances at the speed at which its dogmatic intellectual tyrants retire or perish.