What is a GMO?
A GMO, or genetically modified organism, is a plant, animal, microorganism or other organism whose genetic makeup has been modified using recombinant DNA methods (also called gene splicing), gene modification or transgenic technology. This relatively new science creates unstable combinations of plant, animal, bacterial and viral genes that do not occur in nature or through traditional crossbreeding methods. Visit the What is GMO page for more information and a list of high-risk crops.
Are GMOs safe?
Most developed nations do not consider GMOs to be safe and have significant restrictions or outright bans on the production and sale of GMOs. The U.S. and Canadian governments, though, have approved GMOs based on studies conducted by the same corporations that created them and profit from their sale.
Are GMOs labelled?
Sixty-four countries around the world, including Australia, Japan, and all of the countries in the European Union, require genetically modified foods to be labelled. While a 2015 ABC News survey found that 93% of Americans believe genetically modified foods should be labelled, GMOs are not required to be labelled in the U.S. and Canada. In the absence of mandatory labeling, the Non-GMO Project was created to give consumers the informed choice they deserve.
There is no scientific consensus on the safety of GMOs.
According to a 2015 statement signed by 300 scientists, physicians and scholars, the claim of scientific consensus on GMOs frequently repeated in the media is “an artificial construct that has been falsely perpetuated.”
To date, there have been no epidemiological studies investigating potential effects of GMO food on human health.
Most of the research used to claim that GMOs are safe has been performed by biotechnology companies.
A comprehensive review of peer-reviewed animal feeding studies of GMOs found roughly an equal number of research groups raising concerns about genetically engineered foods and those suggesting GMOs were as safe and nutritious as conventional foods. The review also found that most studies finding GMOs foods the same as conventional foods were performed by biotechnology companies or their associates.1
For a comprehensive overview of the available research on GMOs, please download the report “GMO Myths & Truths” published by three leading researchers at Earth Open Source.
Genetically Modified Foods Unsafe? GM Foods and Allergies
By Jeffrey Smith Nov 8 2007
GM Soy and Allergies
Soy allergies jumped 50% in the U.K. just after GM soy was introduced. If GM soy was the cause, it may be due to several things. The GM protein that makes Roundup Ready Soy resistant to the herbicide does not have a history of safe use in humans and may be an allergen. In fact, sections of its amino acid sequence are identical to known allergens.3
A portion of the transgene from ingested GM soybeans, along with the promoter that switches it on, transfers into human gut bacteria during ingestion. The fact that the transformed bacteria survives applications of Roundup’s active ingredient, glyphosate, suggests that the transgene continues to produce the Roundup Ready protein. If true, then long after people stop eating GM soy they may be constantly exposed to its potentially allergenic protein, which is being created within their gut. (This protein may be made more allergenic due to misfolding, attached molecular chains, or rearrangement of unstable transgenes, but there is insufficient data to support or rule out these possibilities.
Studies suggest that the GM transformation process may have increased natural allergens in soybeans. The level of one known allergen, trypsin inhibitor, was 27% higher in raw GM soy varieties. More worrisome, it was as much as sevenfold higher in cooked GM soy compared to cooked non-GM soy. Not only is this higher amount potentially harmful, the finding also suggests that the trypsin inhibitor in GM soy might be more heat stable and, therefore, even more allergenic than the natural variety.
It is also possible that changes in GM soy DNA may produce new allergens. Although there has never been an exhaustive analysis of the proteins or natural products in GM soy, unpredicted changes in the DNA were discovered. A mutated section of soy DNA was found near the transgene, which may contribute to some unpredicted effects. Moreover, between this scrambled DNA and the transgene is an extra transgene fragment, not discovered until years after soy was on the market. The RNA produced is completely unexpected. It combines material from all three sections: the full-length transgene, the transgene fragment, and the mutated DNA sequence. This RNA is then further processed into four different variations, which might lead to the production of some unknown allergen.
Bt Corn: The Popular Food that Turns Your Gut into a Pesticide Factory
June 4 2011
Five years ago Robyn O’Brien was an average American mom; busy with four kids, living on a limited budget, and not in the least interested in hearing anyone lecture her about what to feed her kids. Then one day, after being served a typical breakfast consisting of Eggo waffles, blue-colored yogurt and scrambled eggs, her youngest child suddenly had an acute allergic reaction. That very day, Robyn threw herself into researching food allergies, and virtually overnight, Robyn became a real-food activist.
She quickly learned that the foods sold in our grocery stores are not necessarily safe. On the contrary, many, if not most of them, now contain “foreign” ingredients that have never been tested for safety.
That something has gone awry is obvious when you take a look at the statistics. Between 1997 and 2002 the number of peanut allergies doubled, and the number of hospitalizations related to allergic reactions to food increased by a whopping 265 percent. One out of 17 children now has some form of food allergy. And allergy rates are rising.
Damning New Study Demonstrates Harm to Animals Raised on GMO Feed
By Leslie Hatfield 06/11/2013 06:12 pm ET | Updated Aug 11, 2013
Just when you thought the market for controversy over genetically modified organisms (GMOs) was completely saturated, a new study published in the Journal of Organic Systems finds that pigs raised on a mixed diet of GM corn and GM soy had higher rates of intestinal problems, “including inflammation of the stomach and small intestine, stomach ulcers, a thinning of intestinal walls and an increase in haemorrhagic bowel disease, where a pig can rapidly ‘bleed-out’ from their bowel and die.” Both male and female pigs reared on the GM diet were more likely to have severe stomach inflammation, at a rate of four times and 2.2 times the control group, respectively. There were also reproductive effects: the uteri of female pigs raised on GM feed were 25 percent larger (in proportion to body size) than those of control sows. (All male pigs were neutered, so scientists were unable to study any effects on the male reproductive systems.)
The study confirms anecdotal evidence from hog farmers who’ve reported reproductive and digestive problems in pigs raised on GM feed. Those who were following this sort of news in 2011 will remember an open letter to the USDA from Dr. M. Huber, a professor at Purdue University, about an unknown organism in Roundup Ready crops causing miscarriages in farm animals.
Vermont just passed the nation’s first GMO food labeling law. Now it prepares to get sued.
By Niraj Chokshi May 9, 2014
UPDATE: This post, originally published on April 29, was updated on May 9 to reflect that the bill became law.
Vermont on Thursday became the first state in the nation to require the labeling of genetically engineered foods.
Gov. Peter Shumlin (D) signed that mandate into law on Thursday afternoon, saying in a statement “we believe we have a right to know what’s in the food we buy.” The new law represents a significant victory for advocates who have for years pushed such measures at the state and local level. But there remains one more hurdle to overcome: a likely lawsuit.
There’s no guarantee of legal action, of course, but legislators, officials and advocates are preparing for the state to be sued over the new law. Last month, state Attorney General Bill Sorrell told Vermont Public Radio that he would be “very surprised” if the state isn’t sued. And officials were so sure of a challenge that the measure itself creates a $1.5 million legal defense fund, to be paid for with settlements won by the state. They think it’s coming, but they also say they’re ready.
Laboratory rat feeds contaminated with pesticides and GMOs
June 17 2015
New study throws doubt on findings of safety in pesticide and GMO studies. Claire Robinson reports
Laboratory rodent feeds are highly contaminated with pesticides, toxic metals, PCBs, and GMOs, according to a new study soon to be published in the journal PLOS ONE.
The study casts doubt on claims of safety drawn from hundreds of thousands of animal feeding trials performed for regulatory approvals of pesticides and GMOs.
For the study, the team of Prof Gilles-Eric Séralini at the University of Caen in France analyzed the dried feed of laboratory animals sourced from 5 continents. These diets are commonly fed to rats used to test the safety of pesticides and GMOs. The study investigated 13 samples of rat feeds for traces of 262 pesticides, 4 heavy metals, 17 dioxins and furans, 18 PCBs and 22 GMOs.
The researchers found that all the feeds contained significant concentrations of several of these products at levels likely to cause diseases by disrupting the endocrine and nervous system of the animals. Considering all the contaminants measured, these diets, when consumed over a long-term experimental period, would be considered by standard measurements to pose a very high hazard to health.
For example, residues of glyphosate, used on 80% of GMO crops and widely used to “dry down” non-GMO crops before harvest, were detected in 9 of the 13 diets. Eleven of the 13 diets contained GMOs that are grown with large amounts of Roundup.
This is a problem for public health because regulators use tests on animals fed on these diets to assess the safety of any one pesticide or GMO by looking at the difference between the exposed animal and the controls. If the treatment (exposed) and control groups are both eating an uncontrolled assortment of pesticides or GMOs, any actual toxic effect arising from the pesticide or GMO under test, unless the effect is massive in size, will be lost amid the “noise” caused by the jumble of potentially and known toxic substances.
The upshot can be that regulators conclude that the pesticide or GMO under test is safe on the grounds that no significant difference is found between exposed and control groups, when in fact both groups are exposed to such a wide variety of toxins that their effects have drowned out any toxic effect from the pesticide or GMO being investigated.
Former Pro-GMO Scientist Speaks Out On The Real Dangers of Genetically Engineered Food
By Thierry Vrain
Global Research, October 27, 2015
GMO Empowerment 13 January 2015
Note: This article was first published in January 2015
I retired 10 years ago after a long career as a research scientist for Agriculture Canada. When I was on the payroll, I was the designated scientist of my institute to address public groups and reassure them that genetically engineered crops and foods were safe. There is, however, a growing body of scientific research – done mostly in Europe, Russia, and other countries – showing that diets containing engineered corn or soya cause serious health problems in laboratory mice and rats.
I don’t know if I was passionate about it but I was knowledgeable. I defended the side of technological advance, of science and progress.
In the last 10 years I have changed my position. I started paying attention to the flow of published studies coming from Europe, some from prestigious labs and published in prestigious scientific journals, that questioned the impact and safety of engineered food.
I refute the claims of the biotechnology companies that their engineered crops yield more, that they require less pesticide applications, that they have no impact on the environment and of course that they are safe to eat.
There are a number of scientific studies that have been done for Monsanto by universities in the U.S., Canada, and abroad. Most of these studies are concerned with the field performance of the engineered crops, and of course they find GMOs safe for the environment and therefore safe to eat.
Individuals should be encouraged to make their decisions on food safety based on scientific evidence and personal choice, not on emotion or the personal opinions of others.
We should all take these studies seriously and demand that government agencies replicate them rather than rely on studies paid for by the biotech companies.
The Bt corn and soya plants that are now everywhere in our environment are registered as insecticides. But are these insecticidal plants regulated and have their proteins been tested for safety? Not by the federal departments in charge of food safety, not in Canada and not in the U.S.
Monsanto and DuPont Announce New Weed Killer for GMO Crops
By Lorraine Chow Jul 8 2016
One of the biggest concerns about the cultivation of genetically modified crops is the rise of superweeds caused by the overuse of glyphosate, the main ingredient in Monsanto’s best-selling Roundup and other pesticides.
So, in an effort to beat back these herbicide-defying weeds, Monsanto and DuPont have agreed to sell an even stronger weed killer to go with their genetically modified seeds.
The rival seed and agrichemical companies have signed a multi-year supply agreement for the weed killer dicamba in the U.S. and Canada, Reuters reported. The new product, DuPont FeXapan herbicide plus VaporGrip Technology, will go with Monsanto’s new Roundup Ready 2 Xtend soybeans which are genetically altered to resist dicamba and glyphosate.
Congress Passes GMO Labeling Rules That Supersede Tough State Measures
By Heather Haddon Updated July 14, 2016 1:54 p.m. ET
In a victory for food companies, Congress has passed a federal requirement for labeling products made with genetically modified organisms that will supersede tougher measures passed by one U.S. state and considered in others.
The bill will require labels to be reworked or updated to show whether any of the ingredients had their natural DNA altered, but will take years to phase in and will give companies the option of using straightforward language, digital codes or a symbol to be designed later.
The terms are in contrast to a law that went into effect this month in Vermont. That law required food manufacturers and grocers selling prepared foods explicitly to label items that contained GMO ingredients by January. Companies that violate the law face fines of as much as $1,000 a day.
The compromise federal bill, which passed in the Senate last week and passed 306-117 in the House of Representatives on Thursday, is a likely relief for manufacturers, farm groups and biotechnology companies.
A White House spokeswoman said the administration anticipated signing the bill in its current form.
Andrew Kimbrell, executive director of the Center for Food Safety advocacy organization, said the environmental group is considering suing over whether the bill is discriminatory against certain groups if it becomes law.
The vast majority of corn and soybeans grown in the U.S. is genetically engineered, and the Grocery Manufacturers Association trade group estimates that 70% to 80% of foods eaten in the U.S. contain ingredients that have been genetically modified.
Some big companies including Campbell Soup Co., General Mills Inc., Kellogg Co. and Mars Inc. went ahead and began placing GMO-labeled items on store shelves several months ago nationwide either in response to consumer demand or Vermont’s law.
The next GMO-labeling battleground: USDA
By Jenny Hopkinson 07/20/16 12:00 PM EDT | Updated 07/20/16 11:51 AM EDT
Congress may have wiped its hands of the GMO labeling bill it sent to the White House last week, but the fight is far from over.
Over the next two years, the Department of Agriculture will be the new battleground in the GMO-labeling war as it implements the nationwide labeling requirements. Every organization from the Grocery Manufacturers Association to the Environmental Working Group is now homing its sights on the department, looking to influence its decisions on what the symbol on the package denoting GMO ingredients should look like, the amount of genetically engineered contents a product must contain to trigger that and other labeling, and other related regulations.
Big Food’s Win Over GMO Labeling Bill Shows Failure of Democracy
By Ken Roseboro Jul 22 2016
In 2014, Vermont passed the first legislation in the U.S. to require labeling of foods containing genetically engineered ingredients. A year earlier, Connecticut and Maine passed GMO labeling bills though these were dependent on several other states passing similar laws.
Passages of these three bills were textbook examples of democracy in action. The states’ citizens lobbied their legislatures to introduce the bills, public hearings were held, experts spoke for and against the bills and lawmakers debated the measures. The bills ultimately passed because the lawmakers recognized that the People wanted them approved.
Vermont’s bill passed overwhelmingly in both the state’s House of Representatives and Senate and Gov. Pete Shumlin signed the bill shortly thereafter.
This is how democracy is supposed to work, right? Citizens see an issue of concern that needs to be addressed and they contact their elected representatives who respond by passing a law. This is what happened in Vermont, Connecticut and Maine.
CONSUMED is a dramatic thriller that explores the complex world of genetically modified food. Starring Danny Glover and Zoe Lister-Jones.