“Anyone that says, ’Oh, we know that this is perfectly safe,’ I say is either unbelievably stupid, or deliberately lying. The reality is, we don’t know. The experiments simply haven’t been done, and now we have become the guinea pigs.” ~ David Suzuki, geneticist.
Now that the mainstream media is catching on to the public sentiment against GMO food, or at least against unlabeled GMO food – to the tune of millions of Americans who made it a point to drag themselves out of their homes to protest Monsanto last month, as well as people from at least 40 additional countries – inevitably the indictment will be made: the anti-GMO movement is “unscientific”.
Is that really so?
What we do know is that the unintended consequences of the recombinant DNA process employed to create genetically engineering organisms are beyond the ability of present-day science to comprehend. This is largely due to the post-Human Genome Project revelation that the holy grail of molecular biology, the overly-simplified ‘one gene = one trait’ model, is absolutely false.
Only recently, for instance, a previously unidentified viral gene fragment was discovered to be present in most of the GM crops commercialized to date; a finding which calls into question the safety of 54 commercial GMO crops already being used in both food and feed. There could be hundreds of viral-gene altered proteins within these foods, whose complex interactions with DNA and toxicity have never been characterized.
So which statement therefore is more unscientific?
1) GMO food safety cannot be proven
2) GMO food harms cannot be proven
The scientific and logical answer would be that both GMO food safety and harms cannot be sufficiently proven; for reasons that include the fundamentally unethical nature of a human clinical trial that could result in poisoning the test subjects.
But, the weight of evidence actually indicates that statement #1 is the more unscientific one, as there is a growing body of scientific research produced by independent scientists indicating that GMO food harms can be clearly demonstrated, through a simple process of extending feeding studies beyond the 90-day cut-off mark established by biotech corporations with a vested interest in hiding chronic adverse health effects.
In other words, a failure of science to positively identify a problem does not mean that a problem does not exist. To err on the side of caution is no less scientific than to err on the side of reckless abandon.
When we fail to exercise the precautionary principle in our risk assessments, we are basically saying that GM foods are innocent until proven guilty. Juxtapose that to the burden of proof applied to nutritional or dietary supplements, which despite billions of doses taken in the US each year, have never been found to take anyone’s life. These are increasingly defined as guilty unless proven innocent through multi-million dollar clinical trials.
The problem, of course, is that the burden of proving safety or toxicity falls on the exposed populations (ie. Suzuki’s “guinea pigs), which only after many years of chronic exposure reveal the harms in their diseases, and then only vaguely in hard-to-prove post-marketing surveillance and epidemiological associations and linkages.
So, with this in mind, let’s bring up one dimension of the toxicity of GM foods and agriculture that cannot be thrown out as ‘unscientific,’ because it is clearly proven to be a health problem in the peer-reviewed and published literature: Roundup herbicide.
Another fundamental point that many miss with GM food safety; not only is “genetically engineered” no longer food (food, by definition, are organisms that we have co-evolved with and consumed for hundreds of thousands, and sometimes millions of years), but in the case of the Bt gene-containing commercial crops, GMO is actually classified by the EPA as biopesticides.
But it gets worse! Roundup-ready foods have been engineered to survive the application of glyphosate-based herbicide poisoning. The toxic compounds in herbicides like Roundup, which include toxicity-amplifying surfactants like polyethoxylated tallow amine, end up in the tissue of the plants that we consume, or that our animals consume, bioaccumulating and amplifying their toxicity when we consume them as food. One major metabolite of glyphosate called Aminomethylphosphonic acid (AMPA), which accumulates in the plant tissues of all Roundup Ready GM plants, is itself highly toxic, but has not fallen under stringent regulatory oversight.
[highlight]Essentially, if you eat GM food, it is not just the transgenes and the unintended toxic proteins they produce that are the problem. Rather, the ‘food’ is guaranteed to contain residues of highly toxic chemicals.[/highlight]
While it can be argued that it is ‘unscientific’ to claim the transgenes and their proteins in GMO food cause harm, it is foolish to argue that the continual exposure to known biocides like Roundup residues in our food is safe. Those who make this argument are the ones who lack the guidance of good science, or use the term ‘science’ as a political weapon against those who would seek out and express the truth.
By Sayer Ji | GreenMedInfo