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What’s the Harm in Genetically Modified Foods?

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Presentation on theme: "What’s the Harm in Genetically Modified Foods?"— Presentation transcript:

1 What’s the Harm in Genetically Modified Foods?
Lori B. Taylor, MA/MS Registered Dietitian South Whidbey Tilth – January 2015

2 Experience Dietitian for 15 years
Formerly molecular biologist, educator Natural and conventional medicine training Whidbey General Hospital – Clinical Dietitian Sustainability Coordinator Consult privately for writing and speaking Instructor for MS in Integrative & Functional Nutrition program, Saybrook University

3 Education BA Biochemistry, UC Berkeley, High Honors
MA Education, (Science Emphasis), Stanford University MS Nutrition, Bastyr University RD Internship, University of N Colorado Permaculture Design Certificate – Regenerative Design Institute, Bolinas CA Ecology of Leadership - RDI

4 Why do I care? Permaculture ethics: people care, planet care, fair share Public and environmental health issue Health care has been relatively silent and needs to be involved Need to sort science from ideology Debate needs to be recast from technology to herbicides and pesticides to gain traction

5 Focus of this Talk Not on GM technology, but its use Approval process
Proteins and pesticide residues Nutritional effects Yield Environmental effects What you can do

6 For more info: GMO Myths and Truths, 2nd Ed.
What’s Left Out Differences between natural breeding and GMO techniques Genetic contamination/drift Horizontal gene transfer to other organisms Food sovereignty / seed freedom Differences in US/European approval For more info: GMO Myths and Truths, 2nd Ed.

7 The Ideology Criticism of GMO is unscientific
Quacks, bad science, conspiracy theorists, tinfoil hats, corporate haters, hippies Scientific consensus is that GMOs are safe Anti-GMO folks are against science, progress, profit No recorded injury to humans, millions of meals served, means foods are safe GMOs will feed the world, deal with climate change, are more sustainable

8 Galileo and GMOs Heliocentrism was branded as heretical by the Spanish Inquisition and books were burned. Galileo was tried and condemned by the Catholic church – early 1600s Vindicated scientifically, but not acknowledged by the church until 1992

9 Galileo and GMOs Fast-forward 400 years
Patent holders restrict GM material for research Industry suppression of unfavorable results, legal threats Harassment, loss of data files, research funding, academic position for researchers Papers pulled from journals without sufficient cause Critics branded as “un-scientific” This time, specific corporations are pushing back When scientific ideas threaten the power structure, science can be suppressed, and critics are labeled heretical Persecution does not imply rightness – but we have seen this before

10 Science is Inclusive All evidence must be considered and weighed
“In science, ideas can never be completely proved or completely disproved. Instead, science accepts or rejects ideas based on supporting and refuting evidence, and may revise those conclusions if warranted by new evidence or perspectives.” ptions.php

11 Where the science is lacking
Restriction of base materials and research suppression No labels, therefore no human studies If it’s not being measured, no one can study it Latest USDA study – very few pesticide residues, but Glyphosate (RoundUp) not studied this year or last – and it is most heavily used pesticide in US A USDA spokesman who asked not to be quoted said that the test measures required for glyphosate are "extremely expensive... to do on an regular basis” Monsanto asked EPA for another increase in allowable food residues for glyphosate – and received it. Much higher in animal feed

12 Ethics Not taught routinely in science majors
Just because we can, does that mean we should? How do we assess risks for new technologies?

13 Precautionary Principle
"When an activity raises threats of harm to human health or the environment, precautionary measures should be taken even if some cause and effect relationships are not fully established scientifically.” -Science and Environmental Health Network Shifts burden of proof to showing an activity is safe, rather proceeding based on lack of evidence about harm Best used when technologies are new This principle has not been used with respect to GMOs.

14 Substantial Equivalence
Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development - trade group – 1993 “should demonstrate that the [genetically modified] food is as safe as its traditional counterpart” FDA- 1992: adopted SE with direction Compare toxicants, allergens, bioavailability, macronutrients, safety of novel proteins

15 Problems with SE Not a scientific concept No specifications for tests
No accepted reference foods No quantifiable definition of substantial Can’t predict biological effects from chemical makeup – consider prions vs proteins Can’t forecast outside known allergens Allergy analysis looks at expression in bacteria, not in plants More accurate testing (genetic profiling) is in development – 23 years later

16 Privatized profits and socialized losses
SE is an Oxymoron Same for regulatory purposes Different for patentable purposes Provides financial benefit to the developer Patented seed and chemical factor Transfers risk to the consumer Privatized profits and socialized losses

17 Generally Recognized as Safe?
FDA considers to be substantially equivalent Therefore – GRAS Requires no pre-market testing or labeling FDA consultation voluntary Data submitted comes from GMO producer Shield or omit negative results In Europe only found through lawsuits

18 Substantial Equivalence Is Not
GMO corn and soy substantially non-equivalent Nutrients outside published ranges Very different protein productions Field grown and herbicide-treated GMO soy High levels of glyphosate (RoundUp) and breakdown products Compositionally could sort out conventional, organic and GM varieties

19 How Prevalent are GMOs? 93% of soy crops 90% of corn crops Other foods
Soy protein, soybean oil, soy lecithin 90% of corn crops Dried corn, high fructose corn syrup Other foods Sugar beets, canola oil Papaya, yellow squash, zucchini Alfalfa (animal feed), cotton Likely prevalent in every processed food Likely prevalent in almost all animal feed

20 Why Genetically Modify?
Herbicide tolerance Glyphosate, 2,4-D (agent orange ingredient), dicamba, glufosinate Internal pesticide production Bacillus thuringiensis toxin (Bt) Different from external Bt sprays – does not break down with light or exposure to water Produced by all parts of the plant – per acre production and our consumption much greater Stacked traits – two (or now more) traits expressed in same time

21 Why Genetically Modify?
Note that we are modifying to support monocropping and crop-pesticide packages GM foods are only solving problems created by the agriculture industry Similar to antibiotic use in feedlot animals – supports unsustainable models of agriculture

22 Glyphosate Biological Effects
Endocrine disruptor at 800x lower than what is in food: human cell lines 3x birth defects and childhood cancers in areas of intense airborne spraying: humans Malformations in vertebrate embryos Adjuvants in RoundUp increase toxicity by 1000x: human cell lines Kills beneficial GI bacteria: cattle and poultry Liver and kidney damage: mice

23 Glyphosate Possible Connections
Chronic kidney disease of unknown origin in Global South Glyphosate use in hard water farming areas What’s behind rash of anencephaly cases in WA Central Valley? Glyphosate heavily used for weed suppression in water ways Malformations in vertebrate embryos similar as glyphosate interferes with vitamin A I predict will be worse than DDT when the data is finally in

24 Other Sources of Glyphosate
Crop staging in non GMO crops Facilitates dessication/dying for faster harvest, “last gasp” production of grain Being used in wheat and sugar cane May explain increase in wheat intolerance

25 Bt Biological Effects Severe tissue changes in liver, kidney, spleen, small intestine and testis: rats GI tract damage: fish and mice Immune changes and increased inflammation: mice Resistance to digestion: in vitro Transfer to human fetus: Bt found in Blood of 93% of pregnant women 80% of cord blood samples

26 Nutritional Significance
Liver and kidney damage – chronic disease Gut immune function – new food allergies? Endocrine disruptors – obesity, hormone-related cancers, in-utero effects GI tract damage and dysbiosis – autism, food-borne illness, IBS, Crohn’s? Bt lyses insect GI tracts – could it affect humans and alter gluten tolerance?

27 We’ll never know Without labeling, impossible to study the health effects in humans. So when industry says food is safe, no one has been harmed by GM foods, there is no way they can support that statement

28 No nutritional benefits
GMOs often nutritionally inferior Organic soy more nutritious than GMO or conventional counterpart Golden Rice with added vitamin A Not a panacea; equivalent to 1 oz cooked spinach Doesn’t address cause (lack of F/V, breastfeeding) Won’t help 1/3 with deficiency who don’t eat rice Doesn’t address rice-predominant diets Unclear whether malnourished kids can assimilate the fat- soluble vitamin

29 Monocropping and Deficiency
GMO industry leading worldwide push to monocropping Reliance on handful of staple crops, primarily carbohydrates (starches, sugars) Lack of variety/biodiversity in diet – nutrient deficiencies Excessive carbohydrates – diabetes and obesity

30 No Overall Yield Improvements
USDA’s own 15 year study: no yield improvements in varieties developed no increase in intrinsic yield But 60-79% of farmers adopted for this reason No yield benefit with herbicide tolerant crops; often yields lower Some improvement in operational yield due to fewer pest losses Fading as insects become resistant GMO foods not going to solve world hunger

31 Environmental Damage More insecticide produced per acre with GMO Bt and more consumed Bt toxicity to non-target beneficials Ladybugs, bees Increase in herbicide use Due to increased weed resistance Decline in monarchs due to loss of food source

32 Environmental Damage Increased weed resistance
22 glyphosate resistant super weeds Increased tillage Pesticide/herbicide treadmill New and different herbicides applied Will lead to resistance again Forecast to increase herbicide use by 50% Cross-pollination with non-GM varieties

33 Post-Publication Updates
USDA approval of 2,4-D and dicamba-resistant varieties of cotton and soy Monsanto moving forward on RNA-interference technologies to silence insect genes Published research that regulation misses risk- assessment More scientists speaking out - ENSSER

34 News Sources Organic Consumers Association Food Democracy Now
Center for Food Safety

35 What Can You Do? Don’t eat them Don’t grow them
Buy organic or NonGMO project labels Avoid non-organic corn and soy Avoid anti-labeling funders: Pepsi, Coke, Nestle Don’t grow them Safe seed resource list: Council for Responsible Genetics Save seed Non-GMO Sourcebook: Plant for beneficial insects Keep bees! Buy from and promote small holdings – local whenever possible

36 What Can You Do? Recast the argument to be about pesticide/herbicide use and effects Educate! Health care professionals Family/friends Support labeling Donate, volunteer, phone bank, write $20.8 MM from industry to fight Oregon 92 ($1K from individuals) Weigh in on regulatory events Speak to Rick Larsen especially Divest from agro-chemical corporations Divest from supporters (Gates Foundation)

37 “Save Your Plate Before It’s Too Late!”

38 Questions Paper available at: ExZQWs/view?usp=sharing Or

39 Thank You Lori B. Taylor, MA/MS, RD, CD Clinical Dietitian

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