The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) said it will not regulate the potential cultivation and sale of a genetically modified (GMO) mushroom the same way it regulates conventional GMOs because the mushroom was made with the genome-editing tool CRISPR-Cas9.
Thanks to a new gene-editing tool, the common white button mushroom has been genetically altered to resist browning. This is the first time the U.S. government has cleared a food product edited with the new and controversial technique.
The USDA announced in a letter several months ago that it had approved Pennsylvania State University plant pathologist Yinong Yang’s common white button mushroom (Agaricus bosporus) that’s engineered to be more resistant to browning. As the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) wrote on April 13:
“The anti-browning trait reduces the formation of brown pigment (melanin), improving the appearance and shelf life of mushroom, and facilitating automated mechanical harvesting.” Further they went on to write to Mr. Yang, “Based on the information cited in your letter, APHIS has concluded that your CRISPR/Cas9-edited white button mushrooms as described in your letter do not contain any introduced genetic material. APHIS has no reason to believe that CRISPR/Cas9-edited white button mushrooms are plant pests.”
According to Nature Magazine, the mushroom was created by targeting the family of genes that encodes the enzyme polyphenol oxidase that causes browning. “By deleting just a handful of base pairs in the mushroom’s genome, Yang knocked out one of six PPO genes—reducing the enzyme’s activity by 30 percent,” Nature reported.
So why has this deliberately genetically modified “frankenfungi” escaped USDA scrutiny? Well, instead of the conventional method in which foreign DNA is spliced into a seed (i.e. Bt corn), genetic modification of Yang’s mushroom was achieved by altering its own genetic material.
As Nature explained, a CRISPR-created product falls under a certain loophole: Despite being directly and purposely genetically modified; USDA has allowed Yang’s mushroom to sidestep the regulatory system. The reason? Yang’s method does not contain “any introduced genetic material” from a plant pest such as bacteria or viruses. Conventional GMOs, the ones that the USDA’s rules are designed to deal with, are created by introducing foreign genes—for example, those of a bacteria might be introduced to give the crop some pest resistance. Ultimately, the GMO mushroom could be the first of many new CRISPR-edited food products.
“The research community will be very happy with the news,” Caixia Gao, a plant biologist at the Chinese Academy of Sciences’s Institute of Genetics and Developmental Biology in Beijing, who was not involved in developing the mushroom, told Nature. “I am confident we’ll see more gene-edited crops falling outside of regulatory authority.”
Nature reported that there are already several CRISPR projects in development, including DuPont’s drought-resistant wheat and corn, a banana that can resist a fungus that’s threatening its extinction and a herbicide-resistant oilseed from the biotech company Cibus.
GMO-opponents have already criticized the USDA’s move.
“The USDA decision is a perfect illustration of how weak regulations for evaluating genetically engineered crops are,” Patty Lovera of Food & Water Watch Reported.
The U.S. does not have a government body that specifically regulates GMOs. The Washington Post noted that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency only regulates GMOs designed for pest control and the Food and Drug Administration considers all GMOs to be safe. Yang told Nature he is considering whether or not to bring the mushroom to market. “I need to talk to my dean about that,” he said. “We’ll have to see what the university wants to do next.”
Yang, however, told MIT Technology Review that even the company that helped fund the research, Giorgio Mushroom Co. of Pennsylvania, isn’t sure if they want the mushroom in a store near you given the public’s overwhelming skepticism of GMOs. “[The] marketing people at Giorgio are more interested in organic mushrooms and are afraid of negative response regarding GMO from consumers,” Yang said.
A 2015 Pew Research Poll revealed that 57 percent of U.S. adults believe that GMO-foods are “generally unsafe” to eat.
Looks like we just opened another door that we really shouldn’t have! Stay tuned!
Just a few days ago the Alliance for Natural Health, (ANH), a nonprofit advocacy group, released a truly unnerving report (read it here), in which they revealed the results of an independent study that confirms suspicions that a host of breakfast foods—many items that might surprise you, are contaminated! Let that information sink in a bit, the ANH tests revealed the worst — that “our food system has been saturated with glyphosate, reaching even into some organic products.” That puts the United States at the top of the list for the most agrochemically contaminated food in the Free World! I find that unacceptable! Now please understand that I use the word 'contaminated' here because I feel that when an herbicide shows up on my table, even in the trace amounts found in the ANH tests, it qualifies as contamination!
Let's just look at a few facts:
Glyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto’s RoundUp® herbicide, is the most used agricultural chemical in history. - In 2014, farmers sprayed enough glyphosate to apply half a pound of the chemical to every acre of cultivated cropland in the World!
Yet, mysteriously, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Residue Program, which is tasked with monitoring pesticide residues in the U.S. food supply, does not test for glyphosate residues. As more health risks emerge — in March 2015 the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) determined glyphosate is a “probable carcinogen” — more people are starting to wonder just how much glyphosate is in our food.
The signs so far are not reassuring. Glyphosate has been detected in blood, breastmilk and urine samples.
Further, U.S. women had maximum glyphosate levels that were more than eight times higher than levels found in urine of Europeans, according to laboratory testing commissioned by the organizations Moms Across America and Sustainable Pulse.
I understand that we might not be surprised when things like cereals show up on a contaminated list, but how about eggs, bagels and even coffee creamer! Yep, they are all on the list too! They have all been found to contain residues of glyphosate, the chemical herbicide more commonly known by Monsanto’s trade name, RoundUp®. The ANH report comes just one year after the cancer-research wing of the World Health Organization made worldwide headlines when they classified glyphosate as, “a probable human carcinogen.” Not unexpectedly, U.S. regulators still claim the herbicide to be safe and tell anyone who will still listen to them that “it poses little to no risk at all, to public health." The ANH independently tested 24 breakfast items purchased ‘off the shelf’ from everyday grocery stores, including many organic products, and found glyphosate residue in 10 of the 24 items tested. This included oatmeal, bagels, coffee creamer, organic bread and even organic, cage-free, antibiotic-free eggs. In fairness, I should mention that the majority of the glyphosate was found at levels below the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) proposed allowable daily intake (ADI), but this is a dubious measure of safety. As ANH noted, the EPA’s ADI for glyphosate is nearly six times higher than the EU’s and fails to take into account:
Recent evidence of carcinogenicity
Toxicity of adjuvants in glyphosate formulations
The very wide distribution of glyphosate in food and water
So keeping in mind that glyphosate is the number one, most widely used agrochemical on the planet (sprayed on some 90% of all staple crops – corn, soybeans, potatoes, etc.) these findings might not seem like a surprise. But there are some alarming things to understand here. First of all, we must understand that glyphosate residues were found on many products that either aren't themselves nor are their primary ingredients typically associated with heavy use of the RoundUp® herbicide. Conventionally grown wheat, as an example, used to make whole-wheat bread, isn’t a crop on which glyphosate is often heavily applied, so you might expect organic multigrain bagels to be free of the chemical. But no, sorry, both the bread and the bagels were shown to be contaminated with RoundUp®. Furthermore, the ANH analysis found glyphosate in organic dairy-based coffee creamer and yes, even in eggs—and the amount detected in cage-free organic eggs actually exceeded the federal government’s tolerance levels for the chemical. Overall, the results further underscore the seeming uncontrollable pervasiveness of glyphosate across the America farmland. One question that springs immediately to my mind is how do these independent research results of the ANH tests compare with the federal government’s own tests of the amount of glyphosate lingering in our food? That is a really good question and one that should be easy to answer, but... “In a classic case of the feds’ all-too-typical cart-before-the-horse approach to regulating agrochemicals, big chemical makers like Monsanto have been allowed to nearly flood the market with glyphosate for the past 20 years, yet it wasn’t until this past February that the Food and Drug Administration announced it would finally begin testing food sold in the U.S. for glyphosate residue. (Meanwhile, the level of acceptable residue, which is set by the Environmental Protection Agency, was relaxed a few years ago.)”
Jason Best, a contributor to TakePart.com
Given the lack of proper testing on the part of the U.S. Government it is very hard to say how worried the average American ought to be about scarfing down his morning breakfast RoundUp®. The ANH freely acknowledges that the amounts of glyphosate found in the products it tested all fall well below the levels the federal government deems acceptable for each specific food, with the exception of those eggs I mentioned above. But still, can we believe that? Where is the test data to support their claims? Whether those levels are stringent enough to protect public health is a topic of progressively intense debate, especially in the wake of glyphosate’s designation as a probable human carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer. As the ANH report clearly indicates, the standards set by the EPA for glyphosate: “have not been rigorously tested for all foods and all age groups. Nor have the effects of other [chemical] ingredients in glyphosate formulations been evaluated...Evidence linking glyphosate with the increased incidence of a host of cancers is reason for immediate reevaluation by the EPA and FDA,” the authors added.
It seems clear that any reasonable person or government agency would draw the same conclusion however, just one day after the release of the ANH study results the U.S. Government stated that it has: “...not seen nor do we anticipate seeing the results of the study conducted by ANH or any other research body.”
The ANH analysis results suggest that Americans are consuming glyphosate, a probable carcinogen, daily. Further, the tests did not take into account analogs of glyphosate, such as N-Acetylglyphosate, which is used by Dupont in their herbicide formulations used for GMO crops. If these analogs are present in food along with glyphosate, the end result would be “a greater bioaccumulation of glyphosate in our bodies and consequential increased chance of biological disruption and disease,” ANH noted. Gretchen DuBeau, executive and legal director of ANH-USA, further told The Huffington Post: “The fact that it [glyphosate] is showing up in foods like eggs and coffee creamer, which don’t directly contact the herbicide, shows that it’s being passed on by animals who ingest it in their feed …this is contrary to everything that regulators and industry scientists have been telling the public for years.”
While glyphosate was long said to be harmless and environmentally safe, accumulating research suggests the chemical does not break down rapidly in the environment, as its manufacturer claims, and instead might be accumulating (both in the environment and in people, potentially leading to cancer and other chronic disease). Another worry pointed out by the ANH’s analysis is that it found the highest levels of glyphosate in non-genetically engineered crops including bagels, bread and wheat cereal. This, they noted, is likely the result of the common practice of using glyphosate as a desiccant shortly before harvest. In northern, colder regions farmers of wheat and barley must wait for their crops to dry out prior to harvest. Rather than wait an additional two weeks or so for this to happen naturally, farmers realized they could spray the plants with glyphosate, killing the crop and accelerating their drying (a process known as desiccating). Desiccating wheat with glyphosate is particularly common in years with wet weather and has been increasing in North Dakota and Upper Midwestern states in the U.S., as well as in areas of Canada and Scotland (where the process first began). What this means is that even NON-GMO foods are likely to be contaminated with glyphosate, and possibly even more so because they’re being sprayed just weeks prior to being made into your cereal, bread, cookies and such. Along with wheat and oats, other crops that are commonly desiccated with glyphosate include, lentils, peas, corn, flax, canola, triticale, millet, sugar beets, buckwheat, rye, potatoes, sunflowers and Non-GMO soybeans. No one is keeping track of how many crops are being desiccated with glyphosate; those in the industry have described it as a ‘don’t ask, don’t tell policy.’
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced in February 2016 that it would begin testing foods, such as corn and soybeans, for glyphosate, which may help to quantify just how much glyphosate Americans are consuming. But keep in mind that current allowable limits may be set far too high to protect your health, so unless that is revised as well, you may be lulled into a false sense of security if the tests come back “within allowable limits.”
The more I study this the more worried I become!
The Dark Side of GMOs
Those readers familiar with the Star Wars mythos will understand when I say that the dark side of the Force was a major threat to the universe and led to the near total destruction of the Jedi Knights. Many fans of the films site the fact that the Jedi forces – who “for over 1000 generations were the guardians of peace and justice in the old republic”- really knew very little about the Dark Side of the Force, it was hidden from them, and therefore were easily overcome by it. I don't know if that is true or not but it sure makes me think about the dangers of the Dark Side of GMOs and the dangers it hides! Just like the Jedi Knights in Star Wars, what we do not know about the hidden dark side of GMOs can hurt us. Two things that most people do not know about the subject of GMOs are the increased pesticide use and what I call anti-science. It is time to shed the light of truth on these two hidden areas of the Dark Side of GMOs!
One of the ways GMO food was approved in the United States was because it promised to reduce the use of chemical pesticides, and proponents of Genetically Engineered crops still swear that it does. Frankly they are either flat out lying or they are completely deceived themselves. Here are the facts about GMOs and pesticide use:
Background -Genetically engineered, herbicide-resistant and insect-resistant crops have been remarkable commercial successes here in the United States. That is true, but few independent studies have calculated their impacts on pesticide use per hectare or overall pesticide use, or taken into account the impact of rapidly spreading glyphosate-resistant weeds, and that is a problem. A model was developed to quantify by crop and year the impacts of six major transgenic pest-management traits on pesticide use in the U.S. over the 16-year period, 1996–2011: herbicide-resistant corn, soybeans, and cotton; Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) corn targeting the European corn borer; Bt corn for corn rootworms; and Bt cotton for Lepidopteron insects.
Results -Herbicide-resistant crop technology has led to a 527 million pound increase in herbicide use in the United States between 1996 and 2011, while Bt crops have reduced insecticide applications by 123 million pounds. Overall, pesticide use increased by 404 million pounds!
Conclusion -Contrary to often-repeated claims that today’s genetically-engineered crops have, and are reducing pesticide use, the spread of glyphosate-resistant weeds in herbicide-resistant weed management systems has brought about substantial increases in the number and volume of herbicides applied. If new genetically engineered forms of corn and soybeans tolerant of 2,4-Dichlorophenoxyacetic acid (usually called 2,4-D which kind of sounds like a name for a Star Wars Droid) are approved, the volume of 2,4-D sprayed could drive herbicide usage upward by another approximate 50%. 2,4-D is an organic compound with the chemical formula C8H6Cl2O3. It is a systemic herbicide which selectively kills most broadleaf weeds by causing uncontrolled growth in them, but leaves most grasses such as cereals, lawn turf, and grassland relatively unaffected. But history shows us that if we increase the number and volume of applications of 2,4-D more herbicide-resistant weeds show up which inturns means more pesticides need to be applied – this becomes a vicious circle! 2,4-D is one of the oldest and most widely available herbicides in the world, having been commercially available since 1945, and is now produced by many chemical companies since the patent on it has long since expired. It can be found in numerous commercial lawn herbicide mixtures, and is widely used as a weedkiller on cereal crops, pastures, and orchards. Over 1,500 herbicide products contain 2,4-D as an active ingredient. Its use is rampant and the magnitude of increases in herbicide use on herbicide-resistant hectares has dwarfed the reduction in insecticide use on Bt crops over the past 16 years, and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future.
So the upshot is... Herbicide and pesticide use has increased significantly since the introduction of GMO crops – this fact is true and undeniable! That should clear that up, but what you may be asking yourself is anti-science?
As the battle to label GMOs rages on, we have another more insidious battle taking place. It's the battle to hold on to scientific integrity, especially as it relates to research about GMOs. In October 2012, Seralini published his research in the journal Food and Chemical Toxicology (FCT). His two-year study looked at the effects of GMO corn and the herbicide Roundup on rats. As I have written about before, his study found that GMO-fed female rats died more quickly and developed mammary tumors more often than the rats that were fed non-GMO-fed. And GMO-fed male rats had more liver and kidney problems and larger tumors. The Seralini study was criticized for having a complex design, using too few rats in each group, and for the type of rat used. In November 2013, the study was retracted from the journal. What was the reason for the retraction? The journal's editor, Dr. A. Wallace Hayes, said the research was not conclusive. Um, what? The typical reasons for retraction include unreliable findings due to misconduct or honest error, plagiarism, redundancy, or unethical research, none of which applies in this situation. Dr. Michael Hansen of the Consumers Union said, "The study was a follow-up to Monsanto's 90-day feeding study on its NK603 corn." So why is this protocol OK for Monsanto but not for Seralini? And was this retraction related to FCT's addition of a new associate editor of biotechnology, Richard E. Goodman, who previously was a scientist at Monsanto? Controversy is common in the field of science. What normally happens is that controversial research would be clarified as new research articles are published, without the need for a retraction. A case in point is the research related to the low-carb diet, yet another polarized and contentious issue. Back in 2004, a study was published comparing a low-carbohydrate diet to a low-fat diet. This research found that participants on the low-carb diet lost more weight and had better cholesterol levels than those on the low-fat diet after six months. But the trial was controversial because six months may not be enough time to determine if a diet is effective for long-term weight loss, and it was funded by the Atkins Foundation, which was acknowledged as a potential conflict of interest. Was this study viciously attacked in the media and ultimately retracted? Nope. Instead, a year later, another study was published, this time with funding from the National Institutes of Health. It compared the Atkins, Ornish (low-fat, plant-based), Weight Watchers, and Zone diets for one year. This study found that there was no significant difference among the different diets in terms of both weight loss and some markers for heart disease risk. Thus, at one year, the low-carb diet did not offer more weight loss or other benefits compared to the other diets. And this is how science works or rather has worked until GMOs. That is not what happened with the Seralini study. Unfortunately, it's not the first time this has happened. The new fact of science is that if you are bold enough (or crazy enough) to publish negative research about GMOs, you will be harassed, attacked, and discredited. Just look at what happened to Emma Rosi-Marshall after publishing a paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science (PNAS) on the effect of genetically modified Bt corn on the environment. Rosi-Marshall found that Bt corn negatively impacted larvae and flies in nearby streams. The article's abstract stated that "widespread planting of Bt crops has unexpected ecosystem-scale consequences." What happened next surprised Rosi-Marshall. She was attacked by scientists expressing their strong objections to the experimental design and conclusion. They wrote not only to her but to PNAS and the funder of her research. She was attacked personally and accused of misconduct. Even Monsanto, the creator of Bt corn, wrote a critical six-page response to her paper. Dr. Henry I. Miller also weighed in on the controversy. Californians may remember that Miller, a former advisor to a tobacco front group, was featured in misleading ads in support of a "no" vote on Proposition 37, which would have labeled genetically engineered foods. Ironically, none of the criticisms called for more research on the effects of Bt crops on the environment, a testament to the unusual response and unscientific perspective of GMO proponents. David Shubert from the Salk Institute had a similar experience when he implied, in Nature Biotechnology, that not enough was known about the unintended effects of adding genes to plants. Unfortunately, "he has given up trying to have a public discussion about the technology." In 2001, Dr. Ignacio Chapela from UC Berkeley published a paper in Nature with his discovery that the native Mexican maize had been contaminated with genes from GMO corn. He was also attacked and received so much criticism that Nature published an editor's note claiming that there was not enough evidence to support the original paper. In 2009, new research confirmed that genes from genetically modified corn were found in Mexican maize. Chapela commented, "I have a very long experience now with young people coming to me to say that they are not going into this field precisely because they are discouraged by what they see." Dr. Arpad Pusztai's research found that rats fed genetically modified potatoes had damage to their gastrointestinal tract and immune system. Pusztai went public with his findings and created a media frenzy in the UK. He was attacked, and his research was criticized for using too few rats, and opponents erroneously stated that the GMO potatoes were too low in protein. In fact, all of the animal feed was low in protein. Thus, any negative effect of a protein-deficient diet would be seen in all rats, not just in those consuming GMO potatoes. Pusztai was suspended from his position at the Rowett Research Institute and banned from talking publicly about the situation. Was his research repeated in an attept to confirm or disprove it? Nope.
This folks, is Anti-Science. Suppressing dialogue, retracting studies, and not doing follow-up research is indeed anti-science. This, in combination with personal attacks and attempts to discredit those with differing opinions, is part of the arsenal used by some in the biotech industry to push their agenda on an unwitting population. Promoting the use of GMOs with claims that they will help us feed the world or prevent blindness or whatever is inaccurate and misleading. If we let this anti-science behavior continue, we will be stuck with this technology and its unknown effects on the environment, on us, on our children, on our grandchildren and more.
Are you willing to take that chance? I, for one, am not. I think we should apply the precautionary principle to everything that could potentially harm us or the environment, and that includes GMOs. To learn more about the precautionary principle please follow this link!
In Star Wars ignorance of the hidden Dark Side of the Force lead to the downfall of the Jedi Knights, let’s not allow ignorance of the hidden Dark Side of GMOs lead to the downfall of mankind!
Some Good news....
General Mills to Label ALL Products with GMOs, Thanks to Vermont’s GMO Labeling Law
A watershed moment has occurred in food transparency. General Mills (GM), the same company that tried to impair genetically modified food-labeling by donating more than a million dollars to defeat legislation in several states, is about to label its products containing genetically modified ingredients.
Along with being part of the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) – Big Food’s national lobby group, GM has announced that it will label all their products if they contain genetically modified ingredients.
The multinational food company says that it will label GM products due to a need to be cost-effective with Vermont’s new GMO labeling law going into effect this summer, but there could be other incentives for General Mills to start labeling.
Jeff Harmening, head of General Mills’ U.S. retail operations said in a post on a company blog Friday: “We can’t label our products for only one state without significantly driving up costs for our consumers, and we simply won’t do that. The result: Consumers all over the country will soon begin seeing words legislated by the state of Vermont on the labels of many of their favorite General Mills food products.”
Despite a history of trying to keep Americans in the DARK about what is in their food, the company suddenly seems to be bowing to consumer demand for food labeling.
For Colorado’s Prop 105, GM gave $820,000 to once again fight mandatory labeling for food containing genetically modified organisms.
“By any measure today’s development is a watershed moment in the fight for more transparency,” said Scott Faber of the Environmental Working Group. “I applaud General Mills. They’re going to disclose the presence of GMO’s and give everyone factual information. This is terrific for consumers.”
Vermont isn’t the only state with a GMO labeling initiative, though it is the first in the nation to officially pass one. Vermont may have been the writing on the wall for Big Food companies becoming increasingly less resilient in a growing anti-GMO nation.
For up-to-date information on the status of state legislation, visit OpenStates.org.” General Mills has also added a search tool on its website, ask.generalmills.com, to provide GMO ingredient information for hundreds of U.S. products.
I think that the real question I want to see answered is, "Does this mean that the company will also soon be forced to stop using them?"
For all our sake I sure hope the answer is that they will all stop using GMO ingredients!
First thing first!
Before I can begin to argue against GMO foods I want to be sure that we are all at least on the same page here so I want to start with a man named Gilles-Éric Séralini. He is as important a player in the GMO arena as is Mansanto. So I think we will start today by talking about him. In an effort to be completely honest with all of you I want to say right up front that I admire this man and the efforts he is making in the GMO activist arena, opening himself up to criticism and risking his job in the process!
Ten things you need to know about the Séralini study
If you have not yet read what I wrote about the Séralini studies in the two articles that precede this one, you should! Go ahead and read them, I will wait right here for you to get up to speed. Go on, it is no problem.
Most criticisms of Séralini’s study wrongly assume it was a badly designed cancer study. It wasn’t. It was a chronic toxicity study –well-designed and well-conducted.
Séralini’s study is the only long-term study on the commercialized GM maize NK603 and the pesticide (Roundup) it is designed to be grown with. See here: Why is this study important?
Séralini used the same strain of rat (Sprague-Dawley, SD) that Monsanto used in its 90-day studies on GM foods and its long-term studies on glyphosate, the chemical ingredient of Roundup, conducted for regulatory approval.
The SD rat is about as prone to tumours as humans are. As with humans, the SD rat’s tendency to cancer increases with age.
Compared with industry tests on GM foods, Séralini’s study analyzed the same number of rats but over a longer period (two years instead of 90 days), measured more effects more often, and was uniquely able to distinguish the effects of the GM food from the pesticide it is grown with.
If we argue that Séralini’s study does not prove that the GM food tested is dangerous, then we must also accept that industry studies on GM foods cannot prove they are safe.
Séralini’s study showed that 90-day tests commonly done on GM foods are not long enough to see long-term effects like cancer, organ damage, and premature death. The first tumours only appeared 4-7 months into the study.
Séralini’s study showed that industry and regulators are wrong to dismiss toxic effects seen in 90-day studies on GM foods as “not biologically meaningful”. Signs of toxicity found in Monsanto’s 90-day studies were found to develop into organ damage, cancer, and premature death in Séralini’s two-year study.
Long-term tests on GM foods are not required by regulators anywhere in the world.
GM foods have been found to have toxic effects on laboratory and farm animals in a number of studies.
Who is Séralini? What is The Séralini study?
Anyone who starts doing any serious study into GMO foods will soon be asking themselves these questions so I thought we should answer them now. Gilles-Éric Séralini (born 23 August 1960) is a French molecular biologist, political advisor and activist on genetically modified organisms and foods. He is of Algerian-French origin. Séralini has been a professor of molecular biology at the University of Caen since 1991, and is president and chairman of the board of CRIIGEN (the Committee of Research and Independent Information on Genetic Engineering).
His work and publication strategies on GMOs have been controversial. A paper he published in 2012 attracted major controversy. But that does not mean that he or it were wrong!
On 19 September 2012, Séralini and his colleagues published a peer-reviewed paper funded by CRIIGIN titled "Long-term toxicity of a Roundup herbicide and a Roundup-tolerant genetically modified maize" in Food and Chemical Toxicology (FCT). It involved a two-year study of genetically modified corn and the herbicide RoundUp fed to rats. At a press conference announcing his paper, Séralini emphasized the study's potential cancer implications. Photographs from the journal article of treated rats with large tumors were widely circulated in the press. In November 2013, the FCT editors retracted the paper, with the editor-in-chief saying that its results were inconclusive. In June 2014 the text of the article was republished in Environmental Sciences Europe. With a few exceptions, the scientific community dismissed the Séralini study and called for a more rigorous peer-review system in scientific journals.
After Séralini published his 2012 corn study in parallel with a book and a documentary called Tous Cobayes !, various French Academies wrote a common bulletin expressing a number of concerns related to the study. The bulletin criticizes the science behind the study, questions the ethics of the study's authors and the standards of the publishing journal (Food and chemical toxicity), and states concern over the social consequences of what the bulletin's authors perceive to be scaremongering in the area of GMOs. Signatories of the bulletin included the Académie d'agriculture de France, Académie nationale de médecine, Académie nationale de pharmacie, Académie des sciences, Académie des technologies and Académie vétérinaire de France. (All of these organizations recieve money from GMO supporting companies!!!)
Why is the Séralini Study Important?
Séralini designed his 2012 study as a direct follow up of a previous study on the same corn (NK603 maize) conducted by Monsanto to support its application for regulatory authorization.
Monsanto’s study was a 90-day rat feeding trial on NK603. Monsanto published the results of its test in 2004, the same year that the maize was authorized in the EU. Differences were found in the GM-fed rats, but the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) claimed that the differences were “of no biological significance” and that the maize was as safe as non-GM maize. Séralini’s team obtained Monsanto’s raw data and re-analyzed it. They found signs of liver and kidney toxicity in the GM-fed rats, publishing their findings in a peer-reviewed journal in 2009. Séralini carried out his 2012 study on NK603 maize and Roundup to see whether these initial findings of potential toxicity really were of no biological significance, as EFSA claimed, or whether they developed into more serious disease. The overall experimental design was similar to Monsanto’s, in order to make the two experiments comparable. The differences were that Séralini’s experiment was longer (two years to Monsanto’s 90 days) and far more detailed in scope. Séralini’s experiment measured a larger number of health effects and was designed to separate out the effects of the GM maize from those of the herbicide it is engineered to tolerate, Roundup. This was the first study on a GM crop to distinguish effects in this way.
The findings Séralini’s findings were alarming: both GM maize NK603 and Roundup caused serious kidney and liver damage and an increased and earlier development of tumors, leading to an increased rate of mortality. These serious effects had not shown up in Monsanto’s 90-day test because it was too short. Serious diseases like organ damage and tumors take time to develop and become obvious. An objective analysis of Séralini’s study would conclude that long-term chronic toxicity and carcinogenicity studies are needed on all GM foods before they are commercialized. What does the study say about the way GM foods are regulated? Séralini’s is the first long-term peer-reviewed toxicity study on the health impacts of GM NK603 maize and the commercial herbicide formulation it is engineered to be grown with. GM food crops are authorized on the basis of short (a maximum of 90-days) feeding studies, usually carried out in rats. Long-term studies are not required by regulators anywhere in the world. But in Séralini’s study the first large tumors were only seen four months into the trial in the case of males and seven months in the case of females. Most tumors were only detected after 18 months. This shows that the 90-day tests routinely done on GM crops are not long enough to detect serious health effects that take time to develop, such as cancer and organ damage. This is no doubt why the GM crop producers successfully argued that the studies and test only be for 90-days rather than FDA and EFSA original requests for 6 month studies and tests. Ninety days in a rat is equivalent to only 7–9 years in human terms – yet human beings could eat a GM food and residues of Roundup over a lifetime.
In simple terms what does this all mean? I can only give you my opinion on this information and remember I am not a scientist just an 'Average Joe' giving you my take on the situation, but for what it is worth, here goes:
It seems clear to me that more study, and not industry funded study but rather independent studies need to be undertaken as soon as possible. In the interim, we should err with caution and stop the farming of GMO products or if not stopping GMO production at least requiring full disclosure labeling of products that contain GMO ingredients so that people can make their own choices is needed. A true and unbiased look at the long term effects must be made by knowledgeable people whose motives are beyond reproach. If it is true that information is power than why do so many companies in the industry not want us to have any information what so ever about GMOs?
There are some things in life that have a profound effect on us. One of these is the very moment your first child is born. Having children makes you start seeing everything differently. It was the first time that either my wife, Holly, or I had to feed someone besides ourselves. Suddenly, (after nine months of waiting of course) you have a little life to nourish and look out for. And that responsibility changes you. It changes each of us differently, with the birth of my children I suddenly felt very concerned that I become a good provider; that I got a good job and moved up the ladder into a management position. My wife and I now find ourselves raising our 3 ½ year old grandson and just like when my own children were born, having him around and the fact that I am in a different place in my life at 50 then I was thirty years ago, has changed me again, this time it made me think more about food than I ever had before. It's hard enough just raising a family, but then, all these unexpected issues complicate what's already so exhausting. You find out about toxic chemicals in your house, asbestos in the walls, BPA in baby bottles, methyl iodide on strawberries, lead in toys, arsenic and heavy metals in tap water, antibiotics in meat, flame retardant from furniture in breast milk. It is enough to make you crazy! Everything causes cancer and it's all subtle, hidden, and latent. We all try to be aware and to make good decisions, to look out for our children and grandchildren and to do our best for them, but this one thing most of us totally missed. We just never heard much or knew much about GMOs, genetically modified organisms, and the role they were playing in our everyday lives. Seeds, like the normal seeds I had been growing and saving all of my life but with altered genes were something new to me and it scared me to think that they were in our food for either good or ill, I didn't know, but it bothered me that we were eating them and didn't even know what they were. I decided to see if anyone else knew about GMOs, and that was the beginning of a very long journey. Nobody, or at least very few people that I asked, knew what GMOs were, and most did not know what even one of the three letters stood for. How is it possible that we, as a first world nation are all so clueless? It felt weird not knowing something that seemed to be so basic about one of the most essential things in our lives - our food. I suddenly felt uneasy about all the food we were eating. So, I did some research to answer a very basic question. What is a GMO?
Well according to the World Health Organization: “GMOs are organisms in which the genetic material has been altered in a way that does not occur naturally.”
Fine, but what does that mean exactly?
It gets complicated pretty quickly. They involve Agrobacterium tumefasciens and vectors and Ti-plasmids and Cry1Ab genes taken from soil-dwelling bacteria called Bacillus thuringiensis. They are glyphosate resistant enzymes called EPSPS and my favorite one, they are a gene gun with protoplast electroporation bombarding cells with gold particles which have been coated with DNA encoding. But in plain English, there are two basic types of GMOs, pesticide producers and herbicide resisters. A pesticide producer kills insects like Monsanto's Bt corn. A gene from a naturally occurring bacterium is inserted into the DNA of corn. The modified corn produces a toxin lethal to insects. An herbicide resister is immune to weed killer like Roundup Ready soy. The DNA is altered with a soil bacterium's gene to make the plant immune to the weed killer called Roundup. Farmers douse their fields with Roundup to kill every weed and unwanted plant, but even when coated in herbicide, the soy plant remains unharmed. I couldn't find anything definitive on the health effects of GMOs. Most studies were only three months in length, done by the same company selling the GMOs. The studies aren't peer reviewed and they refused to release the raw data to the public. Were they hiding something? Were we all a part of some gigantic experiment? Or, maybe, GMOs make us stronger and faster and healthier, who knows? But didn't we even have a choice in the matter? Was there a way to opt out if you wanted to?
And then something happened that really awakened me to a much bigger story about seeds and food and control. What was it? An earthquake in Haiti. No Really, click below to read more.
With funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and support from selected journalists and industry-supported academics, Cornell University is allegedly propping up GM industry myths for biotech and agribusiness companies. Cornell is an Ivy League school known throughout the world as one of the most impressive academic institutions, but it seems to have abandoned scientific objectivity for the promise of a paycheck.
Evidence of this accusation is outlined in an article titled “Why is Cornell University hosting a GMO propaganda campaign?” by Stacy Malkan, co-director of the consumer group U.S. Right to Know.
Cornell Alliance for Science Fosters GMO Propaganda Malkan suggests that the Cornell Alliance for Science (CAS), launched in 2014 with a $5.6 million Gates Foundation grant, is operating as a PR campaign that promotes genetically engineered crops and foods using the same inaccurate messaging and unscrupulous tactics the agrichemical industry uses to push its agenda for chemically intensive, GMO agriculture. Cornell with Gates’ funding is accused of:
Routinely making unscientific statements about GMOs under the guise of “standing up for science.”
Partnering with chemical industry PR operatives to teach “science” to students.
Offering fellowships for GMO advocates including an ethically questionable journalism fellowship.
Findings from another report suggest that the founders of Cornell University, Andrew D. White and Ezra Cornell, might not be so proud of the university today: Global Justice Now released information making the case that the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the world’s largest charitable foundation, is funding strategies at Cornell that promote multinational corporate interests at the expense of social and economic justice.
Reports Question Motives of Gates Foundation Then there are these questions about Cornell and the Gates Foundation’s practices outlined in numerous articles:
It’s difficult to refute these accusations. The CAS was launched in 2014 with a $5.6 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Its goal is to “depolarize the charged debate” about GMOs and to “restore the importance of scientific evidence in decision making [about GMOs].” But the CAS is promoting GMOs by using dishonest messaging, similar to the fraud and character assassination that were aimed at Gilles-Éric Séralini to discredit his study of rats fed a GMO diet.
Is Cornell Communicating Science or Propaganda about GMOs? The aims of the CAS are made clear in the group’s promotional video. Director Sarah Evanega, Ph.D., describes CAS as a: “communications-based nonprofit organization represented by scientists, farmers, NGOs, journalists and concerned citizens [who will use] interactive online platforms, multimedia resources and communication training programs to build a global movement to advocate for access to biotechnology.” But what about ALL the evidence showing that GMOs are hurting farmers, killing pollinators, and ruining biodiversity, not to mention harming human health? The United Nations’ Food and Agricultural Organization has found an extensive loss of 75% of plant genetic diversity since 1900 when farmers began planting mass-produced, genetically uniform crop varieties.
Bees Are Crucial for Food Survival When the honeybees started dying en masse, everyone seemed to notice except the biotech industry. Bees are crucial for food production. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) says that over a fourth of the American diet relies on pollination by honeybees. That means no bees, no food. But the biotech industry plugs away, making more pesticide-resistant crops that require ever larger doses of pesticides that kill bees. A large number of foods depend on bees for pollination. According to the American Beekeeping Federation, some foods, like blueberries and cherries, are 90-percent dependent on bees for pollination. Without bees, we’re facing food extinction. Estimates are that nearly a third of the honeybee population has been wiped out since 2006. One in three organic farmers has dealt with GMO contamination on their farms, and farmers are going bankrupt hourly around the world due to widespread GM cultivation. Is there no one at Cornell with an IQ large enough to face these facts?
Biotech Propaganda Is Widespread As Portland Independent Media points out: “Biotech scientific establishment has a hold on the youth from an early age. Some of the intro biology textbooks published by Peter Raven may hold clues why biotech is accepted by so many people. The Raven biology textbook contains info on how to genetically engineer life forms by inserting a viral/bacterial plasmid into the DNA of another living organism. This presents the genetic engineering method as acceptable and students are encouraged to pursue research in that field. (“Biotech’s where the money is” said my biology teacher at community college) Raven is also head of the Missouri Botanical Garden in St. Louis, heavily subsidized by Monsanto. Raven called out to the scientific community to document all the living plant species on the planet and record their taxonomy info. This is a form of biopatenting, claiming intellectual property rights of the genetic sequence of plant DNA/RNA. Medicinal plants are sought after the most, pharmaceutical products come from derived plant chemical compounds. By claiming ownership of the plant’s DNA, it becomes easier for the corporations to manipulate the molecular biochemistry of the plant itself.” It’s not just Cornell that’s been infiltrated. The biotech industry is trying to shape minds at numerous universities across the United States. Biotech, bioweapons and pharmaceutical corporations influence the school system through various grants and funding of textbook publishers. Students are encouraged to be ‘open-minded’ about genetic engineering and the animal testing that follows. When a GM human comes along, are we to simply smile and nod at the marvel of DNA alteration, or will we stand gawking at the travesty we’ve created for $2 billion in grants provided by the Gates Foundation?