Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Remember When GE Meant General Electric?

Well, GE now stands for something much more sinister: Genetically Engineered. It's the food that we eat every day. 90% of soybeans are genetically engineered and 86% of the corn crop is GE, 80% of Hawaiian Papaya, 93% of rapeseed which is where we get canola oil from, and 95% of sugar beets. You can see where I got this data here. Notice the sentence at the bottom of the GE food chart:
             "In addition, various genetically engineered micro-organisms are routinely used as sources of enzymes for the manufacture of a variety of processed foods. These include alpha-amylase from bacteria, which converts starch to simple sugars, chymosin from bacteria or fungi that clots milk protein for cheese making, and pectinesterase from fungi which improves fruit juice clarity."

If you want a VERY scientific but thorough explanation of how GE seeds are created, check out this blog called Sandwalk, written by Biotech professor Larry Moran from the University of Toronto. If you're not a biochemist, you won't fully understand it but you can get the picture. Basically, Monsanto wanted a crop that would be resistant to its pesticide, Roundup, which is glyphosphate. They set about searching for some living thing that would show resistance to glyphosphate, and not surprisingly, they found what they were looking for in a strain of bacteria from the waste-feed column at a factory that made-- what else-- glyphosphate. They isolated the gene that was resistant to the chemical, did a few waves of the magic wand, and got it to combine with the DNA of the crop they wanted to modify.

Of course, there were promises galore about how these "Roundup Ready" crops would increase crop yield, make it easier to grow crops in harsher climates, thus creating cheaper food and possibly food that could feed people who would otherwise starve. Not only has this not been the case, but now the results of using GE seeds for the past 17-ish years are starting to show, and the picture is not pretty. In a nutshell, all the promises made are turning out to be the exact opposite of the reality.
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Here are a few stats and quotes which I found at sourcewatch.org. You can (and should) read the entire article here.

         "GM chemical companies constantly claim they have the answer to world hunger while selling products which have never led to overall increases in production, and which have sometimes decreased yields or even led to crop failures" says Peter Melchett, Soil Association policy director. According to the report by the Soil Association, "The yields of all major GM crop varieties in cultivation are lower than, or at best, equivalent to, yields from non-GM varieties"

        "...while Roundup and similar products were originally used against weeds, 'they have become a food product, since they are used on GMOs, which can absorb them without dying,' maintains the biochemist Gilles-Eric Séralini. A member for years of the French Commission on Biomolecular Genetics (CBG) [and also a member of Criigen], responsible for preparing the files for requests for field studies, then GMO commercialization, he ceaselessly demands more intense studies on their eventual health impact" 

        "While farmers growing Roundup Ready crops initially used lesser amounts of herbicides other than glyphosate, that trend has changed in recent years. Increasingly, farmers find it necessary to apply both increased rates of glyphosate and large quantities of other herbicides to kill resistant weeds." This upward spiral in resistance/usage can be expected to continue.'

        "The increase in herbicide use on HT crop acres should come as no surprise. Weed scientists have warned for about a decade that heavy reliance on HT crops would trigger changes in weed communities and resistance, in turn forcing farmers to apply additional herbicides and/or increase herbicide rates of application. The ecological adaptations predicated by scientists have been occurring in the case of Roundup Ready crops for three or four years and appear to be accelerating". It concludes, "the average acre planted to glyphosate-tolerant crops is requiring more and more help from other herbicides, a trend with serious environmental and economic implications
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If the above quotes don't scare the crap out of you, get this: because the heavy use of Roundup on these crops has resulted in super-weeds, farmers are going to have to use stronger and stronger herbicides to kill the weeds. Either that, or go back to tilling their fields to kill weeds, which negates the so-called benefits of using GE seeds. Oh, but wait-- they can't just till their fields because there is now a Roundup-resistant weed that is so huge and strong that it DAMAGES FARM EQUIPMENT. Yes, you know that huge farm machinery? This weed damages it!!!
                "Pigweed can grow three inches a day and reach seven feet or more, choking out crops; it is so sturdy it can damage harvesting equipment"

So, why am I bringing this all up now? Because on January 27th, the USDA approved the unrestricted use of GE alfalfa, a crop that was barred from being planted in 2007 due to court order. Well, Monsanto wielded its corporate heft and got the ban lifted and now we can ad yet another GE crop to the list. Not only that, but they approved unrestricted us, which means they included no safeguards for organic crops. Organic crops growing near GE alfalfa fields CAN and probably WILL become contaminated. Not only that, but this just furthers the use of GE seeds, thus hastening the emergence of more super weeds, more and stronger herbicides, and more chemicals going into our bodies. I strongly encourage you to send a letter or email to the White House and give them a piece of your mind. Here's a link where most of the work has already been done for you: http://ota.capwiz.com/ota/issues/alert/?alertid=24747501 
Sign it and tell your friends. Enough voices CAN make a difference.

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