Monday, October 7, 2013

USDA: You're on Your Own Against Monsanto, Farmers!

The first case of natural alfalfa contamination by a genetically modified variety was reported by a farmer in Washington state in September 2013. The farmer’s alfalfa crop was rejected for export because, without his knowledge or intention, it was found to contain genetically modified material from Monsanto’s Roundup Ready GM alfalfa variety.

Because many countries worldwide have banned genetically modified seeds, crops, and foods, including the European Union, any crop found to contain GM material will be rejected for export.

The Washington farmer complained to the United States Department of Agriculture, which has just responded with an “it’s not our problem” stance on the issue. The USDA claims the unintentional contamination of the natural alfalfa crop, as well as the resulting loss of markets and non-GM food security, are a “commercial issue” that must be dealt with in the marketplace.

In other words, we approved GM alfalfa unconditionally amidst huge opposition, we approved it against your will, but now that it's contaminating your crops and adversely affecting your livelihoods, you’re on your own against Monsanto, farmers!

The United States Department of Agriculture, under the Biotechnology Industry Association's Governor of the Year, Tom Vilsack, approved the commercial sale and planting of genetically modified alfalfa unconditionally in 2011 amidst huge opposition from farmers and citizens.

It has been planted in the United States for three growing seasons now, and we are just starting to hear the stories of unwanted contamination.

Farmers and citizens who understand plants and agriculture know that the contamination of the natural alfalfa crop is inevitable with the widespread sale and growth of genetically modified varieties. Alfalfa is a feral perennial (grows back year-after-year). In other words, it grows and spreads like a weed. In fact, if a farmer does not want alfalfa in his or her field, it is very difficult to get rid of. Alfalfa is pollinated by wind, bees, and animals. Because of this, it is impossible to contain the spread of GM alfalfa, including with so-called buffer fields between GM and non-GM crops.

Alfalfa is a staple livestock feed. It is used as fertilizer in organic agriculture. It is also often grown during the three-year transition period from conventional to organic farming. In other words, there are many avenues by which alfalfa finds its way into the human diet.

The opposition to GM alfalfa in Canada has so far held off its planting and growth in this country. However, a Wisconsin-based company, Forage Genetics, plans to sell Monsanto's Roundup Ready GM alfalfa in Ontario and Quebec as soon as it can.  

Farmers in Ontario recently made a request of the Ontario provincial government to do an environmental assessment on GM alfalfa before its commercial sale and planting were approved in the province. The Ontario government has just announced its refusal to do that assessment.

This echoes the stance from most provinces in Canada: it's a federal government matter, none of our concern.

The Federal government in Canada, of course, is led by the Harper Conservatives, a group of "free" market, corporate-loving neo-conservatives that is as pro-GMO as you can get. Safeguards will not be forthcoming.

Major Health and Safety Concerns Raised by Studies of GM Diets on Animals in 2012 and 2013

* An unprecedented animal feeding trial found in 2012 that laboratory rats fed genetically modified corn as well as glyphosate residue - the primary ingredient in Monsanto's herbicide Roundup - developed high incidences of tumours, multiple organ damage, and premature death.

The results of the GM feeding trial were published September 19, 2012 in the scientific journal "Food and Chemical Toxicology." The peer-reviewed study was conducted by a team of scientists led by biologist and endocrinologist Gilles-Eric Seralini of the University of Caen in France. The study was attacked vociferously as flawed by other scientists and biotechnology groups. Despite the uproar, the "Food and Chemical Toxicology" journal, a major journal on toxiciology, refused to retract the study.

The trial studied the long-term effects of exposure to NK603 GM corn (Monsanto's Roundup Ready variety) and glyphosate - individually and combined - on the health of rats over two years.

The study found that even exposure to levels considered "safe" resulted in severe negative health effects in the animals:

- Of the rats fed GM corn or glyphosate residue, 50% of males and 70% of females died prematurely. This was compared to 30% and 20% respectively in the control group.
- Female rats developed fatal mammary tumours and pituitary disorders. Males developed liver damage, kidney and skin tumours and had problems with their digestive systems.
- Rats fed GM corn or Roundup residues developed two to three times more tumours than the control group.

The study found that ingestion of GM corn and glyphosate caused similar damage in the rats whether consumed separately or together. Even the lowest doses of GM corn and glyphosate, touted as safe by industry, were associated with severe health problems.

Previous studies have produced similar findings, but this was the first ever feeding trial done over the course of the entire lifespan of a laboratory rat - two years.
Despite the fact that lab rats live only two years, no genetically modified animal feeding trials have been done up to this point for longer than 90 days. Genetically modified seeds/foods were rushed onto the market in Canada and the United States without any longer-term studies on potential effects.
The majority of the tumours and devastating health effects that developed with the rats in the Seralini study were detected after 18 months, which means that prior GM testing done over 90 days would not have discovered them.
* In 2013, the results of a five-month feeding study done on just-weaned pigs were released in the "Organic Systems Journal." The study, conducted by lead researcher Judy Carman of Flinders University in Australia, found that a diet of genetically modified corn and soy produced severe stomach inflammation in the pigs, as well as enlargement of the uteruses in female pigs, indicating both digestive and reproductive damage from GM diets.
Carman said that pigs were used in the feeding study because their digestive systems are similar to those of human beings.
Carman is calling for further long-term animal feeding studies on GM foods before they continue to be commercially planted and ingested by humans.
* Also in 2013, the results of a study on glyphosate excretion in the urine of Danish dairy cattle were released. The study, led by Dr. Monica Kruger, looked at 240 dairy cattle from eight different dairy farms in Denmark. It found that glyphosate was being excreted in varying amounts by all the cattle. Blood tests showed toxicity, with a particular effect on liver and muscle cells. The conclusion of this study was that glyphosate is toxic to the metabolism of dairy cattle.

Roundup is currently the world's most popular and widely-used herbicide. Its global usage is set to double by 2017, according to Global Industry Analysts of San Jose, California.
So despite these dire feeding trial results, which, at the very least, indicate further animal feeding trials are necessary before GM crops continue to be planted and ingested, governments at all levels in the United States and Canada steamroll on with the pro-GMO agenda.
The current focus among members of the public is the labeling of GM products on store shelves.
While this is certainly a good step, this type of labeling does not address the unknown and unintentional contamination of foods by GMOs.
We can label foods we know are GM. We can label foods we know have been produced with genetically modified ingredients.
However, we can't label foods that have been unknowingly or unintentionally contaminated by GMOs.
This unknown and unintentional contamination is the real key with GM alfalfa, which is, again, a feral perennial plant that grows and spreads like a weed, pollinated by wind, bees, and animals.
Our food supply is being insidiously, invisibly contaminated by GMOs. This is going on without the public's full knowledge or consent.
Animal feeding trial results released in 2012 and 2013 indicate strong connections between GM diets and tumours, organ damage, digestive problems, reproductive damage, and premature death.
We are being failed on multiple levels by both government and industry. Both these groups tout "the science" in their blind acceptance and promotion of genetically modified crops. But the science they are using is incomplete and terribly outdated.
These bodies that claim to keep us safe from harmful products are turning a blind eye to the solid science showing major concerns with a GM diet for both animals and humans.
Now is the time for all concerned citizens to raise their voices on this issue:

Stop GM alfalfa in Canada and Worldwide!

"Stop GM Alfalfa" bumper stickers from WWA Activism 

All articles on GM alfalfa from Willow's Web Astrology: GM alfalfa


Willow said...

And for people who don't like my political articles, I have two options for you:

1) Don't read this.


2) Fuck off.

Anonymous said...

Can't thank you enough for writing and working on this issue. I get a newsletter from the company that makes the cat food I use. They were very sunny and bright reporting that 'recently there's a movement toward GMO-free human food, and we're on a GMO-free journey for your pets too!' But when I asked for details, it turned out that 'we cannot guarantee that all our foods are GMO free because there simply are not enough non-GMO ingredients.'

This company says it uses human-grade ingredients. So am I wrong to conclude that we're much further down the GMO path than USDA or Congress will ever admit? Talk about walking the Green Mile.

Again, thanks for taking this on, Willow. I think a lot of us drawn to your site are on a Plutonic journey of our own. A booze cruise laugh riot it ain't. You're a bright light, you are.

Willow said...

"So am I wrong to conclude that we're much further down the GMO path than USDA or Congress will ever admit?"

Not at all. We are at the point where almost all non-organic corn, soy, and canola are contaminated. I think corn and soy are often used in cat foods? So this might be why.

Corn, soy, and canola are also used in processed foods for humans almost across the board. All the addictive, processed stuff has these GMO ingredients, so you see the problem. People consume those things regularly and in large quantities.

Even organic versions of those products can't be guaranteed 100% GMO-free at this point.

There is currently no separation in the agricultural system between GM crops and non-GM crops that are non-organic. This is the insanity of it. It's all mixed together, except for certified organic. So even if a farmer grows a non-GM crop, it's dumped in with GM crops. Same with the livestock system.

In the U.S., the sugar beets are also mostly GMO.

So this cat is wayyyy out of the bag.

GM alfalfa will quite possibly be the death knell for natural food at all.

Crazy, crazy times we're in.

Thanks for your comment.

Cloudia said...

Keep publicising this!!!!!!!

ALOHA from Honolulu
Comfort Spiral
=^..^= <3

Jason said...

I like your Humanitarian Articles...
Political is such a competitive term.
This is caring about nature and
people and the future- I commend you for it.

LB said...

For the first time in years, we didn't do our *big* shop at TJ's this week, choosing instead to spend a bit more at a place we know is committed to supporting local organic farmers while at the same time keeping our food supply (and crops) GMO-free. As much as possible, that is.

On top of everything else, what's happening (and has already happened) to small farmers who try to stand up to companies like Monsanto is a terrible shame. Like the 144 patent-infringement lawsuits Monsanto filed against farmers between 1997-2010. In their defense, the farmers claimed their crops were contaminated without their knowledge (or consent). The farmers lost and Monsanto won. Then more recently, organic farmers lost again when trying to prevent future patent-infringement lawsuits. You've probably written about that, so sorry if I'm repeating something you've shared.

I remember watching the film "Food, Inc." and realizing it isn't just a matter of GMO crops versus organic, non-GMOs crops, it's how we're all losing our ability to decide for ourselves - starting with the farmers.

I appreciate you keeping us informed, Willow. For those of us who're able, it's important to stay aware and actively involved.