Monsanto’s DARK Act, kills chances for GMO labelling, vote next week

Fri, Jul 17, 2015


The following op-ed I wrote appeared in the MDIslander this week. I didn’t know when I submitted it that the vote in the House would be coming up next week. From the point of view of GMOs, “natural” foods, and organic foods and agriculture, it is REALLY important that that bill not pass. Poliquin says he wants to hear from you. Please make his day — sooner rather than later. ——————————————————————— Are you in the dark about The DARK Act? The Deny Americans the Right to Know (what’s in their food) Act — HR 1599? Also known as “The Mother of All Monsanto Protection Acts,” it is now in the House of Representatives, sponsored by Representatives taking Big Money from Monsanto and the food industry. In a nutshell, this bill prohibits any state from passing a law that requires labeling of GMO foods. (These are the 90% of our processed foods that contain Genetically Engineered plants or animals.) It also cancels all existing state GMO labeling laws, such as the one passed here in Maine. And to make sure we don’t know whether there are GMOs in our food, it also derails the present method of certifying foods that do not contain GMOs. All this, even though our food has for years required labeling for all kinds of ingredients and nutrients, and even though GMO labeling is common in other parts of the world. Why has Monsanto etc. spent millions to defeat state labeling laws and pass this one? Why should we worry about GMOs? Because they are potentially — and actually — dangerous. The crude, simple-minded technique used to create them was developed long before we came to understand how incredibly complex genes are. Over millions of years, nature has perfected the mechanism that breeders have used to develop new strains of plants and animals. This mechanism understands the complexity of genes. On the other hand, Monsanto’s crude and unpredictable GMO method involves randomly jamming in genes from completely unrelated plants and animals. They do it by bacterial infection or blasting with — yes — a gun. Monsanto claims this is no different from natural breeding. You decide. Back in the early 90s, the FDA’s scientists repeatedly and loudly asserted GMOs’ potential for serious health hazards. But the FDA ignored them and hired a Monsanto lawyer to establish its GMO policy. In 1992 he overruled the scientists, and the FDA declared GMOs to be essentially the same as regular food. As a result, the government does no safety studies. It never makes claims of safety. If the GMO companies optionally decide to do such studies, they often refuse to reveal the results. Such studies frequently appear designed to avoid finding problems. On the other hand, most of the many hundreds of studies that have been carried out without Monsanto and food industry money have shown actual or potential serious health effects: liver and kidney damage, allergens, and tumors, to mention only a few. Monsanto tells us that trillions of GMO meals have been eaten with no ill effects. That blatantly ignores the 1989-90 “EMS” epidemic that killed dozens and injured thousands — many permanently. The victims had eaten supplements produced by a GMO bacteria. The connection was easy to spot because the disease was so acute and startling. On the other hand, there has been a steep rise in the U.S. in many chronic diseases that has paralleled the rise of GMO foods. There are many reasons to believe there is a causal connection, but it cannot be proven because we can’t compare between groups of GMO eaters and non-eaters. Why? Because there is no GMO labeling to help separate them. Monsanto and their food friends want it that way. That’s what The DARK Act is for. In response to inquiries on Congressman Poliquin’s position on HR 1599, his press secretary, Michael Byerly, said “At this moment, Congressman Bruce Poliquin is listening to Mainers opinions on GMO labeling as he, and his staff, reviews all related GMO labeling bills. Congressman Poliquin values hearing from Mainers on issues and expressing their opinions to his colleagues in Congress. This is why Congressman Poliquin bucked Republican leadership and voted in support of the Country of Origin Labeling Amendment Act to make sure Mainers know where their food comes from.” He did the right thing that time. He says he’s listening. Please make sure he does the right thing again: 202-225-6306. _______________________________________________ HCCN mailing list

One Response to “Monsanto’s DARK Act, kills chances for GMO labelling, vote next week”

  1. atlee Says:

    I received the following response to my posting on the DARK Act, and, having spent a fair amount of time in my response, I figured I might as well share it for those who are interested, or who may have similar doubts. wrote on 7/21/15 11:22 AM: With all due respect, I was trained as a scientist in biochemistry with a year’s graduate work in physiological chemistry, and I have done a LOT of reading on this in the past year and a half. I’m going to make the scientific case here by only skimming the bare surface of the incredible landscape covered by this issue. As a scientist, I assume you respect the scientific method. There is a LOT of solid independent research out there which, unlike Monsanto’s paid “research,” honors the scientific method by not designing experiments in order to fit an agenda, and not ignoring contrary data or hiding or altering or misrepresenting inconvenient experimental data — research which has unequivocally shown not only serious ACTUAL damage by GMO consumption in relevant animal studies, but also the POTENTIAL for damage — e.g., the finding that GMO genes — which Monsanto claimed could not survive digestion — have in fact not only survived digestion but have been incorporated into the genome of gut bacteria, making them factories for whatever the GMO was intended to produce. The presence of the accompanying antibiotic-resistant marker, or the production of Bt insecticide, in gut bacteria is a truly sobering thought. To begin with, as a scientist it is important to be aware that the 1970s-80s recombinant-DNA technology was devised before the growth in understanding (even now still incredibly primitive) of the networked nature of genes. At a time (and I was trained this way) the naive belief was that one gene makes one protein, and thus altering that gene or inserting it would only alter or add one protein. The technology involves crudely jamming into the genome at some completely random, unpredictable location a gene cassette that is loaded with * a promoter, which, instead of being subject to the inherent regulation provided by the cell, is turned on 24×7, sometimes in an enhanced mode, cranking out the product (not always the one expected) with none of the essential biochemical/metabolic regulation that has been developed over millions of years to keep a cell functioning optimally and normally, * a GMO gene which has had to be altered to make it recognizable by the alien organism it now inhabits * an antibiotic-resistance marker gene (the FDA scientists went nuts over THAT one) to indicate which of the gun-blasted/bacterially-infected cells got the message (i.e. they don’t die when subjected to an antibiotic), * and a number of other elements. The cassette contents can end up in the middle of a protein-production sequence, resulting in an altered, truncated, or misfolded (as in Mad-Cow pryons) protein, or it can affect transcription of other proteins at remote parts of the genome. The potential for “bad” proteins The second step of the process — tissue culture to grow out a real plant or animal — is well known to create all kinds of unpredictable mutations. As a scientist, I would hope you would be aware of the vicious tactics used to attempt to discredit valid research and researchers who uncover specific dangers of GMO ingestion. There are hundreds of studies, and the best of them have been attacked in the most bizarre, unscientific, character-assassinating ways you can imagine. As a scientist, I’d strongly suggest your read the book “Altered Genes, Twisted Truth” (which I’ve contributed to our library and is thus available to you via interlibrary loan) by the lawyer who forced the FDA to reveal the unanimous opposition of its scientists to unregulated GMOs back before the Monsanto lawyer shut them down. Stephen Druker does an INCREDIBLE job of going into the technical details of genome function, recombinant DNA technology, and the appalling and continuous history of obfuscation and lying that has been going on since the whole GE enterprise got started in the 70s. I would recommend that, as a scientist who think GMOs are OK, you listen to a couple of scientific interviews I have on my website specifically British genetic engineer Michael Antoniou on the scientific problems: Scientist and former Canadian official GMO spokesman Thierry Vraine and on the metabolic issues related to Roundup (which is ubiquitous BECAUSE of GMOs, and wouldn’t be on all our food except for them): Retired Perdue soil biologist Don Huber: MIT’s Stephanie Seneff: (also available as a YouTube video with a Q&A session) and/or As a scientist, you owe it to yourself to honor the scientific method, to step out of the cocoon Monsanto has tried to weave around its shoddy and deliberately misleading studies and flagrantly false PR and look at the well-done studies that find SERIOUS dangers in GMOs, a number of which are linked from my GMO page. Nonscientists can get a good overview from a 2004 lecture (sadly not at all out of date) by world-wide author/activist Jeffrey Smith, called “You’re Eating WHAT?”: To expand slightly on the point made in my op-ed — the large U.K. food retailers responded to immediate public outrage at a dramatic increase in allergic reactions with the introduction of GMOs, accompanied by a demand for labeling, by doing just that. Same in Europe and other parts of the world (with Canada and the U.S. notable exceptions). NO PROBLEM with GMO labeling. No increased cost to the consumer. So why are they spending tens of millions here to prevent it? Because labeling would enable the division of large cohorts into GMO and non-GMO eaters and make possible the research that could prove whether or not GMOs are related to chronic (or even non-chronic) disease. The potential liability to Monsanto and the others would be astronomical, if this were proven and (like the cigarette folks) it was shown that they actually knew about the dangers but were covering them up (which they do and are). So labeling must be stopped. And given the dynamic of Congress and money, chances are it will. If labeling happens, GMOs would probably disappear from the food supply. Producers of Canadian canola and American soy (and of corn from both countries) have been hit hard by rejection of their exports by countries all over the world. The wheat farmers banded together and refused to risk having their wheat GMO’d. And GMO disappearance is the only thing that is going to save organic agriculture. The spread of GMO genes over large areas has proven uncontrollable and if it isn’t stopped soon will have eliminated organic foods. Which will be solved by the USDA changing its definition of “organic” to include GMOs. If, as a scientist, you have GOOD, independent science to support your claim that there is no problem with GMOs (which I assume is what you meant by saying that you have no problem with GMOs), I’d be interested in having the references. Thanks. Dick _______________________________________________ HCCN mailing list