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Sorry, Monsanto. The Science Is on Our Side, Not Yours

A few weeks ago, I spoke by phone with Cathleen Enright, executive vice president of the Biotech Industry Organization (BIO). (Long story).

During the course of our conversation, when we touched on the subject of the science behind the debate over whether or not GMOs are “safe” (me arguing that there’s no scientific consensus) Enright said, “Then you must not believe in climate change, either.” 

I glossed over that accusation, though it struck me as odd. And random. Until less than a week later, on March 9 (2015), an article appeared in the Guardian under this headline: “The anti-GM lobby appears to be taking a page out of the Climategate playbook.”

That’s when I realized what I should have known. Enright’s comment wasn’t random at all. It’s just a new twist on an old talking point—from an industry on the verge of crumbling under the weight of an avalanche of new credible, scientific evidence exposing not only the dangers of GMO crops and the toxic chemicals used to grow them, but the extent to which both Monsanto and U.S. government agencies like the EPA, FDA and USDA have covered up those dangers. (Side note: Turns out the authors of the Guardian piece all have ties to, surprise, the biotech industry).

Here are just a few examples of the latest reports, articles and books exposing the dangers of GMOs, Big Ag’s toxic chemicals and evidence of a decades-long cover-up to keep consumers in the dark.

•    New study: World Health Organization declares glyphosate a human carcinogen. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) decision was reported in The Lancet Oncology, on Friday, March 20 (2015). Predictably, Monsanto went on the attack, demanding the study be retracted.

•    New article: "Weed Killer, Long Cleared, Is Doubted." The New York Times reports that the EPA classified glyphosate as a carcinogen 30 years ago, but reversed the decision in 1991, about the time Monsanto was seeking approval of GMO crops, with no independent pre-market safety testing.

•   New article: "Scientists whose research questions the safety of farm chemicals want protection from 'political retaliation'. Reuters reports on a lawsuit filed against the USDA by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) seeking protection for scientists who question the safety of glyphosate and other agricultural chemicals. PEER's Executive Director Jeff Ruch said at least 10 USDA scientists have been investigated or faced other consequences arising from research that called into question the safety of certain agricultural chemicals.

•    New article: "Is Monsanto on the Side of Science?" This article in the New Internationalist reveals how Monsanto and other GMO companies restrict access to their seeds for independent researchers. According to scientists interviewed for the article, anyone who buys Monsanto’s patented GM seed has to sign a technology agreement saying they will not use the seeds or crop for research or pass them to anyone else for that purpose. Even if permission to carry out research is given, companies typically retain the right to block publication if the results are ‘not flattering’, according to Scientific American.

•    New study: Roundup causes antibiotic resistance in bacteria. In the first study of its kind, a research lead by a team from the University of Canterbury, New Zealand says that commonly used herbicides, including the world’s most used herbicide Roundup, can cause bacteria to become resistant to antibiotics. Cause for concern? You bet, when nearly 2 million people die annually from antibiotic-resistant infections.  

•    New article: “GMO Science Deniers: Monsanto and the USDA,” points out what we all learned in third-grade science (but what Monsanto and the USDA refuse to acknowledge): That plants evolve to adapt to their environment, with the stronger ones winning out. Hence the fact that over time, Monsanto’s Roundup Ready crops have bred a new generation of superweeds. Yet, incredibly, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) bought into Monsanto’s anti-science claim that the continuous use of Roundup, over time, would not produce evolving Roundup-resistant weeds. Of course, that’s exactly what’s happened.

•    New book: Altered Genes, Twisted Truth: How the Venture to Genetically Engineer Our Food Has Subverted Science, Corrupted Government, and Systematically Deceived the Public, exposes how the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) disregarded the warnings of its own scientists in order to foster the biotech industry’s agenda. According to author Steven Druker, the FDA broke U.S. food safety laws when the agency made a blanket presumption that GE foods qualified to be categorized "Generally Recognized as Safe" (GRAS). And they did it in order to push GMOs into the market with no pre-market safety testing.

•    New book: Poison Spring: The Secret History of Pollution and the EPA, written by a former (1979-2004) employee of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), documents the EPA’s “corruption and misuse of science and public trust.” According to author E.G. Vallianatos, the EPA allowed our lands and waters to be poisoned with more toxic chemicals, including glyphosate, than ever, while turning a blind eye to the consequences.

•    New report: “Seedy Business: What Big Food is hiding with Its Slick PR Campaign on GMOs,” exposes Big Food’s long history of manipulating the media, policymakers and public opinion with $100-million worth of sleazy public relations tactics.

That’s just a smattering of the latest science—from scientists who have nothing to gain and everything to lose, based on Monsanto’s history of aggressively discrediting and scientist who dares to challenge GMOs—that should have every consumer in this country asking, “What’s going on here?”

Of course the industry response to the latest accusations concerning both its products and its desperate attempt to keep consumers in the dark, has been the same old same old: deny, deny, deny. All the while pretending to be incredulous that anyone would question its motives. This from an industry that (among other crimes) for nearly 40 years, knowingly poisoned a community in Alabama by dumping millions of pounds of PCBs into open-pit landfills, according to 2002 article that said:

And thousands of pages of Monsanto documents—many emblazoned with warnings such as "CONFIDENTIAL: Read and Destroy”—show that for decades, the corporate giant concealed what it did and what it knew.

One final comment on the climate-denier talking point. How ironic that Enright and the biotech industry would pretend to side with the scientists sounding the alarm on global warming—when the largest contributor to global warming is industrial agriculture, with its GMO monoculture crops. Anyone serious about global warming knows that our best hope is to ditch our chemical-intensive, soil-destroying industrial agriculture and replace it with organic, regenerative farming practices that restore the soil’s ability to capture carbon.

That’s a talking point we can all get behind.

Katherine Paul is associate director of the Organic Consumers Association.

 

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