Organic Consumers Association

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Letter from a Scientist to the President of Mexico

For Related Articles and More Information, Please Visit OCA's Genetic Engineering Page and our Millions Against Monsanto Page.

Moderator's Note: Our colleague Miguel Robles of the Biosafety Alliance provided access to a unique set of documents recently released and formerly submitted to the President of Mexico by various scientists. The letters all warn of the environmental and public health dangers posed by transgenic or GMO maize. I am posting the first of these documents: Our exclusive translation of a letter released over the weekend by our colleagues at Acción Colectiva in Mexico. The 8-page (plus references) letter was prepared by Dr. David Schubert, considered one of the foremost immunologists at the Salk Institute. It is addressed to Lic. Enrique Peña Nieto
, President of Mexico, and the heads of the Mexican Environmental Protection and Agriculture ministries. The letter was submitted last October 2013 as part of the evidence presented at trial before the federal judge that ruled to suspend GMO corn plantings in Mexico.

Schubert's letter mentions six major problems posed by the cultivation and consumption of transgenic corn in Mexico but focuses special attention on the human public health implications. There are quite a few novel ideas here for many of my readers and followers, not the least of which is Schubert's justified concern over the lack of epidemiological data, the lack of which should lead to the precautionary principle.

However, Schubert raises some interesting questions, especially about the normalization of the US diet as a stand-in for the Mexican diet and the implications this has for the careless use of fancy food safety algorithms to argue that GMO corn is safe, because it is presumably safe in the US. Schubert makes the insightful and profound observation that:

(1) Corn is not a staple crop in the American diet the way it is in the Mexican diet; (2) This means that Americans only indirectly eat GMO corn in forms where the risks posed by Bt proteins are largely eliminated (e.g., vegetable oils, high fructose corn syrup, etc.); and (3) The may ways Mexican cultures eat and prepare corn could result in health consequences due to unanticipated immunological and allergenic responses to such direct consumption of Bt proteins.

Schubert concludes with a foreboding prognosis: " perhaps the greatest concern about the introduction of any GM product on the market should be that, even when it causes harm to human health, it would be impossible to detect due to the lack of epidemiological studies and technical limitations." Moreover, he continues by noting that "if the introduction of Bt corn is approved there will [an unparalleled] number of people who will consume Bt toxin at levels many thousands of times higher than ever before in the short history of GM technology." Monsanto and Mexico's neoliberal rulers want to run the largest biological experiment in human history without the informed consent of the Mexican people. This could turn to blows since the Gene Giants seem determined to move ahead with full-scale unauthorized biological experimentation on the Mexican people and the planet's fullest complement of native maize biodiversity. These are just a few of more sobering insights offered by Dr. Schubert in his letter to Mexican President Peña Nieto.           

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