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Regulating the Biggest Food Safety Hazard of Our Time

If President Obama’s new Food Safety Working Group dedicates all their time and credentials to prevent future food recalls, they will have saved thousands of people–but forsaken millions.

Over the last decade, our radically changing diet has ushered in the explosive growth of food-related ailments, such as allergies, asthma, obesity, diabetes, autism, infertility, gastro-intestinal disorders, and learning disabilities. Of all the changes in our food, the most dangerous transformation was the introduction of genetically modified (GM) crops.

When these gene-spliced concoctions, such as GM soy, corn, canola, and cottonseed, came on the scene in 1996, the proportion of Americans suffering from three or more chronic ailments. After just 9 years, that nearly doubled to 13%. GM foods are the prime suspect.

Government policy at odds with science

Until now, the government has sidestepped the controversy by hiding behind FDA policy, which asserts that genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are “substantially equivalent” to natural foods and therefore don’t require any safety studies. But as Obama acknowledged, “many of the laws and regulations governing food safety in America” are outdated.

In truth, the FDA’s GMO policy was not even up-to-date when it was implemented in May 1992. FDA documents made public from a lawsuit revealed that virtually all the agency scientists asked to comment voiced strong warnings that GMOs may cause serious health problems. But the FDA was under orders from the White House to fast track GM foods, and the person in charge of FDA policy was the former attorney of biotech giant Monsanto–and later become their vice president. The scientists and the science were ignored.

Now that animals fed GMOs–in labs and farms around the world–have exhibited symptoms related to the growing list of diseases in the US population, the President’s Food Safety team, including Dr. Margaret Hamburg as FDA Commissioner, must update GMO regulation. A scientifically sound regulation would translate into an immediate ban of current GM crops, and the implementation of rigorous safety testing requirements before any GMO was put back into the food supply. And certainly mandatory labeling, as promised by President Obama during his campaign, must accompany any GM food approval.

Presidents and industry insiders avoid GMOs

The Obama family has wisely opted out of exposing themselves to GM foods by requiring organic–and therefore non-GMO–foods served at the White House. They are even planting an organic garden on the south lawn of the White House, to feature 55 types of vegetables.

The Bush family also had an organic kitchen policy. Laura Bush was “adamant” about it, but kept it all quiet.

Even at Monsanto, many in-the-know employees won’t consume the company’s own GM creations. Back in 1999, the management of the cafeteria at Monsanto’s UK headquarters in High Wycombe, England wrote:

“In response to concern raised by our customers . . . we have decided to remove, as far as possible, genetically modified soy and maize (corn) from all food products served in our restaurant. . . . We have taken the above steps to ensure that you, the customer, can feel confident in the food we serve.”

And one former Monsanto scientist told me that his colleagues, who were safety testing milk from cows injected with the company’s genetically engineered bovine growth hormone, decided to stop drinking milk–unless it was organic.

It’s now time to let us all opt out of this dangerous and failed GM experiment. If Obama’s team is serious about food safety and public health, they must take GMOs off our plates and put them back into the laboratory.

Jeffrey M. Smith is the author of Seeds of Deception: Exposing Industry and Government Lies About the Safety of the Genetically Engineered Foods You’re Eating and Genetic Roulette: The Documented Health Risks of Genetically Engineered Foods from Chelsea Green Publishing. Smith worked at a GMO detection laboratory, founded the Institute for Responsible Technology, and currently lives in Iowa—surrounded by genetically modified corn and soybeans.


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