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You're Appointing Who? Please Obama, Say It's Not So!

Friday, August 28th, 2009

The person who may be responsible for more food-related illness and death than anyone in history has just been made the US food safety czar. This is no joke.

Here's the back story.

When FDA scientists were asked to weigh in on what was to become the most radical and potentially dangerous change in our food supply — the introduction of genetically modified (GM) foods — secret documents now reveal that the experts were very concerned. Memo after memo described toxins, new diseases, nutritional deficiencies, and hard-to-detect allergens. They were adamant that the technology carried "serious health hazards," and required careful, long-term research, including human studies, before any genetically modified organisms (GMOs) could be safely released into the food supply.

But the biotech industry had rigged the game so that neither science nor scientists would stand in their way. They had placed their own man in charge of FDA policy and he wasn't going to be swayed by feeble arguments related to food safety. No, he was going to do what corporations had done for decades to get past these types of pesky concerns. He was going to lie.

Dangerous Food Safety Lies

When the FDA was constructing their GMO policy in 1991-2, their scientists were clear that gene-sliced foods were significantly different and could lead to "different risks" than conventional foods. But official policy declared the opposite, claiming that the FDA knew nothing of significant differences, and declared GMOs substantially equivalent.

This fiction became the rationale for allowing GM foods on the market without any required safety studies whatsoever! The determination of whether GM foods were safe to eat was placed entirely in the hands of the companies that made them — companies like Monsanto, which told us that the PCBs, DDT, and Agent Orange were safe.

GMOs were rushed onto our plates in 1996. Over the next nine years, multiple chronic illnesses in the US nearly doubled — from 7% to 13%. Allergy-related emergency room visits doubled between 1997 and 2002 while food allergies, especially among children, skyrocketed. We also witnessed a dramatic rise in asthma, autism, obesity, diabetes, digestive disorders, and certain cancers.

In January of this year, Dr. P. M. Bhargava, one of the world's top biologists, told me that after reviewing 600 scientific journals, he concluded that the GM foods in the US are largely responsible for the increase in many serious diseases.

In May, the American Academy of Environmental Medicine concluded that animal studies have demonstrated a causal relationship between GM foods and infertility, accelerated aging, dysfunctional insulin regulation, changes in major organs and the gastrointestinal system, and immune problems such as asthma, allergies, and inflammation

In July, a report by eight international experts determined that the flimsy and superficial evaluations of GMOs by both regulators and GM companies "systematically overlook the side effects" and significantly underestimate "the initial signs of diseases like cancer and diseases of the hormonal, immune, nervous and reproductive systems, among others."

The Fox Guarding the Chickens

If GMOs are indeed responsible for massive sickness and death, then the individual who oversaw the FDA policy that facilitated their introduction holds a uniquely infamous role in human history. That person is Michael Taylor. He had been Monsanto's attorney before becoming policy chief at the FDA. Soon after, he became Monsanto's vice president and chief lobbyist.

This month Michael Taylor became the senior advisor to the commissioner of the FDA. He is now America's food safety czar. What have we done?

The Milk Man Cometh

While Taylor was at the FDA in the early 90's, he also oversaw the policy regarding Monsanto's genetically engineered bovine growth hormone (rbGH/rbST) — injected into cows to increase milk supply.

The milk from injected cows has more pus, more antibiotics, more bovine growth hormone, and most importantly, more insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1). IGF-1 is a huge risk factor for common cancers and its high levels in this drugged milk is why so many medical organizations and hospitals have taken stands against rbGH. A former Monsanto scientist told me that when three of his Monsanto colleagues evaluated rbGH safety and discovered the elevated IGF-1 levels, even they refused to drink any more milk — unless it was organic and therefore untreated.

Government scientists from Canada evaluated the FDA's approval of rbGH and concluded that it was a dangerous facade. The drug was banned in Canada, as well as Europe, Japan, Australia and New Zealand. But it was approved in the US while Michael Taylor was in charge. His drugged milk might have caused a significant rise in US cancer rates. Additional published evidence also implicates rbGH in the high rate of fraternal twins in the US.

Taylor also determined that milk from injected cows did not require any special labeling. And as a gift to his future employer Monsanto, he wrote a white paper suggesting that if companies ever had the audacity to label their products as not using rbGH, they should also include a disclaimer stating that according to the FDA, there is no difference between milk from treated and untreated cows.

Taylor's disclaimer was also a lie. Monsanto's own studies and FDA scientists officially acknowledged differences in the drugged milk. No matter. Monsanto used Taylor's white paper as the basis to successfully sue dairies that labeled their products as rbGH-free.

Will Monsanto's Wolff Also Guard the Chickens?

As consumers learned that rbGH was dangerous, they refused to buy the milk. To keep their customers, a tidal wave of companies has publicly committed to not use the drug and to label their products as such. Monsanto tried unsuccessfully to convince the FDA and FTC to make it illegal for dairies to make rbGH-free claims, so they went to their special friend in Pennsylvania — Dennis Wolff. As state secretary of agriculture, Wolff unilaterally declared that labeling products rbGH-free was illegal, and that all such labels must be removed from shelves statewide. This would, of course, eliminate the label from all national brands, as they couldn't afford to create separate packaging for just one state.

Fortunately, consumer demand forced Pennsylvania's Governor Ed Rendell to step in and stop Wolff's madness. But Rendell allowed Wolff to take a compromised position that now requires rbGH-free claims to also be accompanied by Taylor's FDA disclaimer on the package.

President Obama is considering Dennis Wolff for the top food safety post at the USDA. Yikes!

Rumor has it that the reason why Pennsylvania's governor is supporting Wolff's appointment is to get him out of the state — after he "screwed up so badly" with the rbGH decision. Oh great, governor. Thanks.

Ohio Governor Gets Taylor-itus

Ohio not only followed Pennsylvania's lead by requiring Taylor's FDA disclaimer on packaging, they went a step further. They declared that dairies must place that disclaimer on the same panel where rbGH-free claims are made, and even dictated the font size. This would force national brands to re-design their labels and may ultimately dissuade them from making rbGH-free claims at all. The Organic Trade Association and the International Dairy Foods Association filed a lawsuit against Ohio. Although they lost the first court battle, upon appeal, the judge ordered a mediation session that takes place today. Thousands of Ohio citizens have flooded Governor Strickland's office with urgent requests to withdraw the states anti-consumer labeling requirements.

Perhaps the governor has an ulterior motive for pushing his new rules. If he goes ahead with his labeling plans, he might end up with a top appointment in the Obama administration.

To hear what America is saying about GMOs and to add your voice, go to our new non-GMO Facebook Group.

 
This article was originally published on The Huffington Post..

Follow Jeffrey Smith on Twitter: www.twitter.com/JeffreyMSmith

Governor Sebelius Must Veto Kansas Bill That Endangers Milk Safety

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

Governor Sebelius wants to be our new Secretary of Health and Human Services. But before she is sworn in, she has an important job to do, which will demonstrate that she is serious about protecting the safety of our food supply. A bill passed the Kansas legislature on April 3rd, which would restrict any national US dairy from properly labeling their milk products as free from genetically engineered bovine growth hormone (rbGH or rbST). Governor Sebelius must veto it before the April 16th deadline.
Send Governor Sebelius an email urging her to do so.

2009-04-07-Milkphoto.jpgHere is the first in a multi-part series explaining why Drugged Milk is dangerous, and how corporate manipulation, bad science, and political collusion pushed it into our food supply.

Also check out the 18-minute documentary Your Milk on Drugs–Just Say No! to see:

• An FDA scientist who demanded more safety studies on rbGH, but was fired for holding up its approval.
• A FOX TV investigative reporter whose news series linking rbGH to cancer was canceled after the station received letters from Monsanto's attorney threatening "dire consequences for Fox News."
• Canadian government scientists who wrote a scathing critique of the FDA's flawed and biased evaluation of rbGH, and then testified about political pressure, stolen evidence, and an alleged bribe offer from Monsanto.
• Rigged research from the drug's maker, meticulously designed to cover up health problems.
• A scientist who did rbGH research for Monsanto, and then became the drug's lead reviewer at the FDA.
• Michael Taylor, Monsanto's former attorney, who was in charge of FDA policy when rbGH was approved. He later became Monsanto's vice president.

Get Our Milk Off Drugs, Part 1

Milk from rbGH-treated cows may increase risk of cancer

Growth hormones are created in the pituitary gland. Back in the 1930s, they discovered that injecting cows with their own pituitary extracts boosted milk production. But the process was too expensive and not commercially viable–until genetic engineering came along.

Monsanto scientists took the cow gene that creates growth hormones, altered it, and inserted it into E. coli bacteria to create a living drug factory. The bacteria-created hormone is similar, but not identical to the naturally occurring variety. Monsanto marketed it under the brand name Posilac. It is also called recombinant bovine growth hormone (rbGH) or recombinant bovine somatotropin (rbST).When injected into a cow, it boosts their whole metabolism. Milk production goes up by about 5%. But cows often get sick and die young.

Approved in the United States in 1993, by 2002 rbGH was used on 22% of the nation's dairy cows. It is banned in the European Union, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and Japan.

Milk from treated cows is different from normal milk. It has more pus, more antibiotics, more bovine growth hormone, and most importantly, higher levels of the hormone insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1). IGF-1 is one of the most powerful growth hormones in the human body and is naturally present in cows' milk.

Milk drinkers increase their IGF-1 levels. One study showed a 10% increase. Another, analyzing diets of more than 1,000 nurses, showed milk was the food most associated with high IGF-1 levels. Neither of these studies used milk from cows treated with rbGH. If they had, the results may have been considerably more significant, since levels of IGF-1 in milk from treated cows can be up to 10 times higher, and according to rbGH expert Samuel Epstein MD, detection methods may underestimate the amount and impact of this increase by up to forty fold.

High IGF-1 levels is a huge cancer risk, according to more than three dozen studies. A Harvard study of 15,000 white males found those with elevated blood levels to be four times more likely to get prostate cancer than average men. In a Lancet study, premenopausal US women below age 50 with high IGF-1 levels were seven times as likely to develop breast cancer. "With the exception of a strong family history of breast cancer," the authors warned, "the relation between IGF-1 and risk of breast cancer may be greater than that of other established breast cancer risk factors." The International Journal of Cancer described a "significant association between circulating IGF-1 concentrations and an increased risk of lung, colon, prostate, and pre-menopausal breast cancer." A 1999 European Commission report concluded: "Avoidance of rbGH dairy products in favor of natural products would appear to be the most practical and immediate dietary intervention to . . . (achieve) the goal of preventing cancer."

There are a few ways in which IGF-1 may promote cancer. It causes cells to divide. It reduces programmed cell death (apoptosis) in tumor cells. And it inhibits the ability of various anti-cancer drugs to kill cultured human breast cancer cells.

The link between IGF-1 and cancer prompted the American Nurses Association to call for the elimination of rbGH in dairy production. The American Medical Association's past president urged hospitals to serve only rbGH-free milk, and over 160 hospitals have already pledged to do so. Schools nationwide have also banned drugged milk.

Consumer reaction has prompted a tipping point in the dairy industry. Over the last three years, companies such as Wal-Mart, Starbucks, Dannon, Yoplait, and more than half of the nation's top 100 dairies have committed to stop using rbGH in some or all of their products. But the Kansas legislation, if not vetoed by Governor Sebelius, would require all brands that sell rbGH-free in the state, including national brands, to add a large and deceptive disclaimer to their package which falsely claims that rbGH does not change the quality of the milk. The bill even dictates the placement of the disclaimer. This would likely discourage some dairies from making rbGH-free claims on their package. And without that, they might also abandon their rbGH-free status altogether.

In short, this misguided legislation may ultimately take away your choices for healthier milk and promote cancer.

Please email Governor Sebelius, asking her to veto this misguided bill, before the April 16th deadline

Also check out the video on rbGH. Drink rbGH-free milk. And read the next part on this blog, including hijacked regulators, fired whistleblowers, suppressed news coverage, and more.

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.

This article was originally published on The Huffington Post.

Regulating the Biggest Food Safety Hazard of Our Time

Monday, March 30th, 2009

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.

Bush's Environmental Legacy on GMOs Is Irreversible

Monday, December 8th, 2008

In a few hundred thousand years, after all weather effects of 21st century climate change have disappeared from the earth's surface, after our quietly smoldering nuclear waste has been extinguished, two destructive impacts traceable to George Bush's policies will yet remain.

The first is extinctions. Species that have died out, including the subset resulting from Bush's environmental policies, will forever deprive our evolving biosphere of their contribution.

The second is genetically modified organisms (GMOs) — animals, plants, bacteria, and viruses, who's DNA have been mixed and mangled by insertions from foreign species. Once released into the ecosystem, by intention or accident, the genetic pollution self-propagates. No recall by the Obama administration can clean up Mexico's indigenous corn varieties, now contaminated by our genetically modified (GM) corn. No executive order can remove or even identify the wild mustard plants now carrying altered genes bestowed on it by the pollen from its cousin, GM canola.

We all know stories that illustrate the exponential effects of invasive species. Here's my favorite, recalled in my book Genetic Roulette:

On Christmas Day 1859, the Victorian Acclimatization Society released 24 rabbits into the Australian countryside so that settlers could hunt them for sport and feel more "at home." The rabbits multiplied to well over 200 million, spreading out over 4 million square kilometers. That Christmas present now costs Australian agriculture about $600 million per year.

Will GMOs of today show up as the "Australian rabbits" of the future? While their impact on our ecosystem and diet is largely unstudied, that has not stopped the current and past administrations from presiding over the release of millions of acres of GM crops. Not only does each plant carry a gene from bacteria or viruses, its DNA has hundreds or thousands of mutations resulting from the disruptive process of genetic engineering. Reports suggest that the side effects of GMOs are quite dangerous.

Bush policies institutionalize GMO contamination

If we were to ban GMOs today, as is more than justified, some contamination from commercialized GM food crops will nonetheless carry forward in the gene pool of those (and related) species. This includes contaminants from our largest farmed GM crops, including soybeans, yellow corn, cotton, and canola, as well as the smaller crops: Hawaiian papaya, zucchini, and crookneck squash. Newly added–in this year's harvest–are GM sugar beets and white corn. There are also GM tomatoes and potatoes no longer on the market, but whose genes and seeds, to some degree, continue to persist "out there." But the dirty laundry list actually includes over 100 different experimental GM crops, field trialed at more than 50,000 sites in the US since 1986.

Although the government is supposed to make sure that these trials won't contaminate the surrounding environment, a 2005 report by the USDA Office of Inspector General harshly condemned the USDA's abominable oversight. "Current regulations, policies, and procedures," said the report, "do not go far enough to ensure the safe introduction of agricultural biotechnology." The agency's weaknesses "increase the risk that regulated genetically engineered organisms will inadvertently persist in the environment."

But George Bush's pro-biotech response was to further weaken the agency's GMO oversight–and he's trying to do it quickly, before Obama steps in. The proposed ruling makes gene escape more likely, even from GM crops designed to produce pharmaceutical drugs and industrial chemicals.

Monsanto admits more contamination

As a backdrop to Bush's rushed proposal, Monsanto just admitted that an acre of its field trialed, not-yet-approved GM cottonseeds, was inadvertently harvested and mixed with approved cotton. It then entered our food chain as animal feed and cottonseed oil. Oops.

But the FDA, EPA, and USDA employed another of the Bush administration's institutionalized abdications of GMO oversight. They declared the cottonseed contamination safe, in spite of insufficient data to support their claim.

If Bush gets his new USDA rule into effect, let's hope Obama heeds the advice of the Union of Concerned Scientists, which "recommends that the new administration make revocation, revision and strengthening a top priority."

No that won't fully clean up our altered gene pool. But it will start to contain the runaway long-term genetic pollution that is now out of control.

This was originally published on The Huffington Post.