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Tag Archive: United States Department of Agriculture



Drawing by Gonneke and released into public domain on Wikimedia Commons

 

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April 9th, 2014

Sustainable Pulse

  • Urine testing shows glyphosate levels over 10 times higher than in Europe
  • Initial testing shows Monsanto and Global regulatory bodies are wrong regarding bio-accumulation of glyphosate, leading to serious public health concerns
  • Testing commissioners urge USDA and EPA to place temporary ban on all use of Glyphosate-based herbicides to protect public health, until further more comprehensive testing of glyphosate in breast milk is completed.

In the first ever testing on glyphosate herbicide in the breast milk of American women, Moms Across America and Sustainable Pulse have found ‘high’ levels in 3 out of the 10 samples tested. The shocking results point to glyphosate levels building up in women’s bodies over a period of time, which has until now been refuted by both global regulatory authorities and the biotech industry.

The levels found in the breast milk testing of 76 ug/l to 166 ug/l are 760 to 1600 times higher than the European Drinking Water Directive allows for individual pesticides. They are however less than the 700 ug/l maximum contaminant level (MCL) for glyphosate in the U.S., which was decided upon by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) based on the now seemingly false premise that glyphosate was not bio-accumulative.

 

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Posted: 04/02/2014 9:55 am EDT Updated: 04/02/2014 5:59 pm EDT
ORGANIC EGGS
ASSOCIATED PRESS

 

When most Americans think about organic meat or eggs, they picture animals on small farms, allowed to root in the soil, feel sun on their backs, and engage in their natural behaviors. What they don’t picture is tens of thousands of hens crammed into massive sheds with no access to soil and extremely limited outdoor access.

Unfortunately, the USDA stamped its seal of approval on the latter scenario by refusing to implement its own advisory board’s animal welfare recommendations, which would have created a level playing field for the hundreds of small organic farms that were the basis for the standards. These recommendations would not have required “good” conditions, but they would have set a reasonable floor by requiring improvements from the five massive “organic” egg farms that provide the worst hen welfare.

The USDA’s decision doesn’t just violate our moral intuitions and the expectations of organic consumers; it also violates the Department’s legal mandate in at least two distinct ways.

First, USDA is statutorily required “to establish national [organic guidelines that] meet a consistent standard.” In 2005 and again in 2010, USDA’s Office of the Inspector General (OIG) found that animal welfare standards were applied inconsistently, in violation of the Act’s legal requirement that USDA ensure “that [organic] products meet consistent, uniform standards.”

By requiring improvements from the five mega-farms such that their hen welfare standards would align with that of the hundreds of smaller farms, adopting the advisory board’s recommendations would create this statutorily-mandated consistency. Ignoring those recommendations places USDA in violation of its legal mandate.

 

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By Paul Bedard | FEBRUARY 24, 2014 AT 10:55 AM

Nearly a third of the 430 billion pounds of food produced for Americans to eat is wasted, a potential catastrophe for landfills and a wake-up call to officials scrambling to feed the hungry, according to a stunning new report from the Department of Agriculture.

The just-issued report revealed that in 2010, 31 percent, or 133 billion pounds, of food produced for Americans to eat was wasted, either molded or improperly cooked, suffered “natural shrinkage” due to moisture loss, or because people became disinterested in what they purchased.

“In 2010, an estimated 133 billion pounds of food at the retail and consumer levels in the United States went uneaten, and this amount is valued at $161.6 billion using retail prices. This amount of food loss translates into 141 trillion calories in 2010. These estimates suggest that annual food loss in the United States is substantial,” said Ag.

The report comes as the administration is growing concerned about landfills running out of space and struggling to help the one-sixth of Americans who go hungry every day. The report noted that 14 percent of garbage dumped into landfills is food waste, and that 49 million people, mostly poor, need more food.

While waste isn’t new to America, the volume revealed in the report is shocking, and the reasons sometimes just as surprising.

The report provides estimates of waste for different foods, including the top food groups wasted. No. 1 in 2010, the sample year, was the group including meat, poultry and fish. The report said 30 percent, or $48 billion, was wasted.

The reasons for trashing food included dented cans, spills, mold, poor coloring and even religion. Below is USDA’s list of reasons consumers trashed their food:

• Spillages, abrasion, bruising, excessive trimming, excessive or insufficient heat, inadequate storage, technical malfunction.

• Sprouting of grains and tubers, biological aging in fruit.

• Consumers becoming confused over “use-by” and “best before” dates so that food is discarded while still safe to eat.

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Healthy Living

Nestle Recalls Hot Pockets with Meat “Unfit for Human Food”

Image Credit: Wikimedia/Lenin McCarthy

The Philly Steak and Cheese Hot Pockets and the Croissant Crust Philly Steak and Cheese varieties are the ones affected by this recall. The total amount of recalled cases is around 238,000. The site announcing the voluntary recall has since been taken down.

Nestlé’s recall is in response to a recall of meat by Rancho Feeding that also affected some Hot Pocket varieties.

According to Nestle, “Our teams at Nestle have reviewed our vendor records and have determined that one Nestle brand has been impacted by the Rancho meat recall.” They also added that this recall only affects meat used in a production facility in California.

Though the Hot Pocket recall is small, the Rancho meat recall is much larger, including some 8.7 million pounds of meat. It also is categorized as a Class I Recall, which according to the United States Department of Agriculture means “This is a health hazard situation where there is a reasonable probability that the use of the product will cause serious, adverse health consequences or death.”

So what is it about this meat that makes it so dangerous and “unfit for human food”? The answer will likely turn your stomach; it comes from diseased animals.

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Medical syringeBarbara H. Peterson

Farm Wars

Did you know that genetically engineered vaccines are approved for use in livestock for the USDA National Organic Program? Straight from the horse’s mouth:
At present, the National List identifies all vaccines, as a group, as synthetic substances allowed for use in organic livestock production. Vaccines are not individually listed on the National List, but rather are included on as a group of synthetic substances termed “Biologics Vaccines,” that may be used in organic livestock production (7 CFR §205.603(a)(4)).
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USDA.gov

Vaccines
Made
from
Genetically Modified Organisms
Livestock
___________________________________
Composition
of the Substance
:
GMO vaccines are composed of inactivated or weakened viral or bacterial organisms
thathave had genetic material added, deleted, or otherwise modified. Vaccines may also contain suspending fluids, adjuvants (additives that help stimulate an immune response, most commonly aluminum salts and oil/water mixtures) stabilizers, preservatives, or other substances to improve shelf – life and effectiveness of the vaccine(CDC, 2011)
.
Additives in GMO vaccines do not differ from conventional vaccines
(OIE, 2010)
Approved Legal Uses of the Substance:
Under regulations issued by the USDA’s National Organic Program (NOP) pursuant to the Organic Food Production Act of 1990, genetic modification is considered an “excluded method,”which is generally prohibited from organic production and handling under 7 CFR 205.105(e). However, the prohibition of excluded methods includes an exception for vaccines with the condition that the vaccines are approved
in accordance with §205.600(a). That is, the vaccines must be included on the
List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances (hereafter referred to as the National List)
.
At present, the National List identifies all vaccines, as a group, as synthetic substances allowed for use in organic livestock production (7 CFR §205.603(a)(4))
.
Vaccines are not individually listed on the National List, but rather are included on as a group of synthetic substances termed “Biologics  — Vaccines” that may be used in organic livestock production (7 CFR §205.603(a)(4))
.
According to livestock health care standards specified in 7 CFR §205.238, organic livestock producers must establish and main preventive healthcare practices including vaccinations. In addition, 7 CFR §205.238 specifies that any animal drug other than vaccinations cannot be administered in the absence of illness
.
Any animal treated with antibiotics may not be sold, labeled, or represented as an organic (205.238(c)(7)).
Livestock vaccines are regulated by the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) Center for Veterinary Biologics under authority of the Virus-Serum-
Toxin Act of 1913. In particular, all vaccines used in agricultural animals must be licensed, and vaccines created using biotechnology (i.e., made with GMOs) must adhere to the same standards for traditional vaccines. Specifically, vaccine makers
are required to submit a Summary Information Format (SIF) specific to the type of vaccine (Roth and Henderson, 2001). A SIF must present information regarding t
he efficacy, safety, and environmental impact of the vaccine being registered. The purpose of the SIF is to characterize the vaccine’s potential for, and likelihood of, risk. Occasionally, peer-review panels are formed to complete risk assessment of
vaccines; this was the case for the currently licensed live vector rabies vaccine (to reduce rabies in wildlife
.
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Organic Consumers Association

GMO Vaccines in Organic

  • Public Comments to the National Organic Standards Board
    By Alexis Baden-Mayer, Esq., Political Director
    Organic Consumers Association, May 22, 2012
    Straight to the Source

TAKE ACTION: Get GMOs Out of Organic Baby Food!
TAKE ACTION: Tell Organic Baby Food Brands to Stop Using GMOs!
TAKE ACTION: Get Genetically Engineered Vaccines Out of Organic!
TAKE ACTION: Stop Factory Farm Production of “Organic” Poultry and Eggs!
The Organic Food Production Act and the regulations that implement it are very strong. Unfortunately, there’s been some resistance to following the law and regulations.

And, in most instances, when large companies violate national organic standards, the response from Congress, the National Organic Program and the National Organic Standards Board, has been to change the law and regulations to match non-compliance rather than to strengthen enforcement.

The most striking example of this was in 2005 when the Organic Trade Association went to Congress to overturn a federal court ruling in favor of an organic blueberry farmer Arthur Harvey. The original version of OFPA limited the National List exemptions for prohibited substances used in handling to non-organics that were also non-synthetic. When the court in Harvey v. USDA ruled that synthetic ingredients were being illegally approved for use in organic foods, the OTA got Congress to reverse the decision legislatively.

Another more recent example is DHA/ARA. The National Organic Program admitted that these synthetics used in baby formula, baby food and baby cereal, were illegally approved for use in organic foods, but instead of enforcing the law, the NOP asked the manufacturer to petition the products for placement on the National List and the National Organic Standards Board approved them at the last meeting, even though it was clear that the NOP had not properly vetted DHA/ARA to determine whether they were produced using excluded methods of genetic engineering.

Two more examples of the organic industry’s refusal to obey the law — and the NOP’s unwillingness to enforce the law — are open questions before you: GMO vaccines and animal welfare standards.

Under current regulations, GMO vaccines can’t be used unless they are successfully petitioned for use on the National List. To date, no GMO vaccines have been petitioned, so one would assume that they’re not being used in organic.

But, we know they are being used. This was first admitted to publicly by the National Organic Program staff at the May 2009 meeting of the National Organic Standards Board. Richard Matthews announced to the board that, in fact, since the beginning of the program, all vaccines had been routinely allowed in organic, without a review as to whether or not they were genetically engineered, and he recommended that, instead of the NOP enforcing the law against this violation, the NOSB should recommend a change in the law and that’s what the NOSB did.

Deputy Administrator Miles McEvoy wisely rejected that recommendation, but the NOP still hasn’t made any attempt to enforce current law. The NOP should have immediately collected information on which vaccines are being used in organic and prohibited those that are genetically engineered. At that point, prohibited GMO vaccines that had been used in organic could be petitioned. And we’d be back on track with current law.

Instead, the NOP seems to have left the ball in the NOSB’s court. And we still have an acknowledged failure to follow and enforce the law.

This isn’t right. The National Organic Standards Board should stop work on GMO vaccine recommendations until there are assurances from the NOP that they’re going to stop the illegal use of GMO vaccines.

We have a similar problem on the issue of animal welfare. You all are trying hard to establish some measurable standards for animal welfare, but the irony is that while you try to improve animal welfare, the current regulations are being violated.

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Daily Herald

Article posted: 2/17/2014 5:30 AM

Salmonella outbreaks expose weaknesses in USDA oversight

Noah Craten of Glendale, Ariz., is shown after surgery at Cardon Children’s Medical Center in Mesa, Ariz., in October. An infection in his bloodstream had caused abscesses on his brain. Tests by state health officials showed he had been infected with a strain of Salmonella Heidelberg.

Noah Craten of Glendale, Ariz., is shown after surgery at Cardon Children’s Medical Center in Mesa, Ariz., in October. An infection in his bloodstream had caused abscesses on his brain. Tests by state health officials showed he had been infected with a strain of Salmonella Heidelberg.

Courtesy of Amanda Craten

 1 of 1 
By Kimberly Kindy and Brady Dennis

 

The Agriculture Department inspector showed up at Rick Schiller’s home last November to collect potential evidence from his freezer: three pounds of chicken thighs, wrapped in plastic and stamped with a Foster Farms label.

 

Schiller, a 51-year-old California advertising executive, had recently returned from a five-day stay in the hospital, prompted by severe vomiting, diarrhea and an infection that left his joints throbbing and his right leg purple and twice its normal size.

 

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“I’ve been around the block. I’ve had some painful things,” he said. “But nothing like this.”

 

State lab tests run on Schiller had already confirmed the diagnosis: a salmonella infection linked to Foster Farms chicken, part of a widespread outbreak that has food-safety advocates and some public health officials warning about the potential for food-borne illnesses to become more and more severe in the age of antibiotic-resistant “superbugs.”

 

Federal regulators and poultry companies are scrambling to find new ways to reduce salmonella contamination, which sickens a million Americans annually. And the Agriculture Department is planning to expand rules to limit salmonella on chicken parts, not just whole birds.

 

But food-safety groups say this doesn’t go far enough and the USDA should ban the most perilous salmonella strains from poultry altogether. Poultry processors have resisted such an approach, arguing that it would be expensive and ultimately futile, because salmonella is so pervasive.

 

The salmonella strain that sent Schiller to the hospital — a type known as Heidelberg — has been linked to numerous outbreaks in recent years, including the one at Foster Farms, which officially has sickened 430 people in 23 states.

 

The pathogen has sent double the usual rate of victims to hospital emergency rooms, one reason the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention called dozens of experts and investigators back to work during the government shutdown last fall to more closely track the outbreak. Some strains of Heidelberg also have proved resistant to several types of commonly prescribed antibiotics.

 

“This isn’t your grandmother’s salmonella,” said Sarah Klein, an attorney for Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), a nonprofit health watchdog group.

 

Noah Craten was 18 months old when he ended up in an Arizona children’s hospital last October after an unshakable fever that lasted nearly a month. Doctors eventually discovered that an infection in his bloodstream had caused abscesses on the boy’s brain. Surgeons had to slice open his scalp and cut open a piece of his skull to remove them.

 

After three weeks in an isolated hospital room and countless doses of antibiotics, Noah returned home in early November. Tests run by state health officials showed he had been infected with a Heidelberg strain, linked to the Foster Farms outbreak.

 

Cases similar to Noah’s prompted the CSPI to file a petition with the USDA in 2011, outlining legal arguments for why it believes certain strains of salmonella should be banned because they present acute health risks.

 

The petition points to the USDA’s own efforts with dangerous, drug-resistant E. coli strains, beginning with its ban a decade ago of E. coli 0157:H7.

 

The agency declared a zero-tolerance policy for the strain in many beef products after hundreds of Americans fell ill and four children died in 1993 after eating tainted hamburger meat from fast-food chain Jack in the Box.

 

As researchers eventually identified other types of E. coli that were particularly virulent and resistant to antibiotics, those likewise got labeled “adulterants” by the USDA, meaning the agency considers them dangerous substances that should be banned from commerce. A ban gives the USDA legal authority to order recalls, something it does not have with salmonella.

 

The result: Over time, deaths and infections from E. coli have decreased significantly.

 

“It worked,” said Seattle lawyer Bill Marler, who specializes in food poisoning cases and is representing Schiller. “Ninety-five percent of my cases used to be E. coli. Today it is nearly zero. The industry will kick and scream, but they can fix it.”

 

The chicken industry has long argued that it would not be realistic to expect processors to do away with salmonella on raw meat and that consumers must bear some responsibility in appropriately preparing it.

 

“Eliminating bacteria entirely is always the goal. But in reality, it’s simply not feasible,” said Tom Super, a spokesman for the National Chicken Council. “No legislation or regulation can keep bacteria from existing. … The only way to ensure our food is safe 100 percent of the time is by following science-based procedures when raising/growing, processing, handling and cooking it.”

 

Both salmonella and E. coli can be killed by cooking meat to the appropriate temperature, but the USDA has determined that the risks are too great to place that responsibility on the shoulders of consumers when it comes to the more dangerous E. coli strains.

 

CSPI and epidemiologists hope that by expanding this approach to select salmonella strains the industry will be provided with the incentive it needs to scale back on the overuse of antibiotics on the farm. Experts say this practice has contributed to the rise of superbugs, both in animals and in humans.

 

As George Washington University epidemiologist Lance Price explains it, as more and more antibiotics are used on chickens, some types of salmonella are better able than others at surviving the bacteria-killing treatments.

 

“It’s like someone is shooting at the bacteria and some of them have put on bulletproof vests,” Price said. “The bacteria with the bulletproof vests are going to be the ones that survive.”

 

Read More Here

 

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Pritzker Law.com

Maple Grove Restaurant Associated with MN Salmonella Enteritidis Outbreak

Attorney Ryan Osterholm is leading our law firm’s investigation of a Salmonella Enteritidis outbreak associated with a Maple Grove, Minnesota, restaurant. The specific food responsible for the cluster of Salmonella infections (salmonellosis) has not been determined.

Ryan and our team of Salmonella lawyers are looking at whether there is a connection with a nationally distributed product. If so, there may be illnesses associated with other locations in Minnesota and other states.

 

Read More Here

 

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Food Poisoning Bulletin

MN Salmonella Outbreak May Be Linked to Maple Grove Restaurant

A Salmonella outbreak in Minnesota may be linked to a restaurant in Maple Grove, Food Poisoning Bulletin has learned. A cluster of Salmonella Enteritidis infections has been identified and may be linked to a restaurant about 30 miles northwest of the Twin Cities metropolitan area.

Salmonella outbreak may linked to a Maple Grove restaurant.A potential source of the outbreak has not yet been identified. Health officials are collecting environmental samples from the restaurant and stool samples from those who were sickened. Tests on the samples will determine the genetic fingerprint of the Salmonella, allowing health officials to determine if the isolates from the patients are a match to any of the samples from the restaurant.

 

Read More Here

 

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A beef jerky recall is in effect over concerns that packages were misbranded and failed to include a potential allergy-triggering ingredient, reports The Associated Press on Feb. 12.

Salt Lake City-based Prime Snax Inc. is recalling all jerky products made before Feb. 2 that have already been shipped around the country. The products were found to be mislabeled on the packaging and did not include the ingredient soy lecithin – an emulsifier or binding agent that some individuals are allergic to.

According to the USDA’s news release, the products subject to recall bear the establishment number “EST. 18951” inside the USDA Mark of Inspection. The expiration date on the packages will be prior to August 11, 2015, in the format of “mm dd yy.”

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NPR .'s profile photo
June 11, 2013 5:12 PM
Meat tenderized the old-fashioned way. The industrial method is a mechanized process involving needles.

Meat tenderized the old-fashioned way. The industrial method is a mechanized process involving needles.

iStockphoto.com

In order to make tough cuts of beef more tender, the industry uses a mechanical tenderizing process that involves piercing the meat with needles.

This is effective in breaking up the tough muscle fibers, but there’s a downside, too: a higher risk of surface bacteria making their way into the cut of meat, which can set the stage for food poisoning. That’s a particular concern when it comes to the center of meat cuts, which don’t get heated to the same temperatures as the exterior.

Since 2003, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has learned about five foodborne illness outbreaks linked to mechanically tenderized beef.

And what was the common denominator in these outbreaks? Undercooked or raw beef.

So, the USDA has that would require new labels for mechanically tenderized meats, so that consumers know what they are purchasing. The thinking is that if you know your cut of meat has been mechanically tenderized, you’ll be inclined to cook it a little longer.

 

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GMOs and Health: The Scientific Basis for Serious Concern and Immediate Action

OMG, GMOs!

You might ask, “why all the fuss about agricultural genetically modified organisms (GMOs)?” After all, regulatory agencies have approved these technologies for widespread application and consumption, so they must be safe, right?  Well, the truth is that there is no agency and no industry that  works to protect our health.  At best, the EPA, USDA, and FDA attempt to respond to our disease after the cause is widespread.  At that point only risk reduction, rather than risk avoidance, can be achieved.  This has been the case historically with radium paint, tobacco, particulate air pollution, water pollution, asbestos, lead, food-borne illnesses, and DDT.  A number of the various 80,000 chemicals in production will likely be added to this list in the future while the majority of them that actually do contribute to disease (often in combination and in complex ways) will never be scientifically associated with disease.  This is because science is far from perfect, scientific methodology is always biased and often manipulated, and scientific interpretation by stakeholders and decision makers is alarmingly inept (I’m not being political or condescending, these are well known and easily observed facts).

The situation with agricultural GMOs is unique compared to other technologies. While genetic engineering of food crops has been ongoing for 15 years, it is currently experiencing a major boom with the potential for widespread worldwide application.  Yet, few people understand how a GMO food could really be so much different than a non-GMO food in regard to health and disease effects.  GMO foods look like non-GMO foods and so we don’t experience the same hesitation and aversion to consuming them like we would, say, a clearly labeled bottle of virus and pesticide in tomato juice.  Therefore, the quality of public education, consumer awareness, and informed public discussion about this technology has the potential to alter the future of GMO agriculture for better or worse.

In this article, I’ll first briefly mention the relative paucity of risk assessment studies on GMOs and the unbelievable weaknesses of the industry studies that have been done.  Then, drawing from numerous independent studies, I will explore the routes by which agricultural GMOs may cause adverse health effects.

GMOs Have Never Been “Proven” Safe

Let me be clear; despite the following negative review of industry science, this article is not a hatchet job against the agricultural GMO industry but, rather, a vehicle for consolidated scientific information on the safety or risks of GMO foods intended to allow readers to make informed choices about this technology.  It is just that, well, the science coming from the industry tends to raise serious concerns and suggests that the agricultural GMO industry has little concern for protecting public and ecosystem health.  Before we dive into the independent non-industry studies which suggest potential harm from GMO crops and foods, we must first look at the studies which supposedly demonstrate the safety of GMO crops and foods.  A critique of these studies remained impossible for some time as the data was kept private, until French researchers obtained a court order for their release.  This team of researchers, lead by Joel Spiroux de Vendomois, then analyzed the raw data from studies on three varieties of GMO corn owned by Monsanto.  Yet, it immediately became apparent that this data was not extremely helpful as the study methodology was profoundly insufficient.  In a 2010 paper published in the International Journal of Biological Sciences[1], the researchers summarize several major flaws in the study.  I’ll list just a few of them here:

1. For each of the three varieties of GMO corn tested, only a single study was done.  However, a central tenet of sound science is that the results are reproducible and replicated by other studies, preferably those done by different researchers.

2. Only the rat was used as a toxicological model.  Rats are useful models for the human detoxification systems, but poor models for human reproductive and embryological systems.  Remember, rat studies “proved” that thalidomide was safe for pregnant women to use… but the rabbit studies done AFTER thousands of babies were harmed “proved” that it caused birth defects!  Scientific proof is only as good as the scientific studies, which are always limited and narrowly focused.

3.  The studies lasted only 3 months and were done on young adult rats.  Yet, captive rats live about 24 months.  No studies looking at late life outcomes from this brief exposure or studies which used lifelong exposure to GMOs were performed.  This is clearly a problem unless human consumers are only supposed to eat GMO foods for no longer than 9 years between the ages of 10 and 20.  Yet, GMO food technology has been released (without labeling) with the intention of lifelong consumption.

4.  No reproductive or developmental studies were done.  Yet GMO foods do not carry a label declaring that their safety during pregnancy has not been evaluated.  Instead, they are unlabeled and meant to be consumed by both genders, at all ages and developmental stages, including during pregnancy and infancy.

5.  Adverse outcomes were only considered if they occurred in both genders!  Clearly genders are different.  For instance, women are much more likely to get breast cancer than men, and one must have a prostate to get prostate cancer.  In the industry studies, increases in prostate cancer in male rats and increases in mammary tumors in female rats would apparently have been omitted since they differed between genders.  This explains exactly what happened to their findings that male rats eating GMO corn had an 11% increase in heart size while female rats eating GMO corn had a 40% increase in serum triglycerides[2].   It is not clear what to make of these findings, but they should not have been omitted and, instead, should have been used to encourage more numerous and longer duration (lifespan) studies before the worldwide release of GMO corn.

6.  Adverse outcomes which are consider “normal” in old rats were omitted in this young rat population.  For instance, the researchers did not consider “chronic progressive nephropathy”, a kidney disease common in older rats, to be a problem even though it was occurring in young, 5 month old, rats eating the GMO corn.

Now, I can attest that modern toxicology students training at respectable universities are taught to do much better work than this. We can only speculate about the reasons such limited study methodologies were chosen.  Nonetheless, these are the studies which the FDA determined to be sufficient for the approval of the three GMO corn varieties represented.  As if the major flaws in the study methodologies were not enough to warrant a different decision, the French team of researchers found a number of concerning associations upon re-analyzing the raw data[3].  They summarize:

“Our analysis clearly reveals for the 3 GMOs new side effects linked with GM maize consumption, which were sex- and often dose-dependent. Effects were mostly associated with the kidney and liver, the dietary detoxifying organs, although different between the 3 GMOs. Other effects were also noticed in the heart, adrenal glands, spleen and hematopoietic system. We conclude that these data highlight signs of hepatorenal toxicity, possibly due to the new pesticides specific to each GM corn.”

This is not the only group of researchers to demonstrate an association between GMO consumption and adverse health outcomes.  Despite the industries resistance to providing GMO varieties to outside researchers for independent studies, there are still dozens of studies available to the public for review.  I’ll synthesize the findings of several of these studies below in considering the possible mechanisms by which agricultural GMOs may cause problems.  In general, the health effects of agricultural GMOs are mediated through at least three routes; 1. Directly though ingestion, 2. Indirectly through GMO associated pesticide exposure and ingestion, and 3. Indirectly through environmental and ecosystem effects.

Effects of GMO ingestion:

Ingesting GMOs can affect both the microbiome and human cells.  The microbiome is the microorganism population which lives on and in the human body.  Most of it exists in or on the mouth, nose, stomach, intestines, and skin.  The gut microbiome has received considerable attention due to its apparently profound effect on the immune system, not to mention its effect on food digestion.  The gut microbiome is involved in determining the risk of autoimmune diseases, allergic diseases, cardiovascular disease, and some infectious diseases like osteomyelitis.  The microbiome can get out of balance (called dysbiosis) and produce severe diseases such as Clostridium difficile overgrowth and more mild disorders like small bowel bacterial overgrowth and irritable bowel syndrome.  The bottom line is that a balanced microbiome is critical for health and we are just now beginning to appreciate how serious the consequences of dysbiosis may be.

Several studies have shown that the organisms (mostly bacteria) of the microbiome can take up genes from GMO foods[4],[5].  “Conjugation”, or gene transfer, is a common trick used by bacteria to evolve and adapt.  This is one mechanism by which antibiotic resistance perpetuates.   The consequences of GMO gene transfer to intestinal bacteria involve the expression of the gene and/or insertional mutagenesis.  The frequency with which these consequences will occur is not known, but they will occur to some degree at least.

Intestinal bacteria which begin to express the GMO gene will then be producing the same active proteins which define the GMO.  For example, intestinal bacteria could start producing the Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) pesticidal toxin that has been inserted into potatoes, corn, and soybeans.  The exact effect of this toxin on humans, if any, is not well established but it has been found in a study of Canadian women, including pregnant women and their fetuses[6].

Insertional mutagenesis refers to the gene inserting itself into another coding gene and, thus, causing a gene mutation by disrupting the code.  This may produce more severe results as it is a well known mechanism by which viruses may cause cancer, cell death, or cellular dysfunction.

These same mechanisms, gene transfer and insertional mutagenesis, can affect human cells just the same.  While intestinal cells are likely to be the most affected, GMO genes which pass into the blood intact may affect just about any cell and tissue in the body.  It is quite possible that GMO foods are regularly resulting in the genetic modification of the humans consuming them!  There are many unknowns here and I suspect that there remains a lot to be discovered, but we should not let the absence of evidence be mistaken for the evidence of absent harm.  We should, instead, demand more information and more research!

 

Read Full Article Here

– Jacob Chamberlain, staff writer

(Boris Grdanoski / AP)

Monsanto claimed Wednesday that the Oregon field found last week to be contaminated with Monsanto’s unapproved GM wheat was an “isolated” incident, and that it was likely either the result of an accident or “sabotage.” However, scientists warned Thursday that the biotech giant’s denial has many holes.

Monsanto claims that it has since tested 31,200 seed samples in Oregon and Washington and found no evidence of contamination—insisting there is no cause for concern in the world market.

However, researchers this week said that Monsanto’s tests are misleading and that the genetically modified gene, not yet approved for use in the U.S., will likely continue to be found in wheat seeds.

“We don’t know where in the whole chain it is,” said Carol Mallory-Smith, the weed science professor at Oregon State University who tested the initial wheat plants and determined they were the unapproved Monsanto seed.

“I don’t know how Monsanto can declare anything. We obviously had these plants in the field.”

“You introduce something into the environment, and genes move around in the environment, whether transgenic or not,” she added.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is currently investigating how the wheat gene, which was taken out of test fields eight years ago, is now showing up.

Monsanto claims that all of the tested seeds had been either destroyed or recovered and sent to a USDA facility in Colorado for storage.

However, David Andow, a professor of entomology at the University of Minnesota, said in an interview with Bloomberg that these claims are misleading and that the tests cited by Monsanto this week, which displayed clean wheat in the state of Washington, are shortsighted.

“Sure they tested it, but that doesn’t mean it’s all clean,” Andow said. “It just means it’s not so widespread that it could be detected easily.”

And Doug Gurian-Sherman, senior scientist at the Union of Concerned Scientists in Washington, said that this is not the first time Monsanto has been less than forthcoming on the extent of its seed contamination: “In previous cases, such as during the outbreak of herbicide-resistant weeds in recent years, Monsanto has initially played down the risks.”

“The reality is that nobody knows what happened until extensive testing is done.”

Additionally, Bloomberg reported recently that even if Monsanto’s claims about this specific wheat strain were proven true, Monsanto has resumed trials of other and very similar GM wheat seeds, according to information posted in a U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) database.

Monsanto planted 150 acres of GM wheat in Hawaii last year and 300 acres of GM wheat in North Dakota this year—meaning the risk of genetic pollution from unapproved Monsanto wheat is even greater than most people are aware.

Meanwhile, the discovery of the GM wheat in Oregon caused fast moving international backlash, with Japan suspending some imports of US wheat, South Korea testing all of its US wheat imports, and the EU urging its members to test some of its US wheat imports.

The extent of contamination from Monsanto’s GM wheat seeds in Oregon, let alone Hawaii and North Dakota, remain unknown.

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