Ask Us Anything About GMOs!

Q:
Good Afternoon, Can you explain how we are to reconcile the claims that GMO foods are safe and "comparable" to Non-GMO foods, when GMOs are doused with chemicals, such as Monsanto's Roundup, which contains GLYPHOSATE? More and more studies are now linking glyphosate to all kinds of health issues, even cancer. See these articles as just an example: http://www.fromthetrenchesworldreport.com/monsantos-roundup-herbicide-may-be-most-important-factor-in-development-of-autism-and-other-chronic-disease/46918 http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2013/07/30/glyphosate-toxicity.aspx?e_cid=20130730_DNL_art_1&utm_source=dnl&utm_medium=email&utm_content=art1&utm_campaign=20130730 And in spite of the growing evidence that glyphosate DOES indeed cause human health issues, as it kills the microflora in the gut, the EPA is looking to RAISE the allowable levels of glyphosate use on GMOs: http://blogs.prevention.com/inspired-bites/2013/06/25/epa-to-vote-on-increasing-level-of-cancer-linked-chemical/ I can tell you as a consumer that this makes GMOs even less desirable as a food choice, as GMO foods will contain even HIGHER amounts of this chemical. As a consumer, how am I supposed to feel good about buying products that have been doused in chemicals to feed myself and my family? And please don't site any industry-backed "studies" that proclaim that glyphosate is safe for humans.. Often I see responses from your experts citing "studies". Most of us are aware that these studies are "cherry-picked" from industry-backers, as the studies were indirectly funded by the companies who stand to benefit from a positive report. For example, the AMA is not independent regarding this topic, as they are making a fortune from treating the illnesses people experience from the toxins in the food. For sake of transparency, why not stick to strictly independent studies, from entities who have no vested interest in the topic? I can tell you as a consumer that I am going to look to obtain the purest food I can, so if you can explain, honestly, how I needn't worry about chemicals such as glyphosate being used to grow GMOs, I am all ears. I appreciate your time and consideration in responding to my question, Blessings
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A:Expert Answer

This is a multifaceted question with the understanding that you don't trust information from industry scientists, government scientists, academic scientists at institutions that receive private funding or organizations like the AMA and, I will presume, the National Academy of Sciences.  I point this out because there was an article published recently that discusses exactly this expectation of corruption that may be of interest (see page 8).

 

I will begin by sorting out and clarifying some items.  Crops are not “doused” in anything.  The word implies a haphazard and presumably excessive application of materials, and this is not the case.  Although you expressed concern only for pesticide use in GM crops, the same regulatory assessments are done for GM and non-GM crops.  Pesticide application rates and application times are subject to regulation, and maximum allowable levels of residue in various food or feed crops are subject to regulation. In the case of glyphosate in the United States, even worst-case-scenario estimates (assuming crops contain maximum allowable levels, grossly overestimating exposure) indicate that intakes are well below levels of regulatory concern.

 

The recently established or altered tolerances for glyphosate received a great deal of attention in the media. You can view the decision here. You will note that―contrary to most internet coverage of this topic―1) the petition was not submitted by Monsanto, 2) the petition was for use in a variety of minor use crops and forage, 3) none of the crops involved was genetically modified and 4) glyphosate is not applied directly to these crops for weed control, as they are not glyphosate-resistant.

 

Data for pesticide registration―as is the case for drugs, food additives and every other product you use from cosmetics to cars―are generated by or on behalf of manufacturers.  The requirements for data generation are, however, established by the Federal Government.  For glyphosate specifically, there are now six sets of independent (of one another) toxicology data for glyphosate from the various registrants, all of which are consistent and none of which suggests risks of cancer or other long-term health effects.  Newer studies that have been mandated more recently (immunotoxicology and developmental neurotoxicology), as well as endocrine testing do not raise concerns. 

 

You seem to be highly skeptical of these data, and I respect your right to be skeptical of all data that you review.  For instance, the paper by Samsel and Seneff appears in a physics journal, is published by individuals with no formal background in biology or medicine and in fact has no data in the paper at all. Rather, it weaves together a series of complex but unproven theories. Even Huffington Post, not a great fan of GMOs, has criticized this work, and others have chimed in as well (When Media Uncritically Cover PseudoscienceI Was Going To Write Some Words But Keith Kloor Beat Me To It).

 

I do agree with Jeffrey Smith on one point: the paper is hard to get through. In fact, to a scientist, the paper is a rambling string of unsubstantiated assertions, with claims around effects on exogenous semiotic entropy―three words that do not appear together anywhere else in the scientific literature. She has proven nothing―merely generated intricate but unsupportable hypotheses. If you listen to the full interview with Stephanie Seneff, she admits that there are no new data.

 

The Mercola citation takes you to one of several postings on Mercola's website. Like Stephanie Seneff, Mercola makes myriad claims but presents no data.  Dr. Mercola plays out prominently on the Quackwatch website and has been warned or ordered by FDA on several occasions to cease making illegal claims for products sold via his various websites and organizations.  In the interest of space, I will not try to address all of Mercola's claims here (I suspect GMO Answers will get to them all), but let's look at a few examples:

 

  • Claims supported by Samsel and Seneff (so-called “groundbreaking research”). These are, as noted above, unsubstantiated hypotheses that have been widely subject to criticism.
  • The Séralini two-year rat study. Bottom line―Séralini and colleagues demonstrated the normal tumor incidence in SD rats fed on unlimited diets.  It is not difficult to speculate about why a photo of a test rat with a tumor with no scientific value was included, and why the comparable photo of control rats with tumors was not included, in the paper. There was no difference demonstrated between exposed and control animals. This study was rebutted widely. The most definitive treatise is from the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), and the situation is extensively reviewed on Monsanto's website, with multiple links to independent agencies and scientific organizations who have rejected this study.

 

As time and space permit, we will get to the remaining allegations, and I think you will find that they are similarly unsubstantiated.

Topic: Safety, Health, and Nutrition  3 Comments | Add Comment