Browsed by
Month: July 2012

Let’s put creationism to a vote

Let’s put creationism to a vote

One of the big talking points in the GMO labeling campaign is that a majority of people want their food labeled if it contains genetically modified ingredients. Why is Big Fooda trying to thwart the will of the people?

Good point. We live in a democracy. Why not allow people to vote on GMO labeling?

Okay. I suggest we put creationism to a vote. Let’s have state ballots requiring that creationism be taught alongside evolution as a valid theory.  After all, the latest Gallup poll says that 46% of Americans believe in it. That’s almost a majority. 41% of Democrats and 58% of Republicans believe in it.

What’s that you say? Creationism isn’t scientific, it’s religion. Well, there are scientists out there who would disagree. They have facts and evidence which show the holes in evolution. But, but…”The consensus of the scientific community agrees that evolution is scientifically sound. Those guys are using flawed science.”

Well, you see where I’m going with this.  The bottom line is both the science of creationism and anti-GMO are unsound and severely flawed. If you believe the anti-GMO activists whose facts are based on flawed science, you are in the same camp as creationists.

GMO labeling supporter doesn’t want his products labeled.

GMO labeling supporter doesn’t want his products labeled.

One of the big talking points by anti-GMO advocates is if GMO products are safe, why are companies afraid to label them? Well, apparently what’s good for the GMO goose is not good for the anti-GMO gander.

Senator Richard Durbin of Illinois introduced an amendment to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Safety and Innovation Act which would require health supplement companies to list the ingredients of the products on the label. That’s it. No testing, just labeling and registering. The idea is that should any health problems arise, the FDA will have the information to track down the source of the problem. The Durbin amendment lost but could be brought up again.

Well, the supplement industry seems to have a bit of a problem with this. They don’t want their products labeled. And who is leading the charge? Why it’s our very own Dr. Mercola, the guy whom prominent biologist Steven Salzberg, called “the 21st-century equivalent of a snake-oil salesman.”

Mercola is the largest contributor, $800k, to the California GMO labeling law campaign. The campaign has various groups aligned with it with names like “The Right to Know” and “Just Label it.”

The supporters claim that a simple label is not that big of a deal and will not cause any financial hardship on the companies. Mercola says the result of labeling would create financial hardships on supplement selling companies, “granting the FDA more power to regulate supplements as if they were drugs, effectively putting supplement companies out of business.” Wait, it’s just a label, right?

And, no, it doesn’t treat them like drugs. There is no testing involved for approval. Durbin’s amendment simply requires the listing of ingredients.

Why are Mercola and the rest of the supplement industry so vehemently against this amendment? All it requires, to repeat once more, is to list the ingredients on the label. Why is Mercola so against the Right to Know?

It just might be if the ingredients are listed, it could show their supplements don’t have any benefits, or don’t have the benefits that a company claims they do. Mercola has already been cited three times by the FDA for making false and misleading claims.

Mercola worries that if Durbin’s Amendment passes it will be a “slippery slope..toward a supplement pre-approval system, similar to the one being used by the European Union. In the EU, only certain “approved” vitamins and minerals may be used in food supplements, and only in very limited amounts.”

The anti-GMO crowd always points to the EU and others as requiring labeling of GM foods as a talking point. (Note: the EU recently reversed their decision.) But, when it comes to supplements and their requirements, the EU has been bought off by Big Pharma?

Mercola also spews out statistics about how real drugs are more dangerous than supplements since there wasn’t one death from a dietary supplement in 2010. Of course he rattles off that the number of adverse effects of prescription drugs without putting the numbers context, such as abuse of those drugs. It is well-known that abuse of prescription drugs is a big problem.

He cites other statistics, but leaves out an important explanation. Real drugs can have adverse effects because they actually work.  The baseline is risk assessment. Do the benefits outweigh the risks? For example, according to the organization Infection Research, “in 1963, when the vaccine for measles was approved three to four million people got measles. It resulted in 50,000 hospitalizations, 1000 permanent disabilities and 400–500 deaths.  So, if there are 200+ adverse reactions to the measles vaccine, does that outweigh what we saw in 1963?

In a 2010 article in Forbes, the above mentioned Steve Salzberg wrote, “The problem is, our intuition is wrong. Two separate studies published this past week, involving tens of thousands of subjects, showed that high doses of vitamins and supplements, rather than being helpful, can sometimes kill you.”

Salzberg points to a statement by The Council for Responsible Nutrition, a supplement industry lobbying group where they take issue with the studies,  “CRN maintains that nutrients may be robbed of their beneficial effects when viewed as if they were pharmaceutical agents, with scientists looking to isolate those effects, good or bad.” Huh? What? If you treat supplements as drugs they lose their effectiveness? How? Do the supplements resent being compared to pharmaceuticals so they get depressed and that affects their effectiveness?

The alternative health industry is full of screwballs. They seem to want to play by their own rules. They don’t want to be subject to the same rules and regulations as other industries. If it is demanded that they do, they play the victim. They are victims of Big Pharma and their bought off minions in government. It’s a conspiracy to suppress the truth. Big Pharma can’t make money on natural cures, so they seek to destroy the alternative health industry. What they are is Big Quacka. They peddle dubious cures and supplements and refuse to be held accountable because they know they’re charlatans and hucksters.

Dance teacher to give expert opinion on GMOs to Conn. Assembly

Dance teacher to give expert opinion on GMOs to Conn. Assembly

Jeffrey Smith, who I’ve written about before, is scheduled to speak before the Connecticut Assembly’s GM Labeling Task Force on August 8th. The task force should rescind this offer. Instead, they should have actual scientists testify. They should at least have scientists testify as a counterbalance to his nonsense.

This is getting ridiculous. Frauds and charlatans are increasingly given credence by the American public, public officials and worst of all, the media.

In the dozen or so articles that pop up in my Google alerts each day, never does a day go by without a speaking appearance by Smith or by someone referencing him. And it’s usually the liberal/left groups that are hosting him or parroting his nonsense. Not one of the events where Smith speaks are there real scientists on the bill. What’s up with that? Does the liberal/left really want to know the facts or are they more interested in listening to someone, however dubious the credentials, confirm their preconceived beliefs?

On this issue I can without reservation say that the liberal/left lives in a glass house. They berate the right for their anti-science mindset on issues like climate change, but they do the same thing on the issue of GMOs.

As I have written before, Smith is a self-styled expert on GMOs. He has no science or agricultural, experience whatsoever. He has scammed his way into getting not only the media to think of him as an expert, but carious government bodies as well.

In my never-ending quest to find out more information about Smith, I recently discovered he owns a dance studio in Iowa.

I think real scientists should start a public campaign to refute his nonsense.

To recap:

His bio and resume are vague. What is known is he was a member of the Maharishi Natural Law Party in Iowa whose solution to the national crime problem was “yogic flying.”

In 1996, the Daily Illinni wrote, “Smith presented charts with evidence of a correlation between the presence of yogic flyers and an increase in the quality of life and a decrease in crime. Smith cited limited yogic flying programs in Washington D.C. and near the Middle East that resulted in less crime and more harmony.” He has two self-published books on genetic engineering.  One of them, Genetic Roulette has been discredited by real scientists. The organization, Academics Review, looked at the book to see how his claims stacked up against current peer-reviewed science and submitted a chapter by chapter take down of the book.

Should organic foods be labeled, “May contain E.coli or Salmonella?”

Should organic foods be labeled, “May contain E.coli or Salmonella?”

Much has been made about the California’s right-to-know GMO labeling law. Supporters cite bogus science and discredited studies to bolster their view and dismiss any opponents of the law as paid shills of Monsanto. Many backers of the bill hope this is step one in getting GMOs banned altogether.

But, in the 16 years GMO products have been on the market, there hasn’t been one instance of any health related problems due specifically to GMOs. In fact, there have been many food borne illness outbreaks due to organic foods.

The E.coli outbreak in Germany that killed 50 people and hospitalized thousands in 2011 was caused by organic sprouts. Also, last year, sprouts from an Illinois organic farm sickened people in 26 states. These outbreaks didn’t come from conventional or GMO foods.

This year, an organic farm was responsible for at least 10 people being diagnosed with Campylobacter infections. What the hell is that?

According to the CDC:

Campylobacteriosis is an infectious disease caused by bacteria of the genus Campylobacter. Most people who become ill with campylobacteriosis get diarrhea, cramping, abdominal pain, and fever within two to five days after exposure to the organism. The diarrhea may be bloody and can be accompanied by nausea and vomiting. The illness typically lasts one week. Some infected persons do not have any symptoms. In persons with compromised immune systems, Campylobacter occasionally spreads to the bloodstream and causes a serious life-threatening infection.

In 2011,  nine outbreaks occurred in the US.

In may a study published in the journal,  Clinical Infectious Diseases  found organic meats might have an increased toxoplasmosis risk. It is a single-celled parasite called Toxoplasma gondii.  The symptoms of toxoplasmosis include swollen lymph glands, aches and pains that last longer than a month. Many people carry the parasite, but are unaffected due to their string immune systems. The trend toward free-range food animals has increased the toxoplasmosis risk.

Let’s see what we have from this year:

Taylor Farms Retail, Inc. recalls Organic Baby Spinach because it may be contaminated with Salmonella.

FunFresh Foods recalled their World Berries Organic “Cacao Nibs”: E. coli.

Moonstruck Organic Cheese recalled  their Tomme d’Or cheeses: Listeria.

Mellace Family Brands Raw Organic Cashews. Salmonella.

I could go on but you get the point. In the past two years there have been 20 recalls of organic products for contamination.

Now, does this mean that organic foods should be banned?  No. It doesn’t. Perhaps along with the organic label there should be the warning: May contain e.Coli or Salmonella? No, there shouldn’t be one. There is an inherent risk in any type of food whether it be conventional, GMO or organic.

People have valid reasons for choosing organic, less pesticides and no antibiotic use are two reasons. But is not necessarily safer. Imagine if these recalls and outbreaks listed above had come from GMO foods. The anti-GMO crowd would be apoplectic and screaming so loud their tin foil hats would fall off.

California GMO labeling law: Bad science, crackpots and hucksters

California GMO labeling law: Bad science, crackpots and hucksters

In November, California voters will decide on a law that requires mandatory labeling of food products made with genetically modified ingredients, or GMOs (the O is for “organism”). It has been framed by its supporters as a right-to-know issue, playing Organic David to GMO’s Goliath. To its detractors, it’s nothing more than a campaign of fear mongering brought on by the organic industry in league with a cadre of alternative medicine crackpots.

One of the biggest misconceptions about GMOs is that it’s seen as a total solution. It’s not a solution, it’s a tool. Sometimes GMOs are warranted,  other times not. A farmer should be free to go GMO—if its use is warranted—without fear of being regulated out of the marketplace.

I would argue that the California labeling law will result in an effective ban on GMOs, taking away that choice from farmers. The negative press, based on nonsense that is written about GMOs, is too overwhelming, making the average consumer fearful of GMOs—if they are labeled as such, they will rot on the shelf. No matter what the supporters say, this law will cripple or destroy GMO farming and bolster the organic industry. Monsanto, being a multinational, can survive it, but in the end it will be the average  farmer who will suffer. (A good analysis of the law’s economic impact on farmers is by Freakonomics’ Steve Sexton: How California’s GMO Labeling Law Could Limit Your Food Choices and Hurt the Poor  (Thanks for the link, Stan.)

On the surface, it seems reasonable that consumers should know what their food contains. The FDA requires labeling if products contain known allergens, possibly harmful ingredients, etc. However, when it comes to GMOs, there’s an enormous amount of misinformation and bad science out there. The anti-GMO crowd is depending on this negative association. Since they don’t have the science behind them, they are relying on scare tactics. It’s a variation of an old adage: If you have the facts on your side, argue the facts. If you don’t have the facts, argue the law. If you have neither, pound the table. With its labeling law, the anti-GMO crowd are pounding the table. In fact, to find misinformation and bad science about GMOs, one need not look any further than the text of the proposed law itself:

California consumers have the right to know whether the foods they purchase were produced using genetic engineering.  Genetic engineering of plants and animals often causes unintended consequences. Manipulating genes and inserting them into organisms is an imprecise process. The results are not always predictable or controllable, and they can lead to adverse health or environmental consequences.

Right out of the box it’s all wrong. GE of plants is not an “imprecise process”, quite the opposite, and there is less of chance of “unintended consequences” with GE as compared to conventional breeding.

Anastasia Bodnar is doctoral candidate at Iowa State University in genetics and sustainable agriculture. Here is her explanation of the process:

Plants that have been genetically engineered undergo many levels of screening and breeding to remove unwanted mutations.

 Genetically engineered crops are tested by event. An event is a single instance of a gene being integrated into the genome of a single embryo or other plant part (depending on the species being genetically engineered). Sometimes the gene will integrate in the middle of an important gene and effectively cause a mutation (those would be removed from the breeding program). Other times the gene will integrate in a place where it isn’t interfering with other genes, which is what we want.

In the process of creating a genetically engineered crop a lot of events are created, and they are tested to see where the gene integrated and if there are any strange characteristics that might indicate an unintended mutation. Any plant that isn’t what the breeders/genetic engineers want is destroyed. The events that pass then go through a breeding process called backcrossing, which essentially replaces all the genetic material from the transformed plant line with genetic material from an untransformed plant line, except for the region around the gene that was inserted. This ensures that any mutations caused by the transformation process are not left in the final line.

Mutations happen all the time. There are natural mutations due to DNA replication errors and due to mutagens like UV light from the sun. There are all sorts of strange chromosomal rearrangements when two related species are crossed. And so on. There are also intentional mutations caused when a plant breeder exposes seeds to a chemical or radioactive mutagen to try (on purpose) to induce mutations  that might produce new and valuable traits. What happens if there are harmful mutations? If a plant breeder notices something weird in one of the plants, it’s removed from the breeding population and either destroyed or kept for further study if it is interesting.

Let’s read more from the proposed law:

Government scientists have stated that the artificial insertion of DNA into plants, a technique unique to genetic engineering, can cause a variety of significant problems with plant foods. Such genetic engineering can increase the levels of known toxicants in foods and introduce new toxicants and health concerns.

No. It can’t. See above. Moving on:

No federal or California law requires that food producers identify whether foods were produced using genetic engineering. At the same time, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration does not require safety studies of such foods. Unless these foods contain a known allergen, the FDA does not even require developers of genetically engineered crops to consult with the agency.

That first sentence is true. The rest is misleading.  Not only do GM foods have to go through the FDA, they also have to go through the USDA, and the EPA depending on intended use(s). From the FDA website:

In the Federal Register of May 29, 1992 (57 FR 22984), FDA published its “Statement of Policy: Foods Derived from New Plant Varieties” (the 1992 policy). In the 1992 policy, FDA recommended that developers consult with FDA about bioengineered foods under development; since issuance of the 1992 policy, developers have routinely done so…. These procedures describe a process in which a developer who intends to commercialize a bioengineered food meets with the agency to identify and discuss relevant safety, nutritional, or other regulatory issues regarding the bioengineered food and then submits to FDA a summary of its scientific and regulatory assessment of the food; FDA evaluates the submission and responds to the developer by letter.

One last excerpt from the law:

Organic farmers are prohibited from using genetically engineered seeds. Nonetheless, these farmers’ crops are regularly threatened with accidental contamination from neighboring lands where genetically engineered crops abound. This risk of contamination can erode public confidence in California’s organic products, significantly undermining this industry. Californians should have the choice to avoid purchasing foods whose production could harm the state’s organic farmers and its organic foods industry.

Okay. This is disingenuous at best. It’s not just GMOs that can “contaminate” neighboring fields, conventional crops can do the same. That’s why farmers take measures to ensure this doesn’t happen.

In fact, in the 16 years that GMOs have been grown there hasn’t been one reported  instance of cross-pollination between a GMO plant and an organic one. I asked Dr. Mark Westgate, Director of the Center for Sustainable Rural Livelihoods at Iowa State Univesity about the “contamination” issue. He responded by email:

Dr. Westgate: First, as a matter of clarity, crops that are domesticated by man have been and continue to be genetically modified from their wild progenitors.  Modern gene sequencing technology has revealed today’s hybrid corn contains only about 80% genetic identity with its ancestor teosinte. Mutations occur all the time and DNA is re-arranged every time germ cells are formed. The term GMO has taken on a negative connotation, but biologically speaking genetic modification is a very positive phenomenon and forms the foundation for crop improvement.  Literally, every new generation is a GMO. A more accurate and informative terms to use are transgenic or conventional (transgene-free).  These terms describe how the specific traits are incorporated into the crop.

Q:  The idea of cross-pollination and drift loom large in the anti-GMO campaign. We know that cross pollination can occur in all methods of farming. Is there any difference between cross pollination of GMO vs. conventional crops?

Dr. Westgate:  No.

Q: Are organic crops in any more danger from GMOs than conventional crops?

Dr. Westgate:  I’m not sure what you mean by danger. Organic production is determined by the methods of crop management, not by the genetic makeup of the crop or the way it reproduces. The USDA does not require crops to be transgene free to be certified as organic. The buyers of these crops do. If “danger” means a greater potential for out-crossing in one or the other, again the answer is no — unless one is inherently sterile or less prolific, which is not necessarily related to the presence or absence of transgenes.

Corn is a wind-pollinated crop.  As such, crossing between plants is an inherent and beneficial aspect of seed production.  The potential for crossing between such wind-pollinated plants depends on several biological and physical factors. These include timing of flowering, amount of pollen produced, size of pollen grains, distance between plants, weather conditions, topography, etc.  These things are fairly well understood and predictable. [emphasis mine]

Crops that are predominately self pollinated (e.g. Beans) are not affected by most of these factors. Crops that rely on insect pollinators, such as fruit trees and many vegetables, have another biological dimension to consider.

_____________________________________________

Of course there are exemptions in the law. What are they? In a “summary of the chief purpose and points of the proposed measure,” The California Attorney General’s listed them:

  • certified organic
  • unintentionally produced with genetically engineered material; made from animals fed or injected with genetically engineered material but not genetically engineered themselves
  • processed with or containing only small amounts of genetically engineered ingredients
  • administered for treatment of medical conditions
  • sold for immediate consumption such as in a restaurant
  • alcoholic beverages.

So, basically if, by some infintesimal chance, organic crops accidentally get contaminated, they will not have to be labeled. Wait. I thought GMO was poison and all kinds of other bad things? Why the exemptions? Doesn’t the consumer have the right-to-know if their food is processed with or contains only small amounts of genetically engineered ingredients?

It’s also interesting that the same food that needs to be labeled in supermarkets doesn’t have to be if it’s served to you in a restaurant.

To understand what’s at stake in November, I decided to look into the individuals and groups behind the proposed labelling law. One participating support group is labelgmos.org. On their website, they claim “We are the original grassroots group that organized to get the ballot initiative going in California. On September 20, 2011, Pamm Larry, a grandmother from Chico, California woke up and knew that it was her job from then until November 6, 2012 to do everything she could to get an initiative on the California ballot to label genetically engineered foods.” Speaking of transparency, why does labelgmos.org hide its domain registrar information? Who are they? Who owns the domain name? It seems that information is private. It is registered with a domain registrar called Domains by Proxy. Where’s the right to know?

The folks at labelgmos.org say they are members of a coalition called California Right To Know. Now who are they? It was started by Grant Lundberg who runs Lunberg Family Farms in Richville, CA. It is a family run farm that was a pioneer in organic farming.

The farm consists of 14,000 acres and grows both organic and conventional crops. It has an annual revenue (2007) of $48.9 million. The farm is well known for its innovative contributions to sustainable agriculture and treatment of its workforce. Lundberg is no slouch. He has a Master of Science in Agricultural Economics. So, the question is, how did he come to become an ardent supporter of an anti-GMO initiative, donating $200,000? We know that cross pollination can happen in any method of farming.  But Lundberg grows 70% organic and 30% conventional crops.

If cross-pollination might occur, how does Lundberg ensure that there is no cross-pollination or drift of pesticides from his conventional to organic crops? I reached out to Lundberg via email to find out the answer to this question and a few others, but through a spokesman, he declined to comment.

Contamination of organic from conventional and GMO is a risk. Both can have a negative impact on organic crops ability to get certification. The question remains, how does Lundberg prevent that from happening? Note: Contamination is a loaded term.  What they really mean is cross-pollination, but that doesn’t sound as horrible.

Another group to come on board early was the Institute for Responsible Technology headed by one, Jeffrey Smith. Smith is the media’s go-to-guy for anti-GM information. He even has a blog on the Huffington Post.  He isn’t a scientist and has no experience in agriculture, yet he is considered an expert on GM. Not much else is known about Smith. His bio and resume are vague. What is known is he was a member of the Maharishi Natural Law Party in Iowa whose solution to the national crime problem was “yogic flying.”

In 1996, the Daily Illinni wrote, “Smith presented charts with evidence of a correlation between the presence of yogic flyers and an increase in the quality of life and a decrease in crime. Smith cited limited yogic flying programs in Washington D.C. and near the Middle East that resulted in less crime and more harmony.” He has two self-published books on genetic engineering.  One of them, Genetic Roulette has been discredited by real scientists. The organization, Academics Review, looked at the book to see how his claims stacked up against current peer-reviewed science and submitted a chapter by chapter take down of the book.

Another early supporter was Dr. Joseph Mercola who runs a very successful website selling health supplements.  Yeah, he’s a huckster and a well known fraud. He was issued three cease and desist letters from the FDA for making fraudulent claims about his products. He once said in an interview, “The FDA is an agency that protects major industry and is tragically causing death and disease in this country and across the world.” Steven Salzberg, a professor at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine whose bailiwick is bioinformatics and genomics, has called Mercola “the 21st-century equivalent of a snake-oil salesman.”

What about “Pamm Larry, a grandmother from Chico”? I was unable to find very much info about Pamela Larry except I think she has/had an alternative healing business in Chico, CA . I also know that when she started her campaign she caught the eye of The Organic Consumers Association (OCA) whose head honcho is Ronnie Cummins, a guy in the anti-vaccine camp with well-known scientist Jenny McCarthy. I don’t know if Larry started her crusade honestly or not but the fact that her initial backers were a group headed by an anti-vaccine nut and an anti-science fraud selling health supplements should give anyone pause as to the veracity of the claims of the proponents of the measure.

Cummins has appeared in YouTube videos being interviewed by Dr. Mercola. He also has a blog on the Huffington Post where he peddles his lies and misinformation about GMOs. His group led a campaign of harassment against Dan Morain of the Sacramento Bee who wrote an editorial about the quackiness of Cummins buddy, Mercola.

After the column appeared, the comment boards were filled with personal attacks and rants against Morain. It got so bad the site has to disable the comment section and remove the offending posts. An example of the offending posts is this one, “I hope you get cancer you corporate sellout scumbag.”

A week after the column appeared, Stuart Leavenworth, editorial page editor of the SacBee felt the need to respond to the campaign.  He wrote that the OCA put Morain’s picture on their website and branded him put Morain’s photo on its  a “minion of Monsanto.”

The paper offered Mercola multiple opportunities to respond but he declined. Instead Leavnworth got an email from Mercola’s assistant Brian Barth, who according to Leavenworth, “effectively threatened to bombard The Bee with a new round of emails, and insisted that we retract Morain’s column and apologize to Mercola.”

Leavenworth also said the response was a “real eye opener.” Morain has covered the influence of out-of state in California politics for years and they had never received as virulent response as the Mercola editorial.

“As a columnist the last two years, Morain has steadily documented the influence of outside money on California politics – whether it be Texas oil companies attempting to overturn California’s law to reduce greenhouse gases, or an Idaho millionaire who helped finance Proposition 8, California’s law to ban gay marriage. That didn’t matter to most of the lightning responders. All they knew was that the OCA had issued a directive to go after Morain. So, with a few keystrokes and the click of a mouse, they responded to it – from all over the country.”

Last year in Wisconsin, a recall effort was launched to oust anti-union Governor Scott Walker. But, what does this have to do with this ballot measure? Progressive groups complained about the amount of outside the state money that was being funneled in to defeat the recall. The same thing is happening here. A perusal of the California State finance campaign database shows that a significant amount of money is coming in from other states to support the measure. To be fair, the same thing is happening with those who oppose the measure. But there seems to be a hypocritical attitude here among progressives. It could be said, on behalf of supporters that sometimes you have to dance with the devil.

In the first three months of 2012, The Organic Consumers Association Committee for the Right to Know About GMOS had a war chest of  $1,644,425.96. The Organic Consumers Association ponied up $40,000, twice. Surprisingly, the opponents of the ballot—the big guys—Monsanto, Syngenta and Bayer have only given $625,000 in the same time period to defeat the initiative. The biggest contributor who supports the ballot is Mercola Health Resources.  His company donated $800,000.

So, what is the bottom line here?  While a campaign to prevent corporations from controlling the food supply is a noble goal, to attempt it through lies and deception is not. This is a bad law, steeped in nonsense, bad science and is heavily funded by crackpots and hucksters. While I think most small, organic farmers are honest, decent people, I think they have been hornswaggled by the “industry” who claim to have their interests at heart.

The Bt corn! Everybody panic!

The Bt corn! Everybody panic!

Much of the anti-GMO misinformation centers on something called Bt, specifically Bt corn. Activists point to flawed studies about fetal deformities and other scary stories. They say because Bt is genetically inserted into a plant, when humans eat it we are eating the insecticide and we’re all going to die from it.

So, what is Bt? Bt stands for Bacillus thuringiensis. It is a natural bacteria found in all kinds of soil. It produces proteins that are toxic to many types of insects. Bt products are safe for the environment, humans, animals and groundwater. In fact, the EPA has exempted it from groundwater restrictions and special review requirements.

It is safe for humans due to the proteins it contains. Those proteins break down in our digestive system and are flushed out. There is no accumulation. Our digestive systems are highly acidic and Bt doesn’t fare well in high acidic environments.  It has been used for over 50 years with no ill effects.

There was a recent flap over a Canadian study that traces of Bt were found in the bodies of pregnant women and umbilical cords. The study was discredited. I wrote about it here. Yet, it is still making the rounds of all the anti-GMO websites.

The beneficial aspect of Bt is that there are about 600 strains. Each is used to target a specific insect. Therefore, it eliminates the need for different pesticides.

Guess who the biggest users of Bt are? Organic farmers. They spray it on their crops, a lot.

But here’s the interesting aspect. It easily breaks down in the environment because it is susceptible to the sun and rain. Due to this, organic farmers have to spray more often to make sure they manage to eliminate the pests. By genetically inserting a specific Bt protein into a plant, it ensures the insect will eat it. It also has the added benefit of killing corn pests that otherwise would be unaffected by spraying, but when they eat it, it kills them.

The fact is, organic farmers who grow corn are actually using a much less effective method of controlling pests. We’ve seen that Bt is safe for humans and the environment, so spraying more than you have to isn’t really a health issue as much as it is an economic one.

The fear mongering surrounding Bt is just that, fear mongering.  If it is as bad as the activists and organic proponents say, why is it the most widely used insecticide used by organic growers? They want to have it both ways. Either it’s poisonous or it’s not.  The fact that organic farmers are on this bandwagon makes me wonder if they are being disingenuous to prop up their bottom line or just don’t know what the hell they’re doing.

%d bloggers like this: