Newsletter 18 – Are GM crops tested?

Newsletter 18.
11th February 2013

A Tranquility House Newsletter

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Genetically Modified Crops and the global Food System

by Mike Hillard

The problems

9. How thoroughly are GM crops tested before being licensed by the FDA?

There are a few things to understand which you may find surprising or even shocking:

  1. The longest animal feeding safety trials required are just 90 days but many are much shorter, some lasting only 30 days. Problems that don’t occur almost instantly are therefore not going to be found.
  2. In the US, the FDA authorises the planting of GM crops BUT in each licence it stipulates the safety of the crop is the applicant’s responsibility. The FDA has never approved a GM food as safe. It doesn’t do safety tests – these are done by the biotech companies who don’t publish their findings but present what they choose to the FDA. Basically they state it is safe and the FDA buys into that.
    Quote from the FDA “Ultimately it is the food producer who is responsible for assuring food safety”.
    Quote from Monsanto director, Philip Angell “Monsanto should not have to vouchsafe the safety of biotech food. Our interest is in selling as much of it as possible. Assuring safety is the FDA’s job”.

    Shocked?? Quite an important miss-match.
  3. The biotech companies can put any GM product on the market but they can be held responsible for harm that results from them being consumed if anybody can prove they are culpable.
  4. There is no labelling required in the US, so it is impossible to link an outbreak of illness to any GM product as nobody can know what they have consumed. As long as this remains the case, it would be difficult to prosecute the Biotech companies for health issues especially as it can be unclear where any pollutant has come from. It is how they like it.
  5. The Biotech companies don’t make product or any of their research available to independent scientists, and those who have done independent research are mostly vilified publicly with their careers damaged and sometimes destroyed after publication.
  6. In 1992, before the first RR crops were approved for planting, the FDA’s own scientists warned there could be serious health issues with them. Early tests on glyphosate resistant crops indicated increased infertility, problems with the liver, kidneys, spleen and gastro intestinal systems as well as disturbance of the immune system and problems with cholesterol and insulin – and this was almost 20 years ago. They said “these could be dangerous and lead to new diseases, allergies, toxins and nutritional problems and should not be on the market”.
  7. Unfortunately there are many personnel transfers between the Biotech companies, the FDA, the USDA and the regulatory bodies, with senior people in the FDA coming from the biotech industry and vice versa. As an example, Michael Taylor is Deputy Commissioner for Foods in the FDA yet in the 1980’s he had Monsanto as a client; in 1991 he moved to the FDA as Deputy Commissioner for Policy; between 1994 and 1996 he was Administrator of the Food Safety Inspection Service for the USDA; from 1996 to 2000 he was Vice President for Public Policy for Monsanto and in 2009 he returned to the FDA.
    If they wanted to generate distrust they couldn’t do better.

FDA is the US Food and Drugs Administration
USDA is the US Department of Agriculture

That is it. It is difficult not to assume a great deal of ‘leverage’ has been and is applied to the political system(s) and licensing bodies, not just in the US but around the world, which could be in many forms. Tom Vilsack is the US Secretary of Agriculture and it seems he has used Monsanto’s private jet but more on Mr Vilsack later.

It is frankly astonishing that given each & every item above, but perhaps particularly items II and VI, that authorities around the world have allowed any GM products to be grown let alone sold into either the animal or human food chains. The testing regime is not just lacking but abuses our trust.


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