Comments in the Introduction are based largely on information found in the news articles which appear in the list which follows!

Genetically Modified Organisms

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Introduction to GMOs

News Articles on GMOs, Mad Cow, Salmon Farms, hormones...

LINKS to GMO Related Sites

 

Forward: the GMO Controversy

Linda Dawn Hammond
Montreal, Canada

The following site began in 1998 and was initially meant to serve as an introduction to GMOs, and to provide information relating to the subject. I have since documented all of the articles I possess dating back to 1998 in chronological order for the purpose of aiding research on the subject, as many of these articles have since disappeared. Looking back, one can assess the gains and losses in the struggle to contain the process, evaluate its impact and strive towards accountability. I apologize for not having maintained the site to the same degree as in the first 2 years. I hope that it will nevertheless serve some purpose, and will endeavour to add the newer articles I've compiled in the near future.
When I first wrote this introduction in 1998, the term GMO, or Genetically Modified Organisms, was not yet a household word. The controversy was only beginning to be publically discussed, and this in spite of the fact that the products were already being widely grown and distributed within North American markets. "Our" governments (by which I am referring to the USA and Canada) thought only of getting in first, to reap what they expected to be the huge financial rewards of a strategy to dominate the global food market. Health concerns, environmental and human, were evidently of secondary importance. Our governments aided the GMO industry in their bid to introduce inadequately tested and UNLABELLED products surreptitiously into our food supply.

We NAFTA pawns became their lab rats- an unwitting and relatively complacent control group through which they could conveniently judge the safety of their products (and eventually pressure the GMO resistant European market to comply, with the help of the WTO). We are not, however, an adequate testing ground as there are too many variables at play. A proper scientific study would involve a control group, removed from outside environmental factors, which would be fed only GMOs, then compare its results with a similarly restricted group which was not. An unlikely scenario, at least in terms of human testing. In spite of the inadequacy of their "experiment", the pharmaceutical companies which own the GMO technology now claim that upon observing our population, which has been consuming GMOs for at least 5 years, they have concluded that no human deaths DIRECTLY attributed to GMO's have occurred. While this may be true, how can any human death be DIRECTLY attributed to a product which is virtually undetectable once it appears in our food supply though primary or secondary sources, and whose consumption is not being monitored? Not only does this technology involve our grains and vegetables (most of our corn and soy products are now GMO), but the animals and farmed fish we now eat are being raised on GMO feed. Few people eating their mass produced eggs or drinking commercial beer contemplate the GMOs they consume.

As we face increasing deaths from various cancers in our families, the appearance of new and unexplained viruses which have crossed over to humans from animals and the growing resistance to diseases we had once thought eradicated, we have to examine the many possible causes for the influx. We have to ask questions of our governments and we have to demand not only answers but ACTION.

Europe, as compared with its North American counterpart, remains largely GMO free and what does exist on the EU market is clearly labelled as such, though recent developments (2006) in the UK suggest otherwise. The Blair government can be thanked for the deception. The European market was nevertheless an altogether different story, as their citizens became aware of the threat and quickly mobilized from the onset. They exerted pressure upon their governments to place restrictions on the growing and distribution of GMO products, in order to establish their safety PRIOR to being enleashed upon the public. Perhaps North Americans should be evaluating our health as compared with the Europeans, but then we would have to remove other factors which muddy the results- pollution controls, hormone treated mik and meat products (which Europe has also refused), differences in animal feed and slaughtering practices {theirs are more stringent), hormone altering plastics (banned in Europe but not here), pesticides, irradiated foods... the list is endless.

Then of course, there's Blair. It must be hard on the other EU nations to refuse GMOs while Blair is avidly courting the American biotech industries. The UK under their own "President B" is emulating America ( no big surprise there...), by categorically dismissing public concern over the issue. (Sept.,2003) UK public opinion polls , organized by the Blair government in spite of the fact that a pro-GM decision has already apparently been reached, showed an overwhelming consumer rejection of GMOs. Since his initial political love affair with Clinton (then transferred to Bush), Blair has repeatedly attempted to push through pro GM legislature and continues to grow experimental crops without adequately protecting non- GMO fields from contamination. His latest tactic is to completely ignore findings which suggest that GMOs are unsafe for the environment and human consumption. His government has chosen to take the "moral high ground" (a familiar Blair ploy) and borrow from the "Bush approach" (translate as: simplistic to the point of INANE) by declaring it "ILLEGAL" to REFUSE UK farmers the option of growing GMOs...???
If public opinion on this issue continues to be ignored by the Blair administration, darkly echoing the distain he exhibited towards the anti-Iraq war protesters (also a majority of UK voters), Blair will not survive the next election.(Insert: Well, he did, surprisingly) Will the real Labour party please stand up, walk out and choose a new leader, before you concede to the Conservatives! (Insert: NOW, that's still valid!)

Other concerns- overlooked in most public debate but equally important- deal with the impact of GMOs on the environment. These are more readily evaluated and have already produced disturbing evidence. Unfortunately our society has trouble understanding that what affects our environment directly impacts human health and the quality of our lives. We tend to disregard that which does not appear to directly concern us, so the appearance of superweeds or the disappearance of a species of butterfly is of lesser importance than economic growth, wages and taxes. Eventually when we become ill and can't work and have to pay staggering health care costs- it all comes home. But by then it's too late.

You are what you eat. Never was it more true.

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An Introduction to the GMO Controversy

Author: Linda Dawn Hammond
Montreal, Canada

GMO- Labelling Laws and Subterfuge

You have undoubtedly consumed genetically modified organisms, and without even realizing to what extent, as none of us can know this. Genetically modified foods are either so discretely labelled as to render them unnoticeable, or surreptitiously introduced within our food supply through such unlabelled products as cereals, cooking oils, snack foods, dried beans, tomato pastes, baby food, beer, vitamins, canola, corn and soya products of all kinds. It is difficult to identify the origin of fresh produce as most is removed from the original crates when put on display. Canadian and American governments have conspired with the biotech industries to ensure that we don't know- by allowing the companies which market GMO products to engage in voluntary rather than mandatory labelling, as is the case in Europe.

This is also a problem we encounter with irradiated food products such as vegetables and bulk spices which are rarely, if ever, visibly identified. Recent German studies offer conclusive evidence that irradiated food is unsafe for human consumption, and yet the FDA and WHO continue to ignore the findings. To further confuse the consumer, the US changed the labelling requirements on irradiated products, and food companies are no longer obligated by law to print the indication in large type. The warning is now printed in the same font size as that of listed ingredients. As a Canadian, I have yet to see a label identifying any product that I've purchased to be either genetically modified or irradiated - font size notwithstanding.

An agreement reached during talks held in Montreal in 1999 to establish a Biosafety Protocol between nations has resulted in tentative trade restrictions on GM products. Activists hope this will lead to universal labelling requirements, however one of the concessions made to the major GM producing countries was a reprieve of TWO YEARS- why did they wait this long to regulate global shipments of GM foods? It only came into effect, if one can call it that as it's being largely ignored, on Thursday, 11 September, 2003. An appropriate date. The host of the original talks was Canada- a nation governed by a self-serving political structure which puts the prospect of profits above any environmental concerns. Without putting the question to its own people, Canada has become one of the world's major producers of GM grain and an aggressive lobbyist on behalf of American biotech corporations, in their bid to enforce the acceptance of suspect products including hormone treated beef and dairy on the rest of the world. As Canadian consumers, we are compelled through NAFTA, the Free Trade agreement with the US, to accept American products regardless of national health differences in terms of allowable pesticides and other treatments. I do not believe, however, that as Canadians we are in any way obligated to grow it, promote it or consume it. The Canadian Government evidently thinks otherwise... and it is important to examine exactly what they are doing "on our behalf" as it affects us directly. (Explore the Canadian Government Food Safety links below!)

The problem lies in voting in governments which refuse to publish the whereabouts or scope of the production of GMOs in this country, which refuse to label products, which feed us hormone treated animal products regardless of the scientific data damning it for its effect on human health, not to consider the well-being of the animals which provide it. Powerful lobbyists representing the concerns of these largely American-owned corporations generally determine the direction of any given country's health and research policies and greatly influence which chemicals and practices pass inspection. The Liberal government in Canada is politically accountable for this state of affairs, which was set into motion by a previous Conservative government, who have since regained power. In Canada, only smaller political Parties such as the NDP and the Greens intend to protect our rights in these areas, and they have little hope of winning a majority in the near future.

Within soy based products, soy produced from GM beans may be mixed with that of regularly produced beans, causing confusion in terms of labelling and often resulting in the modification going unlabelled. An example of this occurred in the UK in 1999 with regards to Linda McCartney's vegetarian food label which, according to the BBC and reported in a recent Guardian, included genetically modified soya. Sir Paul McCartney responded initially that the finding had not been proven, while admitting that "contamination may have taken place when GM soya was mixed with other soya". To his credit, he then took action to remove ALL traces of GM foods from his Linda McCartney food products. This required that he substitute soya for wheat, a non-GM product at the time. According to Greenpeace, "..over the past two years the US has flooded the market with unregulated and unlabelled genetically-engineered [GE] grain."

Soya beans and corn accounts for 90 per cent of the world trade in GMOs.("Genetically Modified Organisms") These products - soy and corn- were two key commodities that the US refused to allow included in past negotiations to create a global treaty to ensure safe trade in GMOs, thus sabotaging the talks during the global pact on GMO trade held in Cartegena in Feb.,1999. The results are of special concern to organic farmers, vegetarians and the health food market, but also affects the diet of most people living in the Third World and in the "developed" world as well, for soya is found in some 60 per cent of processed foodstuffs!

Beyond growth hormones, PCBs, traces of DDT and other pesticides and antibiotics in our milk products, consumers are now facing new hidden dangers- animal products produced by clones. In 2002, in spite of an acknowledged lack of data, an "influential committee of scientists" based in (where else) the USA, deemed that such products "appear" to be safe. The same body of experts witheld approval of animal products made from genetically engineered animals. Considering the health problems which plagued their best known clone, Dolly the sheep, who was afflicted with rheumatism and accelerated aging that eventually led to her being put down, ingesting products from such animals is inadvisable. In the US in November, 2003, the FDA deemed animal products derived from clones to be "indistinguishable" from their naturally bred counterparts. In New Zealand, several farms are set to begin producing cheese made from cloned cows. Don't expect to see any labels on your milk and cheese, indicating that they were produced by clones... as a result of the FDA decision, labels and special approval will be unnecessary.

Why worry about ingesting Genetically Modified Foods?

First, there is the global food supply to think about...

The multinational corporations which dominate the GM market, are successfully attempting to control the world's supply of soya beans, among other products, and replace the market with their own genetically modified beans, which are sterile as they have inserted a "genetic terminator" in the seeds. In other words, poor farmers will no longer be able to store seeds for replanting the following season and will thus become totally dependent upon these companies in order to replant their fields. Monsanto (make note of them!) in particular now controls 91% of the world's market in GM seeds! In fact, Monsanto appears to be the name behind an incredible array of past, present and future health related and ecological disasters. Don't believe me? Try going to GOOGLE (internet search engine) and typing in the searchwords, Monsanto and Evil... what comes up is truly horrifying. And Bush is on THEIR side! (HMMM...)

Corporations have mounted a campaign in developing nations to convince farmers to switch to their products, claiming greater crop yields and profits. In fact, the opposite may be true. According to studies conducted by the Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Ecology, headed by Dr. Vandana Shiva of India, test crop yields of genetically engineered cotton, for example, were 50 to 75 percent less than those of indigenous varieties! In Arpad Pusztai's study of potatoes, the GM variety contained almost 20% less protein than its non-GM counterpart!

Dr. Vandana Shiva,
speaking at the Biojustice/ Biodiversity conference
Toronto, June 7, 02.

Vandana Shiva ©Linda Dawn Hammond 2002

Thousands of Indian Farmers Committed Suicide

More disturbing, this resulted in thousands of farmers in India committing suicide, since 1998 and continuing today, as a result of crop failures attributed to the poor performance of hybrid seeds! The farmers had been convinced to alter their traditional farming practices, from mixed farming of traditional food crops to single commercial crops such as cotton. When the one crop failed, the farmer then had nothing to sell or sustain his family upon. Tragically, many chose to go into their fields and commit suicide by drinking their ROUND-UP pesticide, the complimentary product to their designer seeds- and also a Monsanto product. If this had occurred in America, it would have been a scandal of massive proportions. As it was, the suicides were largely ignored by the Western media. This tragedy has not abated with time. In 2003, in one region of India alone (Bangalore) over a 3 month period, 70 farmers committed suicide. Their deaths were attributed to drought, crippling debts and the poor performance of Monsanto's GM crops.

GMO's are NOT being developed to solve the problem of world hunger, as companies such as Monsanto would have us believe. They are designed to make money for the biotech companies and their investors, which is not to say that the technology doesn't hold the promise of more altruistic aims- only that such efforts won't be receiving the same degree of financing.

Biotech Companies Target the Third World (and Canada too!)

In India, farmers succeeded in burning GM crops at trial sites when their government was forced to divulge the location of the test fields, which had been established without the required permission of the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee under the ministry of environment. In 1999, as a result of widespread protests, the Indian government banned terminator-type technologies from use in the country. Monsanto had been waging a sophisticated and successful advertising campaign aimed at farmers as it simultaneously bought out the major Indian seed companies, replacing traditional seeds with their own modified versions. Farmers dealing with Monsanto do not actually "purchase" their seeds, but rather "lease the DNA" from them for one growing season only. They have to sign contracts forbidding them from sharing the modified seeds with other farmers or harvesting them for subsequent seasons. This undermines an established tradition of co-operation amongst farmers, which has traditionally ensured that a failed crop need not necessarily signify the end of a farmer's prospects for the following year. Monsanto has taken legal action against farmers * whom they claim to have "borrowed" their technology illegally- this in spite of evidence that pollen from GM plants spreads to non-GM fields, infiltrating their genetic structure and creating hybrids.
* Check out the Canadian lawsuit, Monsanto VS Schmeiser

Romania has become the TARGET of a consortium of biotech companies and associates. They scour the countryside making deals with impoverished farmers, who then pool together and hand over large tracts of land "temporarily" in exchange for promises of new equipment they can keep in the future and an undisclosed guaranteed minimum income. If in 5 years they choose to forgo the deal and return to farming the land themselves, they will find themselves faced with fields pollinated with biotech grains which have destroyed the fragile eco system. The Monsanto grains, formulated to tolerate their own pesticides, will have replaced the less resistant non-GM plants, forcing a continued association with the biotechs in order to buy seeds and pesticides compatible with the changed environment.

If public opinion continues in the direction it's heading, Romania may find itself stuck with an unwanted product difficult to eradicate. It's tragic that organic farming hasn't the same resources- Romania would have been ideal in that it is a source of unexploited farmland nestled in the heart of a progressively Green-conscious Europe. Organic produce is already difficult to obtain and expensive as the market is smaller. Once GM products become the norm, to afford organic and non-hormone treated foods will become even more difficult for the poor and middle-classes. Access to untreated and healthy foods should be the right of all people, regardless of income. There is already cynical talk from the corporations that a "premium" will have to be placed on these more natural products if people still wish to buy them- when organic food is already priced beyond the reach of the average person's income.

In response to a growing public distrust of commercially grown fruit and vegetables, spurred by the GM debate, Sainsbury, a major UK supermarket chain, has begun searching for its own pristine Island upon which to develop an organic plantation. One of the possibilities? Granada... For which target market? The U.S. How convenient that the BANANA WARS Tariff dispute has placed several small tropical, ex-colonial territories in such an awkward bargaining position. "Lord" Sainsbury, supermarket billionaire and Tony Blair appointed "peer", is Science minister at the Department for Trade and Industry since 1998 and a member of the Cabinet Biotechnology Committee in the UK. In addition to 2 genetics companies, Lord Sainsbury owns (or rather, "owned") the rights to the genetic enhancer , the booster to the key gene used in GM food technology, the"cauliflower mosaic gene", which is owned by Monsanto. The inventor of the patent, listed as Michael Wilson, worked at the Scottish Crop Research Institute (SCRI) as the deputy director during Dr. Pusztai's research project. Sounds like the makings of a classic case of Conflict of Interest. Sainsbury has since distanced himself from his investment, creating a "blind trust" in order to serve in the government as Science Minister, and is officially required to leave the room when GMOs are being discussed... Sainsbury was incidentally Labour's biggest donor in 2001, giving 2 million in January 2001, and again in December 2001, for a total of 9 million in 5 years.

GM Effect on Animals and Plants

British and American studies have shown that GM crops shorten the lifespan of certain insects, such as ladybugs and Monarch butterflies, which in turn affects a food chain that includes aphids and birds. Intensive farming such as that promoted by multinational corporations adversely affect wildlife habitats and leads to a loss of biodiversity. The pollen produced by the GM crops is impossible to contain and spreads to other non-GM fields, contaminating them. In spite of claims made by corporations and certain scientists that GM crops will reduce the need for pesticides and herbicides, independent reports indicate that the inverse is true. In fact, many GM crops have been formulated specifically to create a dependency upon a particular pesticide on the market, Monsanto's "Roundup" being one example. The GM plants are bred to withstand higher doses of designer pesticides that kill off all other plant life in the vicinity. There is a fear that weeds which survive the stronger pesticides could eventually mutate into strains of "superweeds", requiring ever stronger solutions to subdue their growth.

A study conducted by University of Illinois researchers, published in the February 2001 issue of the ASM Journal, Applied and Environmental Microbiology, indicated that gut bacteria could be exchanging genetic material, including antibiotic resistance genes, with bacteria that are simply passing through on your food.

Dr. Pusztai and the Potato Scandal

There is disturbing evidence that the ingestion of GM food may depress our immune systems and lead to such things as shrinkage of the brain, damaged vital organs and resistance to antibiotics...


Susan Bardocz (L) and Arpad Pusztai (R)
©Linda Dawn Hammond 2001

The respected scientist who discovered some of these potential risks and announced them publicly, Arpad Pusztai, was subsequently fired from his research position in Aberdeen and his findings discredited under suspicious circumstances. 20 Scientists from 13 nations, after examining his results, are demanding his rehabilitation.

In the three year study headed by researcher Susan Bardocz, during which feeding trials were conducted with rats being fed GM and non-GM potatoes, rats on the GM diet were observed to develop at a different rate than their counterparts, experiencing major weight changes in the vital organs which suggest that the digestion and absorption rate of the GM potato nutrients is less than that of regular potatoes. GM potatoes analyzed in the study contained significantly less protein than the non-GM potatoes- almost 20% less protein than the appropriate parent line. The result was that rats fed GM potatoes suffered a variety of symptoms- such as partial liver atrophy, reduced brain size, stimulated spleen and thymus, depression of some of the functions of the immune system, enlargement of the pancreas, jejunum and testes... and so forth. The study may be flawed to some degree as there was no real equivalence between the nutritional value of the potatoes studied in spite of attempts to rectify the problem, and some of the results may rather reflect the unsubstantial diet endured by the rats. Nevertheless, what seems clear is that if the biotech companies have their way, destined to replace the potato is an inferior imposter of the GM variety- inferior in protein levels and digestiblity, and as yet unproven in terms of safety. The next potato famine may result not from dearth but bio supply!

NOTE: Dr. Pusztai was kind enough to go over my lay person's analysis of his study and offer corrections. Rather than paraphrase him here, please go to his letter for clarification! Arpad Pusztai Own Words

Tariffs, Censorship and Direct Actions

Monsanto has also developed an injectable growth hormone to increase milk production in cows. It is feared within the scientific community that the increased level of Insulin Growth Factor 1 which ensues, that enters the bloodstream of humans intact via the digestive tract, could lead to a higher risk of breast and prostrate cancer in consumers. Growth hormones have been in use in the States for years but until now were banned in the EU. As a result of the US complaining to the World Trade Organisation on behalf of Monsanto, by May 13 of 1999, Europe was obliged to begin importing hormone treated milk and beef.

When Europe didn't comply by the deadline, the U.S. drew up a list of punitive tarifs on E.U. products, to the tune of $202 million. Farmers in France responded to the WTO tariffs in their own independent fashion- by "redecorating" local Macdonald's restaurants and imposing their own 100% tariffs on Coca Cola.

Hopefully, Brussels won't buckle under the latest U.S./ WTO pressure, as they did when faced with the "Banana Wars" tariff dispute. As a result on concessions made to the US owned producers (CHIQUITA, to name the main culprit) and their "muscle", the WTO, banana growers in the Windward Islands have since seen their banana based economy collapse. It was sheer greed on the part of the Americans, who already had more than 80% share of the European market as it was. It's interesting to read the history of the dispute chronologically in reverse- the broken promises and apparent scheming becomes ever more evident. Consumers can help the situation by pressing their local shops to stock "FAIR TRADE" bananas (in addition to chocolate, sugar and "shade grown" coffee) and boycotting companies such as CHIQUITA... but don't do it silently. Phone the major chains and declare your intentions- otherwise it won't register.

Attempts to inform the public of the dangers of Genetically Modified Organisms in the UK, through published reports or public protest, have been subject to censorship and threats of imprisonment. An edition of the UK environmental paper, The Ecologist, was destroyed at the printers when it attempted to target Monsanto specifically, accusing "Monsanto of working against sustainable agricultural practice by undermining the annual saving and improving of locally adapted seeds." In the UK, laws are so far-reaching that anyone even inciting people to pull up Monsanto crops can be imprisoned. In 1998, six environmentalist activists associated with the group GenetiX Snowball were charged in the UK with pulling up GM crops. By the year 2000, over 40 test sites in the UK were destroyed by a growing number of activists whose diverse backgrounds reflect an ever broadening social sphere- with protesters ranging from Lords and Princes to environmentalists and scientists to anarchists and organic farmers (and not necessarily in that order!)

French GMO activist, Jose Bove,
was once again imprisoned in ' 03 in France for his anti-GMO direct actions.

José Bové©Linda Dawn Hammond 2001

French sheep farmer, co-founder of the Confédération paysanne and provocateur extraordinaire, José Bové, is best known for the infamous August 1999 'dismantling' of a McDonalds restaurant in his hometown of Millau. Bové and his fellow unionists were acting in response to crippling sanctions imposed upon luxury European items, such as a 100% import tax on the Roquefort cheese his farm produces. The World Trade Organization had imposed tariffs on behalf of American interests following the European Union's decision to ban hormone-treated beef from the United States and Canada. Bové was already well known as a GMO activist. He committed the first successfully publicized direct action undertaken in France against GM products - the February 1999 destruction of seeds owned by Novartis on their own premises. Bové has also been busy on the International front. In 1995 he was the only French citizen to sail with Greenpeace on board the Rainbow Warrior, to protest France's resumption of nuclear testing in the South Pacific. In January 29, 2001, an exuberant Bové in the company of over 1,300 landless Brazilian farmers raided a plantation owned by biotech giant Monsanto. Together, they ripped out fields of genetically modified corn and soya bean plants and trashed company files. Their target could be considered justified. In 1999, Monsanto illegally introduced genetically modified soya to farmers in Brazil. It was the last major source of GM-free soya to capitulate under pressure and authorize GM production and sales, which finally occurred later that year. Nevertheless, "legal" planting has been held up by a court ruling which called for an independent study of the issue before enactment. The Brazilian government ignored this and issued a decree in Sept. 03, allowing GMO planting to begin, and is subsequently facing a Supreme Court challenge to overturn it. As of October, 2003, it is estimated that one third of Brazil's soya fields now contain illegally planted GMO soya, a situation blamed by mainstream media on farmers who illegally import the seeds from Argentinia. They are forgetting or ignoring the fact that illegal planting was first instigated by Monsanto to corrupt Brazil's non-GMo food supply. No-one gains hold of Monsanto's seeds illegally without incurring the wrath, or implicit consent, of the company. Once non-GMO fields are irrevocably tainted, it becomes easier to convince the government and food producers that since there can be no turning back, you might as well embrace the new technology. Brazil is the world's second largest producer of soya. Soya is found in over 60% of processed foodstuffs and, with corn, now accounts for 90 per cent of the world trade in GMOs.

In a press meeting prior to the FTAA summit protests in Quebec, Bové was quoted as saying, "The first violence is institutional violence. The free market is killing millions of people all over the world. Even if some windows are going down on Saturday, that is not violence. Violence is the free market... When laws are unjust, it's criminal not to resist them."

 

What Can We Do As Consumers?

The average Canadian consumer has no idea that, along with the States, millions of acres of our farmland has already been planted with GM crops, including 50 secret test sites for GM wheat- a product yet uncontaminated, or so we believed until this story broke. We remain blissfully ignorant of the hormones and antibiotics contained within our meat and dairy products, and feed our babies formulas based on Genetically Modified food products. This is the direct result of our North American "voluntary" labelling practices.

As an example of the importance of interpreting the labels we are granted as consumers, examine the company NaturEgg. They voluntarily state on their more expensive, premium at a price products (In 2003, $5.50 to $6. a dozen for organic AND free range eggs) that their chickens are fed "all natural 4 Grain Feed Rations, no additives or medications in the feed..." Besides neglecting to confirm that the chickens themselves have not been administered medications or growth hormones, it leads one to question what sort of medications and additives are then in the company's cheaper products, destined for the less health/ more price conscious market and why aren't these labelled? It leads one to conclude that they don't want us to know. Even in the premium products, what does "natural" grain feed actually indicate. Organic? (Absolutely not, if it isn't stated and verified.) Can "natural" also include GM grains, in that they are not considered by the government to be a chemical feed? Yes. What about the practice of adding animal blood products to the feed? Would this also be considered "natural"? I asked the NaturEgg company for more specific information but they didn't respond to my enquiry. Unfortunately though, even the "organic" label can be misleading. In the UK, it recently came to light that organic chicken eggs being sold at premium prices were being laid by chickens which had originally been raised in factory barns, received antibiotics and meds, and only a percentage of their feed was organic. Lack of stringent organic regulations such as those practiced in the UK pertaining to poultry will only serve to undermine public confidence in the organic market on the whole. Which I'm sorry to say, may be part of a larger corporate and political strategy to convince consumers that if there are no appreciable benefits to organic, non-GM food, why pay the higher prices and continue to resist GMOs...

Visit the The Canadian Food Inspection Agency sites, and discover for yourself what "allowable feed" can contain: chicken feathers, various animal blood by-products and hog hair, among other delectables. It may lead you to question the wisdom of opting for those * tortured chicken eggs ON SALE at $1.50 a dozen. (* tortured, in reference to the common practice of confining hens in cramped cages, beaks removed to prevent them from pecking each other or themselves to death, deprived of water to encourage egg production, etc.)

The current BSE crisis in Canada, which also led to the quarantine of a chicken farm, has brought to public attention the practice of feeding rendered beef products and blood to chickens, which in turn find themselves included in feed destined to be eaten by cattle. Forgive me for deviating off the topic of GMOs for a moment, and consider the following excerpt from a 2003 article on Mad Cow disease, "American Beef Supply at Risk".

"...The discovery of a case of mad cow disease in Canada highlights how ineffective current safeguards are in North America. The explosive spread of mad cow disease in Europe has been blamed on the cannibalistic practice of feeding slaughterhouse waste to livestock. Both Canada and the United States banned the feeding of the muscles and bones of most animals to cows and sheep back in 1997, but unlike Europe left gaping loopholes in the law. For example, blood is currently exempted from the Canadian and the U.S. feed bans. You can still feed calves cow's blood collected at the slaughterhouse. In modern factory farming practice calves may be removed from their mothers immediately after birth, so the calves are fed milk replacer, which is often supplemented with protein rich cow serum. Weaned calves and young pigs have cattle blood sprayed directly on their feed to save money on feed costs. Michael Hansen with the Consumer's Union reports that cows won't eat feed composed of more than ten percent blood, evidently because of the taste. Chickens, on the other hand, reportedly will eat feed composed of up to thirty-five percent blood."

Is it any wonder that the EU doesn't want to accept North American beef? GMOs, antibiotics and growth hormones are only part of it. North American slaughterhouses also have less stringent regulations to speed up the process, which results in yet more contamination.

Opposition to the use of growth hormones and antibiotics in our animal "products", including milk and cheese is mounting. Although organic milk is finally available in the regular supermarkets, it is at a prohibitive cost. In Ontario in 2004, organic milk is almost double the cost of regular milk, and again, 25% more expensive in Quebec than in Ontario for the same product. In 2002 I phoned Lactantia for information about their filtered milk. They claimed over the phone that they test for the presence of growth hormones and antibiotics in the milk they purchase and reject any batches which test positive... but couldn't tell me anything about the quality of feed (GMOs?) given to the cows which produce it. I asked them to mail me verification of this testing process. They promised they would mail a copy of the verifications they receive from the farmers but couldn't provide me with a company-based verification. Not surprisingly, I never received it...

Obviously, the public needs to mobilize and become more vocal- start by directly contacting the companies to ensure that they make labelling a priority. It worked for consumers in the UK, and it can work here. I suggest calling the 1-800 numbers on your cereal boxes and ask them if their products contain GM grains and vegetable oils. I questioned Kelloggs on this, and they initially answered "NO" (which is an untruth) until I asked to have it in writing. Suddenly my query had to be referred to "another department" and that they'd "get back to me", which they didn't. Quaker was more forthright, admitting GM grains and politely listening while I suggested a plan to enhance their sales by becoming the first commercial cereal company to "grow their own" and offer a public guarantee of GM free products.

The Loblaws food chain is a point of contention and has been the subject of boycotts in Canada for their anti-labelling policy. Essentially, they refused to stock products which stated on their packaging that they were GMO free and went so far as to MARK OUT the GMO free indication on existing packaging! This may have been part of a long term marketing strategy to dominate the health food section of their own market. It is alleged that they then convinced organic companies to repackage under the Loblaw's brand, and have now created their own line of organic products. In all fairness, I have seen GMO free stickers on a few products sold in Quebec Loblaws stores, though this may have slipped past them. I nevertheless believe that the ready availability of organic and GMO free produce is too important not to encourage its market development, no matter where it's being sold. And if the aim is to increase general public awareness, it is in the larger supermarket chains that activists should be concentrating their efforts. They won't listen if they think that you don't shop there anyway. I phoned Loblaws to inquire about several of their products which claim to be organic- the PC soya milk contains organic non-GMO soy but the barley is up to 6% GMO, depending on the flavour (ie. vanilla is higher). The Loblaws brand blue corn chips state that they contain organic corn but don't identify the oil as organic- so we can assume it isn't. Loblaws told me that they are endeavouring to maintain high standards in their "Too Good to be True" products and are considering non-GMO directions in this line of products, as they do recognize public concern. "Memories of" products are not considered high end and contain GMOs- for instance, the Szechwan peanut sauce. I mentioned to them that as a consumer, I would no longer buy products which were not guaranteed to be GMO free and that I wanted clear labelling of GMO products. They told me that of the questions fielded by their department, only 1% at present are about GMO content in their products. It may be a coincidence, but I did mention to them at the time that the label stating that their flour was organic needed to be placed more prominently and they have since redesigned the packaging to emphasize it. Perhaps they were listening, particularly to suggestions which will increase sales.If enough people use the convenient 1-800 numbers, the major companies will rethink their current strategies. McCain recently did. As of November, 2000, potatoes in their Canadian products are promised to be GM free. But for how long?


Organic Market in Toronto

As a policy, ask your local supermarket or health food store for information about their products, and let them know that Genetically Modified foods are a consumer concern. Don't assume that by shopping in something called a "health food store", you're somehow "protected"- today they stock many of the same unhealthy products as the regular stores. For example, many health food stores stock irradiated spices which are no different than their supermarket counterparts. Look for ORGANICally grown ingredients - chemical pesticide free AND GMO free! Not to mention that they taste better and contain more nutrients. Join an organic farm produce co-op- it works out cheaper and brings you in touch with the source! In several cities one can find weekly organic markets where the prices are more consumer friendly, and some organic farms close to the city also run their own stalls. Buy free-run, organically fed (cage free/ cruel free) chicken eggs and if they're not stocked, ask for them! Your family's health, not to mention the animals' well being, is worth the extra cost.
It recently came to my attention that WILD SALMON is being mislabelled as such. Many of us choose to buy Wild over the Atlantic salmon, which are fish farm raised, often contain dangerous canthaxanthin dyes to counter their grey flesh colour, are fed GMOs, pollute the environment and when they accidentally escape the farms, threaten the safety of their wild Pacific counterparts. Now it appears that frozen Wild Salmon (often CHUM)from China is being fished off the coast of Japan, where "nearly 100% of chum salmon juveniles are reared at hatcheries and released into rivers. " In other words, the juveniles began their existence in fish farms, which does not warrant a "WILD" salmon label in this country and is misleading the public. Salmon and tuna contain high levels of mercury and it is not recommended to eat either fish more than once a week.
Look for FAIR TRADE products- which ensure a living wage, and fair working conditions and market prices for farmers and workers in Third World countries. Buy shade grown coffee and help protect the remaining rain forests, which are being unnecessarily razed to grow the variety which requires open spaces. I would suggest cutting out an immense source of toxins by avoiding meat... but that's a decision many in our society are not prepared to make. A good place to check for lists of non-GM food products (and some that are) are on the Mother of Natural Law and Greenpeace websites.

It's important not to feel helpless- if boycotts, protests and the distribution of information were not effective, MAI would never have reared its ugly head and as consumers, we would have proper labelling! Read this ARTICLE (2003) on the efficacy of boycotts and "ethical" consumerism. Companies will make changes to their policies when they're hit where it counts- namely, their profits. Nevertheless, one must not become complacent and believe the victory has been won, after small concessions towards public pressure have been made. For example, labelling of foodstuffs containing GMOs is now mandatory in the UK, Europe and Japan as a result of consumer protest. But on 2/15/2001, the European Union Parliament passed a measure that establishes strict rules on genetically modified organisms. This in effect ends Europe's unofficial moratorium on bioengineered seeds and food. The 338-to-52 vote was cast despite deep suspicions and public opposition to genetically modified foods. The biotech industries have meanwhile regrouped, reformulated strategies and now wait for public opposition in Europe to tire of the struggle.

In North America, food companies such as Heinz and Gerber listened to their consumers and announced that they would stop using GMOs in their baby cereal products. Frito Lay also decided to stop using GMO corn products and their competitor Kraft Foods is finally re-evaluating the economic benefits of GMOs. In 2000 their Taco Bell Brand taco shells were discovered to contain "StarLink"- an Aventis manufactured GM corn approved for animal but not human consumption. The scandal and subsequent recall of maize products cost the food industry billions of dollars. Several Canadian grain farmers planted last spring's crops with regular seeds as they were anxious that there wouldn't be a market for their harvests come the fall.

EACH individual's efforts DO COUNT, and with commitment, awareness and a direct PUSH at the right target, you CAN effect a considerable amount of change! SO DON'T GIVE UP! Don't let the multicorporations determine what kind of world we live in! They're in it for the money- what's at risk is the quality of our lives.

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News Articles on GMOsThe following index contains news articles of interest to those concerned about GM food products infiltrating the food market AND a global PETITION. The articles provide an in depth reading of the ideas presented in the preceding summary.

(With a special apology to the Guardian Weekly- I highly recommend subscribing to their wonderfully informative, literate and politically balanced newspaper!)

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Links to GMO Related Websites

The following links go to sites of interest to those seeking further information on GMOs.

"The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) shares responsibility for the regulation of products derived from biotechnology including plants, animal feeds and animal feed ingredients, fertilizers and veterinary biologics. For genetically modified crop plants, the CFIA assesses the potential risk of adverse environmental effects; authorizes and oversees import permits, confined trials, unconfined release and variety registration."

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) SITES

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