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The FrankenFood Files

June 18, 2012

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March 18, 2014

yellow-riceGMO Proponents Are Baby Killers

Before you get upset about the title of this piece, let me say honestly and sincerely that I do not really believe GMO proponents are baby killers (I’ll come back to this later – meantime, hear our podcast on new science showing the fallacies of GMO dogma).

Anyway, I do have a confession: I worked for Greenpeace on its anti-GMO food campaign, so according to David Ropeik, I’m responsible for causing blindness and death in millions of children around the world who suffer from Vitamin A deficiency. Ropeik’s argument (which has been made by GMO proponents repeatedly for more than a decade) is that the vitamin A problem is my fault because opposition to GMOs has stymied the adoption of a GMO yellow rice that’s the solution to Vitamin A deficiency.

In other words, I’m a baby killer.

To come clean entirely: I was born a Jew, so I admit it, I also killed Christ. Also, although I was just two years-old when Kennedy was shot, I must admit there is no definitive proof that I was not on the grassy knoll that day.

Ropeik says that powerful GMO opponents like me have kept the yellow rice and other GMO crops off the market. After all, proponents of GMOs say they are the fastest, most widely adopted agricultural technology in history, so clearly anti-GMO activism has conquered GMO crops. We anti-GMO activists can’t even get GMO labels on the food in our grocery stores, but clearly nothing will deter us from our baby killing ways.

Surely the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), the main body developing GMO yellow rice, must be apoplectic about the anti-GMO crusaders stopping their rice. In fact, they are so upset about it that they’re obviously too upset to even mention anti-GMO sentiment in their update on the status of the rice. Instead, they note some of the reasons for the delay, minor issues like the fact that yellow rice hasn’t been shown to be “safe for humans, animals, and the environment,” hasn’t been approved by regulators, and hasn’t proven effective.

As Ropeik notes, those who oppose yellow rice or other GMOs are unscientific types who have “phantom fears” that haven’t withstood scrutiny. He must be referring to folks like Dr. David Schubert, head of the Cellular Neurobiology Laboratory at the Salk Institute, who has stated that GMO food “is not a safe option” and warned that nutritionally enhanced GMOs like yellow rice could have potentially unpredictable, harmful side-effects (Salk Institute? Sounds a lot like “Baby Killer Institute” to me).

Or maybe he’s talking about nutritionist Dr. Marion Nestle of New York University, a former Associate Dean of the University of California San Francisco School of Medicine and managing editor of the 1988 Surgeon General’s Report on Nutrition and Health. She wrote that “basic principles of nutrition” suggest that yellow rice “is unlikely to alleviate Vitamin A deficiency” and that vitamin A deficiency is “a complicated health problem affected by cultural and societal factors as well as dietary factors.…” (She surely eats babies for breakfast).

Ropeik is probably also thinking of Dr. Hans Herren, winner of the World Food Prize and the Right-Livelihood Award for his decades of work to alleviate global hunger. On the role of GMOs in addressing hunger, he said they “treat the symptoms rather than dealing with the causes,” and noted that “The [GMO] concept is based on the profit motive of seed and agrochemical companies, not on the welfare of farmers and consumers and the need to develop a sustainable and self- reliant production strategy. [GMOs] will not feed the hungry, they will make them poorer….” (Obviously Dr. Herren hates poor babies).

Dr. Herren has also said that current approaches can solve the Vitamin A problem without GMOs, noting that “We already know today that most of the problems that are to be addressed via Golden Rice and other GMOs can be resolved in a matter of days, with the right political will.” He and other development experts note that the expensive, time-consuming development of GMOs distracts from real solutions that are already available and showing promise in alleviating vitamin A deficiency and hunger. For example, Christian Aid (ok, I’m not going to call them baby killers) stated that its decades of community-based development experience “suggests that the GM vitamin-A rice route is neither the most appropriate approach nor necessary. Far simpler solutions already exist and are already being applied.”

In other words, all of the money and effort spent on GMO yellow rice could have been going to cheaper, more effective solutions (like this or this or this or this and many others) to the Vitamin A problem.

Now, as I mentioned above, I don’t really believe that GMO proponents’ knee-jerk advocacy for risky, untested, expensive technological solutions to complex socio-political problems is responsible for baby deaths. But looking at what the experts say about currently available solutions versus GMO pipe dreams, someone far more callous than I might conclude that GMO advocates are baby killers. But that would be a reckless attack that I’m sure no responsible person would make in this high-stakes debate.

April 24, 2013

Boxer, DeFazio Introduce GMO Labeling Bill

Senators Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Congressman Peter DeFazio have introduced the Genetically Engineered Food Right-to-Know Act, along with nine co-sponsors in the Senate and twenty-two in the House. As the press release notes,

The bipartisan legislation introduced today would require clear labels for genetically engineered whole foods and processed foods, including fish and seafood. The measure would direct the FDA to write new labeling standards that are consistent with U.S. labeling standards and international standards.

Sixty-four countries around the world already require the labeling of GE foods, including all the member nations of the European Union, Russia, Japan, China, Australia and New Zealand.

Contact your Congressman and Senators and urge them to co-sponsor the bill today!

Blinded by (Phony) GMO “Science”

A Mother Jones intern boasted on her twitter account about how she “totally snuck something anti-anti-GMO into Mother Jones.” See how she got it totally totally wrong.

Say No to Food from Animal Clones

The European Commission is taking public comments on animal cloning for food through September 3. Comments from any country are accepted. See why cloned food is cruel to animals and risky to our health.

NPR Errs on California GMO Labeling Initiative

In a piece earlier this week, NPR’s Eliza Barclay wrote on the California ballot initiative calling for labels on GMO food. As stated in the article, the ballot measure would ban “natural” labels on food made from GMOs. But based on the analysis by Peggy Lemaux, a long-time proponent of GMOs, the NPR post went on to say that the initiative would stop producers of any processed food from using the term “natural.” Plain milled rice, Barclay stated (using Lemaux’s logic), could not be labeled “natural” if the initiative passed, since rice is not an animal food, organic, or an alcoholic beverage — the three exemptions Lemaux said were provided for in the measure.

Problem is, Lemaux was just plain wrong (to be charitable; to be frank, she lied). I sent the following email to Eliza Barclay early Monday afternoon. I assume others also let her know about Lemaux’s faulty analysis, because on Tuesday morning NPR softened the piece, omitted the rice example, and noted that “After this report was published, Peggy Lemaux revised her analysis of the California GE labeling initiative, concluding that the section on labeling “natural” could be interpreted different ways.”

See for yourself how the section on “natural” labeling may be interpreted.

From: Charles Margulis
Sent: Monday, May 14, 2012 12:06 PM
Subject: …GMOs

Hi Elizabeth-

…I saw your piece on the CA GMO initiative today and I believe it is in error. As you say, the initiative’s exemptions for the ban on “natural” labels includes non-GE animal products, certified organic foods, and alcoholic beverages. But in her “analysis,” Peggy Lemaux (who is a long-time proponent of GMOs and ally of industry) ignores this exemption (from the initiative text, at ):

“A raw agricultural commodity or food derived therefrom that has been grown, raised or produced without the knowing and intentional use of genetically engineered seed or food.”

So, your rice example is a good one. Any rice product, organic or not, processed or not, can still be labeled as natural, since it could not be grown with GMO seed – there is no GMO rice seed on the market. This is also true for just about any other natural food, processed or not – the only problematic foods would be ones including corn, soy, sugar from beets, canola, or some Hawaiian papayas, since those are the only GMO foods on the market.

Also, the idea that GMO labels will not provide additional safety is a specious argument. New artificial colors and flavors have to go through a battery of required tests before they can be used in foods, and even then, labels must declare when they are used – not for safety reasons (that’s what the testing is for), but because consumers want to know when their foods contain them. By contrast, there are no government safety requirements for GMOs, and they don’t have to be labeled, even though consumers overwhelmingly want labeling.