Five years ago, I didn’t know what GMOs (Genetically Modified Organisms) were. I certainly didn’t know how pervasive they were in our food supply. And I would never have asked if they were safe or not.
After all, wasn’t that the government’s job? Someone at the FDA or USDA would surely have tested any new food technologies to make sure it was safe for me to consume.
Needless to say, I’ve since learned just how wrong I was. Not only do I now know that almost no testing was done on the safety of GMOs before their approval, I even know that many (if not most) of the tests which have since been done are downright scary.
In 1995 biologist Arpad Pusztai received a grant from the Scottish Agriculture, Environment, and Fisheries Department to develop a model for testing the safety of GM foods. Pusztai studied the effects of a diet of GM potatoes on adolescent laboratory rats. After only ten days on a GM diet, the rats suffered immune system damage, white blood cell suppression, impaired organ development, and other problems. “I had facts that indicated to me that there serious problems with transgenic [GM] food,” says Pusztai.
After Pusztai went public with his findings, the institute that employed him would not permit him to speak further about his research, but a furor had already been unleashed, and he was invited to testify before Parliament, which superseded his contractually obliged silence. Sensational though Pusztai’s revelations were, tehy have never been rigorously followed up. In 2005 Russian scientist Irina Ermakova conducted an experiment on the offspring of female rats, comparing thee groups fed diets of augmented by GM soy, non-GM soy, or no soy at all, beginning two weeks before conception and continuing through nursing. Within three weeks of birth, 56 of the rats born in the GM soy group died, compared to 9 percent in the non-GM soy group and 7 percent from the no-soy group. But then Ermakova’s funding ran out, and she has not been able to perform detailed organ analysis or to repeat her experiment to confirm the results.
“Those familiar with the body of GM safety studies are often astounded by the superficiality,” reports Smith. With universities and research institutes increasingly dependent on corporate dollars, dissenting views are easily silenced by withdrawing funding. Research on GM food safety simply isn’t happening, except under direct corporate sponsorship, which comes with strings attached. “When you have so many scientists … doing sponsored research, you start to wonder, ” says Mildred Cho, a senior research scholar at Stanford University’s Center for Biomedical Ethics. “How are these studies being designed? What kinds of research questions are being raised? What kinds aren’t being raised?”
I don’t think I could have said it any better myself. Follow the money. Ask questions.
If you’re concerned about the safety of GMOs and want to limit your own family’s exposure to them, please consider joining The No-GMO Challenge to help spread the word.