GMOs, Monsanto, the future of food, and deGrasse Tyson

Reply Fri 16 Feb, 2018 08:29 am
To Quorn or not to quorn?

My guru swears by quorn for those who must have a meat substitute.

It is becoming more difficult for me to eat meat as I understand how these animals are treated and the horrific circumstances of their lives, so I’m almost 100% wild caught fish and pastured eggs, which cost a shitload!

I almost never eat chicken, pork, or beef.

I’m not sure how long people will have the luxury of choosing. We may, one day, be forced to eat manufactured meat.

Not a happy prospect.


What exactly is Quorn? I have been asked that question regularly for more than 30 years. This may be a reflection of the general population’s scientific illiteracy, but most people remain hazy about the composition of Quorn – even those who eat it regularly. However, many of us are prepared to accept this understanding gap because Quorn seems to be on the right side of the prevailing food paradigm, which holds that eating meat, fish, dairy and eggs is a redneck habit that has had its day, one that amounts to propagating cruelty and environmental ruin and will lead to dire consequences for human health. On the other hand, “plant food” – an appealing neologism for vegetarian and vegan that owes its intellectual heft to US food writer Michael Pollan’s maxim “Eat food, not too much, mostly plants” – is riding high on a wave of moral purity and an extravagant “feed the world and save the planet” promise.
Reply Fri 6 Jul, 2018 01:40 am
Be advised.


This Op-Ed, written by GJEP Executive Director Anne Petermann was published in The Public, a local weekly paper in Buffalo, NY in response to articles in the Buffalo News extolling the virtues of using GE American chestnuts as part of a campaign to bring American chestnut trees back to a local park.

While the article is targeted to Western New York, the questions and concerns are applicable across the eastern US where researchers want to release GE chestnuts throughout the native forests of the region.

By Anne Petermann

Self-replicating, unregulated GMOs in our forests, what could go wrong?

This spring Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz took part in an Arbor Day activity that planted 50 American chestnut trees in the park as part of a reintroduction campaign to bring the park’s namesake trees back.

Unfortunately, a future phase of the plan involves introducing risky GMO American chestnut trees to the park in the misguided belief that this is the only way to restore the species and make it resistant to the blight that killed the trees in the early 1900s.

GMO Proponents ignore the potential dangers of planting these unnatural American chestnut trees in the forest. They also overlook the fact that, outside of labs and test plots, GMO trees are not legal. In fact, the only countries in the world genetically engineered forest trees are legal for use are China and Brazil.

There has been widespread global public outcry against the social and ecological dangers posed by genetically engineered trees, and even the United Nations has warned against their use. In the US last July, 284,000 people submitted comments to the USDA demanding they reject legalization of a genetically engineered eucalyptus tree.

If approved by the government, the GMO American chestnut tree would be the first ever self-replicating GMO to be released directly into the wild for the purpose of contaminating as many wild relatives as possible. It would be one giant uncontrolled experiment and set a dangerous precedent for the future our forests and natural environment.

It is clear that some researchers are eager and confident in the outcome of their experiment, but the interests of science alone cannot be enough to take an irreversible action that involves the world’s first release of a self-replicating genetically modified organism, the long-term risks of which are completely unknown. History has shown us that just because science can do something does not always mean it should. Our scientific and technological choices must be informed by broader ethical, health and environmental considerations.

And while these researchers insist that their genetically engineered American chestnuts are the only way to go, there are numerous initiatives working to restore the American chestnut naturally through traditional breeding techniques. But GMO chestnut proponents complain that this process is too slow, while downplaying the risks and unknowns of these trees.

We know from GMO crops that genetic engineering comes with unintended problems. Widespread use of herbicide resistant GMO corn and soy, for example, led to the evolution of herbicide-resistant super weeds—and hence to the use of even more toxic herbicides.

But in the case of the GMO American chestnut, we are not talking about an annual plant in a field, we are talking about a tree that can live 250 years and spread pollen and seeds for miles.

Forest ecologists will tell you how very little we know about forest ecosystems. The complex interactions between trees, soil microorganisms, wildlife, songbirds, and insects are barely understood. There is no way to know what the risks will be of planting GMO trees in forests. If something goes wrong in 20, 30 or 50 years, the impacts will be irreversible.

If we truly want to protect our forests, we should be combatting climate change and stopping the global trade in raw logs, woodchips, and live trees that is importing the diseases, insects and invasive species that are wreaking havoc. Adding unnatural and risky genetically engineered trees and their unpredictable impacts will only worsen the problem.

Tell County Executive Mark Poloncarz to reject dangerous genetically engineered American chestnut trees and to support only the efforts to restore them naturally.

Anne Petermann, an East Aurora native, is the Executive Director of Global Justice Ecology Project, with international headquarters in Buffalo. She has been studying the social and ecological impacts of GE trees since 2000. She presented “Risks, Concerns, and Potential Problems Regarding the Use of Biotechnology to Address Forest Health” to the National Academy of Sciences on March 27th. Washington, DC’s The Hill, ran an Op-Ed on GE trees co-authored by Petermann on March 28th.
Reply Fri 6 Jul, 2018 09:17 am
That is silly.

Every tree is self-replicating. That is kind of the point of trees. And every tree has a genome that could be damaging to other species.

This is pointless fear mongering.
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Reply Fri 6 Jul, 2018 09:24 am
I was just fact checking the scientific claims made in this op-ed. The evolution of herbacide resistant weeds has to do with the exposure to herbacides... it is not directly related to the use of GMOs. These weeds would adapt to these chemicals with or without the introduction of GMOs.
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Reply Fri 10 Aug, 2018 04:42 pm


Today is their day of reckoning," attorney Brent Wisner told jurors as he urged them to impose a penalty of more than $400 million on Monsanto for hiding the cancer-causing potential of Roundup and commercial strength version Ranger Pro.

"Every single cancer risk found had this moment, where the science finally caught up, where they couldn't bury it anymore."

Terminally-ill Dewayne Johnson watched as his attorney accused Monsanto of putting profit over people's health by fighting research signaling Roundup's potential cancer risks and failing to issue warnings.

Johnson, 46, testified that he would "never" have used Roundup or Ranger Pro had he known it could lead to his illness.

The monthlong trial pits Johnson against the agrochemical colossus recently acquired by Germany-based Bayer in a deal valued at about $62 billion.

Diagnosed in 2014 with non-Hodgkin lymphoma, a cancer that affects white blood cells, Johnson used Ranger Pro repeatedly in his job at a school in Benicia, California, after being promoted to groundskeeper in 2012.

Wisner said Monsanto opted against warning consumers of the risks and that instead "they have fought science" by playing down the suspected link between the chemical herbicide and cancer.

The case is the first to reach trial alleging a cancer link from Roundup, one of the world's most widely used herbicides.

'High rhetoric'

The legal clash involves dueling studies, along with allegations Monsanto thwarted potentially damning research.
I think those who are found to have known and covered up should be executed.
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Reply Fri 10 Aug, 2018 06:06 pm
Rather have executions for intentionally murdering regular Americans, but $289 million is a start.

End them.

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Reply Thu 23 Aug, 2018 05:35 pm
It is becoming more difficult for me to eat meat as I understand how these animals are treated and the horrific circumstances of their lives

There are pastured pigs and pastured chickens that live their life totally on pasture,not in confinement barns, Lash.
Reply Sat 25 Aug, 2018 11:41 am
In the US, decently treated animals are too expensive for most people—almost twice as much.
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Reply Thu 3 Jan, 2019 10:14 am
I’ve been reading about the new book Sicker, Fatter, Poorer by Dr. Leonardo Trasande, and it seems that investigatory articles are becoming easier to find.

Excerpt from Times article about why / how America allows more poisons in our food than does Europe.

Some foods, like those found in this grocery store in Nice, France, don't contain food additives that would otherwise be allowed in foods in the United States

By Roni Caryn Rabin
Dec. 28, 2018

Q. What foods are banned in Europe that are not banned in the United States, and what are the implications of eating those foods?

A. The European Union prohibits or severely restricts many food additives that have been linked to cancer that are still used in American-made bread, cookies, soft drinks and other processed foods. Europe also bars the use of several drugs that are used in farm animals in the United States, and many European countries limit the cultivation and import of genetically modified foods.

“In some cases, food-processing companies will reformulate a food product for sale in Europe” but continue to sell the product with the additives in the United States, said Lisa Y. Lefferts, senior scientist at the Center for Science in the Public Interest, a food safety advocacy organization.

A 1958 amendment to the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act prohibits the Food and Drug Administration from approving food additives that are linked to cancer, but an agency spokeswoman said that many substances that were in use before passage of the amendment, known as the Delaney amendment, are considered to have had prior approval and “therefore are not regulated as food additives.”

In October, the F.D.A. agreed to ban six artificial flavoring substances shown to cause cancer in animals, following petitions and a lawsuit filed by the Center for Science in the Public Interest and other organizations. The F.D.A. insists the six artificial flavors “do not pose a risk to public health,” but concedes that the law requires it not approve the food additives. Food companies will have at least two years to remove them from their products.

Here’s a short list of some of the food additives restricted by the European Union but allowed in American foods. Most must be listed as ingredients on the labels, though information about drugs used to increase the yield in farm animals is generally not provided.

Potassium bromate and azodicarbonamide (ADA)

These additives are commonly added to baked goods, but neither is required, and both are banned in Europe because they may cause cancer. In recent years, some American restaurant chains have responded to consumer pressure and removed them from their food.

Potassium bromate is often added to flour used in bread, rolls, cookies, buns, pastry dough, pizza dough and other items to make the dough rise higher and give it a white glow. The International Agency for Research on Cancer considers it a possible human carcinogen, and the Center for Science in the Public Interest petitioned the F.D.A. to ban it nearly 20 years ago. The F.D.A. says potassium bromate has been in use since before the Delaney amendment on carcinogenic food additives was passed.

Azodicarbonamide, or ADA, which is used as a whitening agent in cereal flour and as a dough conditioner, breaks down during baking into chemicals that cause cancer in lab animals. It is used by many chain restaurants that serve sandwiches and buns. The Center for Science in the Public Interest has urged the F.D.A. to bar its use. The F.D.A. says it is safe in limited amounts.

The flavor enhancers and preservatives BHA and BHT are subject to severe restrictions in Europe but are widely used in American food products. While evidence on BHT is mixed, BHA is listed in a United States government report on carcinogens as “reasonably anticipated” to be a human carcinogen.

Brominated Vegetable Oil (BVO)

BVO is used in some citrus-flavored soft drinks like Mountain Dew and in some sports drinks to prevent separation of ingredients, but it is banned in Europe. It contains bromine, the element found in brominated flame retardants, and studies suggest it can build up in the body and can potentially lead to memory loss and skin and nerve problems. An F.D.A. spokeswoman said it is safe in limited amounts, and that the agency would take action “should new safety studies become available that raise questions about the safety of BVO.”

Yellow food dyes No. 5 and No. 6, and Red Dye No. 40

These dyes can be used in foods sold in Europe, but the products must carry a warning saying the coloring agents “may have an adverse effect on activity and attention in children.” No such warning is required in the United States, though the Center for Science in the Public Interest petitioned the F.D.A. in 2008 to ban the dyes. Consumers can try to avoid the dyes by reading lists of ingredients on labels, “but they’re used in so many things you wouldn’t even think of, not just candy and icing and cereal, but things like mustard and ketchup,” marshmallows, chocolate, and breakfast bars that appear to contain fruit, Ms. Lefferts, the food safety scientist, said.

The F.D.A.’s website says reactions to food coloring are rare, but acknowledges that yellow dye No. 5, used widely in drinks, desserts, processed vegetables and drugs, may cause itching and hives.

Farm Animal Drugs

The European Union also bans some drugs that are used on farm animals in the United States, citing health concerns. These drugs include bovine growth hormone, which the United States dairy industry uses to increase milk production. The European Union also does not allow the drug ractopamine, used in the United States to increase weight gain in pigs, cattle and turkeys before slaughter, saying that “risks to human health cannot be ruled out.” An F.D.A. spokeswoman said the drugs are safe.

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