New GMO Studies: Use of ‘Substantial Equivalence’ Principle is Pseudoscience—Danger!
The GMO industry is aggressive, willing to spend millions to advance their science, silence critics and halt labeling that would inform the American public of which foods are GMO products. We often focus on the companies doing the actual genetic modeling, but they are not alone in attempting to push this on the consumer. The food manufacturers are investing hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars in lobbying against GMO labeling.
Example: Ben & Jerry’s corporate parent, Unilever, spent $467,000 against GMO labeling in California. Other companies also are spending big bucks to counter GMO labeling: PepsiCo $2,249,661.61; Nestle $1,169,400.00; Kraft $551,148.25; Kellogg’s $632,500.00; Campbell’s $250,000.00.
We were even led to believe that we’d have an ally in the Whitehouse. President Obama in his 2007 campaign promised to label GMO foods. However, the President did not keep his campaign promise. Instead he signed the spending bill, HR 933 called, Farmer Assurance Provision. It was renamed by GMO opponents as the “Monsanto Protection Act”. Anti-GMO proponents call it a giveaway to corporations. Connor Adams Sheets, a writer for International Business Times in his March, 2013 article has the why: it “bars federal courts from being able to halt the sale or planting of controversial genetically modified (aka GMO) or genetically engineered (GE) seeds, no matter what health issues may arise concerning GMOs in the future.” Our own government has made it impossible to hold them accountable for adverse health effects or to stop the tampering of our food supply.
A move in California to label foods took place in 2012. Proposition 37 would have required food manufacturers and retailers to label products made with genetically modified ingredients. It was defeated due to a $45 million campaign by giant companies like Monsanto, DuPont, and Hershey Co. The anti-GMO movement didn’t stand a chance. The GMO industry won based on the cost of labeling—that the cost increase would have be added to the product and have to be paid for by the consumer. The consumer was convinced that it would affect them financially. Yet most of us are now incurring higher food costs as we switch to organic foods to protect our health from GMO foods anyway.
In my area alone the most popular supermarket has begun a massive transition to organic foods ranging from fresh to canned fruits and vegetables, dairy and even condiments. Grass fed beef, organic chicken and vegetable fed pork have their own refrigerator space, and the move is exploding. Organic foods will put a financial wrench in the GMO machinery, so it’s a reasonable to assume that at least the six major companies involved in agricultural genetic engineering will continue the pressure on the federal government to resist labeling efforts and prevent further market deterioration.
Some states such as Hawaii are making an effort to have the debate. Vermont is on the verge of passing into law the requiring of foods containing genetically modified organisms (GMOs) to be labeled. The anti-GMO movement’s message is one advocating both transparency and choice.
The primary argument from the GMO advocates centers around a lack of evidence that GMOs cause adverse health risks. One advocate cites as a reference source the U.S. National Academy of Sciences who claims no adverse health effects attributed to GMOs have been documents in the human population.
Those warning of the dangers in GMO foods are being accused of having false fears that are baseless. One source, http://findourcommonground.com/ whose mission is get “the real story about American agriculture” writes, “Farmers and gardeners have been creating plant hybrids for as long as they’ve been growing plants. Biotechnology simply serves as a more technologically advanced method.”
They add, “Every plant improved through the use of food biotechnology is examined by the FDA and EPA for potential health risks. Tests are done on plants before entering the food and animal feed supply. The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that current foods containing biotech ingredients have passed human health risk assessments. In addition, the WHO says no effects on human health have been shown as a result of the consumption of biotech foods.”
This argument is based on hybrids of natural plants, combining them to make a hardier variety for example. However, GMOs today are a very different type of tinkering. GMOs are transformed from their natural make-up to a new version by introducing a bacterial gene that, for example, renders resistance to the herbicide glyphosate sold under the brand name Roundup. So when the Roundup is used to kill the weeds, it does not kill the plant. The engineering of other plants cause them to need less toxic chemicals to thrive and therefore the soil groundwater will be less polluted. Corn, soybeans, and wheat are three foods that are widely used in the majority of processed foods in one way or another and are most likely of the GMO variety.
The latest studies cited by the Institute of Science in Society (ISIS) in UK’s are proving health risks are something we should be very concerned about. The findings of GMO studies are based on the principle of “Substantial Equivalence”, which has afforded the approval of GMOs with little protection for public health or the environment. Dr Eva Sirinathsinghji reports further:
“Several new studies carried out by scientists independent of the biotech industry are showing up glaring differences between GMOs and their non-GMO counterparts. This makes a mockery of the regulatory principle of ‘Substantial Equivalence’ which has facilitated approvals of GMOs with practically no protection for public health and the environment. The Principle of Substantial equivalence is Unscientific and Arbitrary, ISIS news.”
Dr. Sirinathsinghji says it is this “Substantial Equivalence” principle that the regulatory agencies of the US Food and Drug Administration, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency and Japan’s Ministry of Health and Welfare are basing the GM food safety regulations on.
“The concept of ‘Substantial Equivalence’ was first introduced in 1993 by the Organisation for Economic Development (OECD), an international economic and trade organisation, not a public health body. The principle states that if a new food is found to be substantially equivalent to an already existing food product, it can be treated the same way as the existing product with respect to safety. This concept has greatly benefited the trade of GM produce, allowing it to effectively bypass regulatory requirements that would apply to novel food and other products including novel chemical compounds, pharmaceuticals, pesticides and food additives, all of which require a range of toxicological tests and can be subject to legal limitations on safe consumption/intake.”
These additional studies based on this principle are resulting in creating varieties that can be from the most inferior traits of many different varieties and still be deemed substantially equivalent. Sirinathsinghji says, “Traits used for comparisons are also based solely on gross and insensitive chemical compositional tests such as levels of carbohydrate, protein and sugars.” Because of the compositional change, the effects on the human digestive system are producing adverse effects. One Egyptian study found,
“Abnormal levels of certain amino acids, fatty acids and elements were also recorded. These compositional differences only gave the merest hint of the toxicity of the GM corn revealed in previous male rat feeding studies conducted by the same team documenting a wide range of organ and tissue abnormalities. Liver cells displayed vacuolation and fatty degeneration. The kidneys had congested blood vessels and dilation of renal tubules. The testes showed signs of necrosis and desquamation of spermatogoneal germ cells lining the seminiferous tubules. The spleens were congested with slight lymphocytic depletion. The small intestines showed hyperplasia and hyperactivation of mucous secretory glands, with necrosis of intestinal villi. Most certainly, the GM corn was not substantially equivalent to non-GM corn.”
Sirinathsinghji concludes that “glyphosate and GM crops have already been shown to cause damage to both health and the environment in many independent studies”.
She concludes,”…the numerous differences demonstrated between GM varieties and their non-GM counterpart may well impact consumer health and biodiversity, and clearly exposes the substantial equivalence principle as pseudoscience.”
The latest report by ISIS can be read in completion at http://www.i-sis.org.uk/Substantial_Non-Equivalence.php