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2012 articles

Scientists reject decision by AAAS board to oppose GMO labeling

on .

1.Scientists reject decision by AAAS board to oppose GMO labeling
2.Money Doesn't Talk, It Lies
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1.Yes: Food labels would let consumers make informed choices
 http://www.environmentalhealthnews.org/ehs/news/2012/yes-labels-on-gm-foods

[EHN Editor's Note: The board of the world's largest general scientific organization (AAAS - American Assn. for the Advancement of Science, headed up by GM promoter Nina Fedoroff) created a firestorm by calling labeling of genetically modified foods unnecessary. A group of prominent scientists disagrees.]

The paternalistic assertion that labeling of genetically modified foods “can only serve to mislead and falsely alarm consumers” is an Orwellian argument that violates the right of consumers to make informed decisions. Civilization rests on the confidence that an individual’s basic human rights will be respected by the government, including the 'right to know.' The AAAS board failed to note that the FDA's testing program for GM foods is voluntary.

By Patricia Hunt of Washington State University and 20 other scientists

As a group of scientists and physicians that includes many long-standing members of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), we challenge the recent AAAS Board of Directors statement opposing efforts to require labeling of foods containing products derived from genetically modified crop plants. Their position tramples the rights of consumers to make informed choices.

The statement argues: "These efforts are not driven by evidence that GM foods are actually dangerous. Indeed, the science is quite clear: crop improvement by the modern molecular techniques of biotechnology is safe. Rather, these initiatives are driven by a variety of factors, ranging from the persistent perception that such foods are somehow ‘unnatural’ and potentially dangerous to the desire to gain competitive advantage by legislating attachment of a label meant to alarm."

This narrow focus on GMO safety ignores the broader life-cycle impacts of GMO crops. Many GM crops are engineered to be herbicide-resistant, which has led to the evolution of weeds resistant to widely used herbicides, including RoundUp and its active ingredient glyphosate. This, in turn, has led to increased herbicide use and to searches for alternatives. Thus, herbicide-resistant GMOs are committing us to a chemical treadmill.

Burgeoning growth of the organic food sector demonstrates that some consumers make choices based on sustainability, including potential health effects on farmworkers and the environment due to intense chemical use. Other cropping systems have reduced the need for chemical inputs, and many consumers want to support and expand the development of these farming practices by choosing not to buy food produced using GM technologies. Further, many people in the United States want food that approximates – in so far as possible – the food their forebears ate. Whole communities such as the Amish mandate this of their members. This powerful instinct will always exist among certain groups, regardless of scientific advances and safety analyses.

Thus, the Board’s paternalistic assertion that labeling of GM foods “can only serve to mislead and falsely alarm consumers” is an Orwellian argument that violates the right of consumers to make informed decisions.

Importantly, despite their widespread use, the human and wildlife toxicity of herbicides has not been well studied. Evidence suggests that at least some may induce detrimental health effects even at low exposure levels. Importantly, recent molecular studies suggest that glyphosate-based herbicides can impair retinoic acid signaling, producing teratogenic effects. Thus, the finding of human effects consistent with impaired retinoic signaling in agricultural areas with heavy RoundUp use raises concern about the potential health effects of heavy herbicide usage. Although these studies do not prove that RoundUp/glyphosate creates unwarranted human risks, they raise significant concerns. Labeling GMO products would allow consumers to make choices based on these concerns.

The Board asserts that “Civilization rests on people’s ability to modify plants to make them more suitable as food, feed and fiber plants and all of these modifications are genetic.” However, civilization also rests on the confidence that an individual’s basic human rights will be respected by his or her fellow citizens and by the government, including the ‘right to know.’

The AAAS statement notes that “GM crops are the most extensively tested crops ever added to our food supply.” The statement should have included the fact that the Food and Drug Administration’s testing program is voluntary. Our experience with other well-studied consumer products (tobacco, asbestos, bisphenol A, phthalates) demonstrates that a large number of tests provide no guarantee of safety. Typically, evidence of harm has only emerged when testing has been conducted independently of those who benefit from the product or practice. Unfortunately, years of manufactured doubt by those with a vested interest have and continue to slow public health decisions that rightfully should be based solely on science.

Patricia Hunt, PhD
Washington State University
Bruce Blumberg, PhD
University of California, Irvine
Carl-Gustaf Bornehag, PhD
Karlstad University, Sweden
Richard Clapp, PhD
University of Massachusetts, Lowell
Terrence J. Collins, PhD
Carnegie Mellon University
Peter L. DeFur, PhD
Virginia Commonwealth University
Steven G. Gilbert, PhD, DABT
Institute of Neurotoxicology & Neurological Disorders
Louis J. Guillette, Jr. PhD
Medical School of South Carolina
Tyrone B. Hayes, PhD
University of California, Berkeley
Steve Heilig, MPH
San Francisco Medical Society
Shuk-mei Ho, PhD
University of Cincinnati Medical Center
Richard Jackson, MD
Former Director, National Center for Environmental Health, CDC
Harvey Karp, MD, FAAP
USC School of Medicine
Bruce Lanphear, MD, MPH
Simon Fraser University
John Peterson Myers, PhD
Environmental Health Sciences*
Gail S. Prins, PhD
University of Illinois at Chicago
Shanna Swan, PhD
Mt. Sinai School of Medicine
Bernard Weiss, PhD
University of Rochester
Laura Vandenberg, PhD
Tufts University
Frederick S. vom Saal, PhD
University of Missouri
R. Thomas Zoeller
University of Massachusetts, Amherst
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2.Money Doesn't Talk, It Lies
Pete Shanks
Biopolitical Times, November 1 2012
 http://www.biopoliticaltimes.org/article.php?id=6482

California's Proposition 37, which would require labeling of genetically modified food, is being battered by a million dollars a day of deceptive commercials. The race is close to a tie, with one poll putting Prop. 37 behind and the Los Angeles Times having it ahead by a tight 44–42, down from huge leads a month earlier in both surveys.

What's behind this change is a lethal combination of money and lies, and up to a point the lies are working. Before the campaign started, labeling had about 91% support. Negative campaigning has driven that down below 50%.

The No on 37 campaign goes out of its way to avoid mentioning genetically modified organisms, or GMOs. Instead, it presents a farrago of misleading, incomplete, irrelevant, and confusing claims about "increased costs to consumers, arbitrary exemptions, [and] shakedown lawsuits." The opponents have actually been forced to retract a couple of commercials for claiming or implying endorsements they don't have, and they may even be criminally liable for misrepresenting the FDA's position. The Organic Consumers Association (OCA) has compiled a startling summary of "37 lies and dirty tricks brought to you by Monsanto and the No on 37 campaign."
 http://www.organicconsumers.org/articles/article_26551.cfm

If California were a swing state in presidential politics, the TV time to spread this misinformation might not be available. As it is, however, opponents of Prop. 37 have raised at least $44 million, and it's still coming in. DuPont kicked in another half-million yesterday. Monsanto now has over $8 million invested, according to OCA's useful list of major funders.

That's not the most spent on a measure this year: According to Reuters, Prop. 32, an anti-union measure, has attracted $128 million ($59m for, $69m against) and Governor Brown's tax plan, Prop. 30, almost as much ($62 for, $53m against). But it's by far the biggest discrepancy: Yes on 37 has raised a relatively modest $7 million.

The race, however, is still very much on. Endorsements of Proposition 37 keep growing, including by the California Democratic Party, the Los Angeles City Council (and many others) and politicians at every level from U.S. Senator on down. The Yes campaign recently released its own TV ad, and is hoping for a final, grassroots effort to leaflet, demonstrate, and vote.