We are at a very crucial time for our American environment. Spring is coming and our Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack — former “Biotech Governor of the Year” for his work as Iowa’s governor — is promoting the wide release of genetically altered alfalfa and sugar beets into our nation’s fields. The latter is in defiance of a federal court ban. Despite what the author of the letter to the editor on Feb. 16 titled “The unproven dangers of GMOs” may say about pesticides being so safe, and genetically modified organisms being thoroughly tested, the author is rather off the mark. No human subjects have been tested in GMO studies, and the animal studies relied upon were done by the companies producing the GMOs, like Monsanto. How would you like to know that in one study on male rats fed genetically modified soy, the rats testicles actually changed color — from the normal pink to dark blue. Mice fed genetically modified soy had altered young sperm as well. In addition, mice that were fed GMO soy developed embryos that exhibited significant changes to their DNA. Mice fed GMO corn in an Austrian government study had fewer babies, which were also smaller than normal. These are just some examples, but it is also known that rats fed genetically modified potatoes had smaller testicles, brains and livers as compared to control rats fed the un-genetically altered parent line of the same potatoes. Plus, problems with the immune systems of GMO fed rats studied have surfaced, for as yet unproven reasons, though the California Mosaic Virus has been claimed to be a potential culprit.The American Academy of Environmental Medicine called on “physicians to educate their patients, the medical community, and the public to avoid GM (genetically modified) foods when possible” in a report on their website. They further called for a moratorium on genetically modified foods, long-term independent studies, and labeling. AAEM’s position paper stated, “Several animal studies indicate serious health risks associated with GM food,” including infertility, immune problems, accelerated aging, insulin regulation, and changes in major organs and the gastrointestinal system. They conclude, “There is more than a casual association between GM foods and adverse health effects. There is causation.”What all this means is that if we release the GMO alfalfa and cows eat it, our entire meat and dairy supply will be at risk, while contamination of other non-GMO or organic fields and innocent cows will inevitably occur.This is not a chemical that may eventually wash out of our ecosystem, like a pesticide. These are life forms that can never be returned to the test tube or the corporate genie bottle. If the sugar beets are released, these will soon account for 50 percent of U.S. sugar and will not be labeled as such. Imagine that catastrophe, when you want to avoid these foods. 87 percent of Americans recently polled want GMOs labeled, which President Obama promised to do on the campaign trail –– but has not done.What companies like Monsanto are doing is patenting their GMO life product as unique, synthesizing it to work with their herbicide, Round Up, and selling both for a profit. But the amount of herbicide that has to be used has increased as plants developed resistance to it. Plus, it has been linked to an increased risk for miscarriage, and also non-Hodgkins lymphoma, besides being banned in Denmark. Pesticides are not innocuous, not organic, nor are GMOs. If the bio-tech industry really wants to prosper honorably, proper studies have to be done, not by the fox guarding the henhouse, but by the FDA and other supposedly neutral entities. Europe has effectively banned GMOs because the citizens of that continent have been made aware of their dangers. Our country, however, is on the verge of an irreversible disaster initiated for profit and abetted by a failure on the media’s part to inform the citizenry of what can happen, when, for example, alfalfa and sugar beets are unleashed into America’s fields.
Conrad Miller M.D. ’67 is a doctor and author of the book The Most Important Issues Americans Think They Know Enough About. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Guest Room appears periodically throughout the semester.
Original Author: Conrad Miller