We've just passed the twelfth anniversary of a famous day when No meant No. As in "No, GMOs may not be safe and we need a system to test them" as Dr. Arpad Pusztai said in so many words.
Dr. Pusztai was the first whistleblower on the dangers of genetically modified organisms. Never heard of him? They have in Europe.
According to Jeffrey Smith, writing for The Huffington Post, "[Pusztai] had been an enthusiastic supporter of genetic engineering, working on cutting edge safety research with genetically modified (GM) foods: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jeffrey-smith/anniversary-of-a-whistleb_b_.... But to his surprise, his experiments showed that GM foods were inherently dangerous. When he relayed his concerns during a short television interview in the UK (in 1998), things got ugly. With support from the highest levels of government, biotech defenders quickly mobilized a coordinated attack campaign trying to distort and cover up the evidence."
"It worked for a while, but when an order of Parliament lifted Dr. Pusztai's gag order, the revelations touched off a media firestorm that ultimately kicked GM foods out of European supermarkets, and derailed the industry's timetable to quickly replace virtually all food with genetically engineered alternatives."
Wow. Didn't know the Biotech giants or the government would go to such lengths? Think it's any different in the U.S.? The difference is that the GM cover up is more successful and the citizenry more apathetic. Or more afraid. Still think your government protects you? Read on.
Continues Smith, "By early 1996, genetically modified tomatoes had been sold in US supermarkets for more than a year, and GM soy, corn, and cottonseed were about to be widely planted. But not a single peer-reviewed study on the safety of GM foods had been published, and there was not even an agreed-upon protocol for answering the question, 'Is this stuff safe?'
The UK government was about to change all that, and Hungarian born chemist Dr. Arpad Pusztai was their man to do it. He beat out 27 competing scientists for a £1.6 million grant to develop a safety testing protocol; it was supposed to eventually be required for all GM food approvals in Europe."
Smith's article is fascinating and I won't recount it all here. I encourage you to read it for yourself. Suffice it to say that Dr. Pusztai went from the top researcher in GM foods to their major opponent. Why? Because he saw the effect of the GM foods he was studying on rats, despite the fact that there was supposed to be no negative impact on mammals from the insecticide inserted into the plant, just a negative effect on insects.
The significant damage to the rats, it appeared, came rather from the unintended side effects of the genetic engineering process. What Pusztai found is that the rats underwent radical internal organ alteration after being fed GM potatoes. His conclusion was that the process of gene insertion may have resulted in massive collateral damage in the plant's DNA, with hundreds or thousands of mutations.
The result of Dr. Pusztai's revelation of this unanticipated finding in a 150 second television interview? Two days later he was suspended, after 35 years of service. The government never implemented their GMO safety testing protocol. Dr. Pusztai was intentionally and falsely discredited to counteract the influence of his findings.
Yet eight months after Pusztai's interview, "the public's distrust of GMOs reached a tipping point. Use of GM ingredients had become a marketing liability. Within a single week nearly every major food company committed to stop using GMOs in Europe."
In the twelve years since this controversy, Dr. Pusztai has given more than 200 lectures around the world on GMOs. He has been commissioned by the German government, academic publications, and others to do comprehensive analyses of GMO safety studies. In 2005, he received the Whistleblower Award from the Federation of German Scientists (VDW). And in 2009, he and his wife, Dr. Susan Bardocz—also an expert on GMO--were presented with the Stuttgart Peace Prize for their tireless advocacy for independent risk research, as well as their courage, scientific integrity, and their undaunted insistence on the public's right to know the truth.
In 2008, on the tenth anniversary of his TV show, Dr. Pusztai reflected:
"On this anniversary I have to admit that, unfortunately, not much has changed since 1998. In one of the few sentences I said in my broadcast ten years ago, I asked for a credible GM testing protocol to be established that would be acceptable to the majority of scientists and to people in general. 10 years on we still haven't got one. . .
"All of us asked for independent, transparent and inclusive research into the safety of GM plants, and particularly those used in foods. There is not much sign of this either. There are still 'many opinions but very few data;' less than three dozen peer-reviewed scientific papers have been published describing the results of work relating to GM safety that could actually be regarded as being of an academic standard; and the majority of even these is from industry-supported labs. . ."
He goes on to say that on the 20th anniversary he hopes he will not have to speak out on the dangers of untested GM foods!
We need a Non-GMO Day and a Non-GMO month to educate consumers about GM's fearsome facts, to create a consumer tipping point where we demand a safety monitoring system, and to send a message to the major producers of the big five genetically modified organisms (dairy, corn, soy, canola, cotton) that we don't want them without safety testing!
Stay tuned for more gripping information on GMs, coming soon from Caitlin Rose. In the meantime, just do what you can. One small step will help human and environmental health. Choose organics and you won't have to do all the sleuthing to avoid GMs. Thank you to our organic farmers!!