The GMO (genetically modified organism) in food debate continues to rage both here in America and in the European Union. The issues related to GMO containing ingredients in food have been well documented on this site in the past such as the conglomerate controlling the seeds for crops, the migration of GMO crop pollen into organic crop fields, and the dangers of the Roundup weed killer product being labeled a carcinogen by the World Health Organization.
The news this week about Monsanto and the mounting legal battles they face over the Roundup product and the lawsuits that have been brought against the company in nearly every state in the country have brought renewed scrutiny to the chemicals used in crop management.
The media also released a report that prior to Bayer merging with Monsanto they found evidence of Monsanto making lists of entities in the EU which were trying to stop them from using GMOs and detailing how they were going to “handle” these entities. This news tarnishes the image further of Monsanto, known as the “world’s most disliked company” and draws into question their business practices.
The legal claims of many farmers, custodians, grounds keepers, and other consumers who have developed cancer after being exposed to Roundup is going to be a narrative for Bayer/Monsanto in the years to come. The secondary issue that will stem from those legal proceedings will be the role of using Roundup on soybean crops and other staple food items and the ramifications of that process on food safety.
The role of Monsanto and other big bio-tech companies in creating GMO crops has also come into focus with an executive order that was put forward by the current administration from The White House last week. That executive order, according to UPI and other media outlets, streamlines the regulatory process of the three main federal agencies regarding GMOs in the food supply. Some maintain that the order makes it easier for GMO ingredients to be used in food products.
However, in fair balance, the executive order can also be interpreted to provide more clarity on the exact regulatory process that agencies such as the FDA and USDA need to take toward labeling a product that contains GMO materials. The current process is so convoluted that it creates opportunities for loopholes for the food companies with regard to GMOs.
The studies that came about this week regarding yield curves of GMO containing crops compared to organic crops were also revealing. The results tend to poke a hole in the GMO proponent’s contention that the yields are better with their products, the results show very little difference in the yield curves compared to organic crop yields.
The use of GMO components in farming also correspond with more chemicals being used in the overall process and make our food supply chain even further reliant on a few large corporations, which is an unsettling situation when you consider those consequences.
The legal battles over GMO crops in Hawaii and Mexico have been center stage in the GMO debate in recent months as well. In both situations, the bio-tech companies, namely Monsanto, have been dealt setbacks. The situation in Hawaii was a change in the law there to require a disclosure around the use of pesticides and the presence of GMOs in crops as well as the creation of buffer zones near medical centers and schools barring the use of those chemicals or GMO products in those areas.
Mexico banned the use of GMO corn and the planting of GMO corn within the entire country, which means that Monsanto cannot operate their corn harvesting production areas in the country. The law also stipulates that no GMO corn can be sold in Mexico as well, which is a significant blow to the big bio-tech companies.
Some have asked me: when will the U.S. “get it” on GMOs? The EU has banned them, now Mexico, and the lobbyists keep churning out messaging that GMOs are safe and are essentially for sustainable crop yields. Both of those statements are being heavily challenged at this point.
The answer to that question is unclear and complicated. The seeds are the main problem, because if the seeds contain GMOs even in the case of organic products we have a ramp up problem that we must deal with in the short term. The long -term issue will be the availability of land for organic farming and making sure it is far enough away from GMO crop sites due to the migration of pollen that I mentioned earlier.
The remediation and rehabilitation of certain crop land to convert it to organic farming standards is a secondary issue, one which was covered in an earlier piece on some of the programs currently being run that offer incentives to farmers to make the transition to organic produce.
A component that complicates the “GMOs are safe” debate is that most all of the research is tainted because it is paid for by the corporations that stand to profit from the expanded use of genetically engineered or modified ingredients. That is certainly a conflict of interest that cannot be ignored in this matter.
The average consumer is more educated on ingredients and more health-conscious than ever before. The consumer has far more information readily available than at any other point in time, so the case for GMOs is an uphill climb already. The impact of the all of these recent developments will continue to shape the debate in the coming months.