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Monday, December 27, 2010

Monsanto exerts influence on European GMO policies

The latest batch of diplomatic cables released by Wikileaks reveals how the Unites States exerts pressure on European countries to further the commercial interests of the biotech industry by promoting genetically modified foods. 

A cable from Craig Stapleton, the US ambassador to France, expressed his frustration with the idea that France might pass environmental laws that would hamper the expansion of GMOs:

"Europe is moving backwards not forwards on this issue with France playing a leading role,
along with Austria, Italy and even the [European] Commission... Moving to retaliation will make clear that the current path has real costs to EU interests and could help strengthen European pro-biotech voices. In fact, the pro-biotech side in France -- including within the farm union -- have told us retaliation is the only way to begin to begin to turn this issue in France."

Jeffrey Smith, author of Seeds of Deception, said this in a “Democracy Now” interview:

"We’ve been saying for years that the United States government is joined at the hip with Monsanto and pushing GMOs as part of Monsanto’s agenda on the rest of the world. This lays bare the mechanics of that effort. We have Craig Stapleton, the former ambassador to France, specifically asking the U.S. government to retaliate and cause some harm throughout the European Union.”

A story broke in EL Pais on December 19th, revealing that the Spain has been working hand in hand with the U.S. to protect the interests of the biotech industry against those EU countries that hold national bans on GE crops. Spain, cultivates the most GE maize (Monsanto MON810) in Europe and is very worried by the rise of the anti-GE movement in Spanish society. The French are also mostly against GE crops and Germany has been introducing GE crop bans - allying with countries such as Austria, Luxembourg and Italy. Spain doesn't want to be outnumbered in Europe on this issue and has been looking for support elsewhere.

Dr. Grout’s comment:

This is pretty ugly. And there is more.

Last September, Jeremy Scahill’s article in The Nation exposed that in 2008-2009 Monsanto hired the controversial military contractor known as Blackwater. Scahill wrote that “Blackwater, through [its sister company] Total Intelligence, sought to become the ‘intel arm’ of Monsanto, offering to provide operatives to infiltrate activist groups organizing against the multinational biotech firm.” This is clear evidence of what animal activists and health advocates who oppose GMOs are up against.

Animal studies have indicated serious health risks associated with GM food consumption including infertility, immune dysregulation, accelerated aging, dysregulation of genes associated with cholesterol synthesis, insulin regulation, cell signaling, and protein formation, and changes in the liver, kidney, spleen and gastrointestinal system. The only human feeding study ever published on GMOs, the 2004 Netherwood study, revealed that transgenes from soy transfer into the DNA of bacteria inside our intestines and continue to function. So eat a handful of chips made from GMO corn and you have a pesticide replicating in your gut.

The American Academy of Environmental Medicine has called for a moratorium on genetically modified foods saying, “There is more than a casual association between GM foods and adverse health effects.” But the U.S. government has not agreed to examine the health effects of GMOs. It should.

In the U.S., we have not won the battle to have GMOs labeled. We can avoid most of the GMOs by not eating processed foods because 80 percent or more of all processed food has GMOs in it. Soda, for example, is often made with high fructose corn syrup that is made from genetically modified corn. Unless the label specifies “pure cane sugar,” you are probably eating something made from genetically modified sugar beets. And almost all the soy found in food products is GM.

The Hershey Company plans to reformulate its European products to be free of GMOs in order to meet consumer demand and to comply with the non-GMO requirements of Asda, the U.K. subsidiary of Wal-Mart that will be Hershey's exclusive retailer in the U.K. However, Hershey's has no intentions of changing any of its U.S. formulas, all of which are tainted with GMOs.

What can we, as individuals, do about GM food products? We can refuse to buy them. We can call or send letters to the consumer products divisions of the companies whose foods we are concerned about, asking them if there are any GM elements in their products. The companies will begin to realize that we are concerned and that we care. The power of the pocketbook is enormous – look at what happened with BPA in our water bottles and baby bottles – it is no longer present because of the outcry of the Mommy Blogosphere. We can do the same for any other GM foods – we just have to care enough to write, and to find a substitute.

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