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Published on November 30th, 2013 | by Tanya Sitton

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Top News From the Food Front: GMO Battle Brews, Organics Boom, Republicans Scrooge

Newspaper with glassesWhat do GMOs, Gilles-Éric Séralini, turkeys, folks who dare to grow their own food, and poor families have in common? They’re all under some serious fire, in this week’s top food news. Meanwhile organic agriculture and Al Gore are doing just fine and dandy! Read on, for all the top news from the wide world of food.

Nov. 24-30, 2013: This Week in GMO

The Food and Chemical Toxicology journal announced this week that they’re retracting Gilles-Éric Séralini’s study linking genetically modified corn to increased cancer incidence in rats. Editors claim that the peer review process failed to work properly, when Séralini’s paper published in November of 2012. They now reject the study design and conclusions, say it shouldn’t have been accepted for publication, and want Séralini to voluntarily withdraw it; editors say they’ll expunge it with or without the author’s cooperation.

Séralini’s study is NOT the reason many non-GMO advocates challenge the biotech approach to growing food, but that’s how it’s being presented by many media outlets.

The sad fact is that research on the safety of GMO consumption is virtually nonexistent; there may well be problems with this study — let’s do some better ones, then! Peer-reviewed independent research (NOT research done in secrecy by those who stand to profit from positive results) sounds absolutely lovely.

For the record, let’s all take a moment to note its glaring absence!

Whatever happens with this Séralini business, it has nothing whatsoever with why I think GMOs should be viewed skeptically by thoughtful consumers of food. It’s not news, but in light of recent events bears inclusion here.

As public awareness rises, so does demand for GMO labeling. Maine and Connecticut look like the next contenders for the First State to Require Labels prize:

There’s no good reason not to label products containing GMOs, and many good ones to do so. C’mon, Connecticut and Maine!

This week’s news cycle offers a whole new reason to watch GMOs with a skeptical eye:

You know what would be great, in terms of sorting all of these GMO health questions right out? Some nice peer reviewed studies in which the health implications of human consumption of GMO foods are explored to any degree whatsoever.

Or did I say that already?

Due to the aforementioned rising public awareness of GMO issues, demand for organics continues to increase.

Supply and demand: it’s magical!

GOP Grinch Hopes to Steal Christmas (Dinner)

Nothing says ‘holiday cheer’ like cutting food access for poor families, to make a political point.

Nice work, GOP fellas — Scrooge would be so proud!

GUILTY! … of … um… Growing Food?

This week’s story from the Are You Freaking Kidding Me Files will make you want to throw things.

You know… if you throw rotten tomatoes at the perpetrators of this foolishness, technically you’re reducing food waste. Um, right?! No, no, just kidding; don’t throw anything at anyone — but this kind of story definitely runs counter to food rev progress!

This Just In: Turkeys Aren’t Animals!

Weird, right? Turkeys look like animals to me! But under animal cruelty laws, they aren’t. Birds raised for food aren’t protected by legislation such as the Humane Slaughter Act, so literally no amount of animal torture is off the table when it comes to turkey ‘production.’ This week, via a  filthy and cruel and largely invisible process, some 46 million birds were decimated to celebrate Sara Josepha Hale’s imaginative fancy.

Meanwhile, Compassion Over Killing released a new undercover video exploring all the hideous things that deserve no place on anyone’s plate — nothing shown here is illegal, remember: it’s all just ‘standard industry practice.’

If you eat it, why not watch it? Know what you’re supporting! And if it makes you pale and trembly and sick, support something else.

If you can’t bear to watch the video, read this news article about what happens to the birds before they’re wrapped up all neat and plastic-covered in your local grocery store.

On the topic of ugly things that people outta know about: did you know that if you film someone committing animal cruelty for the purpose of reavealing and stopping such egregious acts, you’re guilty of animal cruelty? In the Bizarro-Land of modern ‘farming,’ that is apparently the case.

You guys: whatever diet you follow, this kind of legal manipulation to ensure complete food industry nontransparency DOES NOT BODE WELL.

Speaking of Not Eating Turkeys…

…or other critters: Al Gore was outed this week as a (gasp) VEGAN! For someone concerned with climate change and environmental destruction, it makes perfect sense. Gore drew heavy criticism from veg*n circles, back in the Inconvenient Truth days, for indicting the meat industry yet continuing to support it.

Nice work, Mr. Gore.

Better late than never!

Got News?

As always, I hope you’ll comment below to share any food news that I’ve left out! Subscribe to the EDB newsletter, find us on Facebook, and follow us on Twitter to keep up with current events from the food front.

Then meet me back here every Saturday, for a roundup of everything new and noteworthy from the food world!

Image credit: Newspaper photo via Shutterstock.



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About the Author

is an ecovore, veganist, messy chef, green girl, food revolutionary, and general free-thinkin' rabble-rouser. M.S. in a health profession, with strong interests in biology, nutrition, and healthy living - find her on .



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  • http://www.vegangmo.com VeganGMO

    Tanya,

    The safety of GMOs is well recognized by the current scientific consensus. To insist on further testing only puts more animals in harms way unnecessarily. As vegans, reducing harm to animals should be a priority.
    http://www.vegangmo.com/?page_id=1091

    Thanks.

    • http://www.progressivekitch.com Tanya Sitton

      Thanks for your comment, but I completely disagree. One problem I have with the ‘testing’ to date is that there’s absolutely no study of long term health impact on human beings — and there can’t be, because at present there’s no way to even track who’s eating how much of which GMO foods. There can’t be a scientific consensus where no data exists!

      Step one is labeling GMO foods, so researchers can begin to look for the answers you’re treating as established fact; they aren’t. All studies to date have been short-term (acute and subchronic toxicity only) studies on rodents. For data on chronic, developmental, and reproductive toxicity on humans, we have absolutely no data whatsoever.

      THAT IS A PROBLEM.

      I absolutely agree with you that reducing harm to animals is a priority; but (a) I’m not advocating more animal testing, and (b) that applies to the two-legged animals, also.

      Thanks again for sharing your opinion; it’s always welcome.

      • http://www.vegangmo.com VeganGMO

        Tanya,

        Thanks for your reply.

        What would a “long term health impact” study look like? For which crop? There hasn’t been long term health impact testing on humans for vegan diets either but we’re doing that! Are vegan diets unsafe?

        Part of the problem here is distinguishing between the GM technology and the products created with it. The technology in general is, as far as science can tell us, is just as safe as traditional agriculture if not safer. It’s one of the most researched topics in agriculture! We have references in that link from the many scientific bodies with statements in support of safety. This includes groups like the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the American Medical Association, The Royal Society of Medicine, just to name a few. There simply is no reason to study long term effects when products utilizing GM technology aren’t any riskier than the one we currently create.

        We employ mutagenisis to randomly scramble the DNA of organisms with chemical treatments or radiation yet none of these traditional crops are studied for long term effects either. If long term health impacts and labeling are issues you’re concerned about then this isn’t just a GMO issue, it’s an agriculture issue. I for one don’t want to burden the whole of agriculture with egregious regulatory process and especially more animal testing.
        http://kfolta.blogspot.com/2012/07/atomic-gardening-ultimate-frankenfoods.html

        There are no issues inherent to GMOs that aren’t shared by other technologies, methods or products. There are though, great advancements and promise for the future and it would be prudent for vegans to embrace this technology (or in the very least stop demonizing it) for the future of the animals we advocate.

        Please consider changing your stance and joining the growing our movement of vegans who have kept their mind open to technological solutions for furthering our social justice movement!

        • http://www.progressivekitch.com Tanya Sitton

          I always keep my mind open, Dave — that’s what science is, right? But I think you’re fundamentally incorrect in your broad statement that ‘there are no issues inherent to GMOs that aren’t shared by other technologies, methods, or products.’ I know of some genetic researchers that disagree with you too — lemme know if you’d like links. We don’t employ mutagenisis to randomly scramble DNA without any testing by other parties than the ones who stand to benefit from them.

          Are you really going to argue that you don’t see the difference?

          It sounds like you’re trying to use veganism to justify an already-formed fondness for biotechnology — if you don’t mind, may I ask your background? Were you already in the biotech world when you embraced veganism?

          Because the principles of nonviolence and environmental stewardship don’t seem to me to go nicely along with the chemical companies’ impacts on the world. I don’t feel like we’re going to agree here, but tell me this: do you support accurate labeling of GMO foods? I’m guessing not — would you argue that people should be asked to receive radiation therapy without consent? Or not be allowed to know whether their produce is heirloom or hybrid?

          Do you really want to answer those questions and tell me we’re doing the same thing with GMO-driven agriculture that we’re doing elsewhere? That doesn’t sound like a strong argument, to me.

          • http://www.vegangmo.com VeganGMO

            Hello Tanya,

            On labeling we have a post that addresses that here: GMO Labeling | Vegan GMO

            On my background you can find that information here (this is DaveD writing): About the Authors | Vegan GMO

            I don’t know anybody who is asking for “GMO-driven” agriculture. GM technology is simply a tool in the toolkit and it can be a boon for the vegan cause.

            Nonviolence and environmental stewardship is something many of us care about (many non-vegans in ag too!) and technology helps create tools to bring this to real-life fruition. It sounds like your real problem is anti-corporatism which is fine and all but flogging GMO for it can have deleterious effects where this technology can be leveraged to bring about positive change.

            • http://www.progressivekitch.com Tanya Sitton

              See, here’s the thing — you want everyone who disagrees with you to keep an open mind, while you yourself do not appear to do so. I notice you’re not actually addressing any of the points I’m raising, in this discussion — thanks for the links & I’ll look them over (I notice you’re not interested in those *I* mentioned; I wasn’t really expecting you to be so); but you want to define my ‘problem’ (i.e. not agreeing with you) in terms that have nothing to do with the points I’ve raised about why I don’t.

              If you want to say ‘it’s just a tool in the box,’ fine: let’s treat it like any other tool in the box. When we allow Monsanto to write national policy on biotechnology in agriculture (under G.H.W. Bush) we cease treating it like any other tool; when we allow those who profit from biotech products sole discretion in testing for safety and environmental impact, we cease treating it like any other tool. No CONSUMERS are asking for GMO-driven agriculture, I’ll agree with you there; many farmers aren’t either.

              But …no one? Rethink that. Monsanto and Dow and the other agrochem giants certainly ARE asking for precisely that — and since we’ve ceded them control over our alleged regulatory agencies, they’re getting it.

              Corporations exist to make a profit: that’s their whole purpose. That’s fine, that’s what they do! I’m not anti-that. What I’m against is allowing corporations’ rights and needs to supercede citizens’ rights and needs, which is what we’ve allowed to happen within our ag system in the last few decades. That, I am absolutely against, and I don’t apologize for it either!

              The vegan cause is doing great right now on its own merits, thankyouverymuch, and doesn’t need GMOs to help it out. Thanks again for sharing your opinion; I don’t find it to be a particularly compelling argument, but it’s always good to hear from EDB readers.

              • http://vegangmo.com VeganGMO

                Tanya,

                I’m attempting to keep this conversation on topic and if you would like me to address questions or points please do so in kind. You completely ignored my initial set of questions so we can restart here if you wish:


                What would a “long term health impact” study look like? For which crop? There hasn’t been long term health impact testing on humans for vegan diets either but we’re doing that! Are vegan diets unsafe?

                This blog post was kicked off with the retraction of the Seralini study where he tortured poor rats in search of damning evidence against GMO. This mistreatment of animals was abhorred by many in the scientific community and it’s a wonder how it ever got published in the first place! AntiGMO hurts animals, in this case quite directly.

                I’m not even sure how you can say the vegan cause is “doing great” when just in the past few weeks alone a Compassion Over Killing investigation revealed the animal abuse at Quanah Cattle Company and Mercy For Animals revealed the animal abuse at Wiese Brothers Farms. Justice for animals is a cause for which no reasonable opportunity should ever be shunned.

                GMO technology is just such a reasonable opportunity. No, it will not alone bring forth the ideas of animal liberation but it can lessen the dependance upon animal bodies which will reduce the barriers of entry to veganism.

                • http://www.progressivekitch.com Tanya Sitton

                  Well, lessee… are you speculating that no long term studies have been done on any aspect of plant-based diet in human beings? Really? I have some for you if you like… I don’t suppose you’ll be interested in those either, but let me know if I’m wrong about that…. the Loma Linda studies leap to mind, plus the many many others that evaluate relative risk of more vs. less meat (or, if you prefer, more vs. less plants) regarding debility or early death…? You know, where populations are tracked over time, and outcomes compared, based on who ate more or less of what? Are you really unfamiliar with those types of studies? … ’cause, you know, they DO exist for plant-based diets — not for GMO eating, though, thanks to maneuvering by the companies who sell them. Interesting, no?

                  ‘For which crop’ — um, well, how about FOR ANY GMO CROP?! Let’s start there. That’s an excellent point, actually — by arguing the position that ‘GMOs are safe’ or ‘GMOs are just such a reasonable technology’ you’re unscientifically grouping a whole category of unrelated things together, and attempting to pronounce them (unprovenly) fabulous. The effects of Bt corn — ie, making intestinal tracts explode (their stated purpose with pest species) — will be different than the effects of Roundup-soaked soybean crops on surrounding (animal and human and plant) populations. You can’t paint them with the same brush, saying Tony-Tiger style ‘Ttttthhhhheeeeeyyyy’re GREAT!!!’ without any data gathered on relative impact OF EACH GMO CROP on human health OR environmental impact. And no, I don’t count data gathered exclusively by the entities who stand to gain from said crop’s approval — nor should anyone, if the goal is knowledge and reason-based policy vs. profit margin. That’s a pitiful and inadequate substitute for rigorous scientific investigation, and deserves to be called out as such.

                  Do you follow veganism, btw? It’s skyrocketing! Do you really not know that? The number of people who self-identify as vegan is increasing exponentially; celebrities are outing themselves left and right as vegan or vegetarian, making it a less radical-seeming choice to Joe Q by the day; vegan options are easier and easier to find in restaurants; veganism is one of the top food trends of 2013 according to Time magazine; omni billionaires like Bill Gates are backing vegan products (Beyond Meat, chickenless eggs, etc) because — as mentioned in this news roundup — demand is increasing like crazy… I’m gonna be honest with you: I find it hard to believe you’re arguing this stuff in good faith!

                  Your points are pretty weak, in my opinion, but hey — that’s ok, I’ve got time… we can do this all day! The thing about science, though, is that you can’t just throw stuff on the table and declare it true. Seralini’s ‘mistreatment of animals was abhorred by many in the scientific community and it’s a wonder how it ever got published in the first place…’??! Dude, you’re trolling. Are you really trying to argue that the science world abhors animal research? Seriously? Have you read any scientific journals lately?! Animal research is still very much the norm, and that’s a problem — yep! — but it’s not a GMO problem. That looks to me like an overt and transparent attempt to manipulate reality to serve your pre-existing purpose, i.e. advocating a pro-GMO stance. I’m sorry to point it out so bluntly, but reasoning that sloppy doesn’t lend itself to any other conclusion.

                  That’s the down side of critical thinking and scientific reasoning — if you’re selling a load of hooey to skeptics, you get a poor price! … I’m not buying it at all today, actually. Thanks for chiming in, but your arguments need work! Or, you know, a more gullible audience.

                  Have a great day,
                  Tanya

                  • http://vegangmo.com VeganGMO

                    Thanks for actually responding to my questions Tanya! Yes, please do send the links of published studies on long term vegan (not “plant-based” please) diets. I see what you did there though, not really cool.

                    Also I’m glad you finally get my point that GMO is not a category by which we can broadly brush any safety concern. Had to drag that one out of you! I hope you adjust the language according next time you write on GMO safety. Please specifically mention the trait in question and leave out “GMO”.

                    You know whenever there’s a new vegan product like Beyond Meat the antiGMO people come by to poo-poo the whole deal and spread FUD all over it? The antiGMO camp is co-opting the vegan movement and we shouldn’t abide by any form of encumbrance when animals are suffering regardless of what detox “cleanse” plan Jay Z is on this week.

                    Science uses animal research true but that should tell you something when even by their own standards they found Seralini’s treatment and parading of tumored rats unethical!

                    Good critical thinking requires looking to the experts and those experts rely on a rigorous scientific process which includes the consensus of experts. When you look at antiGMO claims and the evidence, those claims quite quickly fall apart.

                    • http://www.progressivekitch.com Tanya Sitton

                      Deciding on your conclusions ahead of evidence is a problem, period. That’s what you appear to be doing, while cautioning others against it.

                      All research including plant-based, vegan, & vegetarian models is relevant here, and selectively ignoring studies because they’re not strictly vegan is silly imho. There are plenty of long term studies linking more plants/ less meat to improved health outcomes — which isn’t why I’m vegan, btw, but it’s a nice perk.

                      Ongoing vegan research: https://myllu.llu.edu/apps/public_health/veganchildrenstudy/form.php … where’s the GMO equivalent? With any biotech product?

                      http://www.llu.edu/public-health/health/vege-cancer.page

                      http://www.llu.edu/public-health/health/diet-diabetes.page

                      http://jacknorrisrd.com/meat-alternatives-associated-with-lower-hip-fracture-risk-in-ahs-2/

                      http://eatdrinkbetter.com/2012/01/24/new-study-plant-rich-diet-reduces-mortality-from-heart-disease-stroke/

                      http://eatdrinkbetter.com/2013/08/24/insurance-giant-backs-plant-based-diet-for-all/

                      http://eatdrinkbetter.com/2011/04/06/vegetarian-diet-significantly-reduces-chronic-disease-according-to-new-american-diabetes-association-report/

                      http://eatdrinkbetter.com/2013/06/04/vegetarian-diet-promotes-longevity/

                      The studies that include vegetarians would be like hypothetical studies in which participants ate mostly-non-GMO but not exclusively… or, say, ate Bt corn but no other GM products. Do you have any of those? No? … those can’t even be designed yet, because (thanks to Monsanto et al writing their own wishes into national food policy) there’s no way to track who’s eating what. WOOT FOR GMO LABELING! It’s the first step in even beginning to ask the questions that (for whatever reason) you’d like to treat as definitively answered.

                      So… what’s your background again? I’m feeling that ulterior motive tingle, that I get when the arguments by an agribiz advocate don’t match a commenter’s stated goals.

                      The issue of animal research in science has nothing to do with GMO issues; your attempt to coopt that issue to argue in favor of GMO ag seems ludicrous to me. That’s two issues, there, not one; you don’t need to feel one way or the other about GMOs in order to either object or not object to animal-using studies. You’re conflating the issues in a transparent attempt to co-opt one of them to support the other — sloppy logic run amok, is how that looks to me.

                      Since you have ‘GMO’ in the name of your website, I think it’s hilarious that you’re wanting ME to only say ‘Bt corn’ or ‘RR soybeans,’ instead of GMO. Nope! While each individual product should be tested and judged on its own merits, vis a vis its qualifications to be considered food for human beings, it’s the approach to agriculture that’s at the root of my objections, and I’ll continue to talk about the whole beast — things like reliance on purchased seeds (especially in developing countries), patented chemistry, and monocropping to a GMO ag model cause far more harm, imo, than they ever alleviate. Genetic contamination of surrounding ecosystems causes more harm than good, and our growing tendency to allow global biotech megacorporations to write their own laws and usurp our democracy causes more harm than good — that’s a GMO problem, not a vegan problem and not a Bt corn problem. I will continue referring to it as such.

                      ‘Looking to the experts’ means more than asking Monsanto what they think is the best idea — their ‘rigorous scientific process’ ensures maximal profit, not public good. It’s just naïve to believe anything else, in the glaring absence of independent, unbiased, non-industry research.

                      http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=do-seed-companies-control-gm-crop-research

                      Where’s the evidence you speak of, regarding safety for human consumption? We only have industry-run short-term acute and subchronic toxicity studies performed with rodents. It’s not science when you assert we have more than that — it’s spin. And I’m calling you on it. You’re not arguing in favor of science and evidence, you’re not even arguing in favor of veganism; you’re arguing in favor of GMOs, and trying to use science and veganism to prop up your case.

                      It’s not working.

                      BTW, I see that you’re in Lincolnwood, IL… that’s a part of the country pretty invested in the current status quo, re: GMO driven agriculture. Interesting…

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