Mums say 'No' to GMOS!
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Mums - let's use our consumer power to keep GMOs and deadly herbicides out of food
21st January 2016
No matter how concerned we are about the quality of food we and our families eat, we can be sure governments are putting corporate profit first, writes Sally Beare. But we - Mums in particular - still have our power as consumers to push supermarkets and other retailers into going GM-free and keeping toxic agrochemicals out of the food chain. Let's use it!
We 'Mums' have a power we can wield - consumer power. Supermarkets have to listen to us, because we can drive the market through what we choose to buy, and what we leave on the shelf. We need to get organised and exercise this power.
We are a group of mothers and environmental campaigners who aim to keep GMOs (genetically modified organisms) out of our children and families, out of future generations, and out of our ecosystem.
That starts with protesting against the imminent growing of GM crops in the UK, avoiding buying products containing GMOs, and demanding that supermarkets label products containing GMOs and products from animals which have been reared on GM feed.
The first step is to insist that supermarkets label animal products from livestock that have been fed with GM feed.
That is because this is the main form in which GMOs are currently entering our food chain, bodies, and environment in this country - or, you might say, the way they are being sneaked in through the back door.
Most non-organic animal produce, including eggs, poultry, dairy, meat and fish, has been reared on feed, usually soy or corn, containing GMOs. This means that traces of genetically modified DNA may remain in the flesh of these animals. Nobody is studying this phenomenon to understand if it is safe or not.
Glyphosate residues in our GM foods and GM-reared meat
Much of this soy and corn has been genetically modified to resist repeated sprayings with glyphosate - a herbicide which has been declared a "probable human carcinogen" by the World Health Organization.
Data from industry show that when livestock are fed glyphosate at levels allowed in feed, glyphosate residues may be present at low levels in milk and eggs from the animals, as well as in the animals' liver and kidneys.
Again, this exposure is not really being studied, though the European Food Safety Authority acknowledges that "considering the wide use of glyphosate on feed crops, a significant livestock exposure to glyphosate and its metabolites might be expected, resulting in a carry-over of residues in the food of animal origin."
We have seen reports that animals consuming a GMO diet may be suffering from ill health due to their diets. We consider this to be a health risk to us as well, and unethical in terms of animal welfare.
GM foods may indeed cause ill health
There seems to be a certain complacency around GM foods from some consumers in the UK, who perceive that Americans have been eating these products for years, with no ill effects. This may be a fatal misconception - comparable to the once-held notion that tobacco products and the once widely-used insecticide DDT are perfectly safe.
This is a misconception arising partly because of what we are told by scientific and other establishment bodies, and partly because people do not drop down dead the minute we consume these toxins and there is therefore no immediate observable effect.
As the physician Morton Biskind said of DDT in 1953: "no matter how lethal a poison may be for all other forms of animal life, if it doesn't kill a human being instantly, it is safe." We believe that his words apply equally to GM crops and the lethal toxins they come with today.
Studies of potential adverse health effects of GM foods and their associated pesticides have been well-documented. Some of the concerns include animal studies showing tumours, reproductive and digestive disorders, endocrine issues and other problems in animals fed GM foods and glyphosate; studies showing transgenes from GM foods can transfer to our gut bacteria; glyphosate residue being implicated in the high incidence of coeliac disease and allergies in the US and Europe; possible damage to cells by Bt toxin, and long-term damage to soil quality from glyphosate use.
There are also many reports of doctors in the US advising patients to avoid GM foods. Recently, a 'Letter from America' signed by groups and individuals representing around 57 million Americans concerned about the detrimental effects of GM products on health, the environment and on our food system as a whole, was delivered to 10 Downing Street. The UK Government's response was to reaffirm its commitment to growing GM crops in the UK as soon as is practicable.
It is common for the scientific establishment to discredit studies suggesting health issues to animals fed GM foods and glyphosate. However, as far as we are concerned, these studies warrant further investigation and it is irresponsible of government and scientific bodies not to apply the Precautionary Principle to GM food, given that there are so many signs that they may be a serious health hazard.
Even the European Food Safety Agency has admitted that conclusions cannot be reached on the safety of GM crops. So why are they being thrust upon us, our children, and our environment?
Who benefits from GM crops?
The only proven benefit of GM foods is that they are highly profitable for the companies which produce the seeds and accompanying agrochemicals. Suggestions that GM foods can 'benefit farmers', 'feed the world' or 'cure blindness' are not supported by any evidence.
Most of the world's population, over 70%, is fed by small and family farmers using traditional, regenerative and sustainable methods of agriculture, and it is an established fact that hunger is caused by politics and distribution problems and not inherent problems with traditional crop-farming.
The next-generation GMOs which may be headed for the EU and the UK are a particular cause for worry. These crops are resistant to multiple herbicides, which means that they need to be blanket-sprayed with multiple highly toxic herbicides such as glyphosate, 2,4-D (a chemical weapon used in the Vietnam War), dicamba and isoxaflutole.
This can only mean harm to the health of people, livestock and the environment. Concerns are also mounting around the safety of new GM plant breeding technologies, which alter plants in different ways from older technologies, but which remain unregulated in the EU and elsewhere.
Where we are now
Whilst our government is planning for widespread growth of GM crops and continued use of glyphosate and other herbicides and pesticides, other countries are banning them. Scotland has declared itself a GM-free zone and many EU member states have put in place either de facto bans or moratoriums on GM crops and, more recently, glyphosate.
In May 2015, the International Society of Doctors for the Environment in Switzerland appealed to European governments "To immediately and permanently ban, with no exceptions, the production, trade and use in all the EU territory of glyphosate-based herbicides."
Prevention is better than cure, and we believe that we need to act now to keep GM crops and their accompanying herbicides and pesticides out of the UK before they enter the food chain and habitat irreversibly.
Unfortunately, we know that we may not be able to stop governments, Big Ag or government-funded scientific bodies from promoting lucrative GM crops - even though the vast majority of people would prefer to have good health and an unpolluted world than the other way around.
As far as GM crops are concerned, opinion polls show that almost twice as many people are against them as for them, and yet this counts for little with politicians and regulators. Somehow, it seems that our supposedly democratic government has earned the right to pollute our environment and experiment on our health and that of our children.
Consumer power: Mums to the rescue!
But we 'Mums' have a power we can wield - consumer power. Supermarkets have to listen to us, because we can drive the market through what we choose to buy, and what we leave on the shelf. We need to get organised and exercise this power, rather than allowing the market to determine what we do as consumers.
So how can we harness this vast potential power we have and use it? Here are the actions we are calling on the population - not just mums, but everyone who is concerned about this issue - to take:
Demand that supermarkets label GM-fed animal products, source the GM-free feed which is available and in adequate supply, and ultimately avoid stocking GM products. You can write to supermarkets, talk to other consumers, boycott offending supermarkets, and sign our Letter to Supermarkets.
Buy organic whenever possible so as to support organic farming and reduce the market for GM foods.
Avoid GM foods sold in UK supermarkets - see this guide from Beyond GM to GMOs in UK supermarkets.
Add your face to the GM Free Me visual petition, supported by high-profile campaigners including Vivienne Westwood, Jo Wood and others.
Speak to restaurants and takeaways about avoiding GM oils; point out to them that they are legally obliged to state on their menus when using GM oils
Campaign to have glyphosate banned for general use as a weedkiller in parks, schools, gardens and public places, as is being done in Europe
Sally Beare is a mother of two, nutritional therapist and author of several books on nutrition and long-lived, disease-free populations. Sally works at the Natural Health Clinic in Bristol and is a founder member of Mums Say No To GMOs.
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