More genetically modified crops continue to hit the market, but a new book by Steven Drunker calls GMO safety — and the integrity of our food system — into question.
U.S. food labels don’t list which ingredients are GMOs.
Photo by Blend Images/Jose Luis Pelaez
Ingredients from genetically modified (GM) crops now lurk in more than 80 percent of U.S. foods. A new book by Steven M. Druker raises grave doubts about their safety.
Wide swaths of U.S. cropland now host GM commodity crops. About 90 percent of the canola, corn, cotton, soybeans and sugar beets grown in this country are genetically modified to resist insects or herbicides, most notably glyphosate (sold as Roundup and other brands). These crops are used to make many popular foods, such as corn chips, baked goods, cereals and tofu. Many additives in processed foods are also now derived from GMOs. These include amino acids, aspartame, ascorbic acid, canola oil, citric acid, cottonseed oil, enzymes, natural or artificial flavors, high fructose corn syrup, lactic acid, MSG, soybean oil, sugar, xanthan gum, yeast, and more. Certified Organic foods, by federal regulation, contain no GMOs, but finding other foods without them is difficult because labeling GMOs isn’t required in the United States.
Some zucchini, yellow summer squash and sweet corn, plus most Hawaii-grown papayas, are genetically modified, too. Earlier this year, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced its approval of the new ‘Arctic’ apple and ‘Innate’ potato, varieties that are genetically modified to resist browning and bruising. In the past 20 years, this silent shift to GM crops has altered the very code of life and transformed our food system, a sea change the FDA continues to assure us is safe.
Not true, says Steven M. Druker in his book Altered Genes, Twisted Truth. Druker, a public interest attorney and founder of the Alliance for Bio-Integrity, has spent the past 15 years amassing evidence to show that GMOs aren’t safe and should have never been approved by the government.
In 1998, Druker’s organization and a group of life scientists and religious leaders sued the Department of Health and Human Services, challenging the FDA’s 1992 ruling that allowed GMOs to enter the U.S. marketplace. The lawsuit argued that this policy is scientifically flawed and contrary to the FDA’s own safety standards. Although the lawsuit lost on a technicality, the FDA was forced to hand over 44,000 pages relating to its GM food policy. “Those documents were a treasure trove,” says Druker, who has compiled memos from FDA scientists revealing their opinion that GM food is significantly different from non-GM food, that it entails higher risks, and that it can’t be presumed safe without more rigorous testing.
Druker claims the FDA’s failure began years before the first GM crop was created, when biotechnology moved out of the scientific realm and became a political issue. So great was the sway of the genetic engineering establishment that it overpowered the FDA’s own scientists, to the detriment of public safety. “A significant number of experts have always understood the risks, but they’ve been drowned out by those with government influence and money,” Druker says.
With nearly 100 pages of footnotes plus a primer on molecular biology, Druker describes the dangers of GMOs, including the unpredictability of gene splicing. This process is not the same as conventional breeding, and it comes with unique risks that are inevitable when scientists begin altering complex systems. He documents how GM crops haven’t led to reduced pesticide use and increased yields, as promised; how mainstream media outlets have failed to report the health and environmental risks of GMOs; and how respected scientists have been maligned or fired when their research found adverse effects of GMOs. The book is a chilling page turner about high-level deception, hubris and abuse of power. Druker’s research shows why we can’t trust the claim that “the science is settled” regarding the safety of the GM foods most of the public is now consuming, and, at the very least, why we should demand mandatory labeling so we can individually opt out of being guinea pigs in this grand experiment.
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