Thursday, June 18, 2015

Response to NYT Post by Jane Brody

Since my letter to the editor did not make it into the NYT, not surprising, I decided to share it here!

Jane Brody’s book was the first book I read on nutrition, and it was what incentivized me to go into dietetics in 1984. 

Needless to say I was very disappointed when Brody’s recent column, “Fear, Not Facts behind GMO Labeling,” (6/9/15) was called to my attention.  As a practicing dietitian for almost 30 years observing patient responses from dietary adjustments, it is my opinion that genetically engineered foods and the pesticides that accompany more than 90% of such foods are a very risky business, especially when consumed by children with developing immune systems.

Current World Health Organization’s (WHO) findings have generated even more controversy over FDA’s declaration of GMO foods’ GRAS (Generally Recognized as Safe) classification.  (In May, the WHO classified glyphosate as a "probable carcinogen" in humans and carcinogenic to animals.) Further, the vast majority of GMO food produced in the US is used for animal feed and biofuel, in addition to highly processed food ingredients embedded in our food supply, many of which contribute to our nation’s obesity epidemic. 

The proposed USDA’s “voluntary certification program” will not give consumers the confidence or transparency they need to make informed decisions, especially in light of budgetary cutbacks and existing underfunded inspection programs. Plus, we already have the Non-GMO Project Verified program that is independently 3rd party verified. However this program only covers foods from companies which have applied for such certification.   And, most important, our USDA’s organic seal is the best choice for consumers who want to avoid GMO ingredients. 
 Requiring mandatory national GMO labeling such as in  the CT labeling law : “this product may contain ingredients  produced with Genetic Engineering";  is a much more forthcoming way to share critical information that  Americans need to make informed decisions for their families.

If the public truly has a “poor understanding of the science behind GMOs,” let legitimately sourced science prove food safety, through long term, peer-reviewed, and most importantly, independent studies. Long term studies have not been done in the US.  Most studies that show safety are done by the manufacturers or affiliated parties and have conflicts of interest. Over 300 independent scientists and scholars have declared that scientific consensus does not exist on GMO safety  ( )

Most US citizens have no idea that the FDA doesn’t conduct food safety studies; FDA has outsourced this extremely important safety function to food and biotech interests. Additionally, FDA lacks resources to conduct vital food safety or continuing verification inspections. 

Lastly, the golden rice and GMO salmon technologies have been fraught with failures and problems. In golden rice, peer-reviewed studies are lacking to confirm the absorption of beta carotene or its conversion to vitamin A.  Regarding GMO salmon, in the absence of a GMO animal regulatory structure at the time of application to FDA, the salmon was regulated as a “New Animal Drug Application.” Continued dosing of antibiotics was apparently needed to maintain animal health and weight until of sufficient marketable growth for human consumption.

Traditionally bred foods are not tested, because they are bred naturally and have been shepherded over generations; they have naturally evolved with the environment over time.  .
What consumers don’t understand is that most GMO crops have been genetically engineered to survive spraying with herbicides, and have created an explosion of herbicide resistant weeds, treated with yet more herbicides, which end up in our food, water and bodies.  

We have witnessed increasing rates of auto-immune diseases, allergies, cancers, and autism in the US, since GE foods have entered the food supply.  While association can’t prove causality, we have to question how genetically engineered crops, and their associated herbicides have contributed to our health problems. Introducing unnatural gene traits into our food and bodies adds multi dimensional safety risks, including increased potential for allergic reaction.  The insertion of antibiotic markers, required to identify which gene traits take hold in the novel GMO foods, increases our vulnerability to antibiotic resistance.

In her column, Brody stated, “A legitimate safety concern involves delayed deleterious effects of genetically modified products on consumers…”   and suggests “continued monitoring of their effects is essential…”  Yet how can we monitor without labeling and tracking?  Clearly, mandatory GMO labeling is necessary to properly assess adverse reactions.

Thanks to Leila Baroody for helping me write this and fellow dietitian warriors for their support and edits: M.H., J.S., C.M., and J.L.  I am so fortunate to know you all, and the world is lucky to have us defending it!

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