I’m all for peaceful protests. Say it loud, say it proud, whatever you need to get off your chest, please do. And it’s with this spirit that I propose we have a march to promote marching against real problems in our society — children living in poverty and suffering from hunger even as a growing number of Canadians are obese, or crumbling infrastructure and health care in the face of sky-high taxation rates (I do live in Winnipeg, after all).
Instead, it seems, the wise masses have chosen to march against …wait for it…Monsanto. Yes, this weekend many concerned citizens will gather in various locations across the globe to protest the existence of the only life science company they can name. Or at least, that’s my take on it. Those attending will tell you it’s about the rejection of genetic modification or the patenting of nature, but all of that negativity will bear the name Monsanto.
Let’s pretend for a moment that Monsanto really is the only company developing new varieties of crops and using genetic modification to do so. If that’s the case, why are people marching against it? What could have whipped them into such a fury that they feel the need to step out and demand that a business be shut down? The short answer can only be perception — the perception that genetically modified food is unsafe and detrimental to the environment and our health. So what does science say?
A group of scientists and researchers have banded together ahead of this event to provide media with a list of facts and reviewed articles as balance to the story that protestors plan to paint. Here is the backgrounder. I encourage you to read it through and follow the links and perhaps even share it with your friends or family who are asking for the complete picture on the risks and rewards of genetic modification.
March Against Monsanto
The Saturday May 25th demonstration “March-Against-Monsanto” is a global initiative that is designed to propagate and perpetuate fear of genetically modified (GM) crops and food. Unfortunately the web is full of misinformation that is intended to scare not to educate. The marchers’ fear is real but the reasons behind the fear are not. The real science says something very different.
“GM foods currently available on the international market have passed risk assessments and are not likely to present risks for human health. In addition, no effects on human health have been shown as a result of the consumption of such foods by the general population in the countries where they have been approved.” (WHO) http://www.who.int/foodsafety/
Every single world food safety authority that has examined the data on food containing GM ingredients has come to the same conclusion of its safety. The American Association for the Advancement of Science said it very well:
“Moreover, the AAAS Board said, the World Health Organization, the American Medical Association, the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, the British Royal Society, and “every other respected organization that has examined the evidence has come to the same conclusion: consuming foods containing ingredients derived from GM crops is no riskier than consuming the same foods containing ingredients from crop plants modified by conventional plant improvement techniques.” (AAAS 2012)
An excellent example of poorly executed science that has convinced many people of the alleged dangers of GM crops was published last year in France by a well-known anti-GMO institution. It garnered huge airplay in the media and on the web. When the marchers hold up pictures of rats with tumors, this publication is the source. However, when examined by (30+) world food and feed authorities, the publication was quickly and completely dismissed as poor science. http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/fn-an/
gmf-agm/seralini-eng.php (including Health Canada)
Over twenty five years of research has failed to find any harm from GM technology. Even the GMO skeptical European science agrees on the safety of these crops and food.
“The main conclusion to be drawn from the efforts of more than 130 research projects, covering a period of more than 25 years of research, and involving more than 500 independent research groups, is that biotechnology, and in particular GMOs, are not per se more risky than e.g. conventional plant breeding technologies…Now, after 25 years of field trials without evidence of harm, fears continue to trigger the Precautionary Principle. But Europeans need to abandon this knowingly one-sided stance and strike a balance between the advantages and disadvantages of the technology on the basis of scientifically sound risk assessment analysis. (EC 2011) http://ec.europa.eu/research/
biosociety/pdf/a_decade_of_eu- funded_gmo_research.pdf Other studies have been done that attest to the safety of GE/GM:
National Research Council (US) (2004): Safety of Genetically Engineered Foods: Approaches to Assessing Unintended Health Effects.” http://www.nap.edu/catalog.
European Commission (2010) “A Decade of EU Funded GMO Research 2001 – 2010.” ftp://ftp.cordis.europa.eu/