Carrie Steele outlines the facts around NZ’s perilous brush with GM advocates, and the fight to acknowledge this untested technology on the world’s population.
NZ CAME PERILOUSLY close just recently to jeopardising its valuable status as a non-GM food producer, when our Environmental Protection Authority moved to allow two new plant breeding techniques, deciding that these did not produce GMOs under NZ law. In a move that can only be described as magnificent, the High Court overturned the EPA’s decision, stating that it had ‘misinterpreted the law and failed to exercise proper caution’.
Certain traditional plant breeding techniques are excluded from GM laws, and the EPA decision effectively added to that exemption list. The Sustainability Council appealed that decision and its barristers, Dr Matthew Palmer and Felix Geiringer, told the Court that only Cabinet or Parliament can decide which techniques are exempt.
You might ask how modifying pine trees could have such wide ranging implications. In actuality, this case wasn’t so much about that, and more about how the decision of the three- person EPA committee could have opened the floodgates for these two new methods to be used in NZ fields without consultation. [You can listen to an audio link here that succinctly comments on this debacle.]
This landmark case even made its way onto the pages of the GM Watch website.
In my quest to ‘stay alive’ I’ve done a lot of reading on surefire ways that both enhance and detract from keeping healthy. One of the conclusions I’ve come to is that of all the positive aspects of living here in this antipodean paradise, being a GM free nation tops my list. If you’d asked me a few years ago what I thought about genetic modification of plants, I would have struggled to give an opinion. The first thing that would have sprung to my mind would have been the suggestion that it was a method of increasing quality and yield. I can now say with total assuredness that notion couldn’t be further from the truth. I now understand that GM has everything to do with big companies like Monsanto and Dow gaining proprietory control of the world’s seed supply, and nothing to do with increasing yield or feeding the hungry. In fact, from what I’ve learnt, messing with the genetic code of any organism makes growth and development less effective, and infinitely more dangerous. This has everything to do with patents, and nothing to do with consumer benefit.
Just recently, I listened to an interview with internationally recognised plant pathologist, Dr Don Huber, speaking on the subject of genetic engineering in relation to food production. Now retired, Dr Huber is often times described as a ‘controversial activist scientist’ by proponents of genetic engineering, for sharing his highly enlightened views of the subject. Dr Huber stated that all increasing crop yield has been by means of traditional breeding and that there is no evidence that GM crop production has been even slightly effective in that area. Furthermore, there has been little or no research done on the safety of GMOs. If it’s so safe why would the bio-tech companies not want to do the research to prove it?
Currently in the US the battle rages on the subject of labelling – and that’s just labelling!! If it’s so safe, why aren’t consumers allowed to know what they’re eating? In May this year Vermont became the first US state to mandate labelling of foods made with genetically modified organisms when Governor Peter Shumlin signed a law which the Grocery Manufacturers’ Association has already threatened to sue over. Funded by the likes of Monsanto, and other producers of genetically modified corn, soybeans, canola and other crops widely used in packaged foods, the GMA is fighting mandatory labelling of GMOs tooth and nail. Their tact is that these products are proven safe, and that such labels will “imply they are unsafe, confusing consumers and increasing costs for consumers as well as farmers and food companies”. Once again I question, if GMOs are so safe, why aren’t people allowed to know they’re eating them?
Dr Don Huber doesn’t mince his words on the subject. His opinion is that we have sacrificed an entire generation of children in what has effectively been, and continues to be, “a massive experiment”. The fact that Glyphosate – the primary ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup – has now been found in human breast milk should be reason enough to demand that immediate research is needed. Furthermore, the levels being found in breast milk are more than high enough to kill off the healthy bacterial/gut microflora which is necessary for good human health and developing immunity. In order for babies to develop this healthy microflora these organisms must be available, and considering the primary source for infants is breast milk, babies are being deprived of developing basic immune functions. Dr Huber went on to remind us that at much the same time of this period of lowered immunity, we are innoculating these children without the child’s body being able to respond adequately, and the effects can be catastrophic. There is now reliable data available to suggest that Glyphosate is bio-accumulative, and builds up in our bodies over time, a suggestion that has thus far been strongly disputed by bio-tech companies. There is currently no regulatory limit for Glyphosate levels in breast milk anywhere in the world. There is for water, and those ‘acceptable limits’ vary greatly between the US and Europe.
Did you know that whole populations of beehives across the US are being wiped out because of the wide ranging effect of Glyphosate? Or that the Monarch butterfly population is dwindling dramatically due to the absence of milk weed, their primary source of food, which has been all but wiped out due to indiscriminate spraying? The notion that GE crops require less pesticide/herbicide use is nonsense. GE seed is described as “Roundup ready”, meaning it has been engineered to withstand more intensive spraying and still survive. A browse of the articles on the GM Watch website clearly illustrate that the genetically modified seed crops which have been unleashed the world over are wreaking havoc on populations worldwide, economically and from a health point of view.
It’s crucially important that NZ maintains its status as a non-GM food producer. I’d hazard a guess and say that in the coming years, having strongly maintained that stance might just become the golden egg that makes this country great, as populations worldwide look to source a healthier food supply. If you start looking closely at the subject of GMOs, I think that like me, you’ll probably come to agree with Dr Huber’s opinion that we’ve spent the last 20 years or so conducting a “massive experiment”.
So please, if you’ve never given much thought to whether or not you’re ‘in or out’ on the subject, at least avail yourself of the links attached here, which might help you to make up your own mind on whether it’s something you would ever want to see allowed in this country. We’ve just had a close shave, let’s hope it won’t happen again in a hurry. CARRIE STEELE