(Natural News) No longer content to tinker with the genetic design of crops and humans, scientists – at the behest of the U.S. Military – are now turning their attention to the world’s oceans. As reported by Defense One, the Pentagon is looking at various ways in which to genetically engineer marine microorganisms into living surveillance equipment capable of detecting enemy submarines, divers and other suspicious underwater traffic.
The Military is also looking at using genetic engineering to create living camouflage in which creatures react to their surroundings to avoid detection, along with a host of other potentially nefarious applications.
Unleashing engineered organisms without knowing the consequences
Military officials, who insist that this type of research is still in its infancy, are being supported in their endeavors by the Naval Research Laboratory (NRL).
Defense One explained the research in more detail:
You take an abundant sea organism, like Marinobacter, and change its genetic makeup to react to certain substances left by enemy vessels, divers, or equipment. These could be metals, fuel exhaust, human DNA, or some molecule that’s not found naturally in the ocean but is associated with, say, diesel-powered submarines. The reaction could take the form of electron loss, which could be detectable to friendly sub drones.
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“In an engineered context, we might take the ability of the microbes to give up electrons, then use [those electrons] to talk to something like an autonomous vehicle,” explained NRL researcher, Sarah Glaven, who was speaking at an event hosted by the Johns Hopkins University’s Applied Physics Lab. “Then you can start imagining that you can create an electrical signal when the bacteria encounters some molecule in their environment.”
Researchers have already proven, in a laboratory environment, that the genes of E. Coli bacteria can be manipulated to exhibit properties that could prove useful for submarine detection. However, this type of research is limited because it may not necessarily be replicable in marine life found in the areas where you need them to be in order to detect unfriendly subs.
Nonetheless, Glaven believes that the team can make these types of mutated marine organisms a reality in just a year.
Part of a wider “synthetic biology” military program
This marine modification research forms part of a greater $45 million military program which encompasses the Navy, Army and Air Force platforms, and has been labeled the Applied Research for the Advancement of Science and Technology Priorities Program on Synthetic Biology for Military Environments. The program aims to provide researchers in these branches of the military with whatever tools they deem necessary to engineer genetic responses in a way that could be manipulated by the Military.
It is not difficult to imagine that this large-scale genetic manipulation program could create disastrous effects – effects which our children and grandchildren will be left to deal with, and which may prove irreversible.
We are doing our part to try and spread the word about GMOs, (genetically modified organisms) but we’re not the only ones. Multiple public figures, scientists and researchers have been speaking out about GMOs for a number of years. For example, not long ago a former Canadian Government Scientist at Agriculture Canada, Dr. Thierry Vrain (one of many) spoke out against GMOs. Another prominent public figure, Geneticist David Suzuki has been a long time advocate against GMOs, and has been speaking out about how they can be hazardous to human health as well as the environment. Below, I’ve provided a video example of Suzuki explaining why he feels the way he does about GMOs. Public figures with a wide audience can have a great impact on the consciousness of the masses, they are great ‘tools’ for waking more people up to the reality that GMOs can be harmful to human health as well as the environment. It’s time to pay attention, do your own research and to question what you’ve been told. We can no longer trust branches of the government that deal with food and health, we must not take their word for it, it’s better if you actually look into it yourself rather than blindly believing what your are told.
It doesn’t seem to be much of a debate anymore, it’s clear that GMOs can indeed be harmful to human health. There is a reason why a majority of countries around the world have permanently banned GMOs, so what’s taking North America so long? One reason might be the fact that biotech corporations like Monsanto seem to be above the government and influence policy, but thankfully these things are changing. Big Island, Hawaii has recently banned all GMO products and bio-tech company products. Various bills calling for moratoria on GE food include Vermont, North Dakota, Boulder, Colorado, San Francisco and more.
This large movement against GMOs is not based on belief, multiple researchers and scientists all around the world have shown that GMOs can be harmful. Here is a study that shows how Bt toxins found in Monsanto crops can be damaging to red blood cells, and potentially cause leukemia. Here is another one that shows how GMO animal feed caused severe stomach inflammation and enlarged uteri in pigs. There have been multiple studies linking GMOs to cancer, and a range of other diseases. Scientists all over the world have come together to show their support for the ban of GMOs.
As you can see, alternative media outlets are not the only ones doing their research. Most who investigate this topic, and do the research for themselves will come to the same conclusions. This is what David Suzuki and many others have done as well.
By slipping it into our food without our knowledge, without any indication that there are genetically modified organisms in our food, we are now unwittingly part of a massive experiment.
The FDA has said that genetically modified organisms are not much different from regular food, so they’ll be treated in the same way. The problem is this, geneticists follow the inheritance of genes, what biotechnology allows us to do is to take this organism, and move it horizontally into a totally unrelated species. Now David Suzuki doesn’t normally mate with a carrot and exchange genes, what biotechnology allows us to do is to switch genes from one to the other without regard to the biological constraints. It’s very very bad science, we assume that the principals governing the inheritance of genes vertically, applies when you move genes laterally or horizontally. There’s absolutely no reason to make that conclusion.
Below is an article written by David Suzuki and Faisal Moola. At the beginning concerns with the 210 release of the super-genetically modified corn called ‘SmartStax,’ are mentioned which has now shown to be harmful to human health and banned all over the world. This article was written in 2009, but still has some good information.
By David Suzuki with Faisal Moola
In gearing up for the 2010 release of its super-genetically modified corn called ‘SmartStax’, agricultural-biotechnology giant Monsanto is using an advertising slogan that asks, ‘Wouldn’t it be better?’ But can we do better than nature, which has taken millennia to develop the plants we use for food?
We don’t really know. And that in itself is a problem. The corn, developed by Monsanto with Dow AgroSciences, “stacks” eight genetically engineered traits, six that allow it to ward off insects and two to make it resistant to weed-killing chemicals, many of which are also trademarked by Monsanto. It’s the first time a genetically engineered (GE) product has been marketed with more than three traits.
Canada approved the corn without assessing it for human health or environmental risk, claiming that the eight traits have already been cleared in other crop seeds — even though international food-safety guidelines that Canada helped develop state that stacked traits should be subject to a full safety assessment as they can lead to unintended consequences.
One problem is that we don’t know the unintended consequences of genetically engineered or genetically modified (GM) foods. Scientists may share consensus about issues like human-caused global warming, but they don’t have the same level of certainty about the effects of genetically modified organisms on environmental and human health!
Some have argued that we’ve been eating GM foods for years with few observable negative consequences, but as we’ve seen with things like trans fats, if often takes a while for us to recognize the health impacts. With GM foods, concerns have been raised about possible effects on stomach bacteria and resistance to antibiotics, as well as their role in allergic reactions. We also need to understand more about their impact on other plants and animals.
Of course, these aren’t the only issues with GM crops. Allowing agro-chemical companies to create GM seeds with few restrictions means these companies could soon have a monopoly over agricultural production. And by introducing SmartStax, we are giving agro-chemical companies the green light not just to sell and expand the use of their “super crops” but also to sell and expand the use of the pesticides these crops are designed to resist.
A continued reliance on these crops could also reduce the variety of foods available, as well as the nutritive value of the foods themselves.
There’s also a reason nature produces a variety of any kind of plant species. It ensures that if disease or insects attack a plant, other plant varieties will survive and evolve in its place. This is called biodiversity.
Because we aren’t certain about the effects of GMOs, we must consider one of the guiding principles in science, the precautionary principle. Under this principle, if a policy or action could harm human health or the environment, we must not proceed until we know for sure what the impact will be. And it is up to those proposing the action or policy to prove that it is not harmful.
That’s not to say that research into altering the genes in plants that we use for food should be banned or that GM foods might not someday be part of the solution to our food needs. We live in an age when our technologies allow us to “bypass” the many steps taken by nature over millennia to create food crops to now produce “super crops” that are meant to keep up with an ever-changing human-centred environment.
A rapidly growing human population and deteriorating health of our planet because of climate change and a rising number of natural catastrophes, among other threats, are driving the way we target our efforts and funding in plant, agricultural, and food sciences, often resulting in new GM foods.
But we need more thorough scientific study on the impacts of such crops on our environment and our health, through proper peer-reviewing and unbiased processes. We must also demand that our governments become more transparent when it comes to monitoring new GM crops that will eventually find their ways in our bellies through the food chain.
In 1996, Steven M. Druker did something very few Americans were doing then — learn the facts about the massive venture to restructure the genetic core of the world’s food supply. The problem of unawareness still exists today, but it’s getting much better thanks to activists like Druker.
Druker, being a public interest attorney and the Executive Director of the Alliance For Bio-Integrity, initiated a lawsuit in 1998 that forced the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to divulge its files on genetically engineered foods.
He’s recently published a book on the lawsuit (2015). In the book, Druker provides details of his experience, and he’s also released the documents on his website showing the significant hazards of genetically engineering foods and the flaws that the FDA made in its policy.
The book has some very impressive reviews. For example, David Schubert, Ph.D., molecular biologist and Head of Cellular Neurobiology at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies said that this “incisive and insightful book is truly outstanding. Not only is it well-reasoned and scientifically solid, it’s a pleasure to read – and a must-read.”
Stephen Naylor, Ph.D., CEO and Chariman of Mai Health Inc., an individual who spent 10 years as a Professor of Biochemistry & Molecular Biology and Pharmacology and the Mayo Clinic stated that Druker’s “meticulously documented, well crafted, and spell binding narrative should serve as a clarion call to all of us.”
Joseph Cummins, Ph.D. and Professor Emeritus of Genetics at Western University in London, Ontario believes that Druker’s book is a “landmark” and that “it should be required reading in every university biology course.”
John Ikerd, Ph.D. and Professor Emeritus of Agricultural and Applied Economics at the University of Missouri further accentuated the previous statements by saying that the evidence is “comprehensive and irrefutable; the reasoning is clear and compelling. No one has documented other cases of irresponsible behaviour by government regulators and the scientific establishment nearly as well as Druker documents this one.”
In publishing his book and filing this lawsuit, Druker exposed how the agency covered up the warnings of its own scientists about the risks, lied about the facts, and then ushered these foods onto the market in violation of federal law.
“As part of the process, they portrayed the various concerns as merely the ignorant opinions of misinformed individuals – and derided them as not only unscientific, but anti-science. They then set to work to convince the public and government officials, through the dissemination of false information, that there was an overwhelming expert consensus, based on solid evidence, that GMOs were safe.”
It’s also noteworthy to mention that Druker has actually served on the food safety panels at conferences held by the National Research council and the FDA, presented lectures at numerous universities, met with government officials throughout the world, and conferred at the White House Executive Offices with a task force of President Clinton’s Council on Environmental Quality.
A Summary On The Issue With More Shocking Revelations From WikiLeaks
Today, things have changed and more people in America have started to ask more questions, as well as demand labels on genetically engineered food products. This is thanks to the work of people like Druker, but there is still lots to do, and much to tackle in order to get to the bottom of this GMO debate.
Ask yourself: why are dozens upon dozens of countries across the world completely banning the import or growth of genetically modified foods in their countries? Several of them have already cited numerous environmental and human health concerns, and others have simply stated that they’d like to do more research.
When it comes to the actual research, it’s concerning that the World Health Organization (WHO) has zero long term studies showing the safety of GE foods.
The only long term study that has been conducted was in November 2012 in the Journal of Food and Chemical Toxicology by Gilles-Eric Seralini and his team of researchers at France’s Caen University (source). It was a very significant study that made a lot of noise worldwide, and the first of its kind under controlled conditions that examined the possible effects of a GMO maize diet treated with Monsanto’s Roundup Herbicide.
The study found severe liver and kidney damage as well as hormonal disturbances in rats fed with GM maize in conjunction with low levels of Roundup that were below those permitted in most drinking water across Europe. Results also indicated high rates of large tumors and mortality in most treatment groups.
The study was retracted in North America, but then republished in multiple journals in Europe, one of them being Environmental Sciences Europe (source).
The North American retraction was the result of strong commercial pressure pressure of North American biotech companies, like Monsanto, but the re-published studies in Europe (above, for example) were even more up-to-date and put to rest its previous criticisms.
This is a great example of the politicization of modern day science.
This fact was also made clear by WikiLeaks documents:
Resistance to the advent of genetically modified foods has been pronounced across Europe. The continent features some of the strictest regulations governing the use and cultivation of GMO products, and public skepticism about biotech goods is quite high – a fact not lost on American diplomats. In a lengthy report dating from late 2007 , a cable issued by the State Department outlined its “Biotechnology Outreach Strategy, ‘which, among other things, recognized the European Union’s ‘negative views on biology’ and committed as a national priority to limiting them (O7STATE160639).
Initial attention paid to the State Department’s part in pushing industrial manufactures on its allies obscured the even bigger role it played in assuring a place for genetically modified agricultural products (GMOs) in a region that largely wanted nothing to do with them. The American campaign promoting biotech products was a worldwide effort. In all, some 1,000 documents from the Cablegate cache address this effort, a significant number of which originate in Europe. U.S. diplomats on the continent gave considerable attention to insuring the interests of American biotech firms in Europe – Whether through “education” programs, government lobbying, or outright coercion – as well as stripping down European Union regulations designed to act as a bugger against them. Available cables published by WikiLeaks suggest that the United States invests considerable time, effort, and expense in its operations on behalf of the American biotech firms.
“Open Sesame” shows the importance of saving heirloom and open-pollination seeds, which are threatened by agrichemical monopolies, GMOs, and gene patenting
More than 93 percent of the variety in our food seeds has been lost as large multi-national corporations have swallowed up smaller seed suppliers
Saving your own seeds, as well as obtaining seeds from seed swaps and exchanges, can help preserve what precious diversity remains
The seed saving movement is growing. Communities are banding together to save and share heirloom and open pollination seeds that are in danger of disappearing off the face of the Earth as a result of industrialized agriculture and multinational corporations that control the majority of our seed supply.
The documentary “Open Sesame: The Story of Seeds,” by M. Sean Kaminsky seeks to inspire people about the importance of seed saving — and its urgency.1
When you save seeds, you’re joining a chain of farmers, gardeners and seed enthusiasts that dates back to the Stone Age — our civilization literally arose due to seed saving.
Early humans selected the best wild plants with which to feed themselves, and passed those varieties along to others by saving and sharing seeds.
Seeds are the foundation of life, from fruits and vegetables to grain and livestock feed — without them, we have no food. It’s estimated that upward of 90 percent of our caloric intake directly or indirectly comes from seeds.
Age-old heirloom varieties are disappearing at an alarming rate — 90 percent of the crop varieties grown 100 years ago are already gone. The Millennium Seed Bank Partnership estimates that 60,000 to 100,000 plant species are in danger of extinction.2
Why Seed Saving Is So Important
Four of the most important reasons to save seeds are the following:3
1.Seed Security: By saving your seeds, you control your seed and therefore your food supply — you aren’t depending on seed stores or catalogs for difficult to find seed.
Hundreds of excellent plant varieties have been discontinued as big corporations have consolidated the seed industry and focused on more profitable varieties. Half of the vegetables grown today have no commercial sources — you have to get them through seed trades.4
2.Regional Adaptation: Most commercially available seed has been selected because it performs fairly well across the entire country if given synthetic fertilizers.
But when you save seed from your own best performing plants, on your land and in your own ecosystem, you gradually develop varieties better adapted to your own soil, climate and growing conditions.
3.Consistent Quality: Large seed suppliers rarely “rogue” the fields to pull out inferior or off-type plants, so the open-pollinated (OP) seeds they sell have inferior specimens in the mix.
You can select your own seed for uniformity and quality. You can control the gene pool for optimal germination, ripening time, flavor, storage, disease resistance and color. After a few seasons, more and more of your plants will have all of your personally selected traits.
4.Preserving Your Heritage and Biodiversity: Today multinational corporations select seed varieties according to their own financial interests; they control 82 percent of the world’s seed market, which includes 75 percent of the vegetable seed market.
It’s up to small farmers and home gardeners to preserve thousands of years of biodiversity.
Understanding Open-Pollinated, Heirloom and Hybrid Seeds
As a gardener, one of your more important decisions is whether to choose open-pollinated, hybrid or heirloom seed varieties — but which are best?
According to Seed Savers,5 for seed saving purposes, the most significant distinction among these types is saving true-to-type seed from open-pollinated and heirloom varieties, and avoiding hybrids.
Open-pollination seeds are pollinated by insects, birds, humans, wind or other natural mechanisms. According to Seed Savers:6
“Because there are no restrictions on the flow of pollen between individuals, open-pollinated plants are more genetically diverse. This can cause a greater amount of variation within plant populations, which allows plants to slowly adapt to local growing conditions and climate year-to-year.
As long as pollen is not shared between different varieties within the same species, then the seed produced will remain true-to-type, year after year.”
An heirloom variety is a plant that has a history of being passed down multiple generations within a family or a community. An heirloom variety is by definition open-pollinated, but not all open-pollinated plants are heirlooms.
Hybridization is a controlled method of pollination in which the pollen of two different species or varieties is crossed (usually by human intervention, although it can happen in nature), usually from a desire to breed in a particular trait.
Hybrids are typically unstable and less vigorous, producing fewer of those desirable traits with each passing year. However, hybrid seeds can be stabilized by open-pollination — by growing, selecting and saving the seeds over many seasons.
Choosing open-pollinated and heirloom seeds helps conserve genetic diversity and prevents the loss of unique varieties, including the ones that contribute to our long-term survival because of special hardiness and disease-resistance traits.
Biodiversity is our only insurance in times of vulnerability, such as when facing climate change.
Our Loss of Seed Diversity Is Shocking
In 80 years (between 1903 and 1983), we lost 93 percent of the variety in our food seeds. According to Rural Advancement Foundation International:7
We went from 497 varieties of lettuce to 36
We went from 288 varieties of beets to 17
We went from 307 varieties of sweet corn to 12
Even the popular heirloom tomato has taken an enormous hit, having lost at least 80 percent of its diversity over the last century. Even more tragic is the fact that a lot of these precious plants are being replaced by patented genetically engineered (GE) varieties.
The National Geographic infographic below shows how many varieties of fruits and vegetables appear to be nearing extinction.8This data is already more than 30 years old, so the statistics may be even more grim today.
The Disastrous Consequences of Patenting Life
Traditionally, seeds have been saved and shared between farmers from one season to the next. Farmers rarely ever had to buy new seed. Nature, when left alone, provides you with the means to propagate the next harvest in a never-ending cycle. Valuable heirlooms have been replaced by massive expanses of genetically engineered (GE) crops. According to the USDA, 94 percent of U.S. soy and 88 percent of U.S. corn are now genetically engineered (GE).
It’s estimated that, since 1970, 20,000 seed companies have been swallowed up by mega-corporations. In 2005, Monsanto bought the world’s largest fruit and vegetable seed company, Seminis, for $1.4 billion. Just four agrichemical companies now own 43 percent of the world’s commercial seed supply, and 10 multinational corporations hold 65 percent of global commercial seed for major crops.9
Many farmers are now dependent on patented GE seeds and must buy them every year from companies like Monsanto. Saving such seeds is illegal because it’s considered patent infringement.
Farmers don’t buy seed anymore — they essentially buy a license to use the seed for a short period of time — typically one season. It’s more of a lease, or a “technology use agreement.” For 200 years, the patenting of life was prohibited, especially with respect to foods. But all of that changed in 1978 with the first patent of a living organism, an oil-eating microbe, which opened the proverbial floodgates.
According to the film, one of Monsanto’s proxies has a patent claiming 463,173 separate plant genes! Patenting of life forms was never approved by Congress or the American public, but as far as the GMO industry is concerned, they own a gene wherever it ends up and however it gets there. The trail of destruction left by GE seeds isn’t limited to the West — Indian farmers have been coerced into using them, with completely disastrous consequences.
GE Seeds Responsible for 250,000 Farmer Suicides
More than a quarter of a million Indian farmers have committed suicide over the past 16 years, since the introduction of GE seed. These crops have failed (especially Bt cotton), leaving them financially ruined. Bt cotton is much more expensive than traditional cotton seed, requires more water and pesticides, and has failed to produce the increased crop yields promised by Monsanto.
India’s government has largely abandoned small farmers, discontinuing support programs and failing to address factors such as lack of rural credit and access to irrigation, among others, and new government programs have barely scratched the surface of this crisis, which results in one farmer committing suicide every 30 minutes, typically by ingesting pesticides like Roundup.
On a side note, concerns over glyphosate’s toxicity are finally starting to be taken seriously. The U.S. EPA announced in 201510that U.S. regulators may start testing for glyphosate residues on food in the near future, but only a year later, in November 2016, the FDA announced that it was putting its testing “on hold” even though the International Agency for Research on Cancer determined that the active ingredient in Roundup is a “probable carcinogen.”
While thousands of foods are tested for about 400 different pesticides each year, glyphosate is not on that list simply because it’s been thought to be safe. A step in the right direction, however, is that in early 2017 a California court ruled that the state’s efforts to require warning labels about the cancer possibility could move forward.
While that’s good news, it’s worth noting that the EPA raised the allowable limits for glyphosate in food in 2013, and the allowable levels may be too high to protect human health, based on mounting research. Root and tuber vegetables (with the exception of sugar) got one of the largest boosts, with allowable residue limits being raised from 0.2 ppm to 6.0 ppm.
Meanwhile, malformations in frog and chicken embryos have been documented at 2.03 ppm of glyphosate.11 And, as reported by the Institute for Science in Society:12
“The amount of allowable glyphosate in oilseed crops (except for canola and soy) went up from 20 ppm to 40 ppm, 100,000 times the amount needed to induce breast cancer cells.”
The Twisted Truth About GMOs
The sole purported legal basis for the marketing of GE foods in the U.S. is the FDA’s claim that they’re “Generally Recognized as Safe” (GRAS) — a claim that is actually fraudulent. Documents released as a result of a lawsuit against the FDA reveal that the agency’s scientists warned superiors about the extraordinary risks of GE foods — but their warnings were spurned and covered up.
According to the law, no GE food can qualify as GRAS unless there is overwhelming consensus about its safety within the scientific community, and that consensus cannot be based on hypotheses or speculation — it must be based on solid evidence. In the case of GE foods, there is no such evidence. FDA’s own files contain the admission that they didn’t have any technical evidence upon which to base their presumption that GE foods are GRAS.
On January 24, 2015, a statement signed by 300 scientists was published in a peer-reviewed journal,13 asserting that there is no scientific consensus about the safety of GE foods, which confirms that they are on the U.S. market illegally.
The American Academy of Environmental Medicine wrote, “There is more than a casual association between GE foods and adverse health effects.” They go on to cite specific scientific evidence pointing to potential organ damage from GE foods (liver, kidney, spleen and GI system), accelerated aging, immune dysregulation, infertility … and the list goes on and on.14
Support Seed Diversity by Ditching GE Food
As you often hear me say, one of your greatest powers is your pocketbook. You can take back control over our food supply with the choices you make about the foods you eat, the seeds you plant, and the products you use. Here are a few suggestions:
Stop buying non-organic processed foods. Instead, build your diet around whole, unprocessed foods, especially raw fruits and vegetables, and healthy fats from coconut oil, avocados, organic pastured meat, dairy and eggs, and raw nuts
Buy most of your foods from your local farmers markets and organic farms
Cook most or all your meals at home using whole, organic ingredients
Frequent restaurants that serve organic, cooked-from-scratch local food. Many restaurants, especially chain restaurants, use processed foods for their meals (Chipotlé is a rare exception)
Buy only organic, open-pollinated and heirloom seeds for your garden, which applies to both decorative plants and edibles; they’re obtainable from seed swaps, seed libraries and exchanges (see next section for sources)
Boycott all lawn and garden chemicals (fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides) unless they are “OMRI Approved,” which means they’re allowed in organic production. If you use a lawn service, make sure they’re using OMRI Approved products as well
Join the Organic Consumers Association’s new campaign, “Buy Organic Brands that Support Your Right to Know”
Seed Saving Resources
If you want to begin saving your own seeds, there are four basic steps: Choosing the right plants, collecting their seeds, cleaning the seeds and storing them appropriately.15 Below are some excellent seed saving resources, as well as suggestions for where to purchase open-pollinated and heirloom seeds.
“Seed to Seed: Seed Saving Techniques for Vegetable Gardeners,” by Suzanne Ashworth (March 2002) is an excellent and widely cited book about seed saving
Seed Savers Exchange: Organization whose mission is to promote saving and sharing of heirloom seeds and plants
SeedSave.org: Online seed school with free downloadable book about the basics of seed saving
Hudson Valley Seed Library: Featured in the movie, Hudson is much more than a library — it’s also a place where you can order heirloom seed
Mother Earth News articles16 about their picks for the top 15 vegetable seed companies
Why Independent Films Are So Important
Cinema plays an important role in how we think, how our opinions are formed, and how we view our ever-changing world. Independent film makers take huge risks and are often the main financial support behind bringing you cutting edge and riveting news through the eyes of experts and real life survivors.
They are not swayed by cinema or popular opinion, but are instead influenced by their dynamic surroundings and the evolution of change to bring you the facts at their own cost. We need independent film makers to continue to bring us the news that no one else is willing to face. Please show your support for these amazing artists for their hard work and efforts to bring us the facts by visiting their sites, sharing their information and purchasing their films.
I believe in bringing quality to my readers, which is why I wanted to share some information about the producer, Sean Kaminsky, of Open Sesame. Through his hard work and dedication we are able to shine a light on the dangers and poisons that are hiding in our food and damaging our health. Thank you to Mr. Kaminsky for sharing with us.
About the Director
I believe in bringing quality to my readers, which is why I wanted to share some information about the director, Sean Kaminsky, from “Open Sesame: The Story of Seeds.” We sat down with Sean to learn a little more about what goes in to making these films. Thank you to Sean for sharing with us.
What was your inspiration for making this film?
When I told friends I wanted to make a short documentary about seeds back in 2009, I received lots of blank looks and polite nods. Many folks (myself included) were pretty disconnected from the source of our food. And back then I didn’t have a garden. That only came after the film! “Open Sesame” quickly grew into a full-length feature after I started to interview people and learned what was at stake.
I’d already worked on several environmentally themed projects including an HBO documentary on climate change and numerous shorts for Sundance Channel. I felt like I had a decent grasp of the primary environmental issues we faced.
So, I was stunned to learn about the seed crisis — but when I started the film few people were talking about the importance of seeds or how industrial farming, patents and GMOs threaten 12,000 years of our agricultural heritage. All those blank looks told me I was on the right track in telling a story that needed to get told.
What was your favorite part of making this film?
Making this film was an incredible adventure and it’s hard to choose one favorite. One favorite part was meeting numerous amazing individuals who have tremendous passion for seeds and want to help change our food system. Many of the people that I filmed with have since become friends.
I feel grateful to have been able to share their stories. Visiting Navdanya in India was an incredible experience and witnessing the love and care they gave seeds was something I worked hard to convey in the film.
Seed School was also a highlight since I learned a ton while shooting and still use many of the tips I learned in my own small garden when I plant. The editing process was also rewarding because that’s when I started to discover the threads that unite folks in the growing community seed movement. Amidst all the challenges, there are reasons for hope and optimism.
Where do the proceeds to your film go?
This film has been a passion project from start to finish without support from big media companies or distributors. Everyone who supports the film also supports sustainable indie filmmaking. A significant percentage of proceeds goes toward outreach and helping to make the film affordable for small community screenings. I also have another food-related film in the early stages of production. There are many challenges facing our food supply and more stories that need to be told!
Throughout our existence as humans, our genes have shown they are highly adaptable to the available food supply and a wide variety of diets. Over time, our genes gradually adapted to new ways of eating and we continued to thrive. But all these “new” foods were whole foods, unprocessed, unaltered, and found in nature.
So, how does this adaptation relate to the new era of genetically modified foods, made in the laboratory?
Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO): What Are They?
A GMO (genetically modified organism) is the result of a laboratory process where genes from the DNA of one species are extracted and artificially forced into the genetic sequence (the inherited blueprint for life) of an unrelated plant or animal. The foreign genes may come from bacteria, viruses, insects, animals or even humans.
The genetic modification process brings about alterations in genetic makeup and in the properties of the organism developed.
“Genetic engineering is based on the naive understanding of the genome based on the “One Gene – One Protein” hypothesis of 70 years ago, that each gene codes for a single protein. The Human Genome project completed in 2002 showed that this hypothesis is wrong… Every scientist now learns that any gene can give more than one protein and that inserting a gene anywhere in a plant eventually creates rogue proteins. Some of these proteins are obviously allergenic or toxic. The whole paradigm of the genetic engineering technology is based on a misunderstanding.” ~ Dr. Thierry Vrain, research scientist for Agriculture Canada and former-GMO advocate.
“The truth is… every time (corporate scientists) insert a novel gene into a plant cell, the gene ends up in a random location in the plant’s genome. As a result, each new gene amounts to a game of food safety roulette, leaving companies hoping that the new gene will not destabilize a safe food and make it toxic.” ~ Andrew Kimbrell, executive director of Center for Food Safety.
GM plants and their derivatives now found in high numbers throughout the United States are soy, corn, cottonseed, sugar beets, canola, potatoes, tomatoes, squash, papaya. They all have had foreign genes forced into their DNA, the long-term results of which are still largely unknown. To make matters worse, there are many more GM derivatives of these foods which have flooded the processed food industry: like corn fructose syrup, starch, soy sauce, lecithin, vegetable oils, etc.
The Impact of GMOs on Your Health
Traditional genetics used selective breeding, tissue cultures, hybridization and other natural methods, which didn’t pose the negative health effects we see in the GMO era. Genetic Engineering is highly mutagenic and leads to unpredictable changes in the DNA and the proteins produced by the modified/inserted genes.
What remains to be proven is that the biotech industry’s claim that the proteins introduced, which can lead to toxic or allergic reaction, pose no greater risk to human health than non-GE crops.
It’s not hard to observe how worrying the health statistics have become since GMO were introduced. Within nine years of widespread introduction of GMOs into the U.S. food supply, the number of people with three or more chronic diseases nearly doubled. Overall food related illnesses doubled as well from 1994 to 2001, according to Centers for Disease Control.
Although human GMO feeding studies are rare (non existent), several animal studies reveal a long list of resulting disorders including: infertility, immune dysregulation, dysfunction in cholesterol synthesis, negative changes in the liver, kidney and gastrointestinal system and more. According to the Institute for Responsible Technology:
“When mice were exposed to Bt-toxin, they not only mounted an immune response to it directly, but they subsequently reacted to foods that had not formally triggered a response. There was something about the Bt-toxin that primed the immune system to become reactive to other, once benign, foods. If humans exposed to Bt-toxin react in a similar manner, eating GM corn could directly lead to the development of [immune issues and] gluten or other food sensitivities.”
Monsanto, the leading GMO producer developed the Bt corn (Mon 810) containing an allergenic protein that is not produced in natural corn. This type of corn is designed to produce Bt-toxin in every cell, which kills insects by destroying the integrity of their gut. Studies on mice fed this GMO corn showed serious health problems like immune dysregulation, allergies, and tissue damage in their small intestine. Further studies have shown the Bt-toxin punctures the digestive tract of humans too. Not broken down by the digestion process, the Bt toxin was detected in as many as 93% of pregnant women who were tested, as well in the fetal cord of 80% of their unborn children.
GMO soy contains as much as seven times the level of a natural soy allergen, trypsin inhibitor, compared to non-GMO soy. The genes inserted into the GMO crops produce new proteins into the human diet, which may be allergenic and toxic.
In a study published in the Journal of Applied Toxicology in 2012, researchers proved that Bt toxins can exert toxicity on human cells. The Bt gene might transfer from GM corn and convert our intestinal flora into living pesticide factories. Bt-toxin disrupts the membrane in 24 hours, causing certain fluids to leak through the cell walls. This is a serious consequence which leads to the modern “leaky gut syndrome”, that many health practitioners are seeing these days in their patients. Additionally, the Bt transgene has also been linked to blood disorders, such as hemolysis and leukemia.
In numerous other studies performed on animals, rats fed GM potatoes had smaller, partially atrophied livers, more than half the babies of mother rats fed GM soy died within three weeks, male rats fed soy had changed testicles, including altered young sperm, female rats fed GM soy showed changes in their ovaries and uterus. By the third generation, most hamsters fed GM soy were unable to have babies.
Farmers in Europe and Asia say that animals died after eating Bt corn varieties and grazed on Bt cotton plants.
Another serious danger stems from the excessive use of toxic herbicides on GMO crops, which are herbicide tolerant. Herbicide tolerant crops have led to an increase in herbicide use of 527 million pounds in the US over the first 16 years and much higher levels of toxic residues in GM food.
“Roundup’s main ingredient glyphosate is now a ubiquitous poison, found in virtually all water, air, soil and rainfall samples tested. It contaminates the groundwater, the source of most of our natural drinking water, and the soil to the point where it has suppressed and destroyed the microbial biodiversity in certain regions of the world, including probiotic organisms of major food importance. Moreover, it has been found to exhibit toxicity andcarcinogenicity in cell studies at concentrations several orders of magnitude lower than found in agricultural applications (within the parts per trillion range)…” [source]
One of the only published studies on humans eating GMO revealed that a part of the transgenes from GM soy transferred into bacteria living inside our intestines, where these soy transgenes continue to produce Roundup Ready proteins. These might continuously trigger immune reactions. (For more information, please see How GMO Foods Turn Your Intestines Into an Insecticide Factory.)
Research led by a team from New Zealand at the University of Canterbury, has found that commonly used herbicides, including Roundup can cause bacteria to become resistant to antibiotics. GM papaya, zucchini and yellow squash have viral transgenes that may produce viral proteins. More than one hundred studies show that viral proteins can suppress an organism’s defenses against viral infections or have toxic effects.
Moreover, the rising use of agricultural herbicides has been shown to be responsible for the collapse of bee colonies in the United States and Europe. In a study published in the Journal of Experimental Biology:
“… researchers found that concentrations of glyphosate (GLY) consistent with the type of exposures associated with standard spraying practices in GM agriculture and neighboring eco-systems reduced the honeybees’ sensitivity to nectar reward and impaired their learning abilities – two behavioral consequences likely to adversely affect their survival abilities… ” [source]
Ironically, it seems the agricultural system that GMO advocates claims will solve the problem of world hunger depends on a chemical (glyposate) that actually kills the pollinator on which around 70% of world’s food supply depends.
The Current Situation
Governments have not been too responsive to the mounting evidence of harm from GMOs and genetically engineering companies continue to forcefully push their agenda. Those who demand more science are ironically labeled by the biotech industry as “anti-science”! The scientists who do discover safety problems or even express concerns are typically attacked and dismissed. Yet consumers and farmers are reacting in great numbers. Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Sri Lanka, El Salvador, Brazil and India all banned the use of Roundup herbicide and 38 countries worldwide have banned GM crops.
Furthermore, it is clear that the efforts to educate people about the dangers of GMO and the clear clinical evidence has driven consumer concern and a higher demand for non-GMO products. According to 2012 Nielsen Health and Wellness Claims Performance Report, 2012 sales of products labeled as non-GMO in the US increased more than any other health and wellness category. In fact, an interesting aspect mentioned by an executive at the national food store chain Whole Foods is that when a product becomes verified as non-GMO, sales increase by 15-30 percent.
“Non-GM advanced methods of plant breeding are already delivering the sorts of traits promised by GM crops, including resistance to diseases, flood and drought tolerance. GM crops are not only an ineffective type of innovation, but they also restrict innovation due to intellectual property rights owned by a handful of multinational corporations.” ~ Organic Consumers Association, “Twenty Years of Failure: Why GM Crops Have Failed to Deliver on Their Promises“.
The reality we all need to face is that GMOs are promoting the rise of numerous diseases in humans and animals, and creating widespread chemical and genetic pollution in the environment. This will have untold long-term negative effects not only on our generations, but on those to come as well. Putting a stop now will give us all a chance for a better health — the way nature intended!
Scientists have genetically recoded a strain of E. coli to depend on a synthetic amino acid so the bacteria can’t survive outside the lab. The E. coli were also made resistant to two viruses.
Bacterial colonies .
The creation of genetically modified and entirely synthetic organisms continues to generate excitement as well as worry.
Such organisms are already churning out insulin and other drug ingredients, helping produce biofuels, teaching scientists about human disease and improving fishing and agriculture. While the risks can be exaggerated to frightening effect, modified organisms do have the potential to upset natural ecosystems if they were to escape.
Physical containment isn’t enough. Lab dishes and industrial vats can break; workers can go home with inadvertently contaminated clothes. And some organisms are meant for use in open environments, such as mosquitoes that can’t spread malaria.
So attention turns to biocontainment: building in biological safeguards to prevent modified organisms from surviving where they’re not meant to. To do so, geneticists and synthetic biologists find themselves taking a cue from safety engineers.
“If you make a chemical that’s potentially explosive, you put stabilizers in it. If you build a car, you put in seat belts and airbags,” said George Church, Robert Winthrop Professor of Genetics at Harvard Medical School and core faculty member at the Wyss Institute.
And if you’ve created the world’s first genomically recoded organism, a strain ofEscherichia coli with a radically changed genome, as Church’s group announced in 2013, you make its life dependent on something only you can supply.
Church and colleagues report Jan. 21 in Nature that they further modified their 2013 E. coli to incorporate a synthetic amino acid in many places throughout their genomes. Without this amino acid, the bacteria can’t perform the vital job of translating their RNA into properly folded proteins.
The E. coli can’t make this unnatural amino acid themselves or find it anywhere in the wild; they have to eat it in specially cooked-up lab cultures.
A separate team reports in Nature that it was able to engineer the same strain of E. coli to become dependent on a synthetic amino acid using different methods. That group was led by a longtime collaborator of Church’s, Farren Isaacs of Yale University.
The two studies are the first to use synthetic nutrient dependency as a biocontainment strategy, and suggest that it might be useful for making genetically modified organisms safer in an open environment.
In addition, “We now have the first example of genome-scale engineering rather than gene editing or genome copying,” said Church. “This is the most radically altered genome to date in terms of genome function. We have not only a new code, but also a new amino acid, and the organism is totally dependent on it.”
Church’s team, led by first authors Dan Mandell and Marc Lajoie, HMS research fellows in genetics, also made the E. coli resistant to two viruses, with plans to expand that list.
The modifications offer theoretically safer E. coli strains that could be used in biotechnology applications with less fear that they will be contaminated by viruses, which can be financially disastrous, or cause ecological trouble if they spill. (E. coli is one of the main organisms used in industry.)
Hooked on amino acids
Scientists have been exploring two main biocontainment methods, but each has weaknesses. Church was determined to fix them.
One method involves turning normally self-sufficient organisms like E. coli into auxotrophs, which can’t make certain nutrients they need for growth. Humans are auxotrophs, which is why we need to include vitamins and other “essential” nutrients in our diets.
Altering the genetics of E. coli so they can’t make a naturally occurring nutrient doesn’t always work, said Church, because some of them manage to scavenge the nutrient from their surroundings. He lowered that risk by making the E. coli dependent on a nutrient not found in nature.
Another pitfall of making auxotrophs is that some E. coli could evolve a way to synthesize the nutrient they need. Or they could acquire the ability while exchanging bits of DNA with other E. coli in a process called horizontal gene transfer.
Church believes his team protected against those possibilities because it had to make 49 genetic changes to the E. coli to make them dependent on the artificial nutrient. The chance one of the bacteria could randomly undo all of those changes without also acquiring a harmful mutation, he said, is incredibly slim.
Church’s solution also took care of concerns he had with another biocontainment technique, in which genetic “kill switches” make bacteria vulnerable to a toxin so spills can be quickly neutralized. “All you have to do to kill a kill switch is turn it off,” which can be done in any number of ways, Church said. Routing around the dependency on the artificial amino acid is much harder.
Church determined that another key to making a successful “synthetic auxotroph” was to ensure that the E. coli‘s lives depended on the artificial amino acid. Otherwise, escaped E. coli could keep rolling along even if they couldn’t make or scavenge it. So his group targeted proteins that drive the essential functions of the cell.
“If you put it off on the periphery, like on the paint job of your car, the car will still run,” he explained. “You have to embed the dependency smack in the middle of the engine, like the crank shaft, so it now has a particular part you can only get from, say, one manufacturer in Europe.”
Building a safer bacterium
The need to choose a process essential to E. coli survival and a nutrient not found in nature “limited us to a small number of genes,” Church said. His team used computational tools to design proteins that might cause the desired “irreversible, inescapable dependency.” They took the best candidates, synthesized them and tested them in actual E. coli.
They ended up with three successful redesigned essential proteins and two dependentE. coli strains. “Using three proteins together is more powerful than using them separately,” Church said. He envisions future E. coli modified to require even more synthetic amino acids to make escape virtually impossible.
As it was, the escape rate–the number of E. coli able to survive without being fed the synthetic amino acid–was “so low we couldn’t detect it,” Church said.
The group grew a total of 1 trillion E. coli cells from various experiments, and after two weeks none had escaped. “That’s 10,000 times better than the National Institutes of Health’s recommendation for escape rate for genetically modified organisms,” said Church.
The weaknesses in Church’s methods remain to be seen. For now, he is satisfied with the results his group has obtained by pushing the limits of available testing.
“As part of our dedication to safety engineering in biology, we’re trying to get better at creating physically contained test systems to develop something that eventually will be so biologically contained that we won’t need physical containment anymore,” said Church.
In the meantime, he said, “we can use the physical containment to debug it and make sure it actually works.”
This work was funded by the U.S. Department of Energy (grant DE-FG02-02ER63445).
The above story is based on materials provided by Harvard Medical School. The original article was written by Stephanie Dutchen. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.
Daniel J. Mandell, Marc J. Lajoie, Michael T. Mee, Ryo Takeuchi, Gleb Kuznetsov, Julie E. Norville, Christopher J. Gregg, Barry L. Stoddard, George M. Church.Biocontainment of genetically modified organisms by synthetic protein design. Nature, 2015; DOI: 10.1038/nature14121
What’s a recipe for environmental mayhem and the destruction of human health? The approval of genetically modified organisms by governments worldwide without any scientific safety studies. A new study published by the risk-assessment journal Environment International states that of the GM crops approved for planting and marketing globally, 81% were not studied for possible health and environmental safety risks.
Nevertheless, the biotech industry keeps touting GMO ‘benefits’ like a narcissistic madman on steroids. This chest beating continues – despite a complete lack of published, peer-reviewed research supporting the safety of genetically modified organisms.
The researchers of the risk-assessment study looked at GM crops engineered either for tolerance to the herbicide glyphosate (Roundup) or engineered to produce pesticides in their tissues due to the expression of cry1Ab or cry3Bb1 genes. Of all the bioengineering tricks up Monsanto and Syngenta’s sleeves, these are the most commonly used in commercial GM crops.
A whopping 47 GM crop varieties meet these conditions and have been given approval by agencies like the USDA, the FDA, and other regulatory bodies around the world.
When the researchers did a search for peer-reviewed studies on these crops prior to their approval so that they could tell if the agencies were relying on published vs. secret, industry-led studies, their findings were indeed telling.
The approval of these crops was based entirely on industry-biased data.
Only 18 peer-reviewed studies could be found which assessed the safety of any of the 47 GM crops that have been given a rubber stamp, and only 9 of the 47 crop varieties were studied. This means that the remaining 38 GMO varietieswere approved with zero credible scientific evidence of their safety.
This is an incontrovertible piece of evidence that Monsanto, Dow, Syngenta, Bayer, Cargill, the Grocery Manufacturer’s Association, and others have completely swayed government opinion about GMO safety based on manufactured to appease ‘experts.’ Experts who are supposed to assess the possible toxicity of any food or beverage we consume. This means that GMOs got the green light without safety assessments by independent scientists. No government-appointed shills should be making decisions about our food supply with such little risk assessment conducted.
The new study does suffer from one major limitation, however, since it looked only for published studies involving feeding rats the GM crop in question and then monitoring them for health effects. There are obviously other ways to conduct safety tests, but these were not conducted either.
Furthermore, these companies did indeed test their own crops and hid the results from regulators, even when they knew their toxic GMO products could cause serious health risks. The biotech industry has called these tests a ‘commercial secret’ even when they knowingly promote GMOs while they causes harm.
The pesticides and herbicides marketed to go hand-in-hand with GM crop sales are subject to the same ‘scrutiny’ as GMO crops themselves. A 2014 study in the journal BioScience found that the pesticide-approval process has been very similar.
“Risk assessment is compromised when relatively few studies are used to determine impacts, particularly if most of the data used in an assessment are produced by a pesticide’s manufacturer, which constitutes a conflict of interest. Althoughmanufacturers who directly profit from chemical sales should continue to bear the costs of testing, this can be accomplished without [conflicts of interest] by an independent party with no potential for financial gain from the outcome and with no direct ties to the manufacturer.”