Thursday, February 07, 2013

WARNING: YOUR VALENTINE'S DAY TREATS MAY BE FILLED WITH GMOS - Support science by buying them right away before they are banned.

I received this email message today from Leslie Maloy, (lmaloy@hastingsgroup.com). It's stupid. It's an example of scientific illiteracy. There's no chance than food from genetically modified crops will do you any harm. You may want to oppose GMO crops for other reasons but to pretend that GMO crops will endanger your health is a lie.

It's stuff like this that's giving the environmental movement a bad reputation. Their anti-science positions are losing them support from the scientific community.
National Coalition Calls on Hershey and Mars to Label GMOs in Chocolates, Other Candy . Or Get Them Out Completely.

Washington DC -- February 7, 2013 -- What will you get your loved one this Valentine's Day? If genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in chocolates are not on your shopping list, you will want to know about GMO Inside's new push to get the nation's largest candy manufacturers-Hershey and Mars-to break up with GMOs in 2013.

GMO Inside, a campaign dedicated to advancing the right of consumers to know whether or not foods are genetically engineered, is calling on Hershey and Mars to either stop putting GMOs in Valentines candy and other products . or to start labeling the products as containing GMOs.

Hershey and Mars combined comprise nearly 70 percent of the U.S. chocolate market. The two companies are not shy about their love affair with GMOs; together they spent more than a million dollars to oppose GMO labeling in California in the November 2012 election. Hershey is reported to have spent $518,900 to defeat Prop 37 and Mars spent $498,350.

The reason these companies oppose GMO labeling so strongly is due to the fact that GMO ingredients are in their sweets; a label would surely make a consumer think twice about eating their favorite candy bar.

For example, these popular candies contain the following GMO-risk ingredients:
* Reese's Peanut Butter filled Hearts (Hershey) contain sugar, soy lecithin, and cornstarch
* Hershey Hugs contain sugar, soy lecithin and corn syrup solids
* Valentine's Colored M&M's (Mars) contain sugar, soy lecithin, cornstarch, and corn syrup
* Valentine's Snickers (Mars) contain soy lecithin, corn syrup, sugar, and partially hydrogenated soybean oil

GMO Inside also released a "Valentine's Day Villains" shopping guide for consumers who want to avoid GMOs treats for their Valentines. Go to www.GMOinside.org to get a list of candies to watch out for and also some non-GMO alternatives for your loved one

Genetically modified organisms have never been proven safe for consumption, and a growing body of studies is raising concerns around the health effects of eating them. GMOs are also increasing the use of toxic herbicides and causing harm to farmers in the US and abroad.

In Europe, where genetically modified ingredients are already required to be labeled, Hershey and Mars have adapted their recipes to formulate Kisses and M&Ms without GMOs. According to Confectionery News, Hershey products made for distribution in Europe will be formulated without GMO ingredients, in order to meet the requirements of major retailers which ban the sale of products with genetically modified ingredients and to satisfy increasing consumer concern about the safety of GMOs.

"Unless you can buy Hershey or Mars products in Europe, there is a high chance you could be giving your Valentine a treat with GMOs that endanger their health and the environment," said GMO Inside Campaign Director Elizabeth O'Connell, "To be safe, you should choose organic certified or Non-GMO Project Verified chocolate to show the loved ones in your life you really care."

Beyond the issue of GMOs, Hershey also has problems with child labor in the cocoa it sources. Though the company committed to certify its supply chain as 100 percent sustainable in October of 2012, there has been no further information about how the company plans to deliver on its promise to remove forced child labor from its supply chain over the next seven years.

"Consumers have a choice -- there is delicious chocolate from companies that are organic or verified through the Non-GMO Project, said Alisa Gravitz, president of Green America. "And you can make it doubly sweet by also looking for fair trade options. You'll be showing your sweetheart you care in every way. Refuse to buy GMO-laden chocolate this Valentine's Day."


19 comments :

  1. Right, because the risk posed by high-sugar, high-fat snack foods is sooooo much lower than whatever unidentified gene-tweaks may happen to be in the source organisms.

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  2. It is sad that people make these blanket statements about GMOs. People who make such blanket statements (either absolving all GMOs from human health issues, as Larry just did, or vilifying all GMOs, as this Green America email does) are not being scientific. There are grounds for worry about some GMOs but not others.

    A common genetic modification gives resistance to glyphosate-based herbicides. There is no reason to expect that this will harm health, or put natural ecosystems at risk if it escapes into wild populations.

    A very different level of risk is associated with food crops that are modified to manufacture insecticides in their tissues, like the popular bt toxin that makes corn and potatoes resistant to caterpillars. If these crops are eaten directly (as opposed to being refined into oils), consumers are eating significant amounts of a toxin that could conceivably cause problems for human health. (It also could cause serious destabilization of ecosystems when it escapes into wild relatives.) The regulatory framework for these internally-generated pesticides is weaker than for externally applied pesticides, at least in the US, so doubts about their safety do not seem unreasonable. And the Obama administration's appointment of a Monsanto Vice President for Public Policy, Michael Taylor, to be the Deputy Commissioner for Foods in the FDA (the Food and Drug Administration, which regulates US foods), does not exactly help build Americans' confidence in the objectivity of these regulations.

    Like most issues, the GMO debate is not black-and-white.

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    1. Darn, why does your sign-in process remove my Google identity?
      Lou Jost

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    2. absolutely agree, Lou, and also Alex below. Black and white blanket assertions, coming at the beginning of a technology being introduced, simply shows how little the human race has learned the lessons of the last 100 years.
      Who could have predicted the ways that Henry Ford's benign vision of providing millions of people with liberating mobility (before the Model T the vast majority of humans never moved beyond a 40km radius of their home, according to current Ford CEO Bill Ford) would lead to the disasters and threats that the automobile industry has created?
      Why should anyone believe Japanese bureaucrats, as year after year, and disaster after narrowly-missed disaster, they assure everyone that nuclear energy is both safe and necessary, after the Fukushima disaster?
      So now concerning the most important issue of all, the food we put in our bodies ( and which becomes us and sustains us) we are supposed to swallow (pun intended) blithe assurances from 'scientists who know better'?
      Of COURSE it is possible that there can be no harm from GMOs now or ever. Anything, after all, is possible. But people who write as Larry does - and blanket statements from the opposing camp are equally unhelpful - appear to be under some bizarre delusion that the 20th century and all its examples of hubris and the tragic results thereof, didn't happen.

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    3. That Bt toxin you are so afraid of is the same one sprayed routinely on organic crops - possibly in much higher doses than in GMOs. It's also perfectly harmless to all mammals.
      Refined sugar contains sucrose and, well, that's it really. Hard to see how GM sugar could be any different from non-GM sugar in any way.
      There are genuine concerns about the way GM crops are being introduced and regulated, and anyone who thinks Monsanto is a benign company that won't let anything go wrong is an idiot. But by indiscriminately throwing out scare stories about food safety that are scientifically indefensible, environmentalists are, as Larry suggests, doing great harm to their reputation.

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    4. Iain, spraying bt onto the surface of a crop is very different from putting it in every cell of the crop. You can't wash it off of GMOs. You can't help but eat it, and if the crop is a staple like potatoes, some people will eat quite a lot of it.

      I use bt daily on my orchid plants. It has a warning label: "Caution: harmful if inhaled or absorbed through skin; avoid contact with skin, eyes, or clothing. Avoid breathing dust. Wash thoroughly with soap and water after handling and before eating, drinking, chewing gum, using tobacco, or using the toilet. Remove and wash contaminated clothing before reuse." Hmmm, sounds yummy. This is from the label of Summit's "Mosquito Bits" to control mosquitos in standing water. Its only active ingredient is bt toxin.

      As for sucrose, I agree with you, and I specifically excluded refined GMO foods from my concerns.

      Lou Jost

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    5. Lou, Bt has been tested over and over, and is harmless to animals at doses orders of magnitude higher than you would ever get from eating GM crops. It is very specific to a small range of insects. I'm sure that was why it was chosen in the first place. (That warning label sounds unnecessarily cautious - I note that the product is also labelled as "fish and animal friendly".

      The point is, there's lots of science out there about this particular product, yet it is largely ignored by the paranoid crowd that doesn't seem to get much further than "It's a toxin - of course it's dangerous!"

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    6. My point is that it is just as silly to say "There's no chance than food from genetically modified crops will do you any harm." It is a scientific question that needs an empirical answer, not an a priori one.

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  3. When I read the capital letters I looked to see who I was going to need to remove from the blogs I'm following, when I saw it was Sandwalk I did a double take and realized it was talking out against the paranoid environmentalists - good to know my favourite blogs haven't been infiltrated by an idiot anti-scientist.

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    1. "the paranoid environmentalists"...sounds like you are stuck with some major stereotyping. If it weren't for those "paranoid environmentalists", US and Canadian cities would have air like Beijing's, or worse, right now. Your food would have lots of pesticide residues, and your fish would have mercury and exotic metals. Your housepaint would be full of lead. We now know that each of these things that "the paranoid environmentalists" fought against really do serious harm to people. Of course some go too far, and when they do, science will bring the debate back down to earth, but in general you should be grateful to those paranoid environmentalists.
      Lou Jost

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    2. @Lou Jost,

      There are several different kinds of environmentalist. In the past I was happy to support the rational kind who advanced sound scientific arguments to support their cause.

      I do not support the "paranoid environmentalists" who ignore, and even attack, the knowledge gained by science. The real problem is that the rational environmentalists are being drowned out by the paranoid environmentalists. That's very unfortunate.

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    3. Larry, I agree with you about that, but I got the impression William Bell thought that environmentalists were generally paranoid, and indeed the word is commonly used against nearly all environmentalists.
      Lou Jost

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  4. Hm. I am a bit torn about this. Of course I am not working on GMOs myself and so admittedly not an expert, but with my knowledge of biology I could think of potential harm arising from them:

    Plants made resistant against a pesticide so that more of it can be used, and then this pesticide ends up on our dinner table in harmful quantities that would previously not have been possible (of course, then it would not be the GMO as such).

    What Jou Lost wrote: modifying plants to produce toxic substances that may potentially also be toxic for humans.

    A subtle one: think of those tomatoes now on the market that have been manipulated to still look fine from the outside although they are already going bad. Products like that could make somebody sick under the right circumstances, e.g. if uncritically used for cooking.

    So I would be careful about saying that "there's no chance that food from genetically modified crops will do you any harm". GMOs can be extremely beneficial - just think of biotech production of insulin etc., or consider the potential of making crop plants more drought-, heat- or salt-tolerant. But if somebody does something shortsighted, bad things could conceivably happen.

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    1. Plants made resistant against a pesticide so that more of it can be used, and then this pesticide ends up on our dinner table in harmful quantities that would previously not have been possible ...

      We now have about 60 years of experience with herbicides and pesticides. We have fifteen years of experience with genetically modified food crops. We have major opponents who would love to find something wrong with these these herbicides and pesticides and with GMO food.

      Is there any evidence at all that we have something to worry about in a modern industrialized nation with appropriate regulatory bodies? Isn't it about time that we recognized that a lack of evidence means that you shouldn't just make up threats?

      Products like that could make somebody sick under the right circumstances, e.g. if uncritically used for cooking.

      Do you have any evidence whatsoever that this has happened or is even possible? If not, why spread such scare stories?

      But if somebody does something shortsighted, bad things could conceivably happen.

      Isn't that true of just about everything? Why would anyone focus such paranoia on highly regulated GMO foods instead of a host of other things that are far more risky?

      I suspect that it's, in part, an irrational fear of science and technology—if you don't understand it then is must be bad.

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    2. Larry said "Is there any evidence at all that we have something to worry about in a modern industrialized nation with appropriate regulatory bodies?"

      Look how long it took our regulatory bodies to recognize food and drug dangers in the past. Many unsafe drugs and food additives were initially widely used. It can be difficult to test for long-term cumulative or synergistic effects of drugs or food additives, and there have been cases of dishonest scientists in the past, not unexpected with billions of dollars at stake. Then there is the revolving door between the regulators and the food industry, which clouds the objectivity of our regulatory bodies. As an example I mentioned the appointment of a former Monsanto VP to be Commissioner of Foods for the (US) FDA. The regulations of GMOs are actually rather bizarre (look up the phrase "Generally regarded as safe" or GRAS).

      It was just wrong to say there is no chance that GMO foods can harm us. Eating new toxins may or may not harm us--it is a legitimate scientific question. I agree that there is no "smoking gun" regarding current GMOs; but there are small suggestions of problems in the literature, and caution regarding this class of GMOs is not irrational.
      Lou Jost

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    3. It was just wrong to say there is no chance that GMO foods can harm us.

      I concede that point. I should have said that "there's very little chance that existing GMO foods can harm us." I promise to do that in the future as long as every one else promises to say that there's a small chance that some organic foods may be harmful.

      Is that fair?

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    4. I'd grant you more than that--there is nothing in the word "organic" that gives any guarantee of safety. In fact in my part of the world, I avoid organic foods because they are more likely to be contaminated with parasites derived from animal manures used for fertilizer. And cyanide is organic too.

      Thanks for conceding the point. That is what I like about arguing with scientists rather than quacks. I'll keep my end of the bargain.

      Lou Jost


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    5. Is there any evidence at all that we have something to worry about in a modern industrialized nation with appropriate regulatory bodies? Isn't it about time that we recognized that a lack of evidence means that you shouldn't just make up threats?

      Sorry, I am not making up threats but replying specifically to the "no chance" remark. It could be added that there are also a few people who are not living in modern industrialized nations with appropriate regulatory bodies.

      Isn't that true of just about everything?

      Exactly. We are basically in agreement. I would immediately sign below your following statement from above: It's stuff like this that's giving the environmental movement a bad reputation.

      It troubles me deeply how full the movement is of people who don't want "genes in my food", who think that it is okay to "free" animals into an environment where they will become invasive and destroy the native fauna, who advocate alt-med quackery as part of a green party platform...

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  5. The thing is: Do we have a reason to allow GMO food crops? No, we don't.
    We don't allow other forms of bioinvasion, either.
    We've come to regret it when we have allowed it, or when we have failed to curb it.
    Yes, these crops can help Monsanto have greater profits. Should we give a damn? No, why the hell would we?`
    "Because we can" is not a reason in itself. So far the benefits are insignificant.

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