Thursday, June 19, 2014

GM food should be labelled

JUN 19, 2014
I AM concerned about how much genetically modified (GM) food we may be exposed to unwittingly in Singapore as there are no mandatory requirements to label food as such ("GM food in Singapore safe"; last Saturday).
There has been a recent spate of studies which show that GM food crops containing Bt toxin have caused foetal malformations, sterility and deaths in cattle as well as other mammals and birds exposed to them.
[If you do a decent (3 minutes) google search you will find results from Joseph Mercola from May 2011 (caution: he’s trying to sell you “snake oil” and part of the “conspiracy economy”) supporting the claims above. But you will also find results from sites that debunk urban myths, legends, and rumours like Snopes.  They report:
The Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) protein...  is a naturally occurring one which has been used in agriculture for decades… The claim about GM corn causing organ failure in rats stems from articles published in 2009 and 2012 by Dr. Joël Spiroux de Vendômois (et al) which reported the finding of high tumor rates and early mortality in rats fed genetically modified corn and "safe" levels of the herbicide Roundup. However, several food safety authorities and regulatory agencies found the analysis and conclusions of the 2009 article to be flawed and unsupportive of its claims. Moreover, France's six scientific academies issued a rare joint statement in October 2012 denouncing the latter study as a similarly flawed "scientific non-event" that served to "spread fear among the public that is not based on any firm conclusion”.
And by the way, what "recent spate of studies"? You mean you just checked your email and found emails from 2009 to 2012?]

China has recently banned imports of GM dried grains from the United States, and there is a growing movement in Canada and Europe against Monsanto, one the the biggest producers of GM crops.
[Wow. If China, which allows lead in children’s toys, melamine in milk, and reuse grease as cooking oil bans GM products from the US, GM food must be REALLY dangerous. Or you could be focusing on the wrong facts. It’s not that is is GM food. It’s just that it is imports, and it’s from the US. Actually, they just want to ban imports. 
Look it up.
Yes. There is a growing movement against Monsanto. (for example, a poll showed that 51% of  respondents nominated Monsanto as the most evil company. Of course the fact that the poll was done by Natural News which is a special interest magazine/online news group, may lead one to question their objectivity, and their readers objectivity. In other words, it is a self-selected sample.)
Welcome to the movement. Please check your brain at the door. And believe whatever we tell you. Monsanto is evil. Repeat after me: Monsanto is Evil. The FDA is Corrupt. Obama is Muslim. Gun Control is against Human Rights. Climate Change is a Hoax. Evolution is Not in the Bible so it DIDN'T HAPPEN.
Americans also believe many things that are wrong. Strength of conviction is not evidence of truth.
Alternatively, you may want to decide for yourself.]
There are large amounts of foodstuff from the US in shops here, most of which contain corn or soya products and derivatives. Unless they are specifically labelled organic and GM-free, there is no way for consumers here to know what they are feeding their families.
[When in doubt, assume that they are all GMO (you won't be too far wrong). ]
Short of going on an expensive organic-only diet, which is economically not feasible for the majority of Singaporeans, how can we be better informed of what goes into the food we eat?
Lai Sui Wan (Ms)

[You seem to think that "organic" = "non-GMO". They are not. You can have organic GMO food.

But yes. You are right. Organic food is unsustainable.

Here is a (non-exhaustive) list of genetically modified foods here:

The rice we eat have been genetically modified:

And as stated earlier, Organic-only diet will not help. Organic doesn't mean non-GMO.]

GM food in Singapore safe

JUN 14, 2014

WE THANK Mr Steven Lo Chock Fei for his feedback ("Label GM food products"; May 29).

We assure the public that all genetically modified (GM) food commercially available in Singapore has undergone safety assessments by both the Singapore Genetic Modification Advisory Committee (GMAC) and the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA).

These assessments are based on the Codex Alimentarius Commission's principles established by the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations and the World Health Organisation.

There has been no substantiated scientific evidence to show that GM food is unsafe.

Like all other food products, GM food must meet prevailing AVA food safety labelling requirements on ingredient listing and information for consumers. Currently, companies can voluntarily label a food product as "GMO" or "non-GMO", provided this can be substantiated.

It is not international practice for GM food to be labelled as such.

Where practised, GM food labelling serves the purpose of providing consumers with choice, rather than for food safety reasons.

There are a number of factors to consider in reviewing the need to specify GM food.

One is the lack of an internationally agreed threshold level of genetic material in a food product to make labelling obligatory.

Singapore, like many other countries, is of the view that any labelling regime must be practical, scientifically derived and effectively implementable across countries.

In other words, "what do you mean "genetically modified"? Should GMO cotton be labelled? How about oil for GMO canola? The oil has no GMO material and is indistiguishable from oil from non-GMO canola:
For a number of GM crops, the genes/gene products never enter the food supply, since those parts of the plants are removed during processing. For example, sugar from GM sugar beets is chemically identical to non-GM sugar. Likewise, oils purified from GM canola, soybean, cottonseed, and corn is identical to non-GM oils. Much of the corn crop is dedicated to generating ethanol, which, of course, is identical to non-GM ethanol. It has not been noted that ethanol from GM corn adversely affect automobile performance compared to non-GM ethanol. Genetically modified Bt cotton is worn, rather than ingested, and there have been no reports of adverse effects of wearing GM clothing. For GM crops in which whole plant cells are ingested, the genes and gene products are usually destroyed through digestion in the stomach and small intestine. So, it is unlikely, even in theory, that eating GM crops can harm human beings.

AVA and GMAC are following ongoing global discussions on GM food closely and will implement measures in line with international best practices.

More information on GMAC and its guidelines on the safety evaluation of GM food crops are available at

Astrid Yeo (Dr)
Group Director
Regulatory Administration Group
Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority

Nurhuda Nordin (Ms)
For Chairman
Genetic Modification Advisory Committee

BUT, despite all this, I agree that GM food should be labelled. As should food containing gluten. And organic food too. I believe people should be given information to make their choice. I may think they are paranoids but I would rather the paranoids shop at the specialist green organic, all-natural non-GMO food mart, then be found standing next to me ranting about Monsanto while I’m trying to get some GM-corn.

OK. I lied. I don't like corn. So I wouldn't be shopping for corn. GMO or non-GMO.

Here's something I found while looking for dirt on Monsanto. I think it is quite enlightening. And refreshingly rational.

I have seen it time and time again. Monsanto is evil, GE crops (GMOs) get a bad name because of Monsanto, GE crops are bad because they are made by Monsanto, Monsanto persecutes innocent farmers with lawsuits to drive them out of business, etcetera, etcetera. If you've paid attention to any aspect of the GE arguments, you'll see these arguments rolled out pretty much en masse. But my independent research says otherwise.
1) There seems to be scientific consensus on the health effects of GE crops, regardless of Monsanto. You can generally find people saying that there is not, but I can cite a lot of scientific studies and major scientific bodies that say otherwise.
2) A few cases of Monsanto suing a farmer for patent infringement have been turned into this narrative that Monsanto sues anyone for any amount of "contamination" in their field. Percy Schmeiser is often indirectly cited, though his case, as ruled by the Canadian Supreme Court, is 100% his fault because he intentionally selected the accidentally "contaminated" crops which resisted glyphosate by spraying glyphosate and replanting those that survived, ending up with a 97% pure GE canola field which he did not have license for, violating Monsanto's patent on that GE canola. Other cases are sometimes cited, like the one farmer which attempted to circumvent patents by buying GE wheat from a grain tower and planting it, but they all have similar faults in that they ignore what actually happened in order to demonize Monsanto.
3) Monsanto is not controlling the research on GE. It just does not make any sense that the same people who claim that massive oil companies like Enron could not stymie anthropogenic global warming are the same people who claim that the comparatively much smaller Monsanto could control the results of thousands of studies except for a small handful. Sure, they may have some influence here and there, and their blocking of fully independent research (until 2010) is horrendous but that does not invalidate the results of thousands of studies.
4) The fact that Monsanto has produced a variety of chemicals in the past does not matter. I've seen it over and over again, where some person brings up Monsanto's production of Agent Orange without looking at the context of the situation (at government request, during the Vietnam war, with little research done into dioxin contamination, etc) and thinks that they have made this stunning zinger of an argument. I've even seen someone produce a small gish gallopy list of chemicals Monsanto has produced, and seen the list debunked as the original poster was ignoring the individual details and contexts of those chemicals (I did the debunking).
5) Monsanto seemingly only has 17% of the bio-tech market, if I remember correctly. This is often portrayed as some attempt at monopolization by anti-GE activists, but I just do not see it. In fact, I believe that stopping the inane over-regulation of GE crops would decrease the chances of any single monopoly on GE crops being made.There are probably other things I may have added to this post if I could remember them, but do not take this as some form of corporate shilling for or white-washing of Monsanto. I know that, as a company, their bottom line is going to be profits, and that there are some legitimate criticisms I would make of them (such as close connections with a U.S. Supreme Court Justice [one which, may I say, I particularly despise], and, the Senior Advisor to the Commissioner of the US Food and Drug Administration for the Obama administration, Michael R. Taylor). But I do not believe that Monsanto is of much more concern than any other company. I do not find good enough reason to conclude as many others do that Monsanto is an evil organization whose goal is world domination and the enslavement of farmers (which is an obvious exaggeration... hopefully).
Myth 4: Before Monsanto got in the way, farmers typically saved their seeds and re-used them.
By the time Monsanto got into the seed business, most farmers in the U.S. and Europe were already relying on seed that they bought every year from older seed companies. This is especially true of corn farmers, who've been growing almost exclusively commercial hybrids for more than half a century. (If you re-plant seeds from hybrids, you get a mixture of inferior varieties.) But even soybean and cotton farmers who don't grow hybrids were moving in that direction.

OK. Here comes my rant.

I started this blog to rant about the impossibly stupid people and to vent about their stupidity. 

However, I have found that otherwise intelligent people are nevertheless confused about GMO and Organic and quite a few New Age rubbish. 

Some of these people I call "relatives".

And to be fair, these genetically engineered crops and food are all very sciency and it is no wonder some people get confused about it. 

And they don't understand.

And what they don't understand, scares them. 

So I have... restrained myself in addressing the questions here. Questions which I find... not very intelligent, but perhaps understandable.

The problem as I see it, is the US. This is the country that leads the world. But their people can be incredibly stupid. I provided a link of the 11 things that Americans wrongly and frighteningly believe.

29% of Americans believe cloud computing involves actual clouds.

So when someone comes along and tells them about how scientist have been manipulating the DNA of food, don't expect them to understand. Expect them to NOT understand what it entails and to wonder if that means trouble. Then throw in a word for them to hang their pale understanding. A word like "frankenfood" and that will help them file GMO under "scary" and "evil".

The problem is that the US education process may not have prepared the average American to understand science and what is possible and what is not possible. 

For example, the fear that eating GMO food could change your DNA. 

When lack of information and education is so low, I do not even know how to start my rant. But this was my comment on Facebook:
Yes. Please label GMO food. Because besides eating the food (which is not a problem as our digestive system will break down all DNA in the food, so it doesn't matter if it is GMO or not), apparently some people are thinking of MATING with their food - in which case you should be concerned about the DNA of the food, their genetic make-up, and such. So yes, for these people, they want to be sure that the food they mate with are pure. They are sort of like Food Nazis.

So when people ask about GMO foods, the best retort to them is: "You wanna eat it or fuck it?"

Update (4 Aug 2014): A more restrained and balanced assessment on the GMO Food.

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