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Unintended Effects of Genetic Manipulation
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Posted: September 2014

A New Book on Genetically Modified Organisms

The GMO Deception: What You Need to Know about the Food, Corporations, and Government Agencies Putting Our Families and Our Environment at Risk, edited by Sheldon Krimsky and Jeremy Gruber (393 pages). New York: Skyhorse Publishing, Inc.

Reviewed by Colleen Cordes

This new book, edited by Sheldon Krimsky of Tufts University and Jeremy Gruber of the Council for Responsible Genetics, provides a major new resource for individuals and organizations interested in broadly exploring the implications and consequences of the commercial rush to genetically manipulate food.

It includes a comprehensive collection of essays that examine impacts on the quality, safety, and fair distribution of food; the welfare of farmers; the humane treatment of animals; and sustainable agriculture. Many of the 57 chapters are republished from articles originally published in GeneWatch, the council’s magazine. Some were commissioned specifically for this book, including “Why Context Matters,” by Craig Holdrege, director of The Nature Institute and a biologist. The other authors of the essays are scientists, science writers, and public health advocates from around the world.

With a foreword by leading consumer advocate Ralph Nader, the book features sections on the following major areas of concern about genetically modified foods:

  • Safety Studies: Human and Environmental Health
  • Labeling and Consumer Activism
  • Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) in the Developing World
  • Corporate Control of Agriculture
  • Regulations, Policy, and Law
  • Ecology and Sustainability
  • The Ethics of GMOs
  • Modifying Animals for Food

The book includes an 11-page guide that lists further resources on these issues and describes seven actions that concerned individuals can take to support more rigorous regulations and risk assessments for GMOs – including the labeling of GMO products – and to avoid GMOs in their own families’ diet.

The book’s conclusion includes these summary statements by its co-editor, Sheldon Krimsky, professor of humanities and social sciences at Tufts, and an adjunct professor in the Department of Public Health and Community Medicine at Tufts’ School of Medicine:

“There is no credible evidence that GMOs have contributed to a sustainable agriculture or to reducing the carbon footprint of food production. The general consensus of the authors in this volume is that GMOs are responsible for increasing chemical inputs since they are tied to the seeds. Most of the gains in drought resistance have come through traditional breeding, agronomy, and ecological agricultural practices, and not GMOs. Dozens of articles have been published about the effect of glyphosate on animals and plants. With GMOs, glyphosate use has become ubiquitous. Findings in the scientific literature are disturbing: glyphosate-based herbicides are toxic and endocrine disruptors in human-cell lines; glyphosate induces carcinogenicity in mouse skin, it provokes cell division dysfunction, causes teratogenic effects on vertebrates, and produces adverse effects on human placental cells. In the absence of evidence that genetically modified foods are cheaper, produce greater yields, or even work particularly well lies one widely recognized conclusion: GMO foods provide no added nutritional or cost benefit to the consumer.”

“There is no scientific consensus on the safety and agricultural value of GM crops.”

“Sometimes it takes years and focused research programs to uncover the hazards of products that have become commonplace. DDT, PCBs, asbestos, tobacco, lead, and benzene are just a few examples of products that were marketed for decades before their danger to human health was documented. As more and more crops and processed foods containing GMOs find their way onto supermarket shelves, the public is justified in demanding a full and transparent investigation.”

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