Dish on GMOs

Monday, February 21, 2011

Michael Pollan, food activist and author, sheds light on the Dept. of Agriculture's approval of GMO foods and lack of labeling on food themselves 


Michael Pollan

Comments [27]

stickler from Canada

I've listened to this program, and I'm sorry to see that food activist Michael Pollan seems to be unaware of the health-damaging effects of GMOs, which are amply documented. See here for evidence,

as well as some other work by Jeffrey Smith.

Feb. 27 2011 12:02 AM

Oh, dear. Michael doesn't know about the approval of GMO papaya in Japan? Or the recent moves in the EU to allow imports?

How embarrassing for him.

So much other misinformation too. Developing countries are rockin' with GMOs--faster rates of adoption than industrialized countries:

Someday when you can't argue for the Monsanto boogey-man, as developing country scientists outpace them, your arguments are going to have to change.

Hope you can evolve.

Feb. 24 2011 08:48 PM

Some MAY think this is hot air, but if people dont want to eat GM foods, why should they be forced to? Regardless, we deserve to know what kind of foods we are eating.
@ Kim: did you even listen to the interview?? Monsanto requires anyone purchasing Round-Up Ready seeds to sign an agreement stating they will not use the seeds for any academic purposes. I certainly wouldn't break a signed statement with that company. Also, they determine what information on their seeds is published.. of course there are no articles about this in academic scientific journals.

If the products aren't harmful, there should be no reason why they can't be studied and labeled.

Feb. 23 2011 02:40 PM
Jamie from NJ

OBAMA has appointed MANY MONSANTO personnel to KEY POSITIONS in Agriculure & USDA (Vilsack & MORE!)
THIS IS WHY. I'm sick. I supported Obama & now I may be a 1-issue voter in 2012. AGAINST GMO!!!!!

Feb. 22 2011 02:11 PM

The controversy of GMO is a lot of hot air. There isn't a shred of epidemiological evidence (meaning a study following a population on GM foods vs a population not on them) published in any legit scientific journal showing they cause any disease or reduce lifespan. (just speculation) Opposition to them is, IMO, mainly due to the nature worship meme.

I suppose I can understand trying to avoid them if you have the money (just in case), but few people do. Billions more human beings would be starving without GMO. Spend your time on a real problem.

Feb. 22 2011 01:28 PM

@Alex from DC
No, there are no labels for GMO ingredients or foods, and Monsanto and others have successfully fought off the push to require labeling - so far.

Feb. 22 2011 10:45 AM
Scott in Boulder from Boulder

Monsanto mutant genetically altered foods don't convey any health benefit have been silently slipped into our food chain for over 15 years. My biggest issue is the lack of transparency and labeling. These food stuffs have been mutated to withstand being repeated spraying with weed killer and have built-in insecticide. This is a serious issue and our EPA, FDA and USDA have seen fit to fill our plates with genetically altered garbage without our knowledge or consent.

Feb. 21 2011 04:44 PM
Gerald Fnord from Beautiful Palos Verdes

@Mason from NYC

Cross-breeding is slower than genetic modification. The proteins coded by cross-bred DNA should be relatively close to ones that are already in the environment, as will its effects on the greater ecosystem, on its own and with our intervention (as opposed to [e.g.]: RoundupReady plants allow us to increase the use of Roundup to levels otherwise unusable, with implications for insects for whom it might not have been a problem before).

Basically, it is a conservative argument: cross-breeding is an ancient technology that hasn't killed us yet.

Genetic modification can represent bringing extremely foreign DNA into play, which can be grabbed not only by the plant but by the microörganisms resident---grabbing and using DNA to see if it can do some good is a great survival stragety for the genes carried by very small things, as even if 99.9999% of the results were lethal, a beneficial 1/10^6 result can overall increase the frequency of the original genes. This happens anyway, but again G.M.O. creation involves exposure to DNA those organisms might never ever see otherwise.

I'm in favour of this research's being space, preferable at L5 or some other place where orbital decay won't ever matter (you might be surprised at how much can survive even a bad re-entry).

Feb. 21 2011 12:36 PM
Gianni from Chatham, NY

I would strongly suggest that everyone read Dr. Huber's letter to Vilsack. The top plant and soil biologists and pathologist CANNOT identify a NEW life form that is suspected to cause spontaneous miscarriages in mammals at a rate of almost 1 out of 2 that is link to either Round Up or RR plants. The organism is unique because he creates pathology in both plants and animals. They are spraying
Please sign a petition calling for an immediate moratorium on the release of the recently approved GMOs. There are currently 110,000 signers: This is a message that will go directly to the White House.
A tragic10 year experiment in Argentina ends in cancer, birth defects and miscarriages:

Feb. 21 2011 12:30 PM
DMG from Brooklyn

I think this is a good example that the "road to hell is paved with good intentions". It always feels better and safer to track and label, but all that tracking and labeling will have huge cost implications. It will require more sophisticated tracking in our food supply, duplication of transport, storage, and processing, and finally tests throughout the process to test for "GMO" (likely a complicated and expensive protein or DNA based test). Why not advocate instead for further independent research of the major health concerns? Monsanto should be open to further, independent USDA testing of their lines; especially if this is framed as a trade-off to requiring expensive and extensive support of labeling.

Feb. 21 2011 11:36 AM

Would genetically modified food (I'm thinking specifically of the salmon) be considered kosher?

Feb. 21 2011 11:35 AM
Amy from Manhattan

On avoiding GMOs, there are also some co's. that label their products "No GMOs" even though they're not organic. So the organic label isn't the only way to know.

Feb. 21 2011 11:31 AM
Alex from DC

Aren't there number labels that have to be applied to all GMO fruits and vegetables?

Just like organic

Feb. 21 2011 11:29 AM
Amy from Manhattan

On the 5% exemption for GMOs, once a field is contaminated, can the genes from the GM plants spread to more of the plants there? Seems to me it'd be even easier for them to spread within the same field than from 1 field to another.

Feb. 21 2011 11:27 AM
Alex from DC

Aren't there number labels that have to be applied to all GMO fruits and vegetables?

Just like organic

Feb. 21 2011 11:26 AM
Linda Francis

Purdue adds Marigold petals to its chicken feed which is a powerful yellow to dye the chicken skins yellow. It also is a Pesticide- a source of pyrethrum- a so called "organic" pesticide used widely. People who eat this chicken are adding yet another poison to their systems. Which poison will overload the body and result in disease?

Feb. 21 2011 11:25 AM
Susan from nyc

Is it true that the GMO seeds do not grow after one season and that farmers have to buy the seeds from Monsanto every year? If this is true, then farmers become slaves of Monsanto because they would have to pay whatever the price Monsanto sets for the seeds every year and once GMOs are used, the fields are contaminated for normal seeds.

Feb. 21 2011 11:23 AM
Amy from Manhattan

It's not only that pollen from genetically modified crops gets blown onto non-modified (incl. organic) fields & incorporated into the crops there, but the corporation that produced the GM crop then sues the owners of those fields for using their patented seed w/out permission, even though the owners didn't want to use it & had no control over it.

Feb. 21 2011 11:21 AM
elaine from si

i and friends of mine, have several severe food allergies that includes nuts and seeds. i recently read that Lays foods was going to include genetically modified sunflower [one of many severe allergies] and i've see my friends suddenly have an asthma attack over some other previously 'unknown' foods.
how in hell are we supposed to know what's even safe anymore. we've all already cut out most processed food, but basic foods? it's not safe for us, not to mention the insurance companies would like to count us out on this one.

Feb. 21 2011 11:19 AM
MikeInBrklyn from Clinton Hill

When all is said and done, isn't this more about companies like Monsanto cornering the seed market?

Feb. 21 2011 11:14 AM
Mason from NYC

Please tell me the difference between nature's genetic modification of food (evolution) and science modifing a food plant. I understand that some genetic foods could raise havac with fauna in the area and upset the ecological balance...but eating the food is not good because...why?

Feb. 21 2011 11:12 AM
stephen from prospect heights

Science Friday this week asserted that GMO's are not a threat and as cultivators we have been engineering crops for millenia. I am confused. Please explain.

Feb. 21 2011 11:12 AM
Sam Leopold from Rockland County

Can Michael tell us why Alfalfa? It is not hard to grow. It's cheap. It grows everywhere. It feeds our bees. What's happening?

Feb. 21 2011 11:07 AM
Gianni from Chatham, NY

Roundup or Roundup-Ready Crops May Be Causing Animal Miscarriages and Infertility
Excerpts here,full letter:

One of the nation’s senior soil scientists alerted the federal government to a newly discovered organism that may have the potential to cause infertility and spontaneous abortion in farm animals, raising significant concerns about human health..

Dear Secretary Vilsack:
A team of senior plant and animal scientists have recently brought to my attention the discovery of an electron microscopic pathogen that appears to significantly impact the health of plants, animals, and probably human beings. ... it is widespread, very serious, and is in much higher concentrations in Roundup Ready (RR) soybeans and corn—suggesting a link with the RR gene or more likely the presence of Roundup. This organism appears NEW to science!

We are informing the USDA of our findings at this early stage, ...such approval could be a calamity. ... the only reasonable action at this time would be to delay deregulation at least until sufficient data has exonerated the RR system, if it does.
... I believe the threat we are facing from this pathogen is unique and of a high risk status. In layman’s terms, it should be treated as an emergency.
A diverse set of researchers ... the following disturbing scenario:
Unique Physical Properties
... It is able to reproduce and appears to be a micro-fungal-like organism. If so, it would be the first such micro-fungus ever identified. There is strong evidence that this infectious agent promotes diseases of both plants and mammals, which is very rare.

...The pathogen may explain the escalating frequency of infertility and spontaneous abortions... in US cattle, dairy, swine, and horse operations. These include recent reports of infertility rates in dairy heifers of over 20%, and spontaneous abortions in cattle as high as 45%.
For example, 450 of 1,000 pregnant heifers fed wheatlege experienced spontaneous abortions. Over the same period, another 1,000 heifers from the same herd that were raised on hay had no abortions. High concentrations of the pathogen were confirmed on the wheatlege, which likely had been under weed management using glyphosate.

[Because]... of this new animal pathogen in Roundup Ready crops, and its association with plant and animal diseases that are reaching epidemic proportions, we request USDA’s participation in a multi-agency investigation, and an immediate moratorium on the deregulation of RR crops...
It is urgent to examine whether the side-effects of glyphosate ...To properly evaluate these factors, we request access to the relevant USDA data.
I have studied plant pathogens for more than 50 years. ... It deserves immediate attention with significant resources to avoid a general collapse of our critical agricultural infrastructure.
COL (Ret.) Don M. Huber
Emeritus Professor, Purdue University
APS Coordinator, USDA National Plant Disease

Feb. 21 2011 11:04 AM
Sam Leopold from Rockland County

Please give a plug to Organic Consumer's "Millions Against Monsanto" campaign to get labeling onto our food.

Feb. 21 2011 11:03 AM
a g from n j

we have sci-fi caricatures for legislators "frankenfood" is not going to concern washington it's the k street $ folks

Feb. 21 2011 10:41 AM
Theresa Lam from NJ

Did I miss this interview?

Feb. 21 2011 10:36 AM

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