The roots of the story go back decades, but Engdahl explains the science of "biological and genetic-modification of plants and other life forms first" came out of US research labs in the 1970s when no one noticed. They soon would because the Reagan administration was determined to make America dominant in this emerging field. The biotech agribusiness industry was especially favored, and companies in the early 1980s raced to develop GMO plants, livestock and GMO-based animal drugs. Washington made it easy for them with an unregulated, business-friendly climate that persisted ever since under Republicans and Democrats alike.
Food safety and public health issues aren't considered vital if they conflict with profits. So the entire population is being used as lab rats for these completely new, untested and potentially hazardous products. And leading the effort to develop them is a company with a "long record of fraud, cover-up, bribery," deceit and disdain for the public interest - Monsanto.
Its first product was saccharin that was later proved to be a carcinogen. It then got into chemicals, plastics and became notorious for Agent Orange that was used to defoliate Vietnam jungles in the 1960s and 1970s and exposed hundreds of thousands of civilians and US troops to deadly dioxin, one of the most toxic of all known compounds.
Along with others in the industry, Monsanto is also a shameless polluter. It has a history of secretly dumping some of the most lethal substances known in water and soil and getting away with it. Today on its web site, however, the company ignores its record and calls itself "an agricultural company (applying) innovation and technology to help farmers around the world be successful, produce healthier foods, better animal feeds and more fiber, while also reducing agriculture's impact on our environment." Engdahl proves otherwise in his thorough research that's covered below in detail.
In spite of its past, Monsanto and other GMO giants got unregulated free rein in the 1980s and especially after George HW Bush became president in 1989. His administration opened "Pandora's Box" so no "unnecessary regulations would hamper them. Thereafter, "not one single new regulatory law governing biotech or GMO products was passed then or later (despite all the) unknown risks and possible health dangers."
In a totally unfettered marketplace, foxes now guard the henhouse because the system was made self-regulatory. An elder Bush Executive Order assured it. It ruled GMO plants and foods were "substantially equivalent" to ordinary ones of the same variety like corn, wheat or rice. This established the principle of "substantial equivalence" as the "lynchpin of the whole GMO revolution." It was pseudo-scientific mumbo jumbo, but was now law, and Engdahl equated it to a potential biologically catastrophic "Andromeda Strain," no longer the world of science fiction.
Monsanto chose milk as its first GMO product, genetically manipulated it with recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone (rBGH), and marketed it under the trade name, Posilac. In 1993, the Clinton FDA declared it safe and approved it for sale before any consumer use information was available. It's now sold in every state and promoted as a way cows can produce up to 30% more milk. Problems, however, soon appeared. Farmers reported their stock burned out up to two years sooner than usual, serious infections developed, and some animals couldn't walk. Other problems included the udder inflammation mastitis as well as deformed calves being born.
The information was suppressed, and rBGH milk is unlabeled so there's no way consumers can know. They also weren't told this hormone causes leukemia and tumors in rats, and a European Commission committee concluded humans drinking rBGH milk risk breast and prostate cancer. The EU thus banned the product, but not the US. Despite clear safety issues, the FDA failed to act and allows hazardous milk to be sold below the radar. It was just the beginning.
The Fox Guards the Henhouse
Engdahl reviewed the Pusztai affair, the toll it took on his health, and the modest vindication he finally got. Already out of a job, the 300-year old British Royal Society attacked him in 1999 and claimed his research was "flawed in many aspects of design, execution and analysis and that no conclusions should be drawn from it." It was another blow to a distinguished man who deserved better than what Engdahl called a "recognizable political smear" that also tarnished the Royal Society's credibility for making it. It had no basis in fact and was done because Pusztai's bombshell threatened to derail Britain's hugely profitable GMO industry and do the same thing to its US counterpart.
As for Pusztai, after five years, several heart attacks, and a ruined career, he finally learned what happened after he announced his findings. Monsanto was the culprit. The company complained to Clinton who, in turn, alerted Tony Blair. Pusztai's findings had to be quashed and he discredited for making them. He was nonetheless able to reply with the help of the highly respected British scientific journal, The Lancet. In spite of Royal Society threats against him, it's editor published his article, but at a cost. After publication, the Society and biotech industry attacked The Lancet for its action. It was a further shameless act.
As a footnote, Pusztai now lectures around the world on his GMO research and is a consultant to start-up groups researching the health effects of these foods. Along with him and his wife, his co-author, Professor Stanley Ewen, also suffered. He lost his position at the University of Aberdeen, and Engdahl notes that the practice of suppressing unwanted truths and punishing whistleblowers is the rule, not the exception. Industry demands are powerful, especially when they affect the bottom line.
The Blair government went even further. It commissioned the private firm, Grainseed, to conduct a three-year study to prove GMO food safety. London's Observer newspaper later got UK Ministry of Agriculture documents on it that showed tests were rigged and produced "some strange science." At least one Grainseed researcher manipulated the data to "make certain seeds in the trials appear to perform better than they really did."
Nonetheless, the Ministry recommended a GMO corn variety be certified, and the Blair government issued a new code of conduct under which "any employee of a state-funded research institute who dared to speak out on (the) findings into GMO plants could face dismissal, be sued for breach of contract or face a court injunction." In other words, whisleblowing was now illegal even if public health was at stake. Nothing would be allowed to stop the agribusiness juggernaut from proceeding unimpeded.
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