Last night, Public Broadcasting Station (PBS) KCTS 9 in Seattle changed their programming schedule to air a one-sided program on genetically engineered (GE) crops called, “Next Meal: Engineering Food.” This program was originally scheduled to air on Wednesday, November 13 at 7:30 PM. The program that was scheduled for last night, “Lake Tahoe: Can We Save It?” was switched just days ago.
Executive Director of Programming, Randy Brinson made the decision to air Next Meal last night instead, despite hundreds of calls and e-mails in protest from the Washington State Grassroots Coalition for Yes on I-522, the initiative to label genetically modified foods (GMOs) in this state. The reason he gave for the switch was that it was “timely.” Indeed. Just in time for the election.
This program looks like the propaganda put forth by the chemical industries who are promoting GMOs. On the program, they trotted out an array of plant biologists, all singing the praises of GE crops and how they are environmentally friendly and are going to feed the world. They presented the industry’s favorite public relations crops: Flavr Savr tomato, golden rice, sorghum, and drought-resistant rice. Here’s a newsflash: none of those crops exist on the grocery shelves. Not one. There is only one drought-tolerant GE variety on the FDA approval list, and that is corn.
They want you to believe that their genetic tampering is benign; they’re just making things taste better, stay firmer, with higher vitamin content or protein digestibility. They want you to believe they are merely inserting genes from one plant into another to achieve these traits. Indeed, one of the plant biologists said so in the video. Even in the very few cases (Flavr Savr tomato, golden rice) where this is true, it is only half true. In addition to other plant genes (tomato, daffodil), there are also bacteria (E-coli, Erwinia uredovora) genes inserted.
According to the FDA approval list, almost all of the genetic modification entails inserting a gene from either a bacterium or a virus to make the plant resistant to direct applications of herbicides (herbicide tolerant, HT), or to make them resistant to insects (Bacillus thuringiensis, Bt). This is hardly the same as conventional cross-breeding. They are not crossing two different species in the same genus, or even plants from two different genera in the same family, they are crossing organisms that aren’t even in the same kingdom!
It was admitted in the program that some of the genetic engineering is for HT, while showing corn being harvested as the narrator tells us that the HT corn is mainly used to feed livestock and for biofuel. Why then do all the FDA approvals for corn say that they are approved for “both human and animal consumption”? In 2011, according to USDA records, 88% of all corn grown in the U.S. was genetically modified for either HT or Bt or both (called stacked traits). Also in 2011, 94% of the soybeans grown were HT. The truth is: if you are eating corn or soy in any form it is GMO, unless it’s organic.
The program narrator informed us that, “The World Health Organization and the U.S. National Academies have stated that the GE foods available today are safe to eat.” An unbiased approach would have necessitated the inclusion of the Academy of Environmental Medicine position statement on GMO food stating that “because GM foods have not been properly tested for human consumption, and because there is ample evidence of probable harm,” they call on physicians to educate the public and warn their patients to avoid GM foods. They might also have mentioned that the Institute for Science in Society [ISIS], “A group of 93 scientists [and counting] from all over the world deplore the disinformation over the safety of GMOs and expose the lack of empirical and scientific evidence on which the false claims of ‘consensus’ on safety are being made.” But they did not.
Finally, the program portrayed Roundup as fairly benign, much less toxic than other herbicides, implying that GE crops are actually helping the environment.
If this program was merely informational, as Mr. Brinson insisted, then where are the scientists presenting another point of view?
Where is Dr. Doug Gurian-Sherman telling us that GE crops do not increase yield, as claimed?
Where is Dr. Charles Benbrook of the Washington State University, telling us that pesticide use has increased since the advent of GE crops and not the converse, as claimed by the industry? In fact, the use of glyphosate (active ingredient in Roundup) has increased exponentially.
Where is Dr. Don Huber telling us that these herbicides are destroying the beneficial and necessary microbes in the soil, increasing plant diseases and is not sustainable?
Where are Dr. Judy Carman and Dr. Art Dunham (veterinarian) telling us of the harm to farm animals that are fed GMO grains?
Where is Dr. Arpad Pusztai, who was involved in the pioneering research on the Bt potato, telling us of the harm he reported to rats when fed Bt potato? Where is he, telling us that there is “no means of directing the gene transfer … You are shooting blindfold … genetic insertion causes mutations … You can’t say where it [the genetic bit] landed … you don’t know how things were reshuffled.”
Where is Dr. Ignacio Chapela telling us of the GE corn contamination of the indigenous maize in Mexico?
Where are the doctors from the University of Cordoba telling us that that the incidence rate of birth defects in South America has increased by 347% from 1997 to 2008, which they claim is linked to areal spraying of glyphosate on soy crops?
Where are Drs. Stephanie Seneff, Anthony Samsel, Gilles-Eric Séralini, Siriporn Thongprakaisang Marc, and Gasnier, telling us about the endocrine disrupting and carcinogenic effects of glyphosate and GMOs in animals and humans?
Where are Drs. Yousef, Markaverich, Siepmann, Antoniou, Ermakova, Arbuckle, Richard, Benachour, Paganelli, and Mesnage telling us about the toxic effects of glyphosate on the reproduction system of amphibians, lab animals, farm animals, and humans?
Where are all these scientists? Mainstream media has consistently told only one side of the story, making it appear as if everyone on the other side of the issue is an anti-science reactionary. Even you, PBS? What a disappointment. We trusted you.
And the final insult is: this PBS series is about the science of sustainability! GE crops are anything but.