“GENETICALLY MODIFIED FOOD CLAIMS MISLEADING” – AND A RESPONSE
[Earle Lockerby, “Genetically Modified Food Claims Misleading,” Published in the Journal Pioneer, May 25, 2017]
In a letter to the editor in the May 19 issue of the Journal-Pioneer, Kevin J. Arsenault opposes genetically-modified (GM) foods and decries the fact that GM foods are not labeled as such. While I am not going to be drawn into this debate, I do wish to point out that Mr. Arsenault has presented erroneous and misleading information concerning the health effects of glyphosphate on consumers of GM food. Glyphosphate (sic) is a herbicide frequently used by farmers in conjunction with growing GM crops. He writes that “the UN has ruled [glyphosphate] is ‘probably’ carcogenic. (sic)”
Mr. Arsenault is likely referring to a 2015 report of the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), an arm of the World Health Organization (WHO), itself a UN agency. The report concluded that glyphosphate is “probably carcinogenic.” However, with respect to any impact it might have on the consumers of GM food, regulatory agencies in the U.S., Europe and elsewhere, largely rejected this finding because it was based on questionable quality of the studies and because it focused on whether glyphosphate might cause cancer in workers exposed to extreme doses over extended periods of time, not whether traces of it in our food pose a danger. Nevertheless, the IRAC finding has been widely circulated by anti-chemical and anti-GM advocacy groups that argue for bans or tighter restrictions in relation to GM food.
A study conducted in the early 1990s by the WHO, the United Nations Environmental Programme and the International Labour Organization (see http://apps.who. int/iris/handle/10665/40044) concluded that glyphosphate residues in crops and edible animal tissues “are negligible.” A 2016 joint report of two UN organizations, the WHO and the Food and Agriculture Organization (see http://www.who.int/foodsafety/ jmprsummary2016.pdf ) went further. It concluded that “glyphosphate is unlikely to be genotoxic at anticipated dietary exposures” and that “glyphosphate is unlikely to pose a carcinogenic risk to humans from exposure through diet.”
Earle Lockerby, Darnley
[Kevin J Arsenault, “Genetically Modified Food Claims NOT Misleading,” Sent to the Journal Pioneer, May 25, 2017]
Earle Lockerby’s May 25 Letter in the Journal-Pioneer entitled, “Genetically Modified Food Claims Misleading,” stated that I “…presented erroneous and misleading information concerning the health effects of glyphosphate (sic) on consumers of GM food,” in a letter which appeared in the May 19 edition of your paper. Not true!
When I referenced the claim by the UN that glyphospate is “probably” carcinogenic – which Mr. Lockerby also cites in his letter, and acknowledges is accurate – I was thinking about the heavy applications of glyphospate poison which Island farmers spray on their GM canola and corn crops every year (the vast majority of which are Monsanto’s GM varieties), NOT the glyphospate residue on GM food. I had in mind all the unsuspecting children playing in yards, parks and playgrounds during the summer who are breathing glyphospate directly into their lungs from the “over-spray,” carried by our seemingly-perpetual Island breezes, as farmers repeatedly douse their crops with glyphospate week after week.
Nowhere did I say or suggest that the potential carcinogenic impact of glyphospate was from eating GM food. In fact, I explicitly stated that many consumers would – if labels identified food as GM – choose not to purchase it “…because they are aware that most GM crops are altered to tolerate pesticides, and that growing GM crops invariably leads to increased pesticide use over time,” and that “…they would much rather support a less industrialized and chemical-intensive method of food production.”
If Mr. Lockerby wants to eat GM food, by all means, fill your boots – we live in a free society. And I would hope that Mr. Lockerby would also support my choice not to eat GM food and support its production by buying it. But unfortunately, I’m denied that choice because our federal government won’t make labeling of GM food mandatory; so maybe it’s not such a free society after all, eh? That issue aside, your readers can trust that nothing I wrote in my previous letter was either erroneous or misleading.