Whether on a box of cereal, carton of eggs, or on the side of a chocolate bar, labels like “organic”, “free-range”, and “gluten free” are everywhere these days. They are, at least according to the manufacturers, there to help consumers make an informed decision when it comes to their purchases. One label that recently has seen a meteoric rise in usage is the “Non-GMO Project Verified” label, which identifies a product as not containing a genetically modified organism. At least, that’s what I, and virtually everyone on the planet who has seen this label, believe it to mean. In reality, products with this label slapped on the side of it may still contain a GMO, meaning that my Non-GMO Project Verified pink Himalayan salt, mined in Pakistan, might still contain a GMO!
Brace yourself, as this is going to be a weird one!
According to their website, the Non-GMO Project was created in 2007 by two grocery stores, The Natural Grocery Company and The Big Carrot Natural Food Market. Both companies believe that in the absence of credible independent long-term feeding studies, the safety of GMOs is unknown. They also take issue with the fact that most GMOs have been engineered to withstand the direct application of herbicide and/or to produce an insecticide. Noting that the herbicide RoundUp – which in March 2015, the World Health Organisation (WHO) determined its key ingredient to be “probably carcinogenic to humans” – has seen a fifteen fold increases in its use since their introduction. Sensing the public’s simmering distrust of GMOs (which they helped foster), and knowing that America is not one of the sixty-four countries that require labelling of genetically modified food, they saw a gap in the market! They came together with the goal of “creating a standardised definition for non-GMO products in the North American food industry”, as they believed that the American consumer has the right to know what is in their food, and thus, the Non-GMO label was created.
There is so much to unravel here, starting with the simple fact that the ability to genetically modify something is a tool rather than a specific group of food. To say that the “safety of GMOs is unknown” is like saying “the safety of a hammer is unknown”; it simply doesn’t make any sense. However, companies like the Non-GMO Project, who make this kind of argument, don’t care, as they are banking on the ignorance of their target demographic. In reality, each GMO is unique and each must be rigorously tested to ensure their safety before they are allowed on the market.
When the Non-GMO Project says on their website that there are no “credible independent long-term feeding studies”, they are essentially showing us their hand and exposing their biases. Why do they not consider the the hundreds, if not thousands, of research papers published in reputable high-impact journals investigating the safety of GMOs as “credible”? The simple answer is because their business model is based on fear, and admitting to their customers that there is a scientific consensus on the safety of GMOs on the market would not just be detrimental to their bottom line, it would nullify their entire company!
The reason why they ask for “independent” research is not because it backs up their position on GMOs – it doesn’t – it’s because it subtly implies to the consumer that all industry funded research is biased and can be automatically discounted. As I have said many times, yes, you should always be skeptical of research coming from a company that is set to benefit from said research, but to promote boycotting of a specific source of research shows a deep lack of understanding of how scientific progress is made. Should we ignore all research from pharmaceutical companies investigating the non-existing link between vaccines and autism? What about research looking into climate change from environmental agencies? Or how about data from NASA saying the Earth isn’t flat?
Saying they want “long-term” studies without defining a time frame is a classic get-out-of-jail and scare tactic. How long is long enough? Because it is purposely undefined, they can simply dismiss research that contradicts their ideology by simply saying “and what about the next year”. It’s also a way of scaring their target demographic by implying some impending unknown doom over the horizon without having to give any evidence.
One question I would like to ask the Non-GMO Project is why they believe the European Union funded, decade long research projects investigating the environmental, animal, and human impact of GMOs are not “credible”, “independent” or “long-term”. Is it perhaps because their conclusion that GMOs on the market are safe doesn’t align with the world view of those working at the Non-GMO Project?
Since 1982, the European Union has spent over €300 million on more than 500 independent research groups allowing them to investigate the safety of GMOs. The fact that this data is ignored by the Non-GMO Project shows that their opposition to GMOs is not based in scientific fact, but is in fact a complete and deliberate miscommunication of the technology.
So what evidence does the Non-GMO Project have of GMOs potential harm to the public? According to their website, 300 scientists, physicians, and scholars have signed a statement to state that the “scientific consensus on GMOs frequently repeated in the media is an artificial construct that has been falsely perpetuated”. The paper they link to is titled ‘No scientific consensus on GMO safety’, and was published in Environmental Sciences Europe. This journal might sound familiar to some, as it is the one which republished the highly discredited and, in my opinion, utterly unethical paper “Long-term toxicity of a Roundup herbicide and an Roundup-tolerant genetically modified maize”. This was the paper where the authors tortured rats, who are known for spontaneously growing tumours, by allowing them to remain alive while 25% of their body weight was tumours so they could get pointless, unscientific pictures. It’s also the paper that many anti-GMO activists tout as the undeniable evidence that GMOs cause harm, when in actuality, it shows that if you drink herbicide, you will live longer.
The no-consensus paper is very reminiscent of the “List of Scientists Rejecting Evolution” which was used over a decade ago to show that there was no consensus on the theory of evolution. It’s nothing more than an argument ad populum, and holds no weight, which will be the reason why it is published in such a poor journal. It will make no waves in the scientific community and, from what I have seen, it has been mercilessly ridiculed. But it was never designed to advance our knowledge as a species – it’s made so anti-GMO zealots can turn around and say, “Well actually there is no-consensus on GMO safety. Have you not seen the peer-reviewed literature on the subject”.
So, what is the calibre of scientists, physicians, and scholars who signed their name to such a thought-provoking statement. Well, you would be interested to know that the list includes people like Stephanie Seneff an MIT professor who believes that one in two children will be autistic by 2025 by simply extrapolating back from current trends and therefore presumably thinks that number will increase indefinitely. In more recent years, she has worked with Moms Across America, where she arranged for five childhood vaccines (influenza, MMR, Pneumococcal, Hep B, and T Dap) to be tested for trace amounts of glyphosate using a method that prone to interference at the ranges she was investigating. With her inaccurate results in hand, she concluded that trace amounts of the herbicide discovered in vaccines were the true cause of the increases in autism diagnoses we have seen in recent years. Seneff then teamed up with Kerri Rivera, of the Genesis II Church of Health & Healing cult, to promote giving autistic children bleach enamas to cure them.
Perhaps the most hilarious part of the no-consensus paper is where the authors declare that they have no competing interests. I find this utterly preposterous as one of the authors is Vandana Shiva, a woman whose job it is to manufacture risk and undue skepticism so she can charge exuberant amounts (up to $40,000) to give lectures where she fetishises the past, yearning for a time when everything was grown organically, without fertilisers or pesticides and there was no hunger… a time that never existed!
India’s own intelligence bureau, in a leaked classified report, raised concerns about Vandana’s connections to foreign-funded NGOs, saying that they are hampering India’s growth and development. Yet, despite all this, some, especially here in the west, see her as a hero when, if she had her way, a large chunk of the world’s population would be wiped off the face of the planet
One of the main reasons, at least according to their website, why the Non-GMO Project opposes GMOs is because of their connection with herbicides – specifically the herbicide, RoundUp. They note that the WHO determined that its key ingredient (glyphosate) is “probably carcinogenic to humans”.
To be blunt, the WHO’s report misrepresented the science in the papers they were referencing. For those who are interested, myself and fellow co-host of The League of Nerds, James, made a video where we discuss the IARC report and show how embarrassingly void it is and talk about how it was tarnishing the reputation of the WHO. One part of the story we did not cover, because it was not known at the time, was the corruption that lies at the core of the report. Christopher Portier, the scientist who initially encouraged IARC to conduct the glyphosate analysis and served as a special advisor to the committee that drafted the final IARC report, was on the payroll of a litigation group who wanted to sue over alleged glyphosate victims. This only came out after Christopher was forced to admit his conflict of interest under threat of perjury whilst being deposed for a court case against Monsanto.
Despite the Non-GMO Project rattling their saber about the amount of herbicides used on GMOs, their label has nothing to do with herbicide. Yes, glyphosate can be used on GM-resistant crops, but it can also be used on non-GMOs as a drying agent before harvest. Yes, some GMOs can produce their own insecticide, but those who don’t can still be sprayed with the same insecticides the GMO is producing, only now it will be in a far higher concentration. It’s deceptively implied that food with the Non-GMO Project sticker on the side won’t be contaminated with any pesticides, but that simply is not the case! Now even those who promote organic food are waking up to this deception.
Pointing out that different countries have different laws regarding the labelling of GMOs is not a valid argument, in my opinion. Yes, sixty-four countries, including here in the UK, require GMOs to be labelled, but there are also seventy-three countries where homosexuality is illegal. Would this be a valid argument for discriminating against homosexuals? Should we label homosexuals? The Non-Heterosexual Verification Project, if you will.
Perhaps the final nail in the coffin for the Non-GMO Project Verified label is the fact that products it is on may still contain a GMO. According to their own project standards, a product can be contaminated with up to 5% and still have a Non-GMO Project Verified label slapped on the side of it.
Call me crazy, but surely the amount of GMOs allowed in a product with a label that says “Non-GMO Project Verified” should be zero! The fact that there is an allowance means that Non-GMO Verified doesn’t mean non-GMO. As Know Ideas Media pointed out in one of his videos, there is no threshold for products that contain the “Proudly GMO” label, meaning that you could have a product that has both a “Proudly GMO” and “Non-GMO Project Verified” on its packaging.
Did you ever wonder why products with the Non-GMO Project label don’t say “contains zero GMOs” or “GMO-free”? It’s because the company doesn’t want to mislead the consumer!
The Non-GMO Project has been known to put its label on product that are either well-known to have no genetically modified variant available, such as oranges, coffee, and blueberries, or on food where genetic modification isn’t even relevant, such as water, kitty litter, paper towels, insect repellent, and my pink Himalayan salt, mined in Pakistan.
In the defence of the company who mined my pink Himalayan salt, they do state that the reason they have the Non-GMO Verification label on their product is to distinguish them from other manufacturers who add corn-based additives to their salt. The only problem is that these additives are in such small amounts that they would fall well under the Non-GMO Projects allowance, allowing them to also have the non-GMO label. Once again, I feel like I’m taking crazy pills!
The Non-GMO Project Verification is a scam, in my opinion. It’s predatory marketing disguised as a grassroots movement relying on, and amplifying, the ignorance of its own consumers. It survives by distorting science and promoting a false narrative that GMOs pose a real health risk. The company ignores the scientific consensus on GMOs, opting instead to promote fantasies from people who, if they had their own way, a large chunk of the world’s population would be wiped off the face of the planet and autistic children would be getting bleach enemas from cultists. The fact that the label doesn’t necessarily mean that the product is GMO-free is as deceptive as putting a “does not contain human” label on soylent green. The label is meaningless, and is just a way to scare consumers into paying a premium!
The cherry on top of this story is that the Monarch Butterfly that is used in the company logo is a natural GMO that contains DNA from a virus found in a parasitic wasp, which gives it resistance to specific infections. Says it all really!