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Obama Should Protect Citizens' Health, not Monsanto’s GMOs

Welcome to the laboratory-rat cage, folks. We’re all being experimented on by Monsanto and the federal government.

In April, President Barack Obama signed HR 933 into law. While this appropriations bill was fairly standard, a biotech rider included in it was not.

This biotech rider-made-law has been coined the Monsanto Protection Act by those who believe in food sovereignty. Why? Simply put, the rider says the Agriculture Department must approve the growing, harvesting, and selling of GMOs (genetically modified organisms). It shields GMO producers from litigation that could be brought against them for health problems incurred by people due to consuming their genetically-modified crops.

As the world’s largest producer of GMOs, mega corporation Monsanto stands to benefit immensely from this new law.

What are GMOs? Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) are plants or animals that have had genes from bacteria, viruses, or other plants and animals inserted into their DNA. In other words, genes are being transferred across species by scientists in labs. They are manmade organisms that do not occur in nature. GMO seeds are usually modified to give them resistance to insects and disease, and to withstand application of herbicides and insecticides, toxic chemicals that would injure or kill organic crops.

Ironically enough, the same corporation that makes GMO seeds to withstand herbicide is the very same corporation that makes Round-Up, a popular, widely-used broad spectrum herbicide: Monsanto. It’s as though they’re attempting to create both the disease, and the cure- for profit, of course.

Advocates of Monsanto and GMOs claim their genetically altered seeds offer increased crop yield and could help feed the world’s exploding population. Opponents know this supposed "benefit" is short-term at best, and the costs of GMO to future generations and our environment is too high a price to pay.

When scientists play god without fully understanding the possible effects of their actions, the potential for far-reaching catastrophe with long lasting effects is enormous—and so it is with genetic tinkering.

Inserting genes into other species may produce unintended results. While GMOs may exhibit the properties Monsanto seeks, there’s no way of knowing how else these genetic changes have affected the plant. They may render plants toxic or allergenic.

GMO seeds cultivated in the field are not contained. They are free to interbreed with native plant species. The offspring produced by such mating is another GMO plant, not an Indigenous plant species. Less nutritious, synthetically produced GMO seeds are now contaminating our landscapes, free to compete with Indigenous species that are millions of years old. These natural, Indigenous plants have medicinal properties. Manmade GMOs threaten to drive our Indigenous plants to extinction. Our Native plant species cannot be replaced once they are gone.

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GMOs are also producing super pests. Like everything living, insects and weeds adapt to survive. When GMOs eliminate pests that are not resistant, only the resistant ones are left to breed. This creates a vicious circle where GMOs and the toxic chemical soup needed to keep pests at bay must continually get more poisonous and deadly in order to keep up.

DNA, including altered DNA ingested from GMO plants and animals, does not always break down completely in the gut. Studies now show that consuming GMO crops may cause allergic reactions, antibiotic resistance, gastrointestinal and lung problems, obesity, and even cancer.

Studies have now shown there’s a link between GMOs, pesticide use, and the extinction of bees that pollinate the very food we need to live. If we fail to curb GMO and pesticide use, and bees go extinct, we will follow soon after.

Other countries around the world have recognized the danger of GMOs. More than 60 countries have either restricted GMO use or banned it completely, including Australia, Japan, and most of Europe. Here in the U.S., we can’t even manage to get legislation passed that will mandate the labeling of GMO products.

While campaigning in 2007, Obama had said he would order mandatory labeling GMO foods if elected President. To date, genetically engineered foods remain unlabeled. As a result, most people have no idea they’re buying or ingesting GMO food and remain largely oblivious to the danger. GMOs now predominate grocery store shelves. Besides the produce section, companies like Nestle, Kellogg's, Pepsi, Coca-Cola, Campbell’s, Hershey, and a host of others have GMO ingredients.

Monsanto’s influence over the President is suspect to those who oppose GMOs in favor of all-natural, Native seeds, which are now in danger of going extinct thanks to genetically modified seeds that are infiltrating natural landscapes like a cancer.

As President, Obama has appointed agents of Monsanto to key government posts within the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture), and the FDA (Food and Drug Administration), where one would think it was a clear conflict. In 2009, Obama filled the post of Director of the National Institute of Food and Agriculture with Roger Beachy, former director of the Monsanto Danforth Center. Beachy openly advocated for GMOs after the fact in The Scientific American. Former Monsanto Vice President for Public Policy, Michael Taylor, was named the Deputy Commissioner of the FDA. Taylor’s work for Monsanto included gaining approval for their genetically engineering bovine growth hormone.

When will we learn that our health and safety is more important than corporate profits? As long as the Federal government is in bed with Monsanto and its ilk, we’re well on our way to finding out what money tastes like, because there will be no real food left to eat.

“Enjoy your Frankenfood dinner.” – GMO advocates

Ruth Hopkins (Sisseton-Wahpeton and Mdewakanton Dakota, Hunkpapa Lakota) is a writer, blogger, ethnoscientist, Tribal Judge for the Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate, and the Tribal Colleges Liaison Manager for the University of North Dakota (UND) and North Dakota State University (NDSU) via North Dakota EPSCoR (Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research). Her first horror novella will be released in 2013. Follow her on Twitter.