Unintended proteins consistently appear in GM crops, and many unsettling occurrences have been linked to these crops. More than 70 Indian shepherds reported that 5 to 7 days of continuous grazing on GM cotton plants resulted in the death of 25 percent of their herds; there have been allergic reactions reported in hundreds of Indian agricultural workers, resulting in hospitalization. Some cotton gin factory workers report that they have to take antihistamines before they go to work.
The performance of the GM crops does not help justify the side effects, either. Smith reported that tens of thousands of acres of Monsanto's GM cotton ended up with deformed roots and other unexpected problems. Monsanto had to pay out millions of dollars in settlements.
In India, GM cotton has cost at least two states more than $80 billion due to inconsistent performance, leading some ruined farmers to commit suicide. Between June and August 2006, farmers in Vidarbha, in Northeast Maharastra committed suicide at a rate of roughly one every eight hours, according to Smith.
Smith's article notes that these adverse events have not caused the industry to step up their controls of unapproved GM crops. The USDA announced on Aug. 18 that a Bayer CropScience GM rice created in 2001 had likely contaminated the U.S. rice crop. This announcement led Japan to ban long-grain rice imports from the United States, and the European Union to require GM-free tests and certification before it would allow American shipments in.
The food supply is not the only area being polluted by GM foods, Smith reports. Known poisons are being grown in external plots without safeguards to protect human health and the environment. In 2002, a corn that was genetically engineered to produce pharmaceuticals contaminated Iowa and Nebraska corn and soybean fields.
Smith noted that some of the contamination from field trials could last for centuries.
These problems have not gone unnoticed by the USDA's office of the Inspector General, and a report issued by the office on Dec. 29 censured the department for poor oversight of GM field trials, particularly those with harmful or drug-producing crops. The National Research Council entreated the government to keep a more watchful eye over the GM crops, but noted there was no way to guarantee GM crops will not pollute the environment.
Four counties in California have enacted regulations on their own to try to protect the state's diverse agriculture, as thousands of as-yet-unapproved GM crops have already undergone field trials there. Any report of contamination could devastate the entire industry.
The California assembly, which Smith said has done nothing to stand in the way of GM crop contamination and its possible negative effect on state economy, passed a bill on Aug. 24 that prevents any other counties or cities from creating GM-crop-free zones.
"It is yet another example of how the biotech industry has been able to push their agenda onto U.S. consumers, without regard to health and environmental safeguards," smith writes. "No doubt that their lobbyists, anxious to have this bill pass, told legislators that GM crops are needed to stop poverty and feed a hungry world."