Kaiser Speaks about GMOs

Willamette Live

Kaiser Permanente, the nation’s largest not-for-profit health plan, has made an official statement on GMOs (genetically modified organisms in food,) calling the topic important both scientifically and politically.

In our last issue, Salem Weekly described “What You Need To Know About GMOs,” an article we found printed in Kaiser Permanente’s Northwest Fall 2012 newsletter, Partners in Health.

Because the author is not credited and the article itself is not available on Kaiser Permanente’s web site, Salem Weekly queried David Northfield, Media Relations Manager of Kaiser Permanente’s Communications & Organizational Research in Portland, to learn more.

Among other questions, we asked if the text of the article, reflected Kaiser Permanente’s official position on genetically modified organisms in food.

Northfield responded on November 25. He said, “The article appearing in this fall’s issue of Partners in Health, Kaiser Permanente’s newsletter for members, was written by one of our nutritionists, and presents her views and insights on the subject. As a mission-based non-profit healthcare organization, we believe it is important to share information with our members on a wide range of topics related to health care and health, but we do not take an organizational position on every issue.”

Northfield went on to say, “Kaiser Permanente believes the ongoing research and debate on bioengineered foods, or genetically modified organisms (GMOs), is important. We also recognize there are important conversations about related initiatives and propositions. While we believe these are important scientific and political debates, we do not have policy positions on these subjects.”

Though Kaiser Permenente will not state an official policy on GMOs, the nutritionist-author of “What You Need To Know About GMOs” (who is not named,) described studies that showed significant physical damage caused by GMOs and listed ways its members could avoid them.

GMO crops, or biotech crops, are plants whose DNA has been modified by genetic engineering techniques. The process is believed to have begun in 1982 to make tobacco plants hardier.

It has burgeoned since then; a 2011 article published by an industry publication claims a 94-fold increase in worldwide acreage between 1996 and 2011.

In their article, the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications calls biotech crops “the fastest adopted crop technology in the history of modern agriculture.”

Opponents to GMO foods organized in California this year with Proposition 37, which attempted to require food with GMO content to be labeled, and to prohibit from calling itself “natural.” The Proposition failed on November 6.

Currently in the United States, although ingredients like peanuts must be mentioned on labels, foods with GMOs are not required to be.

Biotech and food corporations spent an estimated $39,000,000 to defeat the California proposition and hide their GMO ingredients.

In addition to a software app suggested by Kaiser Permanente’s nutritionist, Salem Weekly recommends the affiliated web site, nongmoshoppingguide.com.

Meanwhile, an original hard copy of the Partners in Health issue, including the article “What You Need To Know About GMOs” is available in our offices.Kaiser Permanente, the nation’s largest not-for-profit health plan, has made an official statement on GMOs (genetically modified organisms in food,) calling the topic important both scientifically and politically.

In our last issue, Salem Weekly described “What You Need To Know About GMOs,” an article we found printed in Kaiser Permanente’s Northwest Fall 2012 newsletter, Partners in Health.

Because the author is not credited and the article itself is not available on Kaiser Permanente’s web site, Salem Weekly queried David Northfield, Media Relations Manager of Kaiser Permanente’s Communications & Organizational Research in Portland, to learn more.

Among other questions, we asked if the text of the article, reflected Kaiser Permanente’s official position on genetically modified organisms in food.

Northfield responded on November 25. He said, “The article appearing in this fall’s issue of Partners in Health, Kaiser Permanente’s newsletter for members, was written by one of our nutritionists, and presents her views and insights on the subject. As a mission-based non-profit healthcare organization, we believe it is important to share information with our members on a wide range of topics related to health care and health, but we do not take an organizational position on every issue.”

Northfield went on to say, “Kaiser Permanente believes the ongoing research and debate on bioengineered foods, or genetically modified organisms (GMOs), is important. We also recognize there are important conversations about related initiatives and propositions. While we believe these are important scientific and political debates, we do not have policy positions on these subjects.”

Though Kaiser Permenente will not state an official policy on GMOs, the nutritionist-author of “What You Need To Know About GMOs” (who is not named,) described studies that showed significant physical damage caused by GMOs and listed ways its members could avoid them.

GMO crops, or biotech crops, are plants whose DNA has been modified by genetic engineering techniques. The process is believed to have begun in 1982 to make tobacco plants hardier.

It has burgeoned since then; a 2011 article published by an industry publication claims a 94-fold increase in worldwide acreage between 1996 and 2011.

In their article, the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications calls biotech crops “the fastest adopted crop technology in the history of modern agriculture.”

Opponents to GMO foods organized in California this year with Proposition 37, which attempted to require food with GMO content to be labeled, and to prohibit from calling itself “natural.” The Proposition failed on November 6.

Currently in the United States, although ingredients like peanuts must be mentioned on labels, foods with GMOs are not required to be.

Biotech and food corporations spent an estimated $39,000,000 to defeat the California proposition and hide their GMO ingredients.

In addition to a software app suggested by Kaiser Permanente’s nutritionist, Salem Weekly recommends the affiliated web site, nongmoshoppingguide.com.

Meanwhile, an original hard copy of the Partners in Health issue, including the article “What You Need To Know About GMOs” is available in our offices.

Superweeds linked to rising herbicide use in GM crops

Science Blog

A study published this week by Washington State University research professor Charles Benbrook finds that the use of herbicides in the production of three genetically modified herbicide-tolerant crops — cotton, soybeans and corn — has actually increased. This counterintuitive finding is based on an exhaustive analysis of publicly available data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agriculture Statistics Service. Benbrook’s analysis is the first peer-reviewed, published estimate of the impacts of genetically engineered (GE) herbicide-resistant (HT) crops on pesticide use.

In the study, which appeared in the the open-access, peer-reviewed journal “Environmental Sciences Europe,” Benbrook writes that the emergence and spread of glyphosate-resistant weeds is strongly correlated with the upward trajectory in herbicide use. Marketed as Roundup and other trade names, glyphosate is a broad-spectrum systemic herbicide used to kill weeds. Approximately 95 percent of soybean and cotton acres, and over 85 percent of corn, are planted to varieties genetically modified to be herbicide resistant.

“Resistant weeds have become a major problem for many farmers reliant on GE crops, and are now driving up the volume of herbicide needed each year by about 25 percent,” Benbrook said.

The annual increase in the herbicides required to deal with tougher-to-control weeds on cropland planted to GE cultivars has grown from 1.5 million pounds in 1999 to about 90 million pounds in 2011.

Herbicide-tolerant crops worked extremely well in the first few years of use, Benbrook’s analysis shows, but over-reliance may have led to shifts in weed communities and the spread of resistant weeds that force farmers to increase herbicide application rates (especially glyphosate), spray more often, and add new herbicides that work through an alternate mode of action into their spray programs.