Retired prof warns growers about GMOs

Published online: Oct 23, 2015 News
Viewed 1040 time(s)

MERIDIAN, Idaho—A retired Purdue University professor who has warned Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack about the possible dangers of genetically modified crops has urged Ada County Farm Bureau board members to help change the state organization’s policy on labeling food with GMO ingredients.

Melba, Idaho, resident Don Huber told ACFB board members Oct. 13 that labeling GMO food products should be mandatory; IFBF policy opposes mandatory labeling.

Genetically modified crops are variously referred to as genetically modified organisms (GMOs) or as genetically engineered.

After hearing Huber warn of the dangers of genetically modified crops for 17 minutes, ACFB members remained unconvinced.

“Absolutely not,” ACFB President Don Sonke said when asked if the group would ask IFBF to change its policy on labeling. “I’m sure our policy on GMO labeling is not going to change.”

Huber also gave them, in writing, a point-by-point rebuttal of an Idaho House of Representatives joint memorial to Congress that calls for federal standards that allow for voluntarily labeling.

The joint memorial, which was passed this year, also states that foods produced with genetically engineered ingredients are as safe to eat as other foods and that genetic engineering offer the potential for nutritional, health, agronomic and environmental benefits.

“Many of those claims are wishful thinking,” Huber said.

“I beg to differ with that,” said Doug Jones, an Idaho grower who is executive director of Growers for Biotechnology and helped craft the joint memorial.

Jones said the wording and science behind the joint memorial was closely vetted with national biotechnology and farm groups, including American Farm Bureau Federation, as well as Idaho’s agricultural community.

Huber has been speaking to many different Idaho groups and said, “Wherever they invite me, I’ll go. I’ve had tremendous support in Idaho.”

Jones said he is not concerned about Huber drumming up anti-GMO sentiment in the state because he still hasn’t presented evidence backing his claim in the letter to Vilsack that a previously unknown microscopic organism linked to glyphosate is causing an increase in plant diseases and spontaneous abortions and infertility in livestock.

Glyphosate is a broad spectrum weed killer that is the active ingredient in the herbicide Roundup. Some GMO crops are genetically engineered to resist Roundup.

“Unless he presents evidence that has been peer reviewed, I don’t think he has any credibility,” Jones said.

Huber said that the effort to sequence the DNA of the previously unknown organism, and thus present the findings for peer review, is continuing but will take more time.

During his meeting with ACFB, Huber claimed the process of genetically modifying an organism disrupts the integrity of the genetic code and results in the introduction of toxic compounds.

He claimed the introduction of GMO crops has been a factor in the increase of a host of “gut-related” diseases or ailments, including Alzheimer’s, autism, birth defects, breast cancer and infertility.

ACFB members said Huber didn’t present any hard evidence that convinces them GMO crops are unsafe.

“Is it really causing all these problems or is it just the environment we live in,” said ACFB board member and dairyman Lou Murgoitio. “Where’s the evidence of that?”