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Vandana Shiva: Why Monsanto Is Fighting Tooth and Nail Against California's Prop 37

One of the world's most renowned scientists and environmental activists, Vandana Shiva, is speaking out on behalf of proposition 37 -- a California effort to label genetically modified foods.

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Kolhatkar: You are a scientist by background - your training is in science. Those who are against prop 37 such as Monsanto, which is a long time foe of yours, say that Proposition 37 is anti-science, because there is no evidence that GMOs harms human beings. Does one actually need evidence of harm in order to have labeling?

Shiva: Well I think the labeling question is totally separate from the scientific debate of safety. A label is just a fundamental democratic issue. It’s about the freedom of citizens’ right to know and choose. A certain amount of salt is not harmful for us, but we still put it on the label. Calcium is not harmful for us; we still put it on the label, just for people to make decisions on the basis of information.

Earlier this year, CODEX Alimentarius which is the highest body on food safety, said every country has a right to label. This was after a twenty year tussle where the United States had tried to block the right to label as a global right, because then they could have used labeling to sue countries, which they did with Europe.

There are of course huge scientific issues related to GMOs and tragically it is corporations like Monsanto who are pushing anti-science, non-science on the public. I have lived long enough with this issue to know what they’ve done across the world. I was on the first expert group set up by the United Nations to frame the bio-safety protocol and I saw how in the United Nations they tried to mislead.

The United Nations which represents countries across the world wouldn’t have a protocol on bio-safety if safety had been proven. Now unfortunately the United States is not a signatory [to that protocol] and therefore it is constantly denying its citizens the rights that citizens elsewhere have.

On the Science question, what is the science of genetic engineering? It is really not a science; it is a technology of shooting a gene that doesn’t belong to a plant through two means. One is a gene gun and one is an agro bacterium or a plant cancer. You don’t know where it’s landing; you don’t have the science of prediction. You don’t know what it is doing. You don’t know if it is getting absorbed, that is why you add antibiotic resistance markers. You know the plant is not expressing it so you add super virulent viruses to pump up the expression. They’re called promoters.

So, you have a bundle of toxic risky genes. All of the real science tells us there is a phenomenon called horizontal gene transfer in nature. Vertical transfer is where your genes are taken from your parents, so it’s offspring to offspring. Horizontal transfer is when it moves across species. We know the bacteria in our food hybridize with the bacteria in our gut. We know the viruses in our food hybridize with the viruses in our gut. We know, in spite of them saying the BT toxin doesn’t last, new studies in Canada show it has been found in the blood of pregnant women and in the fetuses they’ve given birth to.

A new 2 year feeding study in France showed high levels of cancer in mammals. A similar study had similar results, in Russia at the Academy of Sciences. These are independent studies done by scientists with absolutely no involvement in any business industry interest. They are what we call public scientists.

The UK government asked Hungarian scientist Arpad Putzai, one of the most eminent scientists to do a study on GM foods, way back around 1998 and he did it. He was actually a promoter of genetic engineering, but when he did the study, he found the following result: the rats he had fed had shrunken brains, enlarged pancreases and a collapse of immunity. He went to his director and said if this has happened with three months of feeding rats, what will happen to a lifetime of feeding human beings? He wanted to inform the public. They did, and he went all over BBC immediately.

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