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Page 26 | Abby's Magazine - The GMO Tipping Point by Michael Hansen, PhD Michael Hansen, PhD, has been following the GMO scene since the 1980s—before there actually were GMO crops. He is a Senior Staff Scientist with Consumers Union, the policy and action division of Consumer Reports, and through that group he has for over twenty years tightly focused on the evolving science of genetic engineering of foods, its politics and labeling. He has testified at hearings in Washington, DC, in several states and in Canada, and has prepared comments on many proposed US governmental rules and regulations concerning food safety issues. Hansen's long experience brings considerable insight into the GMO battle, and sheds quite a bit of light on why the US has been so woefully behind the rest of the world, in which some thirty nations have banned GMOs or at the least have enacted mandatory labeling. He also sees us now at a tipping point—at which industrial agriculture's long-term influence is considerably weakening. In the Beginning "When I first came to Consumers Union back in 1985, I knew that genetic engineering was going to be an issue," Hansen told Organic Connections. "It took quite a while to get Consumers Union interested. I guess in the US the first big thing we did here at Consumers Union would have been in 1989 or 1990, when we published a little book called Biotech: Benefit or Threat? It was about recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH) and the issues it was raising, which had to do with, besides health impacts on the cow, the potential health impacts of drinking milk from cows that had been treated with rBGH." One motivation for Hansen's concern over genetic modification at the time was the opinions of some very leading scientific minds. "Nobel Prize winner George Wald was very concerned about this in the late seventies and early eighties," Hansen continued. "Erwin Chargaff, one of the giants of biochemistry, also expressed concern; and in Penang, Malaysia, there was a meeting in 1985 that was in fact getting the scientists to talk about potential concerns with this new technology of genetic engineering. This was way before there were even any crops on the market. "Author Pat Mooney was concerned, not only about seed patenting, but in the late seventies and early eighties he was predicting that this technology would be used for designing plants that would require a company's proprietary chemicals—plants designed to be used with pesticides. I and several others did a paper around the same time, quoting him; and one of the reviewers of that paper actually recommended that our paper not be published if it continued to contain a reference to Pat Mooney's work, since his claims, they said, were so over the top and wrong it would be crazy to refer to them." Mooney's predictions turned out to be 100 percent correct. "We now know that if you look globally, 85 percent of the global acreage in transgenic [genetically modified] crops has been bred for herbicide tolerance," Hansen said. "In the United States it is 93 or 94 percent of the soybeans, 90 percent of canola, and 95 percent of sugar beets. In corn we have 88 percent genetically modified, and 40–50 percent of that has the herbicide tolerant trait in it. A large percentage of GE cotton is herbicide tolerant as well." Attempted Preventive Actions At the time, Hansen and a few others tried to prevent these predictions from coming to pass. "Some of us said, 'Look, there's this new technology coming down the pike at us: biotechnology—genetic engineering,'" Hansen related. "'Maybe we can get some regulations in place so that thirty years from now we're not dealing GMO Update

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