Top 10 Food Additives to Avoid
Food additives have been used for centuries to enhance the appearance and flavor of food and prolong shelf life. But do these food additives really “add” any value to your food?
Food additives find their way into our foods to help ease processing, packaging and storage. But how do we know what food additives is in that box of macaroni and cheese and why does it have such a long shelf life?
A typical American household spends about 90 percent of their food budget on processed foods, and are in doing so exposed to a plethora of artificial food additives, many of which can cause dire consequences to your health.
Some food additives are worse than others. Here’s a list of the top food additives to avoid:
1. Artificial Sweeteners
Aspartame, (E951) more popularly known as Nutrasweet,Aminoseet and Equal, is found in foods labeled “diet” or “sugar free”. Aspartame is believed to be carcinogenic and accounts for more reports of adverse reactions than all other foods and food additives combined. It produces neurotoxic effects such as dizziness, headaches, mental confusion, migraines, and seizures. Avoid if you suffer from asthma, rhinitis (including hayfever), or urticaria (hives).Acesulfame-K, a relatively new artificial sweetener found in baking goods, gum and gelatin, has not been thoroughly tested and has been linked to kidney tumors.
Found in: diet or sugar free sodas, diet coke, coke zero, jello (and over gelatins), desserts, sugar free gum, drink mixes, baking goods, table top sweeteners, cereal, breathmints, pudding, kool-aid, ice tea, chewable vitamins, toothpaste
2. High Fructose Corn Syrup
High fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is a highly-refined artificial sweetener which has become the number one source of calories in America. It is found in almost all processed foods. HFCS packs on the pounds faster than any other ingredient, increases your LDL (“bad”) cholesterol levels, and contributes to the development of diabetes and tissue damage, among other harmful effects.
Found in: most processed foods, breads, candy, flavoured yogurts, salad dressings, canned vegetables, cereals
3. Monosodium Glutamate (MSG / E621)
MSG is an amino acid used as a flavor enhancer in soups, salad dressings, chips, frozen entrees, and many restaurant foods. MSG is known as an excitotoxin, a substance which overexcites cells to the point of damage or death. Studies show that regular consumption of MSG may result in adverse side effects which include depression, disorientation, eye damage, fatigue, headaches, and obesity. MSG effects the neurological pathways of the brain and disengaged the “I’m full” function which explains the effects of weightgain
Found in: chinese food ( Chinese Restaurant Syndrome ) many snacks, chips, cookies, seasonings, most Campbell Soup products, frozen dinners , lunch meats
4. Trans fat
Trans fat is used to enhance and extend the shelf life of food products and is among the most dangerous substances that you can consume. Found in deep-fried fast foods and certain processed foods made with margarine or partially hydrogenated vegetable oils, trans fats are formed by a process called hydrogenation. Numerous studies show that trans fat increases LDL cholesterol levels while decreasing HDL (“good”) cholesterol, increases the risk of heart attacks, heart disease and strokes, and contributes to increased inflammation, diabetes and other health problems. Oils and fat are now forbidden on the Danish market if they contain trans fatty acids exceeding 2 per cent, a move that effectively bans partially hydrogenated oils.
Found in: margarine, chips and crackers, baked goods, fast foods
5. Common Food Dyes
Studies show that artificial colorings which are found in soda, fruit juices and salad dressings, may contribute to behavioral problems in children and lead to a significant reduction in IQ. Animal studies have linked other food colorings to cancer. Watch out for these ones:
Blue #1 and Blue #2 (E-133)
Banned in Norway, Finland and France. May cause chromosomal damage
Found in: candy, cereal, soft drinks, sports drinks and pet foods
Red dye # 3 (also Red #40 – a more current dye) (E124)
Banned in 1990 after 8 years of debate from use in many foods and cosmetics. This dye continues to be on the market until supplies run out! Has been proven to cause thyroid cancer and chromosomal damage in laboratory animals, may also interfere with brain-nerve transmission
Found in: fruit cocktail, maraschino cherries, cherry pie mix, ice cream, candy, bakery products and more!
Yellow #6 (E110) and Yellow Tartrazine (E102)
Banned in Norway and Sweden. Increases the number of kidney and adrenal gland tumors in laboratory animals, may cause chromosomal damage.
Found in: American cheese, macaroni and cheese, candy and carbonated beverages, lemonade and more!
6. Sodium sulphite (E221)
Preservative used in wine-making and other processed foods. According to the FDA, approximately one in 100 people is sensitive to sulfites in food. The majority of these individuals are asthmatic, suggesting a link between asthma and sulfites. Individuals who are sulfite sensitive may experience headaches, breathing problems, and rashes. In severe cases, sulfites can actually cause death by closing down the airway altogether, leading to cardiac arrest.
Found in: Wine and dried fruit
7. Sodium nitrate/sodium nitrite
A common preservative usually added to processed meats like bacon, ham, hot dogs, and corned beef. Studies have linked sodium nitrate to various types of cancer.
Found in: cured meats such as bacon, ham and luncheon meat, hot dogs, anything smoked.
8. BHA and BHT (E320)
Butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA) and butylated hydrozyttoluene (BHT) are preservatives found in cereals, chewing gum, potato chips, and vegetable oils. This common preservative keeps foods from changing color, changing flavor or becoming rancid. Effects the neurological system of the brain, alters behavior and has potential to cause cancerBHA and BHT are oxidants which form cancer-causing reactive compounds in your body.
Found in: Potato chips, gum, cereal, frozen sausages, enriched rice, lard, shortening, candy, jello
9. Sulphur Dioxide (E220)
Sulphur additives are toxic and in the United States of America, the Federal Drugs Administration have prohibited their use on raw fruit and vegetables. Adverse reactions include: bronchial problems particularly in those prone to asthma, hypotension (low blood pressure), flushing tingling sensations or anaphylactic shock. It also destroys vitamins B1 and E. Not recommended for consumption by children. The International Labour Organization says to avoid E220 if you suffer from conjunctivitis, bronchitis, emphysema, bronchial asthma, or cardiovascular disease.
Found in: beers, soft drinks, dried fruit, juices, cordials, wine, vinegar, and potato products.
10. Potassium Bromate
An additive used to increase volume in some white flour, breads, and rolls, potassium bromate is known to cause cancer in animals. Even small amounts in bread can create problems for humans.
Found in: Breads
Sodium benzoate is a preservative that promotes cancer
By S. D. Wells
Sodium benzoate is a preservative that promotes cancer and kills healthy cells
Organic consumers and nutritionists may already know, but the rest of the general population does not know about sodium benzoate. It has the ability to deprive the cells of oxygen, break down the immune system and cause cancer.
This killer is flying under consumer radar with its user friendly tag line, “as a preservative.” This silent cell choker has found its way into thousands of products, even foods that are labeled as all natural. But don’t be fooled. While benzoic acid is found naturally in low levels in many fruits, the sodium benzoate listed on a product’s label is synthesized in a lab.
Derived from a reaction of benzoic acid with sodium hydroxide, sodium benzoate is actually the sodium salt of benzoic acid. Sodium benzoate is a known carcinogenic additive which, when eaten or applied to the skin, gets transported to the liver, where it is supposed to be filtered, and expelled in urine, but the damage gets done before that process is completed.
Sodium benzoate chokes out your body’s nutrients at the DNA cellular level by depriving mitochondria cells of oxygen, sometimes completely shutting them down. Just as humans need oxygen to breathe, cells need oxygen to function properly and to fight off infection, including cancer.
The FDA says it’s safe because the amount used to preserve foods is very low, but don’t ever combine it with vitamin C or E, as this causes benzene to be formed. This is dangerous. Benzene is a known carcinogen, which means it causes cancer.
Okay, so this should be easy. Never, ever mix vitamin C with pickles, peppers, salad dressings, jams, most condiments, vinegar, fruit juices, salsa, dips, shredded cheese, ketchup, or diet or regular soda. Don’t forget about mouthwash, toothpaste, cough syrup, cream, lotion, and hundreds of cosmetic products.
Cancer is all about the cumulative effect. When the human body is exposed repeatedly to any level of this carcinogen, which rears its ugly head in thousands of products, the immune system, over time, is depleted to the point that one acquires an immune deficiency. Then the body does not have enough essential nutrients to detoxify, and this occurs at the cellular level. Parkinson’s, neuro-degenerative diseases, and premature aging have all been attributed to this infamous preservative.
Health Committee Warned Of Aspartame Dangers *
Press Release: Safe Food Campaign
We are presenting this submission to the Health Committee on behalf of over 8,000 people from throughout New Zealand, and especially for all those who have become aware that their symptoms of ill health are due to consuming products with aspartame.
The artificial sweetener aspartame (951) is the most controversial and complained about additive in history, and for good reason, as many people suffer a range of symptoms from aspartame consumption, from mild and transitory to debilitating and life-threatening. It is significant that non-industry funded studies have found various adverse health effects from aspartame, whereas industry-funded studies do not find problems. We cannot underestimate the power and sophistication of industry to maintain and expand its profit and market share, regardless of the health consequences of exposure to this substance.
In this submission we will briefly consider the exposure rate to aspartame and a few selected health effects of the many that have been reported in research, clinical studies and anecdotally.
Widespread exposure to aspartame
Aspartame is being used in an increasing number of products, an estimated 6000 products worldwide, not just those labeled ‘diet’ and ’sugar free’ but also in chewing gum, sports drinks, dietary supplements and medications. Sometimes the only warning is ‘contains phenylalanine’. An estimated one in 15 people consume aspartame around the world.
Aspartame in medicine particularly is a problem, as this does not have to be labelled with its ingredients. Recent formulations of several anti-seizure drugs, at least in the US, eg Dilantin, Depacoat, Tegratol, and in New Zealand a preparation for colonoscopy, Picoprep, have been reported to contain aspartame. Manufacturers are increasingly using aspartame because it is cheaper and more convenient than sugar and also because of consumer concern about obesity.
The Government has made an agreement with industry to phase out sugar drinks in secondary schools by 2009, in an attempt to control the obesity epidemic. However, manufacturers are maintaining their market share in schools by substituting diet drinks. Exposure of young people to aspartame is therefore potentially increasing.
Some immediate reactions to aspartame
There are many and varied immediate reactions to aspartame consumption. Over 10,000 people reported 92 symptoms to the FDA, with headache, dizziness or problems with balance, change in mood quality or level being the most common, and many neurological symptoms . Apart from these 92 symptoms, Dr HJ Roberts, a widely respected doctor who has won an award for his humanitarian work, quotes many more from his clinical studies and other research in his medical text ‘Aspartame Disease: An Ignored Epidemic’. He estimates, in fact, that every doctor probably encounters aspartame disease in practice.
In Appendix A is the story of a Wellington man, extremely allergic to formaldehyde, whose condition improved miraculously after he avoided aspartame products. Jacob and Steele detail how children particularly can develop an allergy to formaldehyde with exposure to aspartame and formaldehyde-releasing preservatives which are present in a number of toiletries.
Some individuals may consume aspartame products for several years and may not notice immediate symptoms. However, there is often a point when their health deteriorates, sometimes dramatically. Appendix B covers such a case: a woman who still suffers some effects after consuming aspartame products for seven years and abstaining from them for the last five years.
Sometimes the combination of problematic additives can cause a worse reaction. Lau and colleagues found that a combination of aspartame and quinoline yellow (104) had an effect on cells up to seven times greater than the additives on their own, and that a combination of MSG and brilliant blue (133) had an effect four times greater. The authors suggest that these substances may interact to interfere with the development of the nervous system . A Hamilton woman, whose story is in Appendix C, has discovered that a combination of aspartame, MSG and tartrazine (102) is much more likely to trigger symptoms in her son.
Interaction with drugs and effects on the brain In New Zealand the Minister of Health has confirmed that Medsafe has approved a total of 124 medicines containing aspartame and 81 of these can be given to children. A particularly alarming feature of aspartame being included in an increasing number of medicines is its potential to interact with them.
Dr Roberts describes in his medical text how aspartame interacts with Coumadin, Dilantin, antidepressants, other psychotropic agents and all cardiac medications. He discusses various mechanisms for this, including alteration of the blood proteins to which drugs attach, interference with drug action by amino acids and protein, and metabolic abnormalities in the elderly that are known to enhance their vulnerability to drug reactions. Bowen and Evangelista describe another process, where, because aspartame damages the mitochondria of the cell, it has the capability of interacting with all drugs and some additives, including vaccines, MSG (621), and other artificial sweeteners such as sucralose (955) .
A number of independent researchers have noted an increased susceptibility to seizures with aspartame consumption, in contrast to industry-funded studies which found none . However, as Gaby points out in his review, one limitation of the latter studies is the use of capsules as opposed to diet drinks or foods with aspartame added . The recent inclusion of aspartame in several anti-seizure medications would therefore be counter-productive and potentially life-threatening to patients.
The different chemical processes of excitotoxins such as aspartame and MSG impacting on the brain are described in reviews by Humphries and colleagues  and also Blaylock . The subsequent brain cell damage can particularly affect pregnant women, unborn babies and newborns, producing changes in the brain that are irreversible, depending on when it is stopped. Blaylock remarks that aspartame can reprogram the wiring of the brain, particularly the hypothalamus, so it does not function normally. He points out that there is some evidence that subtoxic doses of such substances can alter the cells physiology. Affected children may be abnormal for the rest of their lives in terms of their physiological function.
Diabetes and aspartame Diabetics are a group likely to have a high consumption of aspartame products. With over 50 years of experience, Dr Roberts, a diabetic specialist, points out that aspartame can precipitate diabetes, simulates and aggravates diabetic retinopathy and neuropathy, destroys the optic nerve, can cause diabetics to go into convulsions and interacts with insulin. His patients notice a dramatic improvement in their condition when they avoid aspartame . Fernand and colleagues noticed a drop in glucose levels of type 2 diabetics during exercise and cautioned that there are important concerns raised concerning aspartame safety .
Studies which purport to demonstrate the safety of aspartame for diabetes have been criticised because of the use of non-inert ingredients in the control groups, for example, corn starch and MSG .
Obesity and aspartame
There is no research which conclusively proves that use of aspartame helps with weight loss. Much research finds that not consuming sugar beverages leads to significant weight loss. However, separating the effects of withdrawing from sugar beverages from the use of aspartame is more problematic. One review on weight loss and aspartame, funded by an aspartame manufacturer, focused on studies in which the control groups were consuming sugar beverages . Its conclusion that weight control is helped by aspartame consumption is debatable because of the inability in the nine studies concerned to separate out other causes of weight loss, such as the cessation of sugar beverage consumption, exercise and non-sweetened beverages such as water. Another study also carried out in 2006 repeated the same flaws and did not report separately those who drank water from those who drank diet drinks .
There is, however, some research that shows aspartame and other artificial sweeteners induce carbohydrate craving, which results in weight gain   . A 2005 study conducted over eight years at the University of Texas reported a “41% increase in risk of being overweight for every can or bottle of diet soft drink a person consumes each day .”
Cancer and aspartame
The registration of aspartame was rejected by the FDA in the 1970s because of tests in lab animals resulting in brain tumours and seizures, and also because of sloppy and fraudulent testing as revealed by an audit. Since its registration in 1981 through political manoeuvrings, many studies have been done on the carcinogenicity of aspartame. A notable feature is that industry-funded scientists do not find evidence of carcinogenicity. More recently the Ramazzini Foundation has carried out some studies which provide some evidence of its carcinogenicity, particularly if there is prenatal exposure. Subsequent worldwide publicity of these studies has resulted in very prompt attacks on them by scientists with industry connections, in spite of the fact that the studies were very rigorously peer-reviewed, anticipating controversy. (The 2005 study, for example, was peer-reviewed by seven other experts, when two is the norm.)
We would really welcome scientists in our Food Safety Authority taking a much more dispassionate and objective consideration of both sides of the aspartame debate, instead of tenaciously supporting a viewpoint which coincides with that of the manufacturers. We are disappointed, for example, that the Authority has publicly supported its pro-aspartame stance by quoting an industry-funded review published last year. This review accepted without question studies which did not show adverse effects, criticised heavily and omitted mention of several others that did, and neglected to mention ethanol, the natural counterbalance of methanol .
Because of the increasing adverse effects reported by many people around the world, there have been several attempts to ban or restrict aspartame, for example, in the United States, Philippines, South Africa, New Mexico, Hawaii, UK (where 47 MPs called for a ban) and Indonesia. Sophisticated pressure from aspartame manufacturers has ensured that these attempts have been stymied, in spite of the huge public health impact. A bill to ban aspartame was successfully introduced, however, in the Philippines earlier this year. It is a bizarre anomaly that another intense and relatively benign sweetener, xylitol, carries a label warning of possible digestive problems, when aspartame, capable of causing many more severe problems, carries none, apart from a label warning those with an intolerance to phenylalanine, one of the components of aspartame.
We believe that exposure to this addictive neurotoxin is causing a public health epidemic rivaling that of tobacco.
Alison White, Co-convenor, Safe Food Campaign, MA(Hons), Dip Tchg, DPH, MPH
Candidate, Wellington School of Medicine.
 A full list of symptoms as reported to the FDA is available at: http://www.mpwhi.com/fda_92_symptoms_on_aspartame.htm
 Jacob SE & Steele T (2007): Avoiding formaldehyde allergic reactions in children Pediatric Annals. Jan.; 36(1): 55-6.
 Lau K et al (2006) : Synergistic interactions between commonly used food additives in a developmental neurotoxicity test. Toxicol Sci. Mar;90(1):178-87.
 Bowen J, Evangelista MA (2002): Brain cell damage from amino acid isolates: a primary concern from aspartame-based products and artificial sweetening agents. http://www.wnho.net/aspartame brain_damage.htm.
 Mortelmans LJ et al (2008): Seizures and hyponatremia after excessive intake of diet coke. Eur J Emerg Med. Feb;15(1):51
Wurtman RJ (1985): Aspartame: possible effect on seizure susceptibility. Lancet;2:1060.
Walton RG (1986): Seizure and mania after high intake of aspartame. Psychosomatics 1986;27:218,220.
 Gaby AR (2007): Natural approaches to epilepsy. Altern Med Rev. Mar;12(1):9-24.
 Humphries P (2008): Direct and indirect cellular effects of aspartame on the brain. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 62, 451-462
 Blaylock RL (1997): Excitotoxins the Taste that Kill. Health Press, Santa Fe.
 Roberts HJ (2001): Aspartame Disease: An Ignored Epidemic. Sunshine Sentinel Press.
 Ferland A et al (2007): Is aspartame really safer in reducing the risk of hypoglycemia during exercise in patients with type 2 diabetes? Diabetes Care. Jul;30(7):e59
 Roberts HJ (2001): Aspartame Disease: An Ignored Epidemic. Sunshine Sentinel Press.
 de la Hunty A (2006): A review of the effectiveness of aspartame in helping with weight control. British Nutrition Foundation Nutrition Bulletin 31 , 115-128.
 Ebbeling CB et al (2006): Effects of Decreasing Sugar-Sweetened Beverage Consumption on Body Weight in Adolescents: A Randomized, Controlled Pilot Study Pediatrics 2006;117;673-680.
 Swithers SE and Davidson TL (2008): A role for sweet taste: Calorie predictive relations in energy regulation by rats. Behavioral Neuroscience. Feb Vol 122(1) 161-173.
 Pierce WD et al (2007):Overeating by young obesity-prone and lean rats caused by tastes associated with low energy foods. Obesity (Silver Spring). Aug;15(8):1969-79.
 Lavin, JH et al (1997): The Effect of Sucrose- and Aspartame-Sweetened Drinks on Energy Intake, Hunger and Food Choice of Female, Moderately Restrained Eaters. Inter J Obesity. Vol.21, 37-42.
 Fowler SP et al (2005): Abstract 1058-P presented at the 65th Annual Scientific Sessions of the American Diabetes Association, San Diet, June 10-14.
18 Magnuson, BA et al (2007): Aspartame: A Safety Evaluation Based on Current Use Levels, Regulations, and Toxicological and Epidemiological Studies, Critical Reviews in Toxicology, 37:8, 629 – 727.
Aspartame has been renamed and is now being marketed as a natural sweetener
In response to growing awareness about the dangers of artificial sweeteners, what does the manufacturer of one of the world’s most notable artificial sweeteners do? Why, rename it and begin marketing it as natural, of course. This is precisely the strategy of Ajinomoto, maker of aspartame, which hopes to pull the wool over the eyes of the public with its rebranded version of aspartame, called “AminoSweet”.
Over 25 years ago, aspartame was first introduced into the European food supply. Today, it is an everyday component of most diet beverages, sugar-free desserts, and chewing gums in countries worldwide. But the tides have been turning as the general public is waking up to the truth about artificial sweeteners like aspartame and the harm they cause to health. The latest aspartame marketing scheme is a desperate effort to indoctrinate the public into accepting the chemical sweetener as natural and safe, despite evidence to the contrary.
Aspartame was an accidental discovery by James Schlatter, a chemist who had been trying to produce an anti-ulcer pharmaceutical drug for G.D. Searle & Company back in 1965. Upon mixing aspartic acid and phenylalanine, two naturally-occurring amino acids, he discovered that the new compound had a sweet taste. The company merely changed its FDA approval application from drug to food additive and, voila, aspartame was born.
G.D. Searle & Company submitted its first petition to the FDA in 1973 and fought for years to gain FDA approval, submitting its own safety studies that many believed were inadequate and deceptive. Despite numerous objections, including one from its own scientists, the company was able to convince the FDA to approve aspartame for commercial use in a few products in 1974, igniting a blaze of controversy.
In 1976, then FDA Commissioner Alexander Schmidt wrote a letter to Sen. Ted Kennedy expressing concern over the “questionable integrity of the basic safety data submitted for aspartame safety”. FDA Chief Counsel Richard Merrill believed that a grand jury should investigate G.D. Searle & Company for lying about the safety of aspartame in its reports and for concealing evidence proving the chemical is unsafe for consumption.
Despite the myriad of evidence gained over the years showing that aspartame is a dangerous toxin, it has remained on the global market with the exception of a few countries that have banned it. In fact, it continued to gain approval for use in new types of food despite evidence showing that it causes neurological brain damage, cancerous tumors, and endocrine disruption, among other things.
The details of aspartame’s history are lengthy, but the point remains that the carcinogen was illegitimately approved as a food additive through heavy-handed prodding by a powerful corporation with its own interests in mind. Practically all drugs and food additives are approved by the FDA not because science shows they are safe but because companies essentially lobby the FDA with monetary payoffs and complete the agency’s multi-million dollar approval process.
Changing aspartame’s name to something that is “appealing and memorable”, in Ajinomoto’s own words, may hoodwink some but hopefully most will reject this clever marketing tactic as nothing more than a desperate attempt to preserve the company’s multi-billion dollar cash cow. Do not be deceived.
Supermarket ‘Health Food’ Killed Baby Rats in Three Weeks
By Jeffrey Smith
Biologist Arpad Pusztai had more than 300 articles and 12 books to his credit and was the world’s top expert in his field.
But when he accidentally discovered that genetically modified (GM) foods are dangerous, he became the biotech industry’s bad-boy poster child, setting an example for other scientists thinking about blowing the whistle.
In the early 1990s, Dr. Pusztai was awarded a $3 million grant by the UK government to design the system for safety testing genetically modified organisms (GMOs). His team included more than 20 scientists working at three facilities, including the Rowett Institute in Aberdeen, Scotland, the top nutritional research lab in the UK, and his employer for the previous 35 years.
The results of Pusztai’s work were supposed to become the required testing protocols for all of Europe. But when he fed supposedly harmless GM potatoes to rats, things didn’t go as planned.
Within just 10 days, the animals developed potentially pre-cancerous cell growth, smaller brains, livers, and testicles, partially atrophied livers, and damaged immune systems. Moreover, the cause was almost certainly side effects from the process of genetic engineering itself. In other words, the GM foods on the market, which are created from the same process, might have similar affects on humans.
With permission from his director, Pusztai was interviewed on TV and expressed his concerns about GM foods. He became a hero at his institute — for two days.
Then came the phone calls from the pro-GMO prime minister’s office to the institute’s director. The next morning, Pusztai was fired. He was silenced with threats of a lawsuit, his team was dismantled, and the protocols never implemented. His Institute, the biotech industry, and the UK government, together launched a smear campaign to destroy Pusztai’s reputation.
Eventually, an invitation to speak before Parliament lifted his gag order and his research was published in the prestigious Lancet. No similar in-depth studies have yet tested the GM foods eaten every day by Americans.
Irina Ermakova, a senior scientist at the Russian National Academy of Sciences, was shocked to discover that more than half of the baby rats in her experiment died within three weeks. She had fed the mothers GM soy flour purchased at a supermarket. The babies from mothers fed natural non-GMO soy, however, only suffered a 10% death rate. She repeated her experiment three times with similar results.
Dr. Ermakova reported her preliminary findings at a conference in October 2005, asking the scientific community to replicate her study. Instead, she was attacked and vilified. Her boss told her to stop doing anymore GM food research. Samples were stolen from her lab, and a paper was even set fire on her desk. One of her colleagues tried to comfort her by saying, “Maybe the GM soy will solve the overpopulation problem.”
Of the mostly spurious criticisms leveled at Ermakova, one was significant enough to raise doubts about the cause of the deaths. She did not conduct a biochemical analysis of the feed. Without it, we don’t know if some rogue toxin had contaminated the soy flour. But more recent events suggest that whatever caused the high infant mortality was not unique to her one bag of GM flour.
In November 2005, the supplier of rat food to the laboratory where Ermakova worked began using GM soy in the formulation. All the rats were now eating it. After two months, Ermakova asked other scientists about the infant mortality rate in their experiments. It had skyrocketed to over 55 percent.
It’s been four years since these findings were reported. No one has yet repeated Ermakova’s study, even though it would cost just a few thousand dollars.
Embryologist Andrés Carrasco told a leading Buenos Aires newspaper about the results of his research into Roundup, the herbicide sold in conjunction with Monsanto’s genetically engineered Roundup Ready crops.
Dr. Carrasco, who works in Argentina’s Ministry of Science, said his studies of amphibians suggest that the herbicide could cause defects in the brain, intestines, and hearts of fetuses. Moreover, the amount of Roundup used on GM soy fields was as much as 1,500 times greater than that which created the defects.
Tragically, his research had been inspired by the experience of desperate peasant and indigenous communities who were suffering from exposure to toxic herbicides used on the GM soy fields throughout Argentina.
According to an article in Grain, the biotech industry “mounted an unprecedented attack on Carrasco, ridiculing his research and even issuing personal threats.” In addition, four men arrived unannounced at his laboratory and were extremely aggressive, attempting to interrogate Carrasco and obtain details of his study. “It was a violent, disproportionate, dirty reaction,” he said. “I hadn’t even discovered anything new, only confirmed conclusions that others had reached.”
Argentina’s Association of Environmental Lawyers filed a petition calling for a ban on Roundup, and the Ministry of Defense banned GM soy from its fields.
Epidemiologist Judy Carman used to investigate outbreaks of disease for a state government in Australia. She knows that health problems associated with GM foods might be impossible to track or take decades to discover. Moreover, the superficial, short-term animal feeding studies usually do not evaluate “biochemistry, immunology, tissue pathology, gut function, liver function, and kidney function” and are too short to test for cancer or reproductive or child health.
Dr. Carman has critiqued the GMO approval process on behalf of the Public Health Association of Australia and speaks openly about her concerns. As a result, she is repeatedly attacked. Pro-GM scientists threatened disciplinary action through her Vice-Chancellor, and circulated a defamatory letter to government and university officials.
Carman was awarded a grant by the Western Australia government to conduct some of the few long-term animal feeding studies on GMOs. Apparently concerned about what she might find, GMO advocates wrote letters to the government demanding that the grant be withdrawn. One scientist tried to convince the Western Australia Agriculture minister that sufficient safety research had been conducted and he should therefore cancel the grant.
As his evidence, however, he presented a report summarizing only 60 GMO animal feeding studies — an infinitesimal amount of research to justify exposing the entire population to GM foods.
A closer investigation, however, revealed that most of the 60 were not safety studies at all. They were production studies, measuring, for example, the animals’ carcass weight. Only 9 contained data applicable to human health. And 6 of the 9 showed adverse effects in animals that ate GM feed!
Furthermore, there were several other studies with adverse findings that were mysteriously missing from the compilation. Carman points out that the report “does not support claims that GM crops are safe to eat. On the contrary, it provides evidence that GM crops may be harmful to health.”
When the Western Government refused to withdraw the grant, opponents successfully interfered with Carman’s relationship with the university where she was to do the research.
Prominent virologist Terje Traavik presented preliminary data at a February 2004 meeting at the UN Biosafety Protocol Conference, showing that:
- Filipinos living next to a GM cornfield developed serious symptoms while the corn was pollinating;
- Genetic material inserted into GM crops transferred to rat organs after a single meal; and
- Key safety assumptions about genetically engineered viruses were overturned, calling into question the safety of using these viruses in vaccines.
The biotech industry mercilessly attacked Dr. Traavik. Their excuse? — he presented unpublished work. But presenting preliminary data at professional conferences is a long tradition in science, something that the biotech industry itself relied on in 1999 to try to counter the evidence that butterflies were endangered by GM corn.
Ironically, three years after attacking Traavik, the same biotech proponents sharply criticized a peer-reviewed publication for not citing unpublished data that had been presented at a conference. The paper shows how the runoff of GM Bt corn into streams can kill the “caddis fly,” which may seriously upset marine ecosystems. The study set off a storm of attacks against its author, ecologist Emma Rosi-Marshall, which Nature described in a September 2009 article as a “hail of abuse.”
Companies Prevent Studies on Their GM Crops
When Ohio State University plant ecologist Allison Snow discovered problematic side effects in GM sunflowers, Pioneer Hi-Bred International and Dow AgroSciences blocked further research by withholding GM seeds and genes.
After Marc Lappé and Britt Bailey found significant reductions in cancer-fighting isoflavones in Monsanto’s GM soybeans, the seed seller, Hartz, told them they could no longer provide samples.
Research by a plant geneticist at a leading US university was also thwarted when two companies refused him GM corn. In fact, almost no independent studies are conducted that might find problems. According to a scathing opinion piece in an August 2009 Scientific American,
“Agritech companies have given themselves veto power over the work of independent researchers … Only studies that the seed companies have approved ever see the light of a peer-reviewed journal.”
A group of 24 corn insect scientists protested this restriction in a letter submitted to the Environmental Protection Agency. They warned that the inability to access GM seeds from biotech companies means there can be no truly independent research on the critical questions. The scientists, of course, withheld their identities for fear of reprisals from the companies.
Restricted access is not limited to the US. When a Japanese scientist wanted to conduct animal feeding studies on the GM soybeans under review in Japan, both the government and the bean’s maker DuPont refused to give him any samples. Hungarian Professor Bela Darvas discovered that Monsanto’s GM corn hurt endangered species in his country. Monsanto immediately shut off his supplies.
Dr. Darvas later gave a speech on his preliminary findings and discovered that a false and incriminating report about his research was circulating. He traced it to a Monsanto public relations employee, who claimed it mysteriously appeared on her desk — so she faxed it out.
GMO Contamination: Don’t Ask and Definitely Don’t Tell
In 2005, a scientist had gathered seed samples from all over Turkey to evaluate the extent of contamination by GM varieties. According to the Turkish Daily News, just before her testing was complete, she was reassigned to another department and access to her lab was denied.
The unexpected transfer may have saved this Turkish scientist from an even worse fate, had she discovered and reported contamination.
Ask Ignacio Chapela, a microbial ecologist from UC Berkeley. In 2001, he discovered that the indigenous corn varieties in Mexico — the source of the world’s genetic diversity for corn—had become contaminated through cross pollination with GM varieties.
The government had a ban against GM corn to prevent just this possibility, but apparently US corn imported for food had been planted nonetheless.
Dr. Chapela submitted the finding to Nature, and as a courtesy that he later regretted, informed the Mexican government about the pending publication. He was called in to meet with a furious Director of the Commission of Biosafety and GMOs. Chapela’s confirmation of contamination would hinder introduction of GM corn. Therefore the government’s top biotech man demanded that he withdraw his article. According to Chapela, the official intimidated and threatened him, even implying, “We know where your children go to school.”
When a traumatized Chapela still did not back down, the Underminister for Agriculture later sent him a fax claiming that because of his scientific paper, Chapela would be held personally responsible for all damages caused to agriculture and to the economy in general.
The day Chapela’s paper was published, Mary Murphy and Andura Smetacek began posting messages to a biotechnology listserve called AgBioWorld, distributed to more than 3,000 scientists. They falsely claimed that Chapela was biased, that his paper had not been peer-reviewed, that Chapela was “first and foremost an activist,” and his research was published in collusion with environmentalists. Soon, hundreds of other messages appeared, repeating or embellishing the accusations. The listserve launched a petition and besieged Nature with a worldwide campaign demanding retraction.
UC Berkeley also received letters from all over the world trying to convince them not to grant Chapela tenure. He had overwhelming support by his college and department, but the international biotech lobby was too much. Chapela’s tenure was denied. After he filed a lawsuit, the university eventually reversed its decision.
When investigators later analyzed the email characteristics sent by agitators Mary Murphy and Andura Smetacek, the two turned out not to be the average citizens they claimed. According to the Guardian, both were fabricated names used by a public relations firm that worked for Monsanto. Some of Smetacek’s emails also had the internet protocol address of gatekeeper2.monsanto.com — the server owned by Monsanto.
Science and Debate is Silenced
The attacks on scientists have taken its toll. According to Dr. Chapela, there is a de facto ban on scientists “asking certain questions and finding certain results.” He says, “It’s very hard for us to publish in this field. People are scared.” He told Nature that young people “are not going into this field precisely because they are discouraged by what they see.”
New Zealand Parliament member Sue Kedgley told a Royal Commission in 2001: “Personally I have been contacted by telephone and e-mail by a number of scientists who have serious concerns about aspects of the research that is taking place … and the increasingly close ties that are developing between science and commerce, but who are convinced that if they express these fears publicly … or even if they asked the awkward and difficult questions, they will be eased out of their institution.”
University of Minnesota biologist Phil Regal testified before the same Commission, “I think the people who boost genetic engineering are going to have to do a mea culpa and ask for forgiveness, like the Pope did on the inquisition.” Sue Kedgley has a different idea. She recommends we “set up human clinical trials using volunteers of genetically engineered scientists and their families, because I think they are so convinced of the safety of the products that they are creating and I’m sure they would very readily volunteer to become part of a human clinical trial.”
US doctors say chemicals can cause cancer
Yahoo News / AFP
By Karin Zeitvogel
Dr Linda Giudice has treated thousands of patients over the years with a range of troubling reproductive disorders, and this week, she joined health experts and a young mother in fingering chemicals as the probable cause.
“I have treated thousands of patients… including young men with very abnormal sperm counts or a history of testicular cancer, women as young as 17 and already in the menopause, little girls with the onset of puberty at six or eight,” Giudice told a news conference.
“There is increasing evidence that environmental contaminants may be playing a role in these disorders,” said Giudice, who chairs the department of obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive sciences at the University of California, San Francisco.
Molly Gray, a young mother who was found to have high levels of toxic chemicals in her blood during her pregnancy, suspects chemicals were the culprit.
She recalled how, after several miscarriages, she radically changed her lifestyle and ate only organically grown food, avoided fish high in mercury, shunned plastic food storage containers, and switched to “green” cleaning products.
But in spite of the changes, tests on Gray during her pregnancy showed she had high levels of 13 toxic chemicals in her blood.
“These chemicals have become ubiquitous in the environment and, as clean as I tried to be, it was not enough to protect my baby boy,” she said.
“I was disheartened. I felt helpless,” she said.
Gray and Giudice this week joined Tracey Woodruff, director of UCSF’s program on reproductive health and the environment, and Andy Igrejas, campaign director for the Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families advocacy group, in calling for the 1976 law that regulates chemicals in the United States to be overhauled.
According to Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families, the 34-year-old Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) has failed to regulate chemicals in consumer products, including chemicals with proven links to cancer, learning disabilities, asthma, reproductive disorders and other health problems.
The law has not evolved with chemical exposure, which since World War II has increased more than twenty-fold, said Giudice.
“Today there is ubiquitous exposure to environmental contaminants through air, water, food, drink, cosmetics, personal care products, pesticides, herbicides and everyday household items,” she said.
Even the flame retardants used in furniture contain potentially harmful chemicals, said Woodruff.
“We have begun to question whether exposure to these are affecting our reproductive health,” she said.
A massive study released in August that showed US girls are starting puberty earlier than they were just 10 years ago singled out endocrine disruptor chemicals as one of the likely culprits of early onset puberty, said Woodruff.
An overwhelming majority of the girls in the study who developed breasts and started their menstrual cycles as young as age seven had high levels of flame retardant and other chemicals in their bodies.
Some of the chemicals were banned decades ago but “remain in the food chain,” said Woodruff. Others are commonly found in household cleaners and other items that people come into contact with every day.
Other studies have linked exposure to chemicals with illnesses ranging from asthma to cardiovascular disease and cancer.
A study published in September in the Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine, a journal of the American Medical Association, found a link between chemicals used to make non-stick cookware and higher blood cholesterol levels in children.
And a group of experts said at a major science meeting held in February this year that they suspected a link between the rising incidence of breast cancer and exposure to chemicals.
Yet, in the 34 years since the TSCA was enacted, just five chemicals have been regulated under the law.
Bills to overhaul the TSCA were introduced in Congress this year but never taken up, said Igrejas.
Use of potentially harmful chemicals kept secret under law
By Lyndsey Layton
Of the 84,000 chemicals in commercial use in the United States — from flame retardants in furniture to household cleaners nearly 20 percent are secret, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, their names and physical properties guarded from consumers and virtually all public officials under a little-known federal provision.
The policy was designed 33 years ago to protect trade secrets in a highly competitive industry. But critics — including the Obama administration — say the secrecy has grown out of control, making it impossible for regulators to control potential dangers or for consumers to know which toxic substances they might be exposed to.
At a time of increasing public demand for more information about chemical exposure, pressure is building on lawmakers to make it more difficult for manufacturers to cloak their products in secrecy. Congress is set to rewrite chemical regulations this year for the first time in a generation.
Under the 1976 Toxic Substances Control Act, manufacturers must report to the federal government new chemicals they intend to market. But the law exempts from public disclosure any information that could harm their bottom line.
Government officials, scientists and environmental groups say that manufacturers have exploited weaknesses in the law to claim secrecy for an ever-increasing number of chemicals. In the past several years, 95 percent of the notices for new chemicals sent to the government requested some secrecy, according to the Government Accountability Office. About 700 chemicals are introduced annually.
Some companies have successfully argued that the federal government should not only keep the names of their chemicals secret but also hide from public view the identities and addresses of the manufacturers.
“Even acknowledging what chemical is used or what is made at what facility could convey important information to competitors, and they can start to put the pieces together,” said Mike Walls, vice president of the American Chemistry Council.
“You have thousands of chemicals that potentially present risks to health and the environment,” said Richard Wiles, senior vice president of the Environmental Working Group, an advocacy organization that documented the extent of the secret chemicals through public-records requests from the EPA. “It’s impossible to run an effective regulatory program when so many of these chemicals are secret.”
Of the secret chemicals, 151 are made in quantities of more than 1 million tons a year and 10 are used specifically in children’s products, according to the EPA.
The identities of the chemicals are known to a handful of EPA employees who are legally barred from sharing that information with other federal officials, state health and environmental regulators, foreign governments, emergency responders and the public.
Last year, a Colorado nurse fell seriously ill after treating a worker involved at a chemical spill at a gas-drilling site. The man, who later recovered, appeared at a Durango hospital complaining of dizziness and nausea. His work boots were damp; he reeked of chemicals, the nurse said.
Two days later, the nurse, Cathy Behr, was fighting for her life. Her liver was failing and her lungs were filling with fluid. Behr said her doctors diagnosed chemical poisoning and called the manufacturer, Weatherford International, to find out what she might have been exposed to.
Weatherford provided safety information, including hazards, for the chemical, known as ZetaFlow. But because ZetaFlow has confidential status, the information did not include all of its ingredients.
Mark Stanley, group vice president for Weatherford’s pumping and chemical services, said in a statement that the company made public all the information legally required.
“It is always in our company’s best interest to provide information to the best of our ability,” he said.
Behr said the full ingredient list should be released. “I’d really like to know what went wrong,” said Behr, 57, who recovered but said she still has respiratory problems. “As citizens in a democracy, we ought to know what’s happening around us.”
A week after he arrived at the agency in July, Steve Owens, assistant administrator for the EPA’s Office of Prevention, Pesticides and Toxic Substances, ended confidentiality protection for 530 chemicals. In those cases, manufacturers had claimed secrecy for chemicals they had promoted by name on their Web sites or detailed in trade journals.
“People who were submitting information to the EPA saw that you can claim that virtually anything is confidential and get away with it,” Owens said.
The handful of EPA officials privy to the identity of the chemicals do not have other information that could help them assess the risk, said Lynn Goldman, a former EPA official and a pediatrician and epidemiologist at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.
“Maybe they don’t know there’s been a water quality problem in New Jersey where the plant is located, or that the workers in the plant have had health problems,” she said. “It just makes sense that the more people who are looking at it, they’re better able to put one and one together and recognize problems.”
Independent researchers, who often provide data to policymakers and regulators, also have been unable to study the secret chemicals.
Duke University chemist Heather Stapleton, who researches flame retardants, tried for months to identify a substance she had found in dust samples taken from homes in Boston.
Then, while attending a scientific conference, she happened to see the structure of a chemical she recognized as her mystery compound.
The substance is a chemical in “Firemaster 550,” a product made by Chemtura Corp. for use in furniture and other products as a substitute for a flame retardant the company had quit making in 2004 because of health concerns.
Stapleton found that Firemaster 550 contains an ingredient similar in structure to a chemical — Di(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate, or DEHP — that Congress banned last year from children’s products because it has been linked to reproductive problems and other health effects.
Chemtura, which claimed confidentiality for Firemaster 550, supplied the EPA with standard toxicity studies. The EPA has asked for additional data, which it is studying.
“My concern is we’re using chemicals and we have no idea what the long-term effects might be or whether or not they’re harmful,” said Susan Klosterhaus, an environmental scientist at the San Francisco Estuary Institute who has published a journal article on the substance with Stapleton.