GM Foods: Myths and Deceptions

by Steven Carney on August 2, 2014

This is post #109 on the site, about the growing proliferation and dangers of GM foods and how food industry deception covers up those dangers.

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Given the growing proliferation of Genetically Engineered foods in the U.S. (often made by inserting genes from other species into crops, creating Frankenfoods), I decided to make a specific inquiry about an Italian brand of pasta sauce: Bertolli. I was shocked by the results of my inquiry.


First, here is some background info about GM (Genetically Modified) foods, or GMOs, as outlined by the Web MD site (see link below for full content):

Experts say 60% to 70% of processed foods on U.S. grocery shelves have genetically modified ingredients. The most common genetically modified foods are soybeans, maize [corn], cotton, and grapeseed oil. That means many foods made in the U.S. containing field corn or high-fructose corn syrup, such as many breakfast cereals, snack foods, and the last soda you drank; foods made with soybeans (including some baby foods); and foods made with cottonseed and canola oils could likely have genetically modified ingredients. These ingredients appear frequently in animal feed as well.

If you are a mom or parent, did you notice breakfast cereals and the rest? Yes, you need to know that many of those are made with GM foods. In addition to soy, corn, grapeseed and canola oil, I’ve read that the following foods are often GM (see source links below):

  • Sugar beets (for making sugar)
  • Tomatoes
  • Potatoes
  • Zucchini
  • Yellow squash
  • Rice

Bertolli is probably a GM food in the U.S.

As I mentioned earlier, I made a specific inquiry about Bertolli Pasta sauce, a brand of Italian sauce I buy sometimes. I wanted to find out if they were using GM tomatoes because I’ve read that tomatoes are a growing segment of GM food production. I really thought Bertolli was a true Italian sauce (I remember the ads from years ago). Plus, the EU is far more stringent about GM foods and labeling than the U.S. is). I was especially fond of Bertolli Vineyard Premium with Portobello Mushroom and Merlot wine.

I found the Bertolli website and sent off a question about the issue. It turns out that Bertolli sauces are owned by Unilever (although Bertolli is apparently being sold to a new company this summer). Unilever is a massive international food conglomerate based in the UK and the Netherlands. They apparently have over 400 brands now, including foods, beverages, cleaners and personal care products.

A rep finally responded to my inquiry but didn’t answer my question directly (it was a bad sign when she didn’t say, “No, we don’t use GM tomatoes in our sauces.”). Rather, she sent me a link to their corporate PR page about GM foods. It has the usual corporate fluff that essentially outlines “The good news about GM foods,” which is my way of calling out PR fluff pages that evade direct questions from consumers. Their page is largely smoke and mirrors, typical of corporate messaging. A PR pirouette, if you will.

For example, here are 2 paragraphs from the Unilever page titled, Genetically Modified Crops (see link below for full content):

Farmers in many countries around the world, including the US, Brazil, Argentina, India, Canada, China and South Africa, cultivate genetically modified (GM) crops that have been approved by local authorities. Many of the world’s major agricultural commodities, such as soy, maize, canola, sugar beet and rice, are grown as GM crops and have been safely used for the past 20 years.

In fact, reputable regulatory agencies (such as the US FDA, European Commission and FSANZ) and leading scientific bodies that study the safety of the food supply from both a human consumption and environmental perspective have shown that authorised GM crops and food ingredients produced from these crops are as safe as their conventional counterparts.

The minute I read this empty PR fluff, I knew there were problems! I’ve read this type of self-serving goop many times. Remember “The good news about pink slime?” or “The good news about fracking?”

These puff pieces often mislead the public and the media through bias and manipulation, even as they expose people to potential health harms in the case of GM foods. As you will soon discover, the Unilever GM crop information is based on myths, used to support the company’s PR image. The information below will dispel those myths.

Unilever appears to say there is evidence that these GM crops have been used safely for 20 years with lots of government approval. That’s only true if you believe industry-sponsored research, manipulated so nothing bad is found, and often based on lab or small-mammal studies using mice and rats. For those who don’t realize it, most lab and small-mammal studies do not carry over to human subjects, including those for drug research.

Those studies are under the direct control of the very companies who produce the genetic alterations and designed to bring favorable outcomes. Negative outcomes are rarely disclosed and studies with negative findings are hidden away, never to be published (the same is true for most negative findings in drug research. They are simply hidden away and never published).

These company-run “studies” are self-serving (see quote below showing that 100% of the studies reviewed by independent researchers had financial conflicts of interest), and not based on credible science. As for government approval, That’s largely a deceptive claim as well. The U.S. and other governments don’t do any independent testing of GM foods!

A more truthful perspective

Now compare the paragraphs from the Unilever site to the shocking reality covered in an article on a site called GMO Science, Sources and Relationships, a site which offers a starkly different point of view (see link below for full content):

Nearly two decades after genetically engineered crops have been in your grocery store, human studies are only now starting to be performed — but not in the United States.

Why is there no research being done on the potential human health risks of GMOs in our country?

Scientific American magazine explains it this way: “Agritech companies have given themselves veto power over the work of independent researchers.” Scientists must literally ask these corporations for permission before publishing independent research on genetically modified crops.

Not surprisingly, no such permission has been granted in the last twenty years, except for studies that are crafted to put GMOs in a positive context. Biotechnology companies routinely prohibit, restrict, bury, or slander all credible independent research on genetically engineered crops / GMOs.

Isn’t it funny that those industry realities are not mentioned on the Unilever page? Can you begin to see how one-sided and deceptive their information is?

Now how about this related quote covering the lack of credible safety testing for GM foods from the Institute for Responsible Technology site (see link below for full article):

Biotech companies like Monsanto told us that Agent Orange, PCBs, and DDT were safe. They are now using the same type of superficial, rigged research to try and convince us that GMOs are safe. Independent scientists, however, have caught the spin-masters red-handed, demonstrating without doubt how industry-funded research is designed to avoid finding problems, and how adverse findings are distorted or denied.

The information from Unilever also implies that there is significant regulation by agencies like the FDA and other country/government regulators, and that these crops are all safe. But the FDA is (and has been) a revolving door for the very industries they are supposed to regulate, and that the FDA has not created any significant regulatory system for GM foods at all! Why?

The FDA considers GM crops to be substantially similar to their standard counterparts, relying on the companies that produce the GM Frankenfoods to handle their own safety testing.

In fact, here is another stunning quote from the Institute for Responsible Technology site, item #5, outlining the stunning lack of FDA oversight of GM foods (Note: I broke into 2 paragraphs for easier reading, see link below for full article):

Most of the health and environmental risks of GMOs are ignored by governments’ superficial regulations and safety assessments. The reason for this tragedy is largely political. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), for example, doesn’t require a single safety study, does not mandate labeling of GMOs, and allows companies to put their GM foods onto the market without even notifying the agency.

Their justification was the claim that they had no information showing that GM foods were substantially different. But this was a lie. Secret agency memos made public by a lawsuit show that the overwhelming consensus even among the FDA’s own scientists was that GMOs can create unpredictable, hard-to-detect side effects.

And as the initial quote from that GMO Science, Sources and Relationships stated, the research done by the big agribusinesses and food companies is both biased and extremely limited. The companies involved have veto power over any independent research and they also design the research to show no harm (short term is perfect to show no effect). So if you think these companies or federal agencies have done long-term, human studies (say 5 years or more), I’m here to tell you they haven’t done human studies these pervasive Frankenfoods, now marketed for over 20 years!

Still not sure? Here are even more damning quotes from the GMO Science article above regarding industry-sponsored research and the conflicts of interest found by independent researchers who have connected the dots in the process (again, see link below):

Other scientists studying the sources of so-called “research” done on the health risks and nutritional assessment of genetically modified products consistently found conflicts of interest: “Where there was a conflict of interest, 100% of the studies (41 out of 41) made a favorable GM safety finding.

So if you are even a little complacent about the honesty of industry, those quotes should open your eyes to the reality behind the kind of PR fluff on the Unilever site and that offered to mass media and the public.

Real health concerns

Common sense should tell you that taking genes from bacteria, insects or critters and splicing them into food crops is a high-risk endeavor, one that is bound to have unforseen consequences. As mentioned previously, that’s how most GM foods are made: Genes are taken from other species and added to food crops to make them more resistant to pests, weather, disease, etc. (see link below on GMO Foods and Health with more info on how GM foods are actually created).

For a while, research has begun to surface showing probable connections between GM foods and health conditions, including:

  • Digestive problems
  • Allergies
  • Immune/autoimmune problems
  • Liver problems
  • Changes in nutrition or nutrient availability
  • Crop contamination, etc.

In fact, here is a 2012 quote from an article on Natural News regarding GMO (Genetically Modified Organism) safety concerns (see link below for full article):

Time and again, the American Academy of Environmental Medicine (AAEM) has warned that GMOs pose a serious threat to health, and it is no accident that there can be a correlation between it and adverse health effects. In fact, the AAEM has advised doctors to tell their patients to avoid GMOs as the introduction of GMOs into the current food supply has correlated with an alarming rise in chronic diseases and food allergies.

Also this 2008 quote from Organic Consumers Association, called, Spilling the Beans: Unintended GMO Health Risks, offers troubling information that supports those safety concerns and includes issues with the history of the FDA and GM foods (Note: I broke into 2 paragraphs for easier reading, see link below for full content):

In 1992, the Food and Drug Administration claimed that they had no information showing that GM foods were substantially different from conventionally grown foods and therefore were safe to eat. But internal memos made public by a lawsuit reveal that their position was staged by political appointees under orders from the White House to promote GMOs.

FDA scientists, on the other hand, warned that GMOs can create unpredictable, hard-to-detect side effects, including allergies, toxins, new diseases, and nutritional problems. They urged long term safety studies, but were ignored. The FDA does not require any safety evaluations for GMOs. Instead, biotech companies, who have been found guilty of hiding toxic effects of their chemical products, are now in charge of determining whether their GM foods are safe. (The FDA official in charge of creating this policy was Michael Taylor, Monsanto’s former attorney and later their vice president.)

Finally, this shocking quote from the American Academy of Environmental Medicine/AAEM referenced earlier, called, Genetically Modified Foods (Note: I broke into 4 paragraphs for easier reading and removed citation numbers to avoid confusion. See link below for full content):

There is more than a casual association between GM foods and adverse health effects. There is causation as defined by Hill’s Criteria in the areas of strength of association, consistency, specificity, biological gradient, and biological plausibility. The strength of association and consistency between GM foods and disease is confirmed in several animal studies.

Specificity of the association of GM foods and specific disease processes is also supported. Multiple animal studies show significant immune dysregulation, including upregulation of cytokines associated with asthma, allergy, and inflammation.

Animal studies also show altered structure and function of the liver, including altered lipid and carbohydrate metabolism as well as cellular changes that could lead to accelerated aging and possibly lead to the accumulation of reactive oxygen species (ROS). Changes in the kidney, pancreas and spleen have also been documented.

A recent 2008 study links GM corn with infertility, showing a significant decrease in offspring over time and significantly lower litter weight in mice fed GM corn. This study also found that over 400 genes were found to be expressed differently in the mice fed GM corn. These are genes known to control protein synthesis and modification, cell signaling, cholesterol synthesis, and insulin regulation. Studies also show intestinal damage in animals fed GM foods, including proliferative cell growth and disruption of the intestinal immune system.

Granted, those observations and health effects are mostly animal studies, but as you recall from above, agribusinesse’s often veto any research by independent entities, preferring their own biased studies to tell their deceptive story (remember the fluff Unilever provided to me? Now compare that info to the quotes I’ve included above). So it’s hard to get any credible research run, and animal studies are most of what we have for now.

I could go on for many more pages but I decided to cover some important GM food issues and concerns that reach beyond my previous post, called GMO Foods and Health (linked below). For now, I will no longer buy any Bertolli Pasta sauce! I’ll never trust that company again.

In fact, I urge everyone who reads this to stop buying Bertolli and Unilever-brand products! Those and many other companies are happy to trade your health for their profits. They know it will be hard for you to prove harm and they will simply deny any health problems you might have! (see links below for additional lists and company boycotts).

In addition, many companies have spent millions to defeat GM labeling laws in states around the U.S. (they don’t want you to know what’s in the Frankenfood you’re buying). They also know you probably won’t buy their GM foods if they tell you on the label!

My advice is to avoid all processed foods as much as possible (in most stores, the middle aisles in grocery stores). Stick to the outlying areas with unprocessed foods like produce and proteins. Buy organic produce and grass-fed, humanely raised meats whenever possible (I find organic foods go on sale pretty often).

If you need help to sort out your current nutritional habits and would like to transition to a healthier lifestyle with more energy, mental clarity, easy weight loss and other health challenges, drop me a line at:

Helpful links:

Unilever link (if you know much about the problems with GM foods, you’ll see this for the fluff that it is):

Debunking links for GMO research and safety: 

A 2013 multi-point consensus statement from independent scientists stating there is no consensus for GMO safety and why: 

After I published the post, I saw this movie:

Notice how Unilever blames customers for a Suave product that damaged their hair:

A new article by Consumer Reports on common GM foods confirmed by testing: 

An update on GM crop/glyphosate contamination in U.S. water systems:

© 2014 by Steve Carney/End Sickness Now



josh August 2, 2014 at 8:26 AM

Great post. I used to be checking constantly this weblog and I am inspired!
Very helpful info particularly the closing part 🙂

edmund August 2, 2014 at 9:20 PM

Spot on with this write-up. I’ll probably be returning to read more, thanks for the info!

estella August 4, 2014 at 6:27 AM

Nice blog and info! Is your theme custom made or did you download it from
somewhere? Cheers

Steven Carney August 4, 2014 at 2:28 PM

I did a lot of color, font and layout customization. It’s been a while so I don’t remember everything I did.


blythe August 7, 2014 at 6:43 AM

An outstanding post! I have just forwarded this onto a friend who was doing a little homework on this. Thanx for talking about this GM foods issue on your website.

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