Friday, February 8, 2013

Codex Alimentarius and GM Food Guidelines, Pt. 3

Updated excerpt from Codex Alimentarius -- The End of Health Freedom

Available Here
Brandon Turbeville
Activist Post

In my last article, “Codex Alimentarius and GM Food Guidelines Pt. 2,” I wrote extensively about the position assumed by the FDA in regards to genetically modified food and the methodology used to assess its safety before it is released into the general food supply. Needless to say, the FDA, which is notorious for its corruption and revolving door with Big Agricultural Corporations like Monsanto, takes an unbelievably hands-off approach to the regulation of GM food.

Yet, unfortunately, the approach taken by the FDA toward GM Food is only unbelievable if one expects the agency to apply science, logic, and reason to their decision-making process.

However, when one begins evaluating the FDA position on GM food in the context of the position held by Codex Alimentarius, one can easily see an agenda taking shape whose ultimate goal is the total proliferation of GM food the world over.

For instance, in the early 1990s, around the time the FDA was announcing its own policy toward GM food, the debate within Codex was heating up as well. Most of the arguments were taken up by the Codex Committee on Food Labeling (CCFL) and, for the most part, pitted the United States and Canada against the European Union, India, and Norway.

In 1996, because little could be agreed upon, the CCFL asked for guidance from the Codex Alimentarius Commission (CAC) on how labeling guidelines might be developed. In 1997 the CAC produced a document for that purpose. These recommendations were that foods not “equivalent” to natural foods in nutritional value, intended use, or composition should be labeled.

Yet this was not accepted into Codex guidelines as Australia, New Zealand, Peru, and Brazil joined with Canada and the United States in opposing these recommendations. Definitions of terms also became an issue at the meeting.[1]


At the 27th CCFL session in 1999, it was decided that the Proposed Draft Recommendations for GM food labeling be reconsidered and rewritten. For this purpose, Codex created the Ad Hoc Working Group. Their stated mission was to more fully define “biotechnology-derived foods” and to revise the options considered for labeling between process-based and substantial equivalence methods. The Working Group also agreed to consider establishing a maximum level of GM ingredients in a food as well as a minimum level for accidental inclusion of GM ingredients or food within a food.

As mentioned earlier, substantial equivalence has emerged as the most favored method of labeling within Codex, in an almost identical fashion to the FDA and Health Canada model.

Indeed, it is easily understood why this is the case when one takes a closer look at the Working Group developed to evaluate and rewrite labeling recommendations. While certain instances may seem harmless when viewed separately, when taken together they reveal a rather obvious attempt to stack the odds in favor of pro-GM sentiment by the CCFL.

First, Canada, perhaps the most pro-GM Codex member country besides the United States, was selected to chair the Group as well as coordinate the Group’s direction.

Also, a smaller Drafting Group was created under the Working Group to “hold the pen.” It was this group that would do much of the actual work in terms of hammering out the Recommendations document. However, five of the six countries represented in the Drafting Group were pro-GM countries.[2] Clearly, it would be difficult for a non-favorable view of GM food to win out in a situation such as this.

In 2000, an attempt was made by the CCFL to direct the Working Group to streamline the two different methods of labeling (process-based and substantial equivalence) into a Codex Guideline as well as other key issues involving GM food labeling. A document of this nature was subsequently produced by the United States. Yet, despite the packing of the Drafting and Working Groups, the CCFL was still unable to approve the guidelines that the groups produced.

However, the Committee was able to approve the use of three definitions related to GM food.[3] They are as follows:
  1. Food and food ingredients obtained through certain techniques of genetic modification/genetic engineering – food and food ingredients composed of or containing genetically modified/engineered organisms obtained through modern biotechnology, or food and food ingredients produced from, but not containing genetically modified/engineered organisms obtained through modern biotechnology.
  2. Genetically modified/engineered organism – an organism in which the genetic material has been changed through modern biotechnology in a way that does not occur naturally by multiplication and/or natural recombination.
  3. Modern Biotechnology – the application of:
a. In vitro nucleic acid techniques, including recombinant deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) and the direct injection of nucleic acid into cells or organelles
b. Fusion of cells beyond the taxonomic family, that overcome natural physiological, reproductive, or recombination barriers and that are not techniques used in traditional breeding and selection.[4]
When one looks at the definitions agreed upon at the 29th session of Codex, it can be seen that there is a move toward using the term “modern biotechnology” in place of “genetic engineering/modification.” This is largely an attempt to use semantics in an effort to reduce, through ignorance, the apprehension of the public to the consumption of GMO’s.

However, in the face of such controversy, in 2003 Codex did produce and approve a set of Guidelines for the assessment of the safety of GM food. Entitled “Codex Principles and Guidelines On Foods Derived From Biotechnology,” the Guidelines do not deal with labeling concerns at all, but with the standards for the science used to assess these foods for safety.

The “Codex Principles and Guidelines On Foods Derived From Biotechnology” is made up of four sections, two of which deal with GM plants while the other sections deal with GM organisms in general and GM animals respectively. Similar to the “Guidelines for Vitamins and Mineral Supplements,” these guidelines are not only unscientific but carefully crafted to allow the approval of dangerous GM foods. The game, in essence, is clearly rigged.

When looking at the first section of the guidelines one is able to see a very real correlation to those designated for vitamins and minerals. Using a form of risk analysis to determine the safety of GM food, Codex seeks to explain the reason for its choice of methodology. It states
While risk analysis has been used over a long period of time to address chemical hazards (e.g. residues of pesticides, contaminants, food additives and processing aids), and it is being increasingly used to address microbiological hazards and nutritional factors, the principles were not elaborated specifically for whole foods.[5]
This is an interesting statement considering the fact that risk analysis was indeed considered adequate for the safety examination of vitamins, minerals, and nutritional supplements. However, for whole foods, GM foods in particular, Codex has decided that risk analysis is not appropriate.

The very next section of the Introduction admits that while risk analysis can in fact be applied to foods (including GM food) “in general terms”, “it is recognized that this approach must be modified when applied to a whole food rather than to a discrete hazard that may be present in food.”[6] One can gain an understanding of how the process is adapted to suit the needs of Codex by reading through the guidelines as a whole. However, suffice it to say that this modification is generally the removal of all standards and qualifications that might illuminate the vast amount of safety concerns present within GM foods.[7]

Another disturbing statement made in the introduction to the document casts even more doubt upon the scientific validity of Codex’s guidelines. The Guidelines state,
Where appropriate, the results of a risk assessment undertaken by other regulatory authorities may be used to assist in the risk analysis and avoid duplication of work.[8]
While on its face, this statement appears only to be a call for labor efficiency, at its best it assumes the objectivity of the regulatory authorities doing the testing. However, what is most concerning about this policy is that risk assessment “conclusions” reached by regulatory agencies such as the FDA and Health Canada may be accepted in place of an independent examination.

Truthfully, the likelihood of a legitimately independent assessment made possible by Codex is almost nonexistent. However, in the case of GMO’s, the odds are even less so for the FDA and Health Canada, two agencies that have been largely bought and paid for by Monsanto and other large agri-business corporations. Indeed, as far as GM foods go, the FDA assessments have largely been completed since the time that the agency has claimed that there is no difference between genetic modification and traditional plant breeding.[9] This agency has also made it clear that safety testing is to be conducted by the manufacturer of the product rather than the agency itself, relying solely on the company’s scientific and moral standards. In effect, as mentioned earlier, the science determining the safety of GM foods comes straight from the manufacturer itself.[10]

With this in mind, one can clearly see that the same line of ascension exists in Codex Alimentarius. If Codex is willing to accept the safety assessments of regulatory agencies without independent testing of its own and regulatory agencies are willing to accept the safety assessments of corporations without independent testing of their own, then Codex is willing to accept the safety assessments of corporations without independent safety testing of their own. Indeed, this syllogism adequately reflects the reality of the relationship between Codex, corporations, and the future of GM foods.

Another issue of great concern is the definition of “conventional counterpart.” Because Codex uses the concept of substantial equivalence[11], this seemingly requires that the GM product be compared to its natural counterpart.

However, the definition of conventional counterpart, according to Codex, is “a related organism/variety, its components and/or products for which there is experience of establishing safety based on common use as food.”[12] This definition poses a potential problem because it does not make clear (in the body of the text) that the conventional counterpart must be the natural version of the food. In a footnote, the statement is made that “It is recognized that, for the foreseeable future, foods derived from modern biotechnology will not be used as conventional counterparts.”[13]

The phrase, “for the foreseeable future” raises its own difficulties, because it provides a potential loophole. “Foreseeable future” does not set a timeline for the current policy to run out, but it does leave open the possibility of allowing a change in the current practice.

Allowing GM products to be compared to other GM products for substantial equivalence is an enormous blow to the environment, human health, and consumer choice. Such an action would completely undercut the already weak and ridiculous method of substantial equivalence and would turn the entire nature of our food supply upside down. One would be comparing a dangerous product to another dangerous product but labeling it safe because it was substantially equivalent to the first dangerous product.

Like the situation involving vitamins and minerals, this is the Twilight Zone reality produced by Codex once it gains power of the food supply.


Sources:
[1] MacKenzie, Anne. A. “The Process of Developing Labeling Standards For GM Foods In The Codex Alimentarius.” AgBioForum, Vol.3, Number 4, 2000. pp. 203-208. http://www.agbioforum.org/v3n4/v3n4a04-mackenzie.htm May 24, 2010.

[2] Ibid.
Please Note:
While it is true that the European Union had two representatives on the panel, it also true that the EU speaks with one voice. Even if one were to argue that this would give them extra representation, pro-GM nations still outnumber anti-GM nations.

[3] MacKenzie, Anne. A. “The Process of Developing Labeling Standards For GM Foods In The Codex Alimentarius.” AgBioForum, Vol.3, Number 4, 2000. pp. 203-208. http://www.agbioforum.org/v3n4/v3n4a04-mackenzie.htm May 24, 2010.

[4] Ibid.

[5] “Foods Derived From Modern Biotechnology,” 2nd edition. Codex Alimentarius. P.1 ftp://ftp.fao.org/docrep/fao/011/a1554e/a1554e00.pdf Accessed May 24, 2010.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Ibid.

[9] “Statement of Food Policy – Foods Derived From New Plant Varieties,” FDA Federal Register Vol. 57. 1992. http://www.fda.gov/Food/GuidanceComplianceRegulatoryInformation/GuidanceDocuments/Biotechnology/ucm096095.htm Accessed May 24, 2010.

[10] Ibid.

[11] “Foods Derived From Modern Biotechnology,” 2nd edition. Codex Alimentarius. P. 9 ftp://ftp.fao.org/docrep/fao/011/a1554e/a1554e00.pdf Accessed May 24, 2010.

[12] Ibid. p.2

[13] Ibid.

Read other articles by Brandon Turbeville here.

Brandon Turbeville is an author out of Florence, South Carolina. He has a Bachelor's Degree from Francis Marion University and is the author of three books, Codex Alimentarius -- The End of Health Freedom, 7 Real Conspiracies, and Five Sense Solutions and Dispatches From a Dissident. Turbeville has published over 190 articles dealing on a wide variety of subjects including health, economics, government corruption, and civil liberties. Brandon Turbeville's podcast Truth on The Tracks can be found every Monday night 9 pm EST at UCYTV.  He is available for radio and TV interviews. Please contact activistpost (at) gmail.com. 


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