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College Student Drops Out After University Denies Opt Out From “Unhealthy” Food Plan

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Missy Martin wanted Belmont University to know that a food plan which did not contain organic, seasonal, fresh, locally-grown, sustainable food wasn’t in her best interest while she was studying there. She wasn’t interested in participating in a school food program that routinely had processed, GM, and sugar-laden foods on its menu. Instead of agreeing to her request to ‘opt-out’ of the University’s food plan, she received a letter stating that she could not refuse the toxic food. As a result – she dropped out of school.

Martin’s voice is among others who are bringing attention to the collusion of Universities and Colleges with the Big Ag model for food production.

Robert, a student at Cornell University recently exposed the school’s deep industrial ties with Monsanto. Robert says that he enrolled at Cornell as a freshman without any previous knowledge of the school’s ties to companies like Monsanto, Syngenta, or Bayer. After ‘jumping through hoops’ at the school academically, he decided to pursue his own self-directed study, largely influenced by the work of a mentor. He took some time away from the University.

Robert found Cornell Professor Emeritus T. Colin Campbell’s legendary epidemiological research on nutrition and human disease. His evidence was so persuasive that he quickly transitioned to a plant-based diet. From here, he began to research agro-ecological crop production.

Robert states that he returned to Cornell a changed man, with an entirely new perspective, but he was in for a surprise. He states:

“. . . I sat in on a course entitled “The GMO Debate”. I was expecting members of an intellectual community coming together, with proponents and critics of GMO food each giving the best verified evidence they had to support their cause. Given all that I had learned about GMO agriculture, I was excited to participate for the “GMO skeptic” side.

The GMO Debate course, which ran in the fall of 2015, was a blatant display of unscientific propaganda in an academic setting. There were a total of 4 active professors in the course, and several guest speakers. They took turns each session defending industrial agriculture and biotechnology with exactly zero critical examination of GMOs. In spite of the course’s name, there was a complete lack of actual “debate”. Here are some of the more memorable claims I heard that fall semester:

  • GMO food is necessary to feed the world
  • there is no instance of harm from agricultural GMOs
  • glyphosate, the main ingredient in Roundup, is safer than coffee and table salt
  • if you believe in science, you must believe in GMO technology
  • the science of genetic engineering is well understood
  • “what off-target effects?” … when asked about the proven biochemical risks of GE technology
  • Vitamin A rice is curing children of Vitamin A deficiency (even though the IRRI, the research institute responsible for rolling it out, says it won’t be ready for some years: http://goo.gl/mHcsoJ)
  • Current pesticides and herbicides don’t pose an ecological or human health risk
  • Bt is an organic pesticide, therefore Bt GMO crops are safe and pose no additional risk
  • Bt crops work just fine — but we are now engineering insects as a complementary technology — to make the Bt work better
  • “Are you scared of GMO insects? Because you shouldn’t be.”
  • GMO crops are the most rigorously tested crops in the history of food
  • “If [renowned environmentalist] Rachel Carson were alive today, she would be pro-GMO”

Only later did Robert learn, through a Freedom of Information act disclosure, that all four professors which headed this ‘GMO debate’ course were part of Cornell’s pro-GMO ‘Alliance for Science’ group. They represented a much larger group of academics that were promoting biotech crops of behalf of the biotech industry.

Jonathan Latham, PhD who once himself tinkered with plant genetics, has since written a paper which further documents the collusion between agribusiness and chemical industries with academia. They wield influence through land grants, PR companies, grants to professors, well-paid speaking engagements, and university programs.

Here are but a few professors who are suspect in doing the bidding of Big Ag and Big Biochemical companies, as evidenced in Latham’s writings:

  • Kevin Folta, Chair of the Dept. of Horticulture at the University of Florida secretly took expenses and $25,000 of unrestricted money from Monsanto to promote GMO crops.
  • Nina Fedoroff (Penn State) Contributes to the NY Times, and used her position to coordinate and sign a letter on behalf of 60 prominent scientists that was then sent to EPA as part of an effort to defeat an important pesticide regulation.
  • Bruce Chassy (former Prof Emeritus, University of Illinois on food science) writes for genetic Literacy Project and other sites which promote GMOs. He has been suspect or accepting biotech funding to promote GM crops.
  • David Shaw (Mississippi State University) is in receipt of biotech funding.
  • Alan McHughen (University of California, Riverside) worked to destroy the credibility of Russian scientist and GMO critic Irina Ermakova.
  • Calestuous Juma (Harvard University) longtime advocate of GMOs for Africa.
  • Wayne Parrott (University of Georgia) a serial intervener in academic GMO debates.
  • Ron Herring (Cornell) who has helped to promote GMOs in India and fought to defuse the farmer suicide debate in India.
  • CS Prakash (Tuskegee University) scientist who asked for a recall of a paper condemning the contamination of indigenous corn in Mexico by GM varieties.
  • Roger Beachy (Danforth Center, formerly USAID) – rebuts articles which claim GMOs are not safe or pose an environmental or health risk.

It is students like Robert and Martin who bring a critical eye to the Universities who shape young minds, and also take large part in filling their stomachs. We should continue to listen to those willing to sound the alarm bells for a clear overtaking of our institutions of higher learning by an industry which profits from creating GMOs and pesticides as an ‘evolutionary imperative’.

Photo credit: www.ecowatch.com

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