As if I needed another topic to worry myself over. Between this, celiac, and the BPA plastics issue (this will be coming in another blog post) I am emotionally and intellectually spent. Is anyone else tired of feeling like their family is being bombarded by environmental and physical dangers from every possible direction? I guess I’m getting to the point where I am not shocked why most American’s simply shrug their shoulders and decide to let someone else worry about these things and close their ears to topics such as these. The work that it takes to research a topic, make a decision and then carry out that change in lifestyle is sometimes very difficult. Ok, whine over. Here’s what I’ve been finding and yes, it is disturbing. Another one of those things that I’ve caught wind of several times but never bothered to look into and am now kicking myself because of it.
Definition: Genetically modified (GM) foods are foods produced from genetically modified organisms (GMO) that have had their DNA altered through genetic engineering. GM foods were first put on the market in the early 1990s. The most common modified foods are derived from plants: soybean, corn, canola, and cotton seed oil.
How Common are Genetically Modified Foods?
The general population is unaware of how prevalent genetically modified (GM) food has become within our food chain. For example, if you were to randomly go to the grocery store and pick a boxed item off of the shelf you have a 75% chance of picking up a food with GM ingredients. This is because 7 out of every 10 items have been genetically modified. This is significant!
In a 10 year period, between 1995 and 2005, the amount of land cultivated with Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) had increased from 4.2 million acres to 222 million acres. In 2003, the countries that grew 99% of the worlds transgenic crops (genetically modified, containing DNA from another species) were the following countries:
United States – 63%
Argentina – 21%
Canada – 6%
Brazil – 4%
China – 4%
South Africa – 1%
By 2006, in the United States 89% of soybeans, 83% of cotton, and 61% of maize (corn) were genetically modified.
Why Should I Be Concerned about Genetically Modified Food?
No one hides the fact that GM food products are everywhere. There is no debate on that. So then, why should you even care? There are many reasons to be concerned.
- No Human Studies: To begin, there have never been any studies that test the affects of consuming genetically modified food in humans. The FDA only assumes that GM food products are equivalent to the original in the way our body reacts to them.
- Not Easily Contained: Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) are not easily contained. Safety measures, referred to as Biological Containment have to be in place to protect conventional and organic crops from being contaminated with GM crops. There is the possibility that without proper containment (and knowledge of how to do this is in its infancy) that these new GM products could taint and/or wipe out important species in our food supply.
- Genetic Alteration May Cause Damage to Digestive and Immune Systems: The actual process of genetic alteration may cause damage to mammalian (that’s us) digestive and immune systems. In 1998, Arpad Pusztai, a researcher in Scotland, performed the first independent, non-industry sponsored study analyzing genetically engineered food and it’s affects on mammals. His study found that rats that were fed transgenic potatoes showed evidence of organ damage, thickening of the small intestine and poor brain development. The transgenic potatoes had been genetically engineered to contain lectin, a sugar binding protein that makes the plant pest resistant. Ironically, the adverse reactions only occurred in the group of rats eating the transgenic potatoes even though the control rats were fed a diet of plain potatoes mixed with lectin from the same source. These results indicate that the damage does not come from the lectin itself but due to the process of genetic engineering. This is a very important distinction. It also means that all genetically engineered products would be at risk of causing harm, not just lectin and potatoes.
-Effects on Ecosystems: There is concern over the impact of genetically modified organisms in both farmed and wild ecosystems. If we get to the point where there are weed free and insect-free crops it could result in declines of other wildlife such as birds which feed on weed seeds and/or insects for their food resources. A UK based study found this to be the case with GM sugar beet and GM rapeseed crops .
-Monsanto: Monsanto is a giant biotech corporation that threatens to destroy the agricultural biodiversity that has existed for thousands of years. Up until recently the United States Patent and Trademark Office refused to issue patents on seeds. However, in 1980 the U.S. Supreme Court allowed for seed patents in a 5-4 decision which laid the groundwork for a handful of corporations to take control of the World’s food supply. Since that time Monsanto has become the world’s leader in the genetic modification of seeds and has won 674 biotechnology patents (more than any other company). Farmers who buy their seeds are required to sign strict agreements that lay out how the seeds can be used and they must buy new seeds each year. They are also required not to share the seeds with other farmers. They have both the capacity and ruthless drive to destroy the worlds biodiversity and food supply for their own profit. To watch a video documentary that was aired on French Television please go HERE. Or you can go to You Tube and search for Monsanto and you will be bombarded with many, many videos.
-Morgellon’s Disease: Is a new terrifying disease a result of genetically modified foods? As of February 2007, more than 10,000 reports of this mysterious disease have been reported on the Morgellon Foundation’s Wesbite. The reported cases are up from only 2000 cases in 2006. The disease has been reported in 15 nations across the world including Canada, the UK, Australia and the Netherlands as well as all 50 states in the United States. The majority of reports come from Texas, California and Florida. People who have the disease describe it as a feeling of bugs or parasites scuttling around under their skin and it is accompanied by open lesions that heal slowly and ooze out blue, black or white fibers that can be several millimeters long. The CDC has finally put up a web page about the phenomenon and refer to it as Unexplained Dermopathy. Below is a picture of a 3 year old male with the showing the fibers embedded in his lips and a picture of those same fibers removed.
-The God Role: So this is just my very unscientific and emotionally laden argument but I’m sure it exists more eloquently somewhere out there on the ‘net. Even if you dismiss the possibility of God and approach it from a natural or mother earth perspective the notion that we, as humans, with very limited knowledge and perspective can upturn and modify nature to suit our needs and wants without consequence to the natural order of things seems naive. I myself believe in God and I believe that if God wanted DNA from this substance to be mixed with that substance he very well would have taken care of it himself. We have been given dominion but the abuse of that dominion will have powerfully devastating effects if left unchecked.
What Can I do? How Can I avoid Genetically Modified Food?
So how do you know if a food you are eating is genetically modified? Well, frankly, if you are buying it from the grocery store you don’t. But there are things you can do to dramatically decrease your exposure.
-Stay Away From Processed Foods: This is of course, easier said then done. This means that foods that come in packages (unless 100% organic) have high potential (at least 75%) of containing genetically modified ingredients. Most processed foods contain corn and soy products and most corn and soy products are genetically modified (61% and 89% respectively in 2006). This goes for fast food and restaurants as well. You have no way of knowing whether or not the food has been genetically modified. Your best bet is to stick with whole foods, that are in their original state that you prepare yourself. And yes, that is a big commitment.
-Buy Organic Whenever Possible: By definition food that is certified organic must be free of all GM organisms.
-Examine Produce Stickers: The PLU code for conventionally grown fruits consists of four numbers. Organic contains five numbers prefaced by the number 9. GM fruits contain five numbers prefaced by the number 8.
-True Food Shopping Guide: Get to know and use the True Food Shopping Guide which is a list of acceptable products and brands that do not contain GM products.
-Grow your own Food: Start your own garden and purchase seeds that have not been genetically modified. Not only can you control what happens to the food you grow but you are cultivating a skill that will bless your entire family and subsequent generations.
-Shop Local: Buy produce and foods from local sources whenever possible. Not only are you helping to sustain our resources but you are helping your community and reducing your exposure to GM crops. Most GM crops are large industry crops. By supporting the little guy there will be less demand for high yield crops which are more likely to contain genetically modified organisms.
-Demand Better: Use your dollar to set the demand. These crops can not thrive if there are no consumers to buy them. Use your voice to tell your elected officials how you feel about GM crops. Ask your grocery stores to stock more organic foods.
Video’s, Documentaries and Other Links
VIDEO: The Future of Food
Wikipedia: A vast amount of information and sources are available
Dr Mercola: This is just one of many links that Dr. Mercola has on the subject. There are links to many other articles within this one or you can search on his website.
Human Genome Project Information: Information on Genetically Modified Foods.
USDA Data Sets: Some statistics