Genetically Modified Foods: Do you know what you’re eating?

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

LINKS:

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

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15 comments

  1. Pingback: Genetically Modified Foods | Jade's Blog
  2. Jayka · October 28, 2012

    If you like documentaries check out “attack the scientist”. I rented it on iTunes. It’s all about GM foods and how scientists are being ostrasized for releasing research that shows GM foods are dangerous.

  3. Carissa · March 13, 2012

    This gives me more motivation to start a community garden. It’s horrible when scientists create something that’s suppose to help us and all it does is harm. I’m totally against the scientific engineering of my food.

  4. helen · March 7, 2010

    Healthy food is very important to us.Now so many polutions to the environment.

  5. Blinded by propaganda and lies · March 29, 2009

    Well, Lula, u can have your opinions and eat what u like but me and my family will be staying away from GMO’s. 4 years of your studying cannot determine the long term effects of ingesting food that has been genetically modified. There has been links between GM foods and all sorts of problems with human beings. Monsanto only sees $$$$ signs, not healthy humans. GM foods are as bad as aspartame and fluoridation of water, all evil. I could get into all the conspiracy theories about how the government is using certain tactics to silently control the population but that is a different argument all together.

    YOU ARE WHAT U EAT!!!!!!!! BE HEALTHY< LIVE HEALTHY

  6. Alan · January 15, 2009

    J.T.C.
    Just finding this blog while searching Sunbutter, my new favorite, and I’m now reading about genetics and plants. How cool is this internet thing.
    Lest we not forget plants and animals including us, have been genetically engineered since the beginning. Both by mother nature and humans. I my self am a naturalist and would like to see everything like our Native American ancestors. While our conceived image of them may not be the actuality, the natural essence is worth striving for. Water out of a stream, not a plastic bottle for example.
    But reality does creep in. At my age I would probably be expelled from the tribe by now, and I certainly would not be alive without the marvels of medicine. But then again I may not have had the health issues but for the weird and scary medical practices of the early 50s.
    I also don’t think we should extend the life of humans at all cost. It goes against nature. Daily we are creating a less robust human race. Between all the antiseptics, abuse of antibiotics, genetic engineering, let alone pollution, etc etc, we are changing our world and ourselves. My point being, it is a wash and we are experiencing evolution in its glory. I am not speaking of the creation/evolution question. I’m speaking of changes in life and society evolution. Human kind is getting older. You and I may not like it. We may do a lot of kicking and screaming with both positive and negative results. But all we can hope to do is direct it all toward a safer path. Don’t stop kicking and screaming, but also don’t be afraid. We have been here before. History does repeat itself, just in different manners.
    Cool site, but must be on my way. I hope to reach the end of the internet pretty soon.

  7. vintagefan · June 22, 2008

    Lulu,

    The golden rice that you mentioned is not the miracle saviour that you say it is.

    http://online.sfsu.edu/~rone/GEessays/goldenricehoax.html

    this is not the only study or analysis you will find on GM foods. Since the FDA screwed up the only information you can rely on is from independant studies. Monsanto wants to step in as the saviour of the third world during the current food crisis when their policies have been nothing short of evil so far. If you had done your research you would have found out how unscrupulous their methods in monopolizing the market has been at the expense of poor cotton farmers in India, not just the American farmers. OPEN YOUR EYES. They are interested in nothing but money at the expense of human lives.
    In the third world these lives only seem to come cheaper.

  8. Thomast · May 18, 2008

    Of course Lulu wont mention the Hungarian scientist who got kicked out of the research labs in Scotland, for going public with the massive organ deformities found in animal studies, caused by the so called safe GM crops.

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  10. Thank you for this very enlightening and at times disturbing infomation and the immense research you have out into it.
    Regards.

  11. journeytocrunchville · May 4, 2008

    Lula,

    Thank you for your comments. I’m sure you are aware that there is controversy about how “helpful” genetically modified food actually is for third world countries. I don’t have time to link to all of these arguments but I’m sure someone who wanted to check it out could find them easily enough by googling.

    In my mind, and I’m sure I’m not the only one, there is a big difference between using genetically modified foods to make and create drugs and to change our food supply. Consent would be the biggest one that comes to mind. I don’t know about you but over the last decade or so I had no idea that what I’ve been putting into my mouth (and my families) was not “pure” food. There has been a silent transition (to the general public) for the food we’ve been eating and I find that dishonorable and unacceptable. If you want to sell your cheaper made and genetically altered food then you need to disclose that to your consumers. Also, drugs come with side-effects and they’re required to disclose and test their products. We both know no one has tested humans for their reactions to genetically modified foods, especially when those foods comprise a LARGE part of their diet and we both know that typical Americans eat a lot of corn and soy (the most heavily produced GM crops). I am completely unconvinced that there is absolutely no risk of complication.

    As for the God Factor argument the answer is yes and no. Is there a place for modern science? Yes. Do we take it too far? Yes. Modern drugs are bandaids, and perpetually sticky ones at that. They leave a residue (side effects) and over the years those tend to create new problems of their own. God prepared this world and many of the things in it for us to use to take care of our bodies and to heal them. Most of the people that rely on modern medicine to cure their every ache and pain start a snowball of effects and eventually wind up dependent on said drugs. There are typically (not always) natural remedies that work just as effectively, if not more so, than their pharmaceutical drug counterparts. Sometimes a drastic diet change is all that is needed but a lot of people don’t want lifetime commitments that require change on their part. They’d rather pop the pill and use a bandaid until they are on 8-10 different medications and get to the point where they say “how did I get here? and what can I do to get my health back?” They’re certainly not going to get it back with another pill.

    Anyway, with that being said modern medicine has done tremendous things to bring about necessary health benefits but those benefits do not come without a price and there is consent when you choose to use these things. I think it is dangerous to compare the benefits of pharmaceutical drugs and our agricultural food supply and to assume you must have both.

    And yes I can imagine the cancer rate has gone down for those farmers hat cut down their use of pesticides. Two comments. I support farming that does not use pesticides (ie organic farming). And second, what has it done for their agricultural consumers consuming their GM food? Does anyone know if their cancer rates will go up – and no, no one can know that yet because there haven’t been studies and there hasn’t been enough elapsed time since the introduction of said GM food.

    We both know the bottom line with GM foods is not how it can save the world. It is about money and the bottom line. This is an economical development that people attach benefits to so that everyone can feel warm and fuzzy about it. Maybe it has benefits. Maybe it has consequences that outweigh those benefits. Maybe it is a completely benign factor that is meaningless. My biggest point is that it needs to be CONSENSUAL.

  12. Emeth Hesed · May 1, 2008

    Thank you so much for posting this. I am grateful for how much you care about your family and how much work you put into researching what is good for them and I really respect you for that. You have taught me so much. I will be a LOT more careful with what I buy from now on. Thank you.

  13. Lula · May 1, 2008

    “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.”

    Fair enough but as I mentioned, cutting out genetically modified organisms means cutting out most modern drugs such as insulin, produced in bacteria, cancer treatments, blood clot treatments, hemophilia treatments etc. These are made from a wide range of genetically modified cells that have had a human gene to produce the protein introduced into them, such as E. coli (gut bacteria), cultured chinese hamster ovary cells, human cells, plants, transgenic animals, mice etc. Surely you are prepared to use such products, despite their GM origin and animal testing? (every single drug has been tested on animals before clinical trials).

  14. Lula · May 1, 2008

    Oh, and a critical point obviously is educating the public about what GM food is. Most people do not understand what it entails, just like the general public do not really understand what stem cells are, for example. GM technology is used everywhere, from the drugs you take on a daily basis such as your insulin if you’re diabetic, to the life saving cancer drugs such as herceptin for breast cancer, and to the enzymes found in your biological washing powder.

    In case you’re wondering, I’ve been studying Biochemistry for the last 4 years. I was against GM food before I started by principle. Now that I have a detailed understanding of what it entails, I changed my views.

  15. Lula · May 1, 2008

    I’m all for the technology behind genetically modified organisms. Putting aside the ethical and political problems that these can create, this is what GM technology can offer in the context of food:

    – It can be made to be safe, i.e. GM plants can be made so that they cannot cross pollinate other species and do not contain herbicide resistant or antibiotic resistant genes
    – GM food has dramatically reduced the rate of cancers among many farmers, e.g. China (see Huang et. al. Nature 2005) due to less pesticide usage
    – Golden Rice which contains pro vitamin A beta carotene has been engineered to be introduced in third world countries and could save millions of children from death. Other plants are being developed to try and give nutrients to those who need them
    – Additionally, vaccines and pharmaceuticals for e.g. cancer can be made inside plants, which can be a lot safer and cheaper than other alternatives used presently, e.g. great hopes for creating an anthrax vaccine with little side effects
    – GM food might help the environment actually as for example a pesticide resistant crop will resist pesticides and change the ecosystem ONLY within the crop and its vicinity, whereas dumping a load of pesticides and herbicides can do a lot more damage as these can travel into the water supply (sea, lakes) via rain and contaminate an area of land which is far more important. Pesticide resistant crops can be sprayed only once or twice rather than up to 8 times. Also as mentioned this is healthier for the farmers and the food itself and pesticides and herbicides can cause cancer

    Now what I can agree with is:

    – Some genetic modifications should require further testing, but a lot of them would not affect us. e.g. tomatoes that do not spoil as fast. Knocking down the enzyme responsible for spoiling (involved in breaking down the tomato walls) should have no impact on us
    – Legislation should be put into place so that companies such as Monsanto do not get their products approved before they have been deemed safe for the environment. This is not a GM food problem but a political and commercial one
    – Mosanto, Bayer and co have the technology available to them to make GM crops SAFE
    – Mercola is big business. It’s a money making commercial website – very biased too

    Overall I think GM food can do great things, like improve the health of farmers and the health of children and adults that suffer from nutritional deficiencies. It is also an answer to the growing need for more food – there is so much land available to feed the growing population. I have no problems with eating GM food – in fact maybe it’s better as they will contain less pesticides/fertilizers. GM crops will also save many lives by providing pharmaceuticals. However the real problem with GM crops is the politics behind it and how it’s regulated. Companies like Mosanto have commercial interests, and it is up to proper governmental and harmonised legislation to make sure that such products have been tested adequately before their launch.

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