I’m coming to you today with a lot of info about one of those things that you hear about a lot, but may not truly know about: Genetically Modified Organisms, or GMOs.
Can you imagine a jellyfish-infused potato that glows in the dark to signal that it needs watering? How about the genes of an arctic fish causing tomatoes to be less resistant to frost? Even scarier are the human genes injected into corn in order to produce spermicide, or the spider genes inserted into goat DNA with the hopes of the goat’s milk containing spider web protein for use in bulletproof vests! Who comes up with this stuff, you ask? Where are crazy science experiments like this taking place? The answers may be the most frightening part of all. It’s all happening right here…right now. In fact, there’s a good chance that you picked up some “science experiment” foods in the supermarket just this morning.
Sure, you’ve heard of them…GMOs…but what are they and why do we have them?
GMOs, or genetically modified organisms, are the result of a laboratory process that takes genes from one species and inserts them into another in an attempt to obtain a desired trait or characteristic. This process may be called either Genetic Engineering (GE) or Genetic Modification (GM); they are one and the same. These organisms have been created through the gene-splicing techniques of biotechnology. This relatively new science allows DNA from a given species to cross the natural species barriers imposed by nature, thus creating combinations of plant, animal, bacteria, and viral genes that do not occur in a natural environment or through traditional crossbreeding methods.
Although it was initially thought to be a science advancement that would cure the problem of world hunger, genetic modification has, thus far, only been used for pesticide production and big business economic gain. It’s startling to realize how little the effects of these mutations have been studied, and further more troubling that there are currently no FDA regulations or labeling laws regarding their usage. In 30 other countries around the world, including Australia, Japan, and all of the countries in the European Union, there are significant restrictions or outright bans on the production of GMOs, because they are not considered proven to be safe. In the U.S., on the other hand, the FDA has approved commercial production of GMOs based solely on studies conducted by the companies who created them and profit from their sale!
Are GM foods truly a threat to our health?
Genetically modified crops weren’t released until 1996, starting with GM soy, corn and cotton. Dr. Mercola, leading natural health physician and researcher, tells us,
“We’re still nowhere near seeing the full effects of these potential ramifications in humans, as we’re only about 15 years into it. But if the effects are anything like the effects on numerous types of animals, we could be looking at significant health problems, including sterility on a grand scale as our great-grandchildren grow up…A recent Russian animal study clearly illustrates the generational health hazards of a GM diet in animals. In the second generation, GM soy-fed hamsters had a five-fold higher infant mortality rate, compared the controls. But it got worse, because nearly all of the third generation hamsters fed GM soy were sterile…”
Another leading authority in the field of GMOs is Seeds of Deception author, Jeffrey Smith. In a 2007 article published on the website for the Institute for Responsible Technology, he clearly points out several animal studies that show a number of different GM foods causing liver damage. Further studies on animals have linked food allergies, immune system damage, super-viruses, and cancer to GM food consumption.
Smith also addresses another topic of controversy: the comparison of genetically altering foods to that of farmer cross-breeding and seed hybridizing. He clearly informs us that,
“Genetic engineering is completely different from traditional breeding and carries unique risks. In traditional breeding,it is possible to mate a pig with another pig to get a new variety, but is not possible to mate a pig with a potato or a mouse. Even when species that may seem to be closely related do succeed in breeding, the offspring are usually infertile—a horse, for example, can mate with a donkey, but the offspring (a mule) is sterile. With genetic engineering, scientists can breach species barriers set up by nature. For example, they have spliced fish genes into tomatoes. The results are plants (or animals) with traits that would be virtually impossible to obtain with natural processes such as crossbreeding or grafting.”
These health advocates, as well as many others, are vigorously researching, studying, and appealing to our government for strict regulation laws, labeling laws, and the right of American consumers to be fully-educated as to what they are buying and feeding their families.
So…As far as we know, what foods are affected by genetic modification?
The Non-GMO Project is a nonprofit organization that is striving to educate and protect consumers from the health risks of GM crops. They tell us that according to the USDA, in 2009, 93% of soy, 93% of cotton, and 86% of corn grown in the U.S. were GMO. It is estimated that over 90% of canola grown is GM, and there are also commercially produced GM varieties of sugar beets, squash, and Hawaiian Papaya. As a result, it is estimated that GMOs are now present in more than 80% of packaged products in the average U.S. or Canadian grocery store. Eeek!
Not only are these specific foods problematic, but more widespread are the processed foods that we derive from them. It is a rare product on a grocery store shelf that doesn’t contain something made from soy, corn, beet sugar, or canola/cottonseed oils. Other sources that one may not think of include dairy products from cows injected with the GM hormone rbGH, food additives, enzymes, flavorings, and processing agents, and meat, eggs, and dairy products from animals that have eaten GM feed (nearly all conventional livestock are fed GM corn/soy-based feeds).
In addition to the foods listed above, it is also likely that the foods listed below will be tainted with genetically modified ingredients.
Infant formula Salad dressing Bread Cereal Hamburgers and hotdogs Margarine Mayonnaise Crackers Cookies Chocolate Candy Fried food Chips Veggie burgers Meat substitutes Ice cream
Frozen yogurt Tofu Tamari and Soy sauce Soy cheese Tomato sauce Protein powder Baking powder Any sugar not 100% Cane Confectioner’s glaze Alcohol Vanilla (may contain corn syrup) Peanut butter Enriched flour Past Malt White vinegar
Wow…everything contains GMOs! What do we do??
It is true, much of our country’s agriculture and commerce has been taken over by the big business of genetic engineering. There are, however, a few surefire ways to avoid GMOs and the products they infest:
1) Buy Organic – Organic farmers, by regulation, are not allowed to use any ingredient, preservative, or seed that comes from a genetically modified plant. Not only are organic products more nutritious, they are now officially one of the few safe havens left in the food industry.
2) “Non-GMO” Labels – Be on the lookout for packages labeled “Non-GMO” or that specifically mention using no ingredients derived from genetic modification. It is becoming increasingly popular for food companies (especially in the health market) to convey to their consumers just how pure they are.
3) Avoid At-Risk Ingredients – It’s true that nearly 75% of commonly consumed food products contain derivatives of genetically modified corn and soy. Specifically avoiding ingredients like margarines, soy protein, soy lecithin, textured vegetable protein (TVP), tofu, tamari, tempeh, corn starch, corn syrup, and high-fructose corn syrup is advisable. Generally when we eat a holistically balanced diet, our risk of exposure to these processed foods and ingredients goes way down.
Where can I learn more about this?
There are many current resources available that can help educate conscious consumers about GMOs. Here are just a few that I recommend:
Seeds of Deception by Jeffrey Smith
Genetic Roulette by Jeffrey Smith
World Hunger by Brian Kenneth Swain
GMO-Free by Mae-Wan Ho, PhD and Lim Li Ching
The Future of Food…A documentary by Deborah Koons Garcia
No matter what your current understanding level is regarding genetically modified organisms, it is imperative to learn and take action immediately. A GM crop has been found thriving in the wild for the first time in the United States. It’s true. At the recent Ecological Society of America conference in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, researchers broke the news that transgenic canola is growing freely in parts of North Dakota. The scientists behind the discovery say this highlights a lack of proper monitoring and control of GM crops in the United States, and as Dr. Mercola states, “The extent of the escape is unprecedented”.
It is right here…right now…in your own supermarket and home. Do not wait any longer to educate yourself and those around you. As conscious consumers, and more importantly, as concerned human beings, we can no longer add to this global science experiment that has taken over one of the very wellsprings of life: our food.
Definitely food for thought, my friends. Think on it. Then take action.