Genetically Modified Foods
Powerful Solution or Potent Problem?
What is happening to real food? Genetically modified foods seem to have taken over. In the US today, over 80% of all processed foods (even some infant formula) contain GMO’s which stands for Genetically Modified Organism. And what is genetically engineered food exactly? To some, it isn’t food at all. To others, it is the single solution to a whole lot of problems, from famine to the environment. Both sides argue that the other side is driven by political interests.
The Biotechnology Industry Organization touts several benefits of genetically modified foods (foods derived from biotechnology): enhanced crop production for sustainable food, feed, fiber and fuel; resource conservation and energy efficiency; reduction of agriculture’s environmental footprint; improved economic viability for farmers and communities; product safety. Sounds great, right? It’s hard to argue against an innovative new way to nourish starving people across the globe. On the other hand, my own gut and logic tells me that this is a dangerous new door that is being opened and that will be difficult, if not impossible, to shut. But don’t trust my gut, read on.
What is it?
Genetically modified food, also known as GM food, GE (Genetically Engineered) food, and bioengineered food, means that genetic material from one species is cut and spliced into another species to create a completely new animal or plant. This isn’t like cross-pollinating within a plant species (to produce a seedless grape for example); or selectively breeding cows for higher milk production. The process involves crossing the species barrier. Genes from humans, bacteria, viruses, plants and animals are inserted into the plants. Unrelated genetic material is introduced into the recipient’s genetic code, presumably to improve it in some way. For instance, many of these plants actually produce their own pesticides so growers aren’t required to spray for bugs. Other examples might include improving taste, texture or appearance or altering a food so it provides more or specific nutrients.
Who says it's safe?
The GE industry is unregulated. Though this is disputed by the industry itself. Proponents claim there is rigorous oversight by the USDA, the FDA and the EPA. This is hard to take seriously if you examine the facts. The FDA accepts the industry’s own scientific data much like they take pharmaceutical companies’ own in-house trials as the basis for approving drugs. Sound familiar? The foxes are again guarding the regulatory henhouse. And, according to Jeffrey M. Smith, author of Seeds of Deception : Exposing Industry and Government Lies about the Safety of the Genetically Engineered Foods You’re Eating, and Genetic Roulette: The Documented Health Risks of Genetically Engineered Foods, they’ve got ‘bad science’ down to a science, cooking the books of their already substandard studies.
Why isn't it labeled?
The US is the only country in the world where labeling of GMO’s is not required. There’s plenty of pressure to keep it that way too. GE agribusiness claims that public misperception of the safety of genetically modified food would result in unfair competition if this food required labeling. The FDA’s position is that labeling isn’t required unless a bioengineered food is significantly different from its traditional counterpart. In general, the FDA says GMO’s are “substantially equivalent”.
Can it make us sick?
Unplanned, unexpected mutations in genetically modified foods are routine and biotechnology agribusiness acknowledges this without blinking. New proteins with toxic and allergenic traits could possibly lead to mad cow and other prion-type diseases. For example, scientists have pointed to unintended proteins, alteration of existing protein levels or significant changes in the shape and makeup of proteins, as one of many potential dangers that are not addressed in the industry’s “testing”.
The immune system can react to genetically altered food and lead to food sensitivity and food allergies. The GE industry claims that since biotech food hit grocery stores in 1996 and 1997, not a single person or animal has become sick from eating them. However, since most people have no idea they are eating them, and since there isn’t any tracking, this is a ridiculous claim to make. Digestive problems are epidemic and kids increasingly suffer from allergies and asthma. And since there are no independent, long term studies, we don’t really know what the outcome will be in the years and decades to come.
And is it true or verifiable that not a single person or animal has been harmed from eating genetically modified food? Smith points out that:
About 100 people died and 5-10,000 fell seriously ill when they consumed the food supplement L-tryptophan. Only those who consumed the variety that was genetically modified became ill. That brand had minute, but deadly contaminants that would easily pass through current regulations today. If the disease it created had not been rare and acute, with crippling and deadly symptoms, the GM supplement might never have been traced as the cause. Once discovered, however, industry and government covered up facts and diverted the blame.
In reality, there is lots of evidence to suggest damage and death from consumption of GMO’s. According to Smith, there are only about two dozen published, peer-reviewed animal feeding studies on the health effects of GM foods. Summarizing information available in detail at
the Seeds of Deception website
when rats, mice, rabbits, pigs, cows and chickens ate various genetically modified foods – corn, potatoes, tomatoes, soy and peas, results varied, but in short, the animals got sick or died . . .
- Bleeding stomachs;
- inhibited development of brains, livers and testicles;
- partial atrophy of the liver;
- enlarged pancreases and intestines;
- immune system damage;
- significant changes in blood cells, livers and kidneys, possibly indicating disease;
- abnormal or excessive cell growth in the lower part of the small intestine;
- low conception rates, false pregnancies, “gave birth to bags of water”, sterility;
- “mysterious illness”;
- significant changes in liver cells;
- significant drop in production of a major digestive enzyme combined with other pancreatic changes suggested interference with digestion and assimilation, as well as altered gene expression;
- changes in testicular cells;
- changed cell metabolism;
- heavier livers;
- allergic-type inflammatory response; and
- death of subjects and offspring.
The United States, Canada and Argentina account for about 96% of all GE food. Starting with mostly corn and soy, GE Crops now make up more than 30% of the national crop in the US. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN approves of the consumption of this food. Many African nations, though in need of assistance to fight famine, have refused genetically modified foods. The European Union has banned it. Who wants it? Who makes it? And why? Many Americans have no idea it’s in virtually everything they eat. We were never given the choice and have not had the right to informed consent. How do you feel about eating it and feeding it to your children?
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