Are GMO Foods Safe?
I have been meaning to write about the issue of GMO foods for awhile now. It is a serious problem, and neither the FDA nor our government is protecting us from our food supply. Many thanks to my friend, Jeannie, who first called this problem to my attention.
We have been hearing more and more about GMO (genetically modified organisms) foods. You may have heard that General Mills has removed all GMOs from plain Cheerios (but not from the flavored varities. Hmmm.) And Whole Foods has removed Chobani yogurt from their shelves. It may shock you to hear that 60%-70% of the foods that we buy in American grocery stores has been genetically modified. But what exactly is genetically modified food, why is the food genetically modified, and is it safe to eat? Let’s take a closer look!
Food scientists originally developed genetically modified foods because they believed that we could produce more food and feed more people with less expense and work. And, of course, to make more money. Foods that have been genetically modified have been created to be more resistant to pests that would eat them and to be more likely to survive herbicides (weed killers) that have been applied. For example, the Monsanto company sells “Roundup Ready” crops which have been designed to withstand numerous applications of their Roundup herbicide. Why is this bad? Overuse of Roundup has caused the development of “superweeds” which are resistant to the weed killer. So, farmers are forced to use more and more of the weed killer. Roundup has been linked to sterility, hormone disruption, birth defects, cancer, and Parkinson’s disease, just to name a few problems. The GMO food that we eat contains high levels of toxic herbicides.
But it’s not just the herbicide issue that is a problem. What happens when a food is genetically modified? It is a complicated process, but essentially what occurs is that a single gene is removed from one organism and forcibly inserted into another. Sometimes viruses are used to modify the food. The foreign genes can accidentally turn on other genes that may overproduce an allergen, toxin, carcinogen, or may block natural nutrients from being absorbed by our bodies. The only human GM feeding study ever published shows that the foreign genes inserted into GM food crops can transfer into the DNA of our stomachs and intestines. This means that, for example, the normal bacteria in your gut may continue to produce a pesticide that was in the GMO food you ate and release it into your body. Not good!
Since the introduction of GMO foods in 1996, the number of Americans with 3 or more chronic illnesses has skyrocketed. Food allergies, autism, infertility problems, cancers, and digestive disorders are increasing at an alarming rate.
After a consumer-led revolt in 1999, the European Union has agreed to keep GMOs out of their European products. Dr. Arpad Pusztai, a top GMO safety researcher had spoken before Parliament and gave some quite alarming reports. In his studies, when GMO foods were fed to rats, the rats showed pre-cancerous cell growths, smaller brains, livers, and testicles, atrophied livers, and damaged immune systems. Most of these changes appeared within 10 days of starting to be fed the GMO food. Dr. Pusztai was then fired and threatened with a lawsuit if he made his research public. When the members of Parliament heard about the research results, this information did become public and then agreement was made to keep the GMOs out of the European food supply. This story got almost no publicity in the US.
More bad news: A Russian study found that more than half the offspring of mother rats fed FMO soy died within three weeks, compared with 9% from mothers fed natural soy. And an estimated 10,000 sheep died in India within 5-7 days of grazing on GMO cotton plants. And in 2003, about 100 people living next to a GMO cornfield in the Phillippines developed skin, respiratory, and intestinal reactions while the corn was shedding pollen. Blood tests showed this was an antibody response to Bt-toxin, which was genetically engineered into the corn.
GMO crops are eliminating habitat for monarch butterflies and contributing to the decline in the honeybee population.
The International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science, and Technology for Development report, authored by more than 400 scientists and backed by 58 governments has determined that “current GMOs have nothing to offer the goals of reducing hunger and poverty, improving nutrition, health and rural livelihoods, and facilitating social and environmental sustainability”.
What can we do to protect ourselves? Educate everyone about the dangers of GMO foods. Remember when bovine growth hormone was taken out of most dairy products? It was because consumers like you and I rejected, or stopped buying these products. So refuse to buy this genetically modified food.
Go organic. Organic foods do not contain genetically modified organisms. Be aware that in the US and Canada, GMO foods are legal and also do not have to be labeled. Stay away from soy, corn, canola, and cottonseed. This includes oils, preservatives, and the artificial sweetener aspartame. Most packaged or processed food contains GMOs. And check your vitamins and supplements. Many of them are either produced or contain fillers that are genetically modified. Be aware that infant formulas may contain GMOs.
Americans believe that our government and the Food and Drug Administration has done thorough testing on GMO foods and that since they are allowed to be sold, that means that they are safe. The reality is that the FDA has not one GMO safety testing requirement. The “proof” that GMO food is safe comes from the big biotech companies who design and conduct the genetic modifications to our food. And they are the ones making all the money from an unsuspecting population.
Educate yourself and others. Protect yourself and your loved ones. Let’s call a halt to genetically modified food for good.
Blessings to you,