Sunday, April 10, 2011

Genetically Engineered Organisms (GMOs): Get in control of what you're eating

Genetically Engineered Organisms (GMOs): Get in control of what you're eating.
“The industry doesn’t want you to know the truth about what you’re eating – because if you knew, you might not want to eat it.” Eric Schlosser, author of Fast Food Nation.
Over 15 years ago, Americans began eating genetically engineered food. Surprised? That's because no one told you. While other countries require mandatory labeling of these food ingredients, our FDA has decided we don't need to know.

A genetically modified organism (GMO) is an organism whose genetic material has been altered using genetic engineering techniques. These techniques, generally known as recombinant DNA technology, use DNA molecules from different sources, which are combined into one molecule to create a new set of genes. This DNA is then transferred into an organism, giving it modified or novel genes. Transgenic organisms, a subset of GMO’s, are organisms which have inserted DNA that originates in different species. 
In the United States, the USDA reports on the total area of GMO varieties planted. According to National Agricultural Statistics Service, the states published in these tables represent 81-86% of all corn planted area, 88-90% of all soybean planted area, and 81-93% of all upland cotton planted area (depending on the year).  Basically the majority of these crops are all GMO!
In theory GMO’s have a distinct appeal to increase the Nations food supply and help people all over the world. GMO crops have a much lower Pest Resistance, Herbicide Tolerance, Disease Resistance and Cold Tolerance, making for more abundance of foods. As opposed to non GMO crops, which are more susceptible to environmental conditions and have a higher chance of dying off before being harvested. We also now have the tools to increase the ability to feed more people and provide nutrition to third world countries where impoverished peoples rely on a single crop such as rice for the main staple of their diet. Rice however, does not contain adequate amount of all necessary nutrients to prevent malnutrition. If rice could be genetically engineered to contain additional vitamins, minerals and nutrients, deficiencies could then be alleviated.
So far so good! More food, less waste. What could be wrong with that? The film "How to get fat without even trying" , goes into more detail about the correlation between GMO’S and our countries obesity rate.   

So what are some of the downsides to using GMO’S rather than natures original crops?
There is a growing concern that introducing foreign genes into food plants and animals may have an unexpected and negative impact on human health. A recent article published in Lancet examined the effects of GM potatoes on digestive tracts in rats. This study claimed that there were appreciable differences in the intestines of rats fed GM potatoes vs. the rats fed unmodified potatoes. Within just 10 days, the animals developed potentially pre-cancerous cell growth, smaller brains, livers, testicles, partially atrophied livers and damaged immune systems. Moreover, the cause was almost certainly side effects from the process of genetically engineering itself. In other words, the GM foods on the market, which are created from the same process, might have similar side effects on humans. There is also danger to humans who are allergic to certain foods. With GMO’S no one will know what they are eating. For example: say someone is deathly allergic to peanuts. A GMO may have a gene from a peanut in them. The allergic person could get a reaction from ANYTHING that contained the peanut gene. They wouldn’t even know what caused it, because there are no labeling laws about GMO’S. The most recent experiments with GMO’S have been on cows. Scientists have successfully introduced human genes into 300 dairy cows to produce milk with the same properties as human breast milk. With our busy society, who could possibly have the time to breast feed these days? There is a question about whether milk from these cows is going to be safe for humans and it is really difficult to tell that unless large clinical trials are conducted.  The unfortunate problem is that there are no studies being produced in efforts to make sure GMO’S are safe before they are released. It is being purely left up to chance.

While some groups advocate the complete prohibition of GMO’S, others call for mandatory labeling of genetically modified foods or other products. Other controversies include the definition of patent and property pertaining to products of genetic engineering. According to the Documentary Food, Inc. efforts to introduce labeling of GMO’S has repeatedly met resistance from lobbyists and politicians affiliated with big companies like Monsanto (responsible for most soy crops in U.S.).

How to avoid GMO'S

  • Seek products that are specifically labeled Non GMO, or GM free.
  • Buy 100% Organic produce, the U.S. does not allow produce to be labeled Organic if it has been genetically modified.
  • Shop locally. Although more than half of GM foods are produced in the U.S., most of it comes from large, industrial farms. By shopping at farmers markets and purchasing local foods, you may be able to avoid GM products.
  • Purchase beef that is 100% grass fed and meats that are 100% organic.

Most Common GMO'S:

  • Soybeans - Gene taken from bacteria (Agrobacterium sp. strain CP4) and inserted into soybeans to make them more resistant to herbicides.[1] See How to Live With a Soy Allergy for more information on avoiding soy products
  • Corn - There are two main varieties of GE corn. One has a Gene from the lepidoptera pathogen microorganism Bacillus thuringiensis inserted to produce the Bt toxin, which poisons insect pests.[2] There are also several events which are resistant to various herbicide. Present in high fructose corn syrup and glucose/fructose which is prevalent in a wide variety of foods in America.
  • Rapeseed/Canola - Gene added/transferred to make crop more resistant to herbicide.
  • Sugar beets - Gene added/transferred to make crop more resistant to Monsanto's Roundup herbicide.
  • Rice - Genetically modified to resist herbicides; not currently available for human consumption, but trace amounts of one GM long-grained variety (LLRICE601) may have entered the food supply in the USA and Europe.[3]More recently, golden rice, a different strain of rice has been engineered to produce significantly higher levels of beta carotene, which the body uses to produce vitamin A. Golden rice is still undergoing testing to determine if it is safe for human consumption.[4]
  • Cotton - engineered to produce Bt toxin. The seeds are pressed into cottonseed oil, which is a common ingredient in vegetable oil and margarine.
  • Dairy - Cows injected with GE hormone rBGH/rBST; possibly fed GM grains and hay.
  • Aspartame/AminoSweet - Addictive and dangerous artificial sweetener commonly found in chewing gum and "diet" beverages. A building block of aspartame, the amino acid phenylalanine, is usually manufactured with the aid of genetically modified E. coli bacteria. This process has been used industrially in the USA for many years.
  • Papayas
  • Farm Raised Salmon
The list of genetically modified food ingredients is growing at an alarming and what’s even more disturbing is the fact the USDA seems to have sided with big business in allowing GMO foods to be sold without any labeling whatsoever. Together we can get GMO’S banned from the U.S. Europe was able to do it over a decade ago without any government assistance. All they did was educate consumers, and that was enough pressure on the food industry to drop their ploys. If we ban together as an effective army we will be able to do this. Please understand the VAST majority of people in the U.S. do not want GM foods, so this is an EASY battle to win. All we have to do is a bit of organizational work.

To get more involved in the banning of GMOS you can support several organizations.

No comments: