Monday, October 22, 2012

G-M-Oh-Oh (Part 3)

Pretty scary stuff, don’t you think? What I find most disturbing is how quickly GMOs have entered our food supply without proper research and understanding of their long-term impact on our health and well-being. We have already had confirmed instances of harm.

For example, in 1989, dozens of Americans died and several thousands were afflicted and impaired by a genetically altered version of the food supplement – L-tryptophan. A settlement of $2 billion dollars was paid by Showa Denko, Japan’s third largest chemical company.

But that’s not all. There are so many other potential risks we face as a result of the spread of genetically modified crops. Here’s a sampling:

We already know that the overuse of antibiotics has led to the rise of super bugs. The medical community is pretty consistent in recommending the cutting back of antibiotic use. Now, in GMOs, sometimes antibiotic-resistant genes are inserted into organisms as part of the modification process. If these genes enter the food supply and are taken up by the microflora in the human gut, the effectiveness of antibiotics could be further reduced, thereby potentially increasing the risk of human infectious diseases. Because what we really need are more diseases we can’t fight. Right?

There is also the potential for cross-breeding between GM crops and surrounding vegetation, including weeds. So, we could be dealing with weeds that are resistant to herbicides, which means we would need to increase and escalate the use of herbicides to deal with the situation.  More herbicide use = greater soil and water contamination. It’s the gift that never stops giving, folks.

Even when crops aren’t intentionally genetically modified, cross-pollination complicates things. On August 18, 2006, American exports of rice to Europe were interrupted when much of the U.S. crop was confirmed to be contaminated with unapproved engineered genes, possibly due to accidental cross-pollination with conventional crops.
In 1998, 95% of about 2500 acres planted with canola by Canadian farmer Percy Schmeiser were found to contain Monsanto's patented Roundup Ready gene, although Schmeiser had never purchased nor used seed from the Monsanto company. Monsanto then sued Schmeiser for piracy. And won. Read that again. Monsanto sued a farmer for having contaminated crops through no fault of his own and won that lawsuit. In the past few years more and more crops have started to cross-pollinate which presents a problem that can only get bigger.
Do we want to have insects we can’t battle? We just might be setting ourselves up for that kind of problem.  The genetic modification of some crops to permanently produce the natural biopesticide Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) toxin could encourage the evolution of Bt-resistant insects, rendering the pesticide ineffective. So, we bio-engineer a plant to resist insects that then gives rise to insects that can’t be stopped with pesticides. We seem to be moving in the wrong direction here.

The so-called buffer zones around GM crops are really nothing more than a feel good measure.  How do we contain nature? Do we tell bees to pollinate GM crops from only other GM crops and go ahead and pollinate organic crops from organic crops? I’d love to sit in on that meeting. Meanwhile, growing GM crops on a large scale continues to pose questions about biodiversity, the balance of wildlife and the environment.  Yes, the organic produce that we eat, and that we think is free of genetic modification, might very well be contaminated by GM crops. There’s really no way to know.

OK, so what can we do about this growing threat?

For one thing, we can strive to buy organic foods whenever possible. The US and Canadian governments do not allow manufacturers to label something 100% organic if that food has been genetically modified or been fed genetically modified feed.  However, a food labeled “organic” can still contain up to 30% GMOs, so be sure the labels say 100% organic. The same goes for eggs.  Eggs labeled "free-range", "natural", or "cage-free" are not necessarily GMO-free; look for eggs that are 100% organic.

Although I advocate eating a vegan vegetarian diet, for those of you who eat meat, here are some guidelines.Most cattle in the U.S. are grass-fed, but spend the last portion of their lives in feedlots where they may be given GMO corn in order to increase intramuscular fat and marbling. If you're looking to stay away from GMOs, make sure the cattle were 100% grass-fed or pasture-fed (sometimes referred to as grass-finished or pasture-finished). The same applies to meat from other herbivores like sheep. With non-ruminants like pigs and poultry that cannot be 100% grass-fed, it's better to look for meat that is 100% organic. Buy seafood that is wild-caught, not farmed.

As much as possible, cook and prepare your own food, rather than eating food that has been processed or packaged. Try to stay away from anything that comes in a box or a bag, including fast food.

Support legislation that requires food labeling. Making a personal choice as to what to put in our bodies is impossible if we are not given the information with which to make that choice. Support products and companies that don’t use GMOs in food production.

The truth is that we don't need GMO technology. We can turn things around by using sustainable and organic farming methods to repair the damage done by industrial farming, reducing the excessive use of fertilizers, herbicides and other man-made chemicals, and making GMO crops an experiment that can be left on the pages of history books, rather than a dangerous reality our children will have to deal with.


  1. This is shocking! it look like we leaving so much damage to our children. Not fare... Where does it stop, what can we do besides being so busy going after money and more stuff... Lets help to fix it!

    1. I agree, Suenet. We can educate ourselves and others about the situation, support companies that sell non-GMO food and work to enact legislation for food labeling. Please share these posts with your friends to help spread the word. :)