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GMOs: The Bad + The Ugly

Melissa Villamizar November 16, 2011 Health No Comments
GMOs: The Bad + The Ugly

No, I didn’t forget “The Good” in the title. There’s no “good”, bad and ugly here. Just bad and ugly.

If you follow me on twitter, you’ve probably noticed that I’ve devoted this week’s tweets to GMOs. These sneaky little things are everywhere, plenty of them in your body by now, thanks to our government. However, this post is not about my frustration with the government and their lack of compassion for human beings, it is about GMOs. So here we go…

GMOs, or genetically modified organisms, are organisms 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 transferred into an organism, giving it modified or novel genes. Transgenic organisms, a subset of GMOs, are organisms which have inserted DNA that originated in a different species. In layman’s terms, it takes the genes of one species, and inserts them into another, resulting in something that would never be found in nature. Sounds weird, huh? Well, it is weird. Weird and completely unnatural, to say the least. Although genetic modification isn’t limited to food, that’s what I’ll be discussing below. I could go on forever, really. I mean, they’ve even genetically modified fish for goodness sake! Those poor fish!

GMOs, also known as GEOs (genetically engineered organisms), GM (genetically modified) or GE (genetically engineered) are everywhere in the United States. Unfortunately, it is very difficult to know what food has or has not been modified, since there are no laws in the U.S. requiring companies to disclose this information to consumers. Unless you are eating organic, it’s likely your food has been modified in a lab. Are you hungry yet? Keep reading.

Why genetically modify food? There’s plenty of reasons, but they all revolve around money. These big biotech companies want to make more money, no matter the harm they may cause along the way. Here’s an example: You’re a biotech company (an evil one), and you’re concerned you’ll lose crops of tomatoes to frost. If you lose tomatoes, you lose money. Oh no! What shall we do? Let’s genetically modify our tomatoes to ensure they will be protected against frost! It’s a no-brainer! We’ll take the genes from an arctic flounder with “antifreeze properties”, and splice them into a tomato to prevent frost damage! Done and done! And that’s exactly what happens. Did I forget to mention the testing phase that these new tomatoes undergo to prove their safe to eat? Nope, I didn’t forget. It doesn’t happen. There are no tests done to prove that these tomatoes are now safe to eat, there are no labels or warnings to consumers that their lovely little tomatoes have undergone genetic mutations, nothing. You buy it, you serve it to your children, everyone eats it, and then… well, who knows really.

This is in no way a precise process. It is impossible to guide the insertion of the new gene, therefore resulting in unpredictable effects. Also, genes do not work in isolation but in highly complex relationships which are not understood. Any change to the DNA at any point will affect it throughout its length in ways scientists cannot predict. GMOs contaminate existing seeds with their altered material, passing on modified traits to non-target species. This creates a new strain of plant that was never intended in the laboratory.

In 1989 there was an outbreak of a new disease in the U.S., contracted by over 5,000 people and traced back to a batch of L-tryptophan food supplement produced with GM bacteria. Even though it contained less than 0.1% of a highly toxic compound, 37 people died and 1,500 were left with permanent disabilities. More may have died, but the American Centre for Disease Control stopped counting in 1991. (5) Thanks CDC, that was nice of you.

There are plenty of reports of genetic modifications gone wrong, but overall human health effects of these GM products include higher risks of toxicity, allergenicity, antibiotic resistance, immune suppression and cancer. Environmentally, we’re looking at uncontrolled biological pollution which threatens numerous microbial, plant and animal species with extinction and the potential contamination of all non-genetically engineered life forms. (6)

Want some more proof that GMOs are bad? Okay, I have some more:

  • The organs of rats who ate genetically modified potatoes showed signs of chronic wasting, and female rates fed a diet of herbicide-resistant soybeans gave birth to stunted and sterile pups.
  • Monarch butterflies have also died after their favorite food, milkweed, was cross-pollinated from Bt corn which rendered it toxic to the endangered species.
  • In Japan, a modified bacteria created a new amino acid not found in nature; it was used in protein drinks and before it was recalled it cause severe mental and metabolic damage to hundreds as well as several deaths. Japan banned GMOs after this horrific experience.
  • In North Dakota, recent studies show that 80% of wild canola plants tested contained at least one transgene.

It is estimated that 70% of all grocery items in the United States contain genetically modified organisms, or GMOs. Despite countless warnings from scientists and doctors, these foods are not regulated at all by the government, and therefore it has been next to impossible for the average consumer to know exactly what he or she’s been eating. Why aren’t they labeled? I don’t know, because the government is trying to kill us? Government regulations on labeling exclude 95-98 percent of the products containing GM ingredients because they ignore derivatives. Numerous countries have already banned GMOs, including the European Union, Australia, Japan, the UK and two dozen other countries, which that recognize that a lack of long term studies and testing may be hiding disastrous health defects. Maybe one day the U.S. will get on board. Or… maybe not. Maybe it’s up to us to protect ourselves.

Here are some GM foods that you are probably eating:

  • GM soya is in about 60 percent of all processed food as vegetable oil, soya flour, lecithin and soya protein.
  • GM maize is in about 50 percent of processed foods as corn, corn starch, cornflour and corn syrup.
  • GM tomato puree is sold in some supermarkets and GM enzymes are used throughout the food processing industry.

The only way to avoid GM food is to buy and eat organic, since organic food cannot contain any GMOs. Even then, there have been some reports of crops being accidentally contaminated with GM crops. But, do what you can to protect yourself. There is no testing being done to ensure the safety of GM food products, and as you can tell from what you’ve just read, it doesn’t look like they’ll be deemed “safe” anytime soon. Buy foods labeled with “organic”, “100% organic” or “made with organic ingredients.” Even if it says “made with organic ingredients”, that means only 70% of the ingredients are required to be organic, but 100% must be non-GMO. Companies many times voluntarily label their products as “non-GMO” or “made without genetically modified ingredients.” Also, avoid “At Risk” ingredients such as corn, soybeans, canola and cottonseed, which are commonly used in processed foods. Currently, up to 85% of U.S. corn, 91% of soybeans and 88% of cotton are genetically modified.

 At Risk Ingredients Broken Down:

  • Corn: Corn flour, meal, oil, starch, gluten and syrup. Sweeteners such as fructose, dextrose and glucosen. Modified food starch.
  • Soy: Soy flour, lecithin, protein, isolate and isoflavonen. Vegetable oil and vegetable protein.
  • Canola: Canola oil
  • Cotton: Cottonseed oil

There’s a free app that I recently downloaded which allows shoppers to quickly and easily identify grocery items that contain GM ingredients. It was developed by The Center for Food Safety, and it is called the True Food Shoppers Guide. Download it to your smartphone and find more information on GM food, how to protect yourself, etc.

I know some of these posts contain pretty scary stuff, and at times you may find yourself overwhelmed. Maybe you started eating healthier, you’re all excited and then you read this post and wonder “what is the point?” It’s easy and very common to feel this way. You finally start to feel like you’re making informed decisions, then the next thing you know you have conflicting information, and you feel like you’ll never get it right. Just realize that this is a completely normal thought process, and that you are not alone with this thinking. Realize that the world is always evolving. What we know today will be old news tomorrow. The only thing you can do is to try to keep yourself as informed as possible. This blog is an attempt at doing just that. I’m not a doctor, I’m not a scientist, but I’m determined to arm myself with as much correct information as possible in regards to my health, and of course, to my readers. Remember, even if this new information is frustrating at times, you know more today than you did yesterday, and will therefore be able to make better decisions regarding your health. Take peace in knowing that you are better armed today than you were yesterday, and start to think about last week, last month and last year. Chances are good you’ve come a long way. Be proud of yourself.

Peace, love and organic food,

Melissa

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