.tuesday.thoughts. on GM Foods

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My recent non-fiction read….”Seeds of Deception” by Jeffrey Smith.  What follows are some interesting thoughts/ideasI have enjoyed learning, researching, and thinking about after reading this book. Please feel free to add info or ask questions. I am no expert by any means…just a girl who loves learning and whose pantry is evolving into non-GMO foods.

“…the problems with GM foods may be irreversible and the true effects may only be seen well in the future.” – Scientist Arpad Pusztai

(Google Pusztai Affair if you are interested. Fascinating controversy whereby Pusztai was suspended for reporting negative effects of GM foods on rats)

I love a good read. Fiction or non-fiction….dont’ care, just make it good.

What are GM foods? Genetically Modified Foods or my personal fave, Frankenfoods

What are GMOs? Genetically Modified Organisms

What does genetically modified mean?  the NATURAL, inborn, DNA was changed by some sort of genetic engineering.

When were GM foods introduced? First put on the market in 1996.

What are the most common GM foods? Corn, soybean, canola, rice, cotton seed oil

Who is really benefiting from GM foods? The multi-national (and multi-billion dollary) biotech companies. Check out Monsanto’s website.   It is hard to find a non-organic product that is not tied to Monsanto in some way. http://www.monsanto.com/Pages/default.aspx

The original goal of GM foods was to “solve world famine,” “reduce reliance on pesticides,” or “cure the diseases of humankind…” yes, these are all great goals. However, now all of our foods (drinks included!!!) are contaminated with GM food ingredients and we have not solved world famine.

Quote from S.O.D. (preface, V.) “As many have said, we are now in the middle of the largest feeding experiment in history and we human beings are the guinea pigs.” Awesome, count me in.

These biotech companies have disregarded scientific evidence of health dangers and are still denying consumer access to critical information (in my opinion).

How can I tell if foods are GM? Move to Europe! Europe requires the following:

“The EU recognises the consumers’ right to information and labelling as a tool for making an informed choice. Since 1997 Community legislation has made labelling of GM food mandatory for:

  • products that consist of GMO or contain GMO;
  • products derived from GMO but no longer containing GMO if there is still DNA or protein resulting from the genetic modification present;  “

http://ec.europa.eu/food/food/biotechnology/gmfood/labelling_en.htm

 Unfortunately, there are no US government mandates that require food companies to label genetically modified foods.  California is hoping to be the first state to require all GM foods to be labeled. Check out this website: http://www.organicconsumers.org/monsanto/index.cfm

Vermont isn’t too far behind.

However, there is a great project, called the “Non-GMO Project” (http://www.nongmoproject.org/about/) that is building resources and approving Non-GMO companies. Check out the website for a list of products that are certified  “Non-GMO.”

Your best bet is to purchase foods with the “Non-GMO” label…and start signing petitions to get your state to demand the labeling of GM foods!

Second best option is to purchase USDA Certified Organic Foods.

Another great option is to start growing your own veggies and fruits!  Pay close attention to the words on the seed packets-look for “heirloom” or “non-gmo” or “organic.”

I believe we should have the ability to know what is in our foods and the option to choose what foods to eat.

Why should I be concerned about GM foods? This one will be a long answer 🙂

1. An experiment (from SOD- pg. 12) done on rats found that those fed GM potatoes suffered damaged immune systems within 10 days of being fed. The white blood cells (WBCs) were a lot slower in response than those on a non-GM diet. The sluggish WBCs increase vulnerability to infection and disease.  The thymus and spleen of the rats also showed some damage. There were also structural changes and a proliferation of cells in the stomach and intestines of GM-fed rats; this may have signaled an increased potential for cancer. Fast forward to the Puzstai controversy, mentioned earlier.

2. A story from SOD titled “Wisdom of the Geese.”

“There’s a farmer in Illinois who’s been planting soybeans on his50-acre field for years. Unfortunately, he also had a flock of soybean-eating geese that took up residence in a pond nearby. Geese, being creatures of habit, returned to the same spot the next year to again feast on his soybeans. But this time, the geese ate only from a specific part of his field. There, as a result of their feasting, the beans grew only ankle high. The geese, it seemed were boycotting the other part of the same field where the beans were able to grow waist-high. The reason: this year, the farmer had tried the new, genetically engineered soybeans. And you can see exactly where they were planted, for there is a line right down the middle of his field with natural beans on one side and the genetically engineered beans, untouched by the geese, on the other. ”

Animals are amazing and can sense SO much more than us, lowly Homo sapiens 🙂

3. I will try to simplify what is actually happening inside the GM food here. DNA is found inside every organism’s cells. DNA is very complex. We “sequenced” the human genome (20k-25k genes) in approx 10 years. The process began in 1990 and a “rough draft” was completed in 2000 (final draft 2003). Even after that sequencing, 95% of the human genome was considered “junk” at some point. Junk! Crazy! Now they use “junk’ loosely- really scientists just aren’t sure what that “extra” DNA is doing. So now we are CHANGING DNA of the foods we are eating, while we aren’t 110% certain of what all the genes do? I could keep going on this topic, but I’ll stop here for now!

4. Artificial selection (breeding two species that have desirable traits to get a desired product…i.e. Great Dane, Ragdoll, or even a heartier rice plant- which in itself is a whole other topic…being that the majority of full-bred animals have a greater chance of having some sort of genetic condition) is much different than genetic engineering.  Instead of relying on the organism to pass on genes through mating, as seen in artificial selection, scientist can now cut out a gene from a segment of DNA, modify it, and then insert it into another species’ (or the same) DNA.  Once again, a great idea in theory, but not so much in real life.

An example of this is seen in a flounder that was resistant to cold temperatures (pg. 50 SOD). The scientist wanted his tomatoes to resist cold temperatures too, so he isolated the “non freezing” gene from the fish and inserted it into the tomatoes.

A great quote from George Wald (former professor of Biology at Harvard-pg. 50 SOD) “Our society with problems unprecedented not only in the history of science, but of life on the Earth. It places in human hands the capacity to redesign living organisms, the products of some three billion years of evolution. Such intervention  must not be confused with previous intrusion upon the natural order of living organisms; animal and plant breeding, for example; or the artificial induction of mutations, as with X-rays. All such earlier procedures worked within single or closely related species. The nub of the new technology is to move genes back and forth, not only across species lines, but across any boundaries that now divide living organisms.”

What is Wald saying? Fish shouldn’t ever exchange genes with tomatoes. I concur.

Wald concludes by saying ” genetic engineering presents probably the largest ethical problem that science has ever had to face. Going ahead in this direction may be  not only unwise, but dangerous. Potentially, it could breed new animal and plant diseases, new sources of cancer, novel epidemics.”

If GM foods are so bad, why do companies keep making them?  (In my opinion only….) Money. Money. Money. Less maintenance of the foods the farmers are growing. Faster, heartier products.

Now, this post briefly touches on the whole GM food debacle. I hope I have taught you all something, enlightened you somehow, and ignited the fire to expose others to this issue.

To conclude…

“Informing the public is the most important business in this very sorry affair, so one can do something.” Pusztai

Again, I am no expert on this topic. I enjoy opening topics like these up for discussion. Please feel free to respond and let me know your thoughts or questions!

3 thoughts on “.tuesday.thoughts. on GM Foods

  1. Pingback: “Basal Challenge” Week #1 | basal evolution

  2. Pingback: Organic Debate and the Dirty Dozen | basal evolution

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