I hope you find this article, written for The Shrinking Hubby by Shannon Torres of Success Impressions, as interesting and informative as I did. She has managed to explain as succinctly as possible the complicated issue of Genetic Engineering in our food and I think that her article is a great place to start becoming aware of what is happening with our food and our environment. It is quite a long article, but very compelling. I am sure that you will gain a lot from reading it and hopefully it will make a positive impact on your health and that of your family and friends.
A brief look at Genetic Engineering in food:
What is the deal with GMO’s?
By: Shannon Torres
GMOs, (genetically modified organisms) are plants or animals that have been bred, grown or raised with the DNA from other plants and animals, bacteria or viruses. This is known as genetic engineering. Though there are many types of genetic modifications in organisms, this article focuses on GM crops, produced for consumption. There is a lot of controversy surrounding genetic engineering, and there are many opposing opinions regarding the long term safety of the consumption of genetically modified (GM) foods.
Scientists, who work for bio-technology companies, experiment in laboratories with crossing the genes of various species to understand the effects of crossing genetics that do not, and would not occur in nature. The main purpose for altering the genetics in plants is so that they can be immune to chemical herbicides (weed killers), common crop diseases and to develop a natural repellent so that bugs do not eat them.
When traditional farmers plant seeds into the ground, they have to naturally fight the elements that may ruin the crops. In a natural setting, weeds and bugs can be a problem and farmers must use a variety of techniques to keep both weeds and bugs away. If weeds are not dealt with, they have the ability to take over an entire space, absorbing the water and nutrients intended for the crops. An infestation of bugs can kill an entire crop and severely affect a farmer’s income and the amount of food produced. Surely these issues are important.
There are less local farms than ever before, producing food on small farms for local communities. Many farmers have had their farms taken over, and are now working on huge plots of land for giant food corporations. In order to feed thousands to millions of people, farmers must grow a significant amount of food in less square footage than ever before. Farmers no longer get down on their hands and knees and pull weeds, or use techniques such as the three sisters planting to deter pests. Industry has taken over the food system and by the use of machines and genetically modified seeds, they have successfully created a system of agriculture that prevents the unfavorable, natural, elements from occurring. Science considers this a great accomplishment! However, though this may be a great stride in agriculture, it may not be the best for those consuming the crops, or for the ecosystem and the environment.
Human beings have evolved over millions of years to adapt to their surroundings. The various blood types are a good indicator of who our ancestors are, and what kinds of foods we are most likely to tolerate consuming. The O blood type is the oldest known blood type, and individuals with this blood type stem from ancestors from the hunter-gatherer era. These are the ancestors who sharpened the ends of spears to hunt for food. The A blood type came about when agriculture began and ancestors began planting seeds and growing their own food. The B blood type came about when our ancestors turned to utilizing the milks from animals and began consuming and manufacturing dairy products. The AB blood type is the most recently evolved blood type, and many younger generations possess this blood type as it is a mix of both the A and B blood types. The AB blood type has adapted to the many changes in environment and food. Due to the historical progression of blood types, we are finding that many people are not responding well to genetically modified foods. Chronic disease is at an all time high, and our bodies are doing their best to reject these foreign substances, often times appearing as infections, tumors and inflammation. The consumption of genetically modified foods may very well lead to a new blood type in future generations. By altering the DNA in food, long term consumption also alters the DNA in the beings that eat them, whether it is people or animals.
Most industrialized farming is done, not with people, but with machines. This is what is known as factory farming. Machines are used for many steps of the farming process. From tilling and preparing the soil, to sowing seeds, adding chemical fertilizers, pesticides and keeping weeds away using the infamous weed killer Round Up. Food corporations understand the severity of a weed or bug infestation, and that is the main reason Round Up was created and genetic engineering began. Round up is a total and non-selective herbicide produced by the leader in bio-technology, Monsanto. The main active substance in Round Up, is glyphosate. When applied to plant life, Round Up kills everything that it comes in contact with. Bio-tech companies discovered that by altering the genetics in certain plants, they are able to make them immune to Round Up, so everything else but the intended crop will die. By evading the premature death of crops, food corporations are now able to grow a massive amount of GM crops and sell them for pennies on the dollar. Corn, wheat, cotton and soy are the largest genetically modified crops grown in the United States. Corn, wheat and soy are in almost all processed and packaged foods sold in the United States. Many countries around the world have banned genetically modified crops including Australia, New Zealand, Austria, Greece, Hungary and Bulgaria but they haven’t necessarily banned the importation of products containing GM crops from countries where it is allowed.
The bio-tech industry (those producing GM crops) truly believe that they are providing a service by genetically modifying plants and animals. They are now looking to enhance the flavors and nutritional content in modified foods, as well as breeding plants to become drought resistant. Let’s be clear that the use of chemical fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides have depleted almost all nutrients from the soil, and that is the reason why there is a need for flavor and nutrient enhancements. On an organic farm, soil is rich and dark and has a potent ‘earthy’ smell. The foods grown from that soil are nutrient dense and tasty. By rotating crops year after year,farmers are able to deter pests and keep the soil rich because not all plants require the same nutrients. Crop rotation creates balance in the soil and in the foods grown from it. GM crops are grown in soil that is re-used time and time again for the same crops, year after year. Since the soil used for GM crops is nutritionally depleted, GM crops are void of nutrients and flavor. GM crops are not grown for the purpose of nutrition or taste. Most GM Crops are used in the production of processed foods. To compensate for the lack of nutrients and flavor, chemists and flavorists have manufactured additives to add to processed foods, like monosodium glutamate (MSG) and artificial flavors. This poses an even greater risk to human health. The production of GM crops is causing great harm to our bodies, the environment, water and soil supplies.
The genetic modification of food is a relatively new advancement in science. The long-term effects of consuming GM foods are yet to be publicly proven. However, if we take a look at the staggering statistics, millions of people die each year due to preventable diseases. Diseases such as heart disease, cancer and diabetes are all diet and lifestyle related. The consumption of processed and fast foods are a major contributor to these diseases. GM corn, wheat and soy are in almost all processed foods. These crops are subsidized by the US government and take up over 200 million acres of farm land in the United States. Genetically modified corn is used in the very toxic and potent sweeteners known as high fructose corn syrup and corn syrup. Because high fructose corn syrup is so inexpensive, it is added to almost every staple of the American diet, including lunch meats, dairy products, cookies, breads, crackers, soft drinks and cereals. The over consumption of genetically modified crops is a great contribution to the health crisis facing America and the rest of the world.
What are the long term effects of consuming GMO foods?
When a bio-tech company alters the genetics of an organism, they file a patent on the “new” organism, declaring it an invention. When a company owns the patent on an invention, they have exclusive rights to the marketing, research and the studies. Many long term studies of the effects of these crops on humans and animals are rarely published, as they are classified by the bio-tech companies. Many citizens feel that regulatory authorities such as the USDA are being influenced by the lobbyists of bio-tech companies and are not thoroughly studying and publishing the effects of the consumption of these crops. Though it is difficult to conduct and publish studies on GM crops, a few do exist. During the French Study, rats were fed a diet of 33% genetically modified corn developed by Monsanto for two years. The results were horrific. The rats “developed tumors the size of ping-pong balls, liver damage and digestive problems”. Monsanto has a Q&A page, which addresses some of the controversies that have arisen from their practices. http://www.monsanto.com/newsviews/Pages/food-safety.aspx
What does this mean for consumers?
Many consumers do not know which foods are genetically modified, and which ones aren’t. It is important that you research the companies who produce the foods that you purchase, and also pay great attention to the way your body feels after consuming foods those foods. Pay special attention to your body after eating foods containing corn, wheat and soy. If you are noticing a decline in health, an increase of allergies, a decrease in immunity, fertility issues, or digestive disorders, it is recommended that you immediately eliminate GM foods from your diet.
The debate over genetically modified foods is far from over. In 2012 Proposition 37 was rejected in California, which if granted would have required the labelling of genetically modified foods. This law failed to pass by a difference in 2.82% of voters. Monsanto contributed over $8 million to campaign against GM labelling. Over $30 million came from chemical companies, chemical plants and the producers of GM foods like Pepsi, Kraft and Coca Cola. The money spent in campaigning for GM labelling barely reached $10 million. Most people want to know what is in their food. It is up to us to make others aware that there are huge problems with the food system that they may not have been aware of. In my opinion, it is in our best interest to avoid these foods altogether. Until long term concrete scientific research conducted by non-invested, third party researchers is conducted, our health may very well be in danger. Foods that are labelled as organic, are not permitted to be genetically modified. Continue to do your research on this issue, and make an informed decision for your own health. For more information, visit the following websites:
About the author
Shannon Torres is a Certified Holistic Health Counselor and a graduate of the Institute for Integrative Nutrition. She specializes in working with individuals to cultivate a carefree relationship with food, and implement sustainable life-long lifestyle practices. Shannon also works with groups, small businesses and corporations on implementing wellness programs to keep employees at work, productive, and healthy. She is a loving mother of three and is dedicated to educating the public about the importance of healthy food choices. With over a decade in the fields of health, nutrition and self improvement, Shannon is on a mission to help individuals heal through food, prevent disease, and live abundantly. For more information, visit www.successimpressions.com