Posted on May 8, 2012 - No Comments
The scientific process whereby the genes of one species are inserted into the genes of another species creates what is commonly referred to as a genetically modified organism (or genetically engineered). GMO foods have been introduced into the food supply without informing people what they are eating, and since they aren’t required to be labeled, we have no way of choosing whether or not we want to eat such foods.
Those who disagree with the concept of introducing these untested species into the environment, are afraid that engineered genetic material will mix with conventional crops, contaminating and changing them in unknown ways. Once released into the environment there is no way to call them back. The other concern is potential allergic reactions and health problems from these “frankenfoods”, since we don’t know their full effect on humans who eat them.
Unlike safety evaluations for drugs, there are no required human clinical trials of GM foods. However animal studies have indicated that there are dangers and these studies were seldom longer than 90 days, done only in order to get FDA approval, but not done for any length of time necessary to truly understand how these foods will affect those who consume them. (Study)
According to the Grocery Manufacturers Association, nearly 80% of processed foods found in grocery stores, contain genetically modified ingredients. While around the world at least 50 countries have laws requiring that GMO foods be labeled as such, not only is there no legal requirement to label GMO foods in both Canada and the U.S., but the politicians all seem to be in bed with Monsanto, the prime creator of GMO technologies. This is because of Monsanto’s powerful lobbying for laws protective of their industry, and because there is an active personnel swap between Monsanto and the government’s scientific bodies, including the FDA and the Canadian Health Protection Branch.
A few years ago a B.C. M.P introduced a bill into Parliament that would have required the labeling of BMO foods sold in Canada. Needless to say that bill never got passed. Corporations engaged in genetic engineering of foods fight tooth and nail to forbid the labeling of GMO foods because they know that many informed consumers would boycott such foods. They have a clever legal approach to this problem.
Both Health Canada and the U.S. FDA maintain that foods containing GMO ingredients are no different from foods made with conventional crops. Thus, if you label your milk as containing no Bovine Growth Hormone, you are implying that there is a reason that one would want to buy a product not containing BGH. Since the FDA has ruled that this is a safe food substance, you are in effect slandering their product, by implying that there may be something wrong with it.
This legal approach has worked to some degree, but now that successive presidents have placed ex-Monsanto people in positions of power in Washington, they are able to pass laws to protect their industry. They have also infiltrated the gov’t to the point of receiving countless dollars in subsidies for their research, so the gov’t branches that provide such grants also have a vested interest in seeing their choices look good.
Former president G.W. Bush openly supported GMO technology and appointed former Monsanto officials to scientific positions in government. Obama’s administration has followed suit. President Obama appointed Tom Vilsack, a strong supporter of GMO technology and former governor of Iowa, to be his Secretary of Agriculture, and appointed Michael Taylor, formerly Vice President for Public Policy at Monsanto, to be Senior Advisor to the Commissioner of the FDA. There are more examples at the following link: Article
The great promise of genetic engineering was that it would feed the world with higher yields from food crops. In fact, Monsanto is currently pushing advertising claiming that in the face of a rapidly increasing world population its “advanced seeds…significantly increase crop yields…”
Yet, according to a report by the Union of Concerned Scientists, there has been no significant increase in crop yields from genetically engineered foods. Their report, titled “Failure to Yield” compared the overall effect of genetic engineering on crop yields, versus other agricultural technologies. It analyzed academic studies on the two main genetically engineered feed and food crops grown in the U.S, corn and soybeans.
Their conclusion was that the soybeans and corn engineered to be resistant to herbicides did not increase yields at all. The corn engineered to be resistant to insects only marginally improved crop yields. What the report found instead, was that in the last 13 years, any appreciable crop increases have occurred due to conventional breeding and improvements in traditional agricultural practices. “If we are going to make headway in combating hunger due to overpopulation and climate change, we will need to increase crop yields,” said Doug Gurian-Sherman, author of the report. “Traditional breeding outperforms genetic engineering hands down.” (Source)
Remember that if a food is engineered to be resistant to herbicides, in this case the toxic “Roundup”, also produced by Monsanto, then they are able to spray more herbicides on and around the crop. This means more poisonous residues on that food. And Roundup is known for its toxicity to wildlife, and known to increase herbicide penetration into plant and animal cells. The active ingredient in Roundup, glyphosate has been shown to cause birth defects in laboratory animals, and has lead to new herbicide-resistant species of weeds (superweeds), due to repeated exposure to this herbicide. (Article)
The majority of GMO crops are accounted for by 3 main products, corn, cotton and soybeans. And 90% of these crops are grown in 5 countries: Argentina, Brazil, Canada, India, and the U.S. But there are other common foods that are also often genetically engineered, and at this point in the game, without labels to inform us, it is best to only buy these foods when they are labeled organic. Even though the Biotech companies tried to break into the “organic” definition, they were rejected at their last attempt. I’m sure they won’t give up yet, but for now a product certified to be organic cannot be grown from GMO seed stock.
Here is a list of the most common GMO crops.
Corn: Almost half of the corn farms in the U.S. are planted with GMO seed, and tons of it has entered the food supply. Corn is in countless modern food products, sometimes just in the form of corn starch, or sugar made from corn, and some alcohol is now made from GMO corn. Even ascorbic acid (vitamin C) is ultimately made from corn. Studies with mice fed GMO corn have shown them to have fertility problems and smaller offspring.
Soy: Along with corn soy is found buried in many products that you wouldn’t know without careful analysis of labels, including sports bars, pastries, baked goods, and especially meat alternatives. If it doesn’t say organic or non-gmo, odds are now that it is GMO if it is soy or corn. Hamsters fed GMO soy were rendered infertile.
Cotton: We don’t commonly eat it but other countries do consume the oil and you will find it in some imported foods. Even so, as it also has been engineered to resist more pesticides, and is one of the most widespread crops in the world, its use leads to more poisons being dumped into the environment. Upon being exposed to the new GMO cotton, thousands of Indian farmers experienced severe skin rashes.
Papaya: Up to three quarters of the Hawaiian papaya crop has been genetically engineered to resist the “ringspot” virus.
Rice: Asia is experimenting with a rice modified to contain high amounts of vitamin A, and another variation containing human genes designed to help prevent infant diarrhea in the third world. China has reported a tendency to allergic reactions from GMO rice. Not yet available in North America, but if a crop needs to be unloaded somewhere you can be sure it will be dumped on a country with no labeling laws.
Tomatoes: Originally engineered to provide a longer shelf life, the final product did not live up to expectations and ceased to be marketed a few years ago. At this point no GMO tomatoes are being grown commercially in North America or in Europe. Tomatoes are still being experiment with to make them resistant to fungus, insects and viruses, but are not in production yet. (Source)
Canola: This seed is an edible hybrid variation on the rapeseed, which is mildly toxic to humans. Almost all canola that is not organic is now genetically modified. Most cheap blended oils, sold as generic “vegetable oils” contain some canola or cottonseed oils.
Dairy Products: One form of genetic engineering that we do not have in Canada is Bovine Growth Hormone. This is due to no help from the Health Canada, who were prepared to allow its use in this country, even to the point of lying about its dangers to parliament. If it were not for scientists from Health Canada risking their careers by bypassing their superiors and going directly to the gov’t with their concerns, we would be drinking it in our milk now. (For the whole story see the documentary “The Corporation”). In the U.S. about 22% of cows have been treated with this genetically modified hormone that forces their milk production up by about 15%. Milk from cows treated with bovine growth hormone show higher levels of Insulin Growth Factors-1 in the milk. Increased levels of IGF-1 in humans, has been linked to increased levels of breast and colon cancer.
Potatoes: When mice were fed genetically engineered potatoes, the toxin that was spliced into the potatoes was found in the bodies of the mice, showing that it did not break down in the gut but transferred whole into their system.
Meat: Canada has discontinued work on our “Enviropig” a pig genetically engineered to create less methane gas (an unnecessary thing since there is already a feed with an enzyme inhibitor that does the same thing, safer and cheaper). And, so far, the consumer has expressed revulsion at the idea of eating GMO animals, but it must be pointed out that many commercial food animals, including beef, fowl and pork, are being fed GMO corn, so we may be getting residual modified genes through eating these animals.
In the absence of action on the part of the federal government to protect us and the environment from this worldwide experiment with no off switch, there have been at least symbolic gestures made by local governments here in B.C. Currently Powell River, Saltspring Island, Kaslo, Rossland and Nelson have all passed resolutions against the cultivation of GMO crops within their boundaries. Other places looking at implementing such bans include, Saanich, Campbell River, Comox and Richmond.
Currently in California there is a grassroots campaign to make the politicians pass a bill requiring labeling of GMO foods. This public petition is an attempt to bypass the politicians and get a initiative on the ballot that citizens may vote directly on. If they succeed it will motivate more Canadian and U.S. citizens to fight for their right to know, and we may yet get this beast under control.
Aside from the fight in California the U.S. has a coalition of farming, environmental and religious organizations, called “Just Label It” who have submitted a petition to the FDA containing over 1 million signatures demanding that GMO foods be labeled as such. If the FDA fails to respond to this petition they are allowed by U.S. law to pursue legal action.
For a guide to avoiding GMO foods while shopping in conventional grocery stores, follow this link: Shopping Guide