If you haven’t heard the term GMO, I would be surprised.
But if asked, could you explain it to someone?
This topic is a doozy, friends. So let’s start with a little humor shall we? Jimmy Kimmel isn’t my favorite comedian, but I thought this video was an appropriate way to begin.
This is one topic you could spend days reading about and still just be at the tip of the iceberg. It’s something we should know about and understand, because like it or not, GMO’s have been in our food supply since 1996 and have taken the hot seat as one of the most critical issues in the food world.
This topic is huge. Ginormous, I tell ya! I don’t want to overwhelm anyone, but it’s hard to synthesize this information into a few neat paragraphs. To be honest, I want to run and hide and not write about it. But as I said before, I can’t write future posts and say, “avoid GMO’s” if I don’t at least attempt to explain them a bit. I spent hours writing and rewriting and cutting to try to limit the information I put in here. But it’s still lengthy. So you might want to grab a cup of coffee while you’re reading. Or maybe a glass of wine.
From what I have read, new reports and science on GMO’s come out weekly. I don’t know about you, but I can’t keep up with all that! But I do subscribe to some awesome people who do keep up with it, and so I try to read as much as I can and understand as much as I can.
That being said, I don’t claim to be an expert or know everything about GMO’s. So for the purposes of this post, I’m keeping it as simple as I can, but real. These are things that concern me as a mom and as a human being who wants to know what I’m eating. I know enough to know that I’ll do everything I can to avoid them when possible. My main goal is that by the end of this post, you have a basic understanding of this topic and you’ll know whether or not you want to avoid them.
So, what are GMO’s, anyway? Here’s a really simple explanation taken from the Non-GMO Project:
GMOs (or “genetically modified organisms”) are organisms whose genetic material has been artificially manipulated in a laboratory through genetic engineering, or GE. This relatively new science creates unstable combinations of plant, animal, bacteria and viral genes that do not occur in nature or through traditional crossbreeding methods.
For the purposes of this post, I’ll refer to these foods as GM foods.
While I won’t claim to understand all the science behind it, basically GM crops have foreign genes forced into their DNA. The genes that are inserted are from species like bacteria and viruses. Those bacteria and viruses have NEVER been in our human food supply. This is done in a lab, friends, with techniques that don’t look anything like natural breeding. Studies of this process have shown that natural genes are altered or deleted. Sometimes the actual inserted gene is damaged or moved around. This creates proteins that may promote disease or trigger allergies. Side effects of this instability are pretty much impossible to predict or control.
You don’t need to be a rocket scientist to recognize how this plays with the natural state of things. How it takes real food that’s been around since the beginning of time and turns it into a science experiment. And I don’t know about you, but I didn’t ask to be in one.
So why were GM crops created in the first place?
Some of the reasons given from the bio-tech industry are that GMO’s are supposed to feed the world by increasing yields and reducing pesticide use. They are supposed to benefit farmers and the environment. These and other reasons have been proven otherwise in big ways.
There are two main traits you can find when talking about GM crops.
One trait found in GM corn and cotton is a built-in pesticide called Bt. What happens is that every cell produces a bt-toxin which is their own pesticide, basically. This way farmers shouldn’t have to spray pesticides. Weird, right?
This isn’t the area of GM foods I understand as much. Plus, I’m throwing a whole lot of information your way in the next part. If you want to know more about the effect of massive amounts of Bt-cotton and Roundup Ready cotton being grown, I encourage you to watch the documentary on the fashion industry called True Cost (available on Netflix).
I’m choosing to focus more on the other main trait of GM crops, which is creating a tolerance for herbicides. If a crop is herbicide resistant, the farmer can spray an herbicide on a crop without killing it. So even though the food won’t die, guess what happens to everything around it? The soil with good bacteria, the bugs and worms that help the soil…all die. And what about the the bodies of those breathing it in? Not just those who spray, but those who live in surrounding communities? What toxic effect is happening to them?
While there are several seed companies in the world, the top three that own almost half of the global proprietary seed market are DuPont, Syngenta, and the most major player: Monsanto (considered by many to be the most evil company in the world). Monsanto’s seeds were genetically engineered as described above to withstand Roundup weedkiller, its main ingredient being glyphosate, which is classified as an antibiotic. Roundup is one of the most commonly used herbicides in the entire world. “Roundup Ready” seeds from Monsanto include corn, soybeans, alfalfa, canola, cotton and sugar beets. It’s estimated that 1 BILLION pounds is sprayed on food crops every year. If you break that down to individual human consumption, it means that the average human consumes several hundred pounds of food per year contaminated with glyphosate.
So not only does Monsanto patent the seeds, but also the Roundup that gets sprayed on them. I’m starting to smell $$.
Here’s what I find important to know about glyphosate. And alarming.
- Glyphosate has been shown to no longer be effective at killing weeds
- Glyphosate prevents your body from absorbing nutrients and minerals from your food
- Glyphosate is running off into streams, contaminating soil, groundwater and rainwater
- Glyphosate residues are found in main foods of the Western diet: sugar, wheat, corn and soy
- Glyphosate is consistently found in human urine samples
- Glyphosate has been found to be toxic to human endocrine systems and gut bacteria (which is crucial for overall good health)
- Glyphosate may be contributing to the decline of our bee population (critical for continuing our food system as we now know it)
And the biggest kicker? The World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has classified glyphosate as a Class 2A “probable human carcinogen.”
Yep, a cancer-causing substance.
What’s even more interesting? Information is coming out that Monsanto, the world’s largest owner of GM seeds, knew this information over 30 years ago. Their own studies of glyphosate caused carcinomas in rats they studied. Conveniently, this information was left out as they added this herbicide to the market. And guess where the most tumor growth occurred in the rat studies? The pituitary gland, mammary glands of females, and testicles of males.
So let me summarize in an overly simplified way: GM crops are basically fake and altered seeds that we’re not sure what side effects we’ll experience from eating them. They were designed to be sprayed with a potential cancer causing substance. And we’ve been unknowingly eating them for years.
Let’s talk a minute about some of those impossible to know side-effects.
Despite the “science” and “evidence” that is promoted by Monsanto and their allies, every “fact” about GMO safety has been debunked. Studies are limited and aren’t being done over the long term. There are NO human clinical trials of GM foods. Anyone who says they eat GMO foods and are fine is really not thinking too clearly, because we have no idea what might be altered inside our bodies and genetic makeup that we are passing on to future generations. Without monitoring, it would take years or decades to figure out what the problems are.
Consider this from the Institute for Responsible Technology(IRT):
Before the FDA decided to allow GMOs into food without labeling, FDA scientists had repeatedly warned that GM foods can create unpredictable, hard-to-detect side effects, including allergies, toxins, new diseases, and nutritional problems. They urged long-term safety studies, but were ignored.
So, who overruled the scientists? Funny you should ask. His name is Michael Taylor. He’s a former Monsanto attorney and later became the VP at Monsanto.
Funny how that works, huh? Anyone else smelling more $$?
So the FDA is not conducting their own studies, rather they are relying on information from the biotech companies (wonder who those tests will favor). The reasons for this are out of my understanding; however, from what I’ve read, I can only say that bio-tech companies such as Monsanto have deep, deep pockets and will do what it takes to influence politicians and anyone else they need to. Someone is always in bed with someone, so to speak. It seems as though profits is what drives our food supply, not safety.
Since the FDA has allowed GMO’s to be in our food supply, several studies have found the following alarming information (taken from the IRT). Keep in mind that tests have NOT been done with humans.
- Thousands of sheep, buffalo, and goats in India died after grazing on Bt cotton plants
- Mice eating GM corn for the long term had fewer, and smaller, babies
- More than half the babies of mother rats fed GM soy died within three weeks, and were smaller
- Testicle cells of mice and rats on GM soy change significantly
- By the third generation, most GM soy-fed hamsters lost the ability to have babies
- Rodents fed GM corn and soy showed immune system responses and signs of toxicity
- Cooked GM soy contains as much as 7-times the amount of a known soy allergen
- Soy allergies skyrocketed by 50% in the UK, soon after GM soy was introduced
- The stomach lining of rats fed GM potatoes showed excessive cell growth, a condition that may lead to cancer.
- Studies showed organ lesions, altered liver and pancreas cells, changed enzyme levels, etc.”
Not only this, but antibiotic resistance is growing leaps and bounds in our country at scary rates. According to the CDC, over 23,000 people die each year from antibiotic resistant disease. Interestingly, GM foods have an antibiotic resistant gene attached to test whether or not the altered gene was successful. As a result, gut bacteria could develop antibiotic resistance. Are GM foods in part responsible for this growing trend? (I don’t have that answer by the way but I would imagine one day we’ll know).
GM crops also wreck havoc on our environment. Not only do the pesticide producing crops contaminate streams and soil, but almost exclusive planting of Roundup Ready crops have all but destroyed the biodiversity our soil and environment needs to survive. In addition, canola, cotton, and corn all cross-pollinate meaning pollen from GM crops can blow into heritage or organic varieties and cause contamination. While organic farmers test to prevent this, sometimes it happens. There are canola farmers in Canada who have sued biotech companies because cross-contamination has made growing non-GMO canola almost impossible.
While over 60 countries have required labeling and many have GM free zones. our lovely country does not and Monsanto and large corporations are fighting for the right to NEVER have these foods labeled. So the same companies that can’t feed GMO’s to countries who don’t want them are happy to feed them to you WITHOUT you knowing.
You might have followed the sad passing by the House of HR 1599 which basically eliminates a state’s right to require labeling for foods containing GMO’s. The fight has moved to the Senate on that one. If you feel as strongly as I do about this issue, please read this and follow the link to contact your Senators and ask them to support legislature that encourages labeling.
Since large companies and legislators are willing to leave you in the dark about knowing what’s in your food, it’s CRITICAL that you as a consumer know what you are buying.
According to the Organic Consumers Association:
A new report says that food and biotechnology companies and their trade groups have reported spending $51.6 million over the first half of this year to keep labels off foods containing GMOs. Since 2013, they’ve spent $143 million in lobbying against GMO labeling laws.
If GMO’s are so safe, why would they do that?
The answer is obvious, don’t you think?
If you want more information on GMO’s, I encourage you to start with the Institute for Responsible Technology. They are one of the leading places for factual information about GMO’s.
And the next time you want to watch a movie, watch this awesome video from Jeffrey Smith himself (the founder and executive director or IRT) and see if your mind isn’t changed forever. Fight the urge to watch something entertaining and do yourself a favor. While this video is several years old, it will rock your world! He explains the science in great detail and you’ll walk away with an amazing understanding of GMO’s.
Or, buy his book, Seeds of Deception.
Honestly, all of this makes my blood boil. And it makes me want to do something. It makes me want to support companies who ARE doing the right thing for consumers. Check back in a few days and my next post will get practical. We’ll look at the major crops that are GM and talk about ways to limit your exposure and how you can determine if what food you’re buying has been GM.
And I’ll show you a cool app that exposes companies that are trying to keep you in the dark.
I told you at the beginning of this post I wanted you to know whether or not you wanted GMO’s in your food. So I’m curious. What do you say?