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Thursday
Feb022012

Food for Not: Just Say No to GMOs

by Ashley Ess

 

As parents, we all want our children to be healthy mentally, physically and emotionally. We want to provide them a good education, a safe home and nutritious food. And of course, we do our best. 

Unfortunately, sometimes even our best isn’t enough when it comes to food choices. While at the supermarket buying cereal for our children, it’s easy to choose the one that advertises 100% whole grain goodness. The problem is that this whole grain goodness may contain genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

 

What is a GMO?

A genetically modified organism is a combination of molecules from different species that is transformed into a new gene in a lab. Around since 1996, they are banned or have restrictions (including mandatory labeling) in almost 50 countries worldwide. In the U.S., 80% of processed food contains GMOs[1]. The crops with the highest risk for GMO contamination are alfalfa, canola, corn (70%), cotton, papaya, soy (90%), sugar beets, zucchini and yellow squash. Needless to say, this means that many animal products are at risk due to the fact that many are fed diets containing GMOs. The American Academy of Environmental Medicine even released a statement geared toward doctors to educate their patients on the health risks of consuming GMOs.

 

GMO Safety

So why the alarm? Well, simply put, GM food has not been proven to be safe to consume. When the corporations who create GMOs are the ones to produce the majority of studies, often without rigorous safety testing in mind, one must take a step back and look at the bigger picture. In 1992, the FDA considered GM foods to be “generally regarded as safe.” The catch is that this conclusion came after zero safety testing. Generally, it is fairly tough to do independent research on GMO seeds. The GMO industry has patents disallowing scientists to grow GMO crops for research. Furthermore, U.S. government safety tests are few-and-far-between due to lack of funding[2].

 

In a 2008 study, researchers found that mice fed with GM corn had fewer offspring and lower birth rates. According to Robin Wasserman, Ph.D., a biotechnical patent agent and research scientist, there are serious potential risks to the environment (genetic mutations) and human health (allergies, antibiotic resistance), among many others[3]. You may have heard the term “Roundup Ready.” This is a gene created for use in crops in order to withstand the effects of the weed killer Roundup. In a recent study by Dr. Ron Huber at Purdue University, an organism used in Roundup Ready crops was found as a likely cause of miscarriages in farm animals and disease in plants and animals. The highest concentrations were found in soybeans and corn[4]. There is also evidence of growing resistance to pesticides; farmers are increasingly using more and more pesticides to combat insects in these supposedly resistant crops[5].

 

Long-Term Potential

Now don’t get me wrong. There are many scientists intending to create genes that may potentially keep the population and environment healthy. Some claim they are creating crops fortified with micronutrients which could be tremendously important for people in developing countries who do not have access to vitamins or abundant, healthy food. Perhaps there are wonderful benefits of some GMO seeds and many well-meaning people behind the development of them. Anita Burger, of Biosafety South Africa, claims “It is our aim to promote the responsible use of genetically modified organisms.” Two of BSA’s main goals are to limit harmful consequences of GMOs and to support their potential benefits. Unfortunately, the reality is that 99% of GMOs produced are intended to resist herbicides and/or to produce their own pesticides[6]. But perhaps long-term studies and rigorous safety testing should have been done before humans became part of the GM experiment. There simply is no way to know what long-term damage, if any, GMOs might have on the population. There are, however, hints to the potential negative effects that cannot be ignored.

 

GMO Labeling

Unfortunately, there is no standard for labeling GMO-containing foods. In health food stores, you may find that many companies opt to tout their products as GMO-free. But the vast majority of supermarkets are laden with GM foods. In recent polls conducted between 2010 and 2011 through sources such as MSNBC, The Washington Post and ABC News, approximately 93-96% of respondents believe GM foods should be labeled. Most said the federal government should require mandatory labeling. For more information visit JustLabelIt.org

 

Say “No” to GMOs!

If at all in doubt, always try to choose non-GMO and pesticide-free or organic foods. Choosing organic really can be easy and affordable (see Bamboo Magazine Summer 2011: “Deliciously Affordable” and Healthy Child, Healthy World’s “Low Cost Ideas for Eating Organic". More and more organic choices are being added at popular supermarkets and some items are even labeled as GMO-free. There is a small risk of cross-contamination of GM crops with organic crops, however, and that is why it is imperative to spread the word and have your concern heard regarding GMOs. There are various ways you can take action:

 

Take Action!

The Non-GMO Project 

One of my favorite sources of information on GMOs, The Non-GMO Project, has an extensive list of products and brands that do not contain GM ingredients, including body care items, pet products and vitamins.  

The Alliance for Natural Health

Support HR 3553 and 3554, the Genetically Engineered Food Right to Know Act and the Genetically Engineered Safety Act!

Institute for Responsible Technology

Join a Non-GMO action group today!

Center for Environmental Health

Keep pesticide- and GMO-ridden corn off your diner plate!

Food Democracy Now 

Understand the research, watch an interview with Dr. Huber and sign the letter.

 

More Information

For more general info on GMOs, click here

For a list of GMO-free products, check out Nourished Kitchen

Test your knowledge of GMOs at the Institute for Responsible Technology (scroll down to Quiz PDF).

There are a ton of smart phone apps to help you shop GMO-free! Check out True Food Now’s website http://truefoodnow.org/shoppers-guide/ and the Non-GMO Shopping Guide. 

 

One of the best pieces of advice on learning how to avoid GM foods is to educate yourself about the numerous sources of the top GM offenders like corn and soy. The following is a partial list of the most common ingredients that may contain not-so-obvious elements of these GM offenders:

High-fructose corn syrup

Soy lecithin

Soy protein isolate

Dextrose

Maltodextrin

Soybean oil

Cornstarch

Corn oil

Canola oil

Cottonseed oil

 

Ashley Ess is Chief Editor of Bamboo Magazine - Whole Family Living. 

 

photos: istock


Sources

 

[1] www.nongmoproject.org

[2] http://motherjones.com/tom-philpott/2011/09/gmos-safe-eat

[3] http://www.livestrong.com/article/195953-risks-of-gmo/

[4] http://www.gm.org/gm-organisms/roundup-ready-gm-crops-may-trigger-animal-miscarriages/

[5] http://www.gm.org/science/genetic-modification/gm-foods/insect-resistance-to-bt-toxins-increasing-in-insect-resistant-gm-crops/

[6] http://www.responsibletechnology.org/take-action/action-tool-kit

 

References (1)

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