Genetically Modified Organisms – Our Food
DEFINITIONS You’ve no doubt heard about genetically modified organisms (GMOs) but perhaps not understood why many countries have already banned them and why so many people in the US want foods containing them to be labeled so we can make the choice to avoid eating them. GMO stands for GENETICALLY MODIFIED ORGANISM. GE (GENETICALLY ENGINEERED) and GM (GENETICALLY MODIFIED) are other names for the process of genetically altering foods we eat – and more. GENETIC ENGINEERING VS HYBRIDIZATION
A baby zedonk, offspring of a zebra and a donkey = a hybrid animal I want to point out that genetic modification is not at all the same as hybridization, which has been done on crops and food animals for centuries without posing serious damage to the soil, the environment and every living thing. Hybridization is the crossbreeding of two species, either naturally in the wild or intentionally in order to gain the most valuable attributes from each specie – for example, the mating of a male donkey and a female horse produces a mule, several different types of roses are deliberately crossbred to produce hybrid tea roses, the loganberry is a cross between the raspberry and blackberry. Hybridization IS NOT genetic engineering. In contrast, genetic modification is the process of forcing genes from one species into another entirely unrelated species. Genetic engineering forcefully breaches the naturally occurring barriers between species. SOME EXAMPLES OF GMOS (Information from GMO-Awareness.com, 2011-2014):
Corn + DNA from soil bacteria that is naturally immune to RoundUp herbicide + e. coli bacteria + soil bacteria that causes tumors in plants (allowing the plant’s cell walls to be breached) = RoundUp Ready Corn – one of several RoundUp Ready crops engineered by Monsanto. (See A Note About Monsanto below.)
Strawberries and tomatoes injected with fish genes to protect the fruit from freezing
Goats injected with spider genes to produce milk with proteins stronger than Kevlar for use in industrial products
Salmon genetically engineered with a growth hormone that allows them to keep growing beyond their normal size
Dairy cows injected with the GE hormone rBGH (also known as rBST) to increase their milk production
Rice injected with human genes to produce pharmaceuticals
A NOTE ABOUT MONSANTO: GMO’s are the latest in this giant international company’s long list of dubious contributions to the world. Monsanto is also responsible for Agent Orange, PCBs, DDT, Dioxin, Aspartame, Saccharin, rBGH, rBST and Terminator Seeds that grow for only a single season, forcing farmers to buy Monsanto’s GE seeds every year instead of saving seeds from the prior harvest as they did for centuries. In 1997 Monsanto re-branded itself from a “chemical” company to a “bio-agricultural” company. (GMO-Awareness.com, 2011-2014)
The genes injected into GMOs can be derived from bacteria, viruses, insects, humans or other animals so GMOs are also known as transgenic organisms. Since genes operate in complex ways that are still not fully understood, genetic engineering often produces unintended and damaging consequences. (GMO-Awareness.com, 2011-2014)
THE BIG SIX PROMINENT MANUFACTURERS OF GMOS & PESTICIDES
Monsanto, the international genetic engineering giant
Pioneer Hi-Bred International (a DuPont subsidiary
Dow Agrosciences (a subsidiary of Dow Chemical)
BASF (primarily a chemical company but rapidly expanding into biotechnology
Bayer Cropscience (a subsidiary of Bayer)
(Sourcewatch, 2014) Countries that grow genetically modified crops, listed by number of acres:
Countries requiring labeling of genetically engineered foods:
GMO Labeling Worldwide. Turquoise=requires labeling of genetically engineered foods. Grey=no labeling required. FOODS CONTAINING GMOS Information from GMO-Awareness.com. See GMOs Defined. According to the USDA’s report for 2013, the percentages of these crops grown in the US which have been genetically modified are:
Quest brand tobacco – 100%
Soybeans – 93%
Corn – 90%
Cotton – 90%
Sugar Beets – 90%
Hawaiian papaya – more than 50%
In addition, the FDA has recently given its approval for these GMO crops:
Alfalfa – widely fed to meat and milk producing animals
Kentucky Bluegrass – even more widely fed to meat and milk producing animals. Kentucky Bluegrass is already an invasive grass in its natural state and will spread even more uncontrollably with genetically engineered resistance to RoundUp (Monsanto’s herbicide).
As of 2014, the FDA is still undecided about whether to grant approval for farmed salmon containing a growth hormone. And here’s something that should give you pause: The Environmental Protection Agency (FDA) now regulates the RoundUp Ready corn described above (90% of all corn grown in the US) as an insecticide because it has been engineered to produce its own insect killing chemical as it grows! So when enjoying your buttered popcorn while watching a movie, remember you’re consuming an insecticide — probably coated with a butter-flavored GMO product.
GMO crops spread with a ripple effect, a tsunami really, all through the processed foods we eat — infant formula, breads and other baked goods, tofu, catsup, tomato sauce. GM feed is given to animals who produce milk, meat and eggs — so you’re eating GMOs in your steaks, burgers, fries (potatoes and the oil they’re cooked in), ice cream, cheese, yogurt, mayonnaise, and veggie burgers (whey protein). Even non-food items often contain GMO ingredients: soaps, detergents, cosmetics, shampoo and bubble bath – products whose ingredients get absorbed through the skin, our largest organ.
Unexpected Sources of GMO Corn In 2005, the Grocery Manufacturers of America estimated that 75% of all processed foods in the US contain at least one genetically modified ingredient. The percentage is surely higher now, nine years later.
Source: USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service, USDA’s Economic Research Service How common are genetically engineered crops? If you’ve been following any part of the battle in the US to get mandatory GMO labels put on foods and food products containing genetically modified organisms, you already begin to grasp the political complexity of the problem. Around the world, 64 countries already enforce the consumers’ “right to know” laws for genetically modified foods. Some have gone so far as to ban the sale of GMO foods in their borders. So far, the Food and Drug Administration has resisted GMO labeling in the US. Monsanto and other large companies in the food industry – including the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) – have poured huge sums into influencing the FDA not to label GMO-containing products and into advertising to defeat movements in several states endeavoring to establish mandatory GMO labeling within their borders.
These companies provide 90% of the foods sold by grocery stores BOYCOTT COCA COLA PRODUCTS TO LET THE COMPANY KNOW YOU DISAPPROVE ITS ONGOING FUNDING TO BLOCK GE LABELING And sign the petition.
Some of Coke’s ‘healthier alternative’ drinks An email today (5/29/2014) jointly from The Center for Food Safety and The Food Revolution Network asks people to boycott all Coca Cola products: “In 2013, Coca-Cola secretly funneled more than $1.5 million dollars through the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) in order to block an initiative that would have required the labeling of genetically modified organisms (GMOs). …. Now GMO labeling initiatives are developing in 29 states including Oregon and Vermont. We think it’s time for the company to stop fighting our right to know what’s in our food. “We’re engaging hundreds of thousands of people worldwide to spread the word about Coca-Cola’s secret campaign contributions, and encouraging people to boycott the brands they market as healthier alternatives until they change their ways.” Coke and the company’s other sodas are made with high fructose corn syrup and sugar. Both sweeteners are derived mostly from GE crops: corn and sugar beets. Even soda consumers trying to cut calories are getting a dose of GMOs: Aspartame, the most widely used artificial sweetener, is created from genetically modified bacteria. In addition to its soft drinks, Coca Cola produces many drink brands marketed as “healthier alternatives” – Honest Tea, Zico Coconut Water, Odwalla, Vitamin Water, Simply Orange, Fruitopia, Minute Maid, Hi-C, Peace Tea, Naked Juice and Powerade. You can add your name to the boycott petition here. (Food Revolution Network & Center for Food Safety, 2014)
These companies oppose labeling genetically engineered foods SO WHAT’S THE PROBLEM WITH GMOS?
Genetic engineering involves combining two entirely unrelated species in a lab – species that could never cross breed in nature and thus require complex techniques to forcefully combine their genes into a single organism. The mega biotech industry claims the FDA has “thoroughly evaluated” GM foods and found them to be safe. THIS CLAIM IS UNTRUE. In the last 20 years NO studies have been performed in the US to test whether GMO products are safe for human consumption. NO American scientist has determined how much of the toxic herbicides and pesticides that have been genetically engineered into crops remains inside the plants when they’re eventually consumed as food. No long-term testing has been conducted to assess the impacts of these toxic substances on human health, animal health, soil health or the health of the environment as a whole. (GMO-Awareness.com, 2011-2014)
However, research conducted by scientists not on the payroll of the bio-tech companies into the safety of GMO food indicates that GE foods are not fit for consumption. The American Academy of Environmental Medicine (AAEM) has reported that animal studies have detected serious health risks associated with GE food. These include: infertility, immune problems, accelerated aging, faulty insulin regulation and changes in the GI system and other major organs. The AAEM advised physicians to tell their patients to avoid genetically engineered foods. About 20 years ago, the FDA allowed GMOs into our food supply without requiring any labeling. Prior to their decision, the FDA’s own scientists had repeatedly warned that GE foods can create unpredictable, hard-to-detect side effects including allergies, toxins, new diseases and nutritional problems. These scientists strongly urged long-term safety studies. They were ignored. In the intervening 20 years, independent scientific research has discovered many deleterious effects from genetically modified foods:
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 also smaller
Testicle cells of mice and rats on a GM soy diet underwent significant changes
By the third generation, most GM soy-fed hamsters became infertile
Rodents fed GM corn and soy showed negative immune system responses and signs of toxicity
Cooked GM soy contains as much as seven times the amount of a known soy allergen as non-GMO soy
Soon after GM soy was introduced in the UK, soy allergies skyrocketed by 50%
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.
Immune system dysregulation (asthma, allergy and inflammation)
Dysregulation of genes associated with cholesterol synthesis
Cell signaling dysregulation
Problems with protein formation
Altered structure and function in the liver, kidney, pancreas, spleen and GI system
Mice born to mothers who were fed GM soy were smaller (mouse on right) and had higher mortality rates than control group mice (mouse on left). Unlike the FDA-required safety evaluations for new pharmaceuticals, no human clinical trials of genetically engineered foods have ever been required.
Credit: The American Academy of Environmental Medicine Independent studies have uncovered a host of toxic effects in humans, plants and soil exposed to glyphosphate – the principal ingredients in Monsanto’s widely-used herbicide RoundUp and the chemical the majority of GMO crops have been genetically engineered to withstand. See GMO-Awareness.com: GMO Risks for more information.
Crop being sprayed While the GMO industry argues that glyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto’s RoundUp, is minimally toxic to humans and other mammals, the findings of a rigorous study suggest otherwise. Glyphosate residues are found in the principal foods in our Western diet – sugar, corn, soy and wheat. These crops are almost entirely grown from GMO seeds and sprayed with Monsanto’s herbicide RoundUp. From the published abstract of the study: (Samsel & Seneff, 2013) “… glyphosate enhances the damaging effects of other food borne chemical residues and environmental toxins. Negative impact on the body is insidious and manifests slowly over time as inflammation damages cellular systems throughout the body. … Consequences are most of the diseases and conditions associated with a Western diet, which include gastrointestinal disorders, obesity, diabetes, heart disease, depression, autism, infertility, cancer and Alzheimer’s disease. We explain the documented effects of glyphosate and its ability to induce disease, and we show that glyphosate is the “textbook example” of exogenous semiotic entropy: the disruption of homeostasis by environmental toxins.” If you want to know more about the research, watch this informative, easy to understand interview with one of the study’s principal investigators, Stephanie Seneff, PhD, of MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory. The video is called The Health Dangers of Roundup (glyphosate) Herbicide. (Canty, 2013) A major finding of this research is that glyphosate has profound negative effects on the bacteria making up our gut microbiome – where most of our immune system lives. Glyphosate destroys the beneficial bacteria in our guts, causing an enormous range of diseases. I highly recommend finding an hour to watch this interview. It will change your understanding of how what you eat affects pretty much everything going on in your body. The genetic engineering industry has claimed for 20 years that GMOs are the only hope for feeding the ever-increasing population worldwide. They claim that GMOs “increase yield, reduce the need for pesticides, produce drought-fighting plants and contain more nutrients”. Yet they have been unable to produce any convincing evidence that these claims are true … and considerable evidence that they are far from true. DANGEROUS GMO FEED FOR PIGS – AND THE REST OF US (Mercola, 2014) Most pigs in the US are fed a mixture of genetically engineered soy and corn. Overcoming the many obstacles the industry puts in the way of doing any research on GE foods, a large, high-quality research study has demonstrated that this diet produces severe inflammation in the pigs’ stomachs. The pigs’ diet that was tested simulated the diet most Americans consume daily – a variety of genetically engineered foods. The findings: Compared with pigs fed a non-GMO diet, sows eating a typical diet of GE soy and corn were more than twice as likely to have severe stomach inflammation and male pigs were more than four times as likely to develop severe stomach inflammation.
Results from study of inflammation in stomachs of pigs fed a GMO diet. Different levels of inflammation found, clockwise from top left: Nil (stomach of non-GMO fed pig, No. B41). Mild (stomach of non-GMO fed pig, No. B15). Moderate (stomach of GMO-fed pig, No. C34). Severe (stomach of GMO-fed pig, No. D22). The independent study was conducted by a respected Australian scientist, Dr Judy Carman. Dr Carman is an Adjunct Associate Professor at Flinders University in South Australia and director of the Institute of Health and Environmental Research, where she investigates outbreaks of disease. She also does research on nutritional biochemistry in metabolic regulation in relation to cancer. The genetic engineering industry goes to enormous lengths to prevent any independent research that might lead to negative information about its products. First off, it has stringent patent laws in place to prevent researchers from obtaining any GMO seeds to study. “Yes, there are a number of problems for anyone doing research,” Dr Carman notes. “They usually center around getting the money to be able to do the research… But you also need to get the materials to test. In this case, it’s the seeds from the genetically modified (GM) plants… But it’s very difficult to get GM seeds to test. “If a farmer wants to buy seeds to plant in the field, the farmer has to sign a technology user agreement, which means [he]… is not allowed to do any research on those seeds, and is not allowed to give them to anyone else to do research on either. “You basically have to find some way around that’s legal – and we did, but it took us quite some time. Otherwise, you need to go to the industry to ask, ‘Pretty please, can we have some seeds?’ We did that as well. The conditions placed upon us getting those seeds were such that we couldn’t legitimately try and get the seeds from most companies.” Funding is a major barrier to such research. Most of the agricultural universities – the ones that would conduct these studies – obtain their funding from the very companies that make the seeds so the universities aren’t willing to jeopardize their lucrative relationship with the industry. In Dr Carman’s case, her team was fortunate enough to obtain funding for its research from the government of Western Australia. Then there are the personal abuse and attempts at professionals discrediting these mega-companies direct at anyone who does manage to obtain seed samples and study them. Many independent scientists have ended up losing their entire careers when they’ve revealed negative findings. Dr Carman prepared herself for these attacks by electing to forgo receiving any salary for her work. She was also fortunate in that her team was able to obtain funding for their research from the West Australia government. Nonetheless, she has survived six separate attempts to have her removed from her various university positions over the last six years.
MONSANTO-US GOVERNMENT OVERLAP Much has been written about Monsanto’s control over regulating bodies in the US government. The biotech-agrobusiness mega-giant virtually has in its pocket Congress, the White House, key appointments to the USDA and the FDA, and even a Supreme Court Justices – Clarence Thomas worked as an attorney for Monsanto for four years before being appointed to the Court. This arrangement aids the passage of Monsanto-friendly legislation and protects the company’s GE products from being adequately regulated by the USDA or FDA.
If you’re interested in a good summary of the longstanding cozy relationship between Monsanto and the various branches of our government, I recommend taking a look at Josh Sager’s article Monsanto Controls both the White House and the US Congress. (Sager, 2014)
FROM THE FDA’S WEBSITE : “FDA U. S. Food and Drug Administration: Promoting and Protecting Your Health “FDA’s Role in Regulating Safety of GE Foods “Using a science-based approach, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates foods and ingredients made from genetically engineered plants to help ensure that they are safe to eat.
“Since people have been modifying plants for thousands of years through breeding and selection, FDA uses the term “genetically engineered,” or “GE,” to distinguish plants that have been modified using modern biotechnology from those modified through traditional breeding.
“FDA regulates food from GE crops in conjunction with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service is responsible for protecting agriculture from pests and disease, including making sure that all new GE plant varieties pose no pest risk to other plants. EPA regulates pesticides, including those bioengineered into food crops, to make sure that pesticides are safe for human and animal consumption and do not pose unreasonable risks of harm to human health or the environment.” ( FDA, 2014)
THE BOTTOM LINE FOR YOUR OWN HEALTH
Either of these labels in the US indicates the product is at least 95% organic. Assume foods made with sugar from sugar beets, soy, corn, or any of their derivatives contain GMO ingredients – unless they are certified as organic or are labeled as non-GMO.
I’ve written about GMOs elsewhere on this site. See also:
The Soil’s Microbiome
How Do Plants Communicate with Each Other?
The Truth about Natural Foods
Gut Symbiosis versus Dysbiosis
Reducing Inflammation in the Body
The Rise of Gluten Intolerance in Japan
NOTE: Much of the information in this post is derived from a useful website called GMO-Awareness.com. I urge you to check out that site – it’s chock full of interesting and useful information about the genetic engineering of our food supply that is adversely affecting our health and the health of the planet with serious long-term consequences. REFERENCES Canty, K. (2013). Jeffrey Smith interviews Dr. Stephanie Seneff about Glyphosate. See video: http://vimeo.com/65914121 FDA. (5/9/2014). FDA’s Role in Regulating Safety of GE Foods. See: http://www.fda.gov/forconsumers/consumerupdates/ucm352067.htm Food Revolution Network & Center for Food Safety. (2014). Boycott Coca-Cola. See: http://cokeboycott.com/ GMO-Awareness.com. (2011-2014). GMOs Defined. See http://gmo-awareness.com/all-about-gmos/gmo-defined/ GMO-Awareness.com (2011-2014). GMO Risks. See http://gmo-awareness.com/all-about-gmos/gmo-risks/ Institute for Responsible Technology. (2006-2013). GMO Dangers – Genetically Modified Foods: Are They Safe? See: http://www.responsibletechnology.org/gmo-dangers Mercola, R. (5/18/2014). Large Pig Study Reveals Significant Inflammatory Response to Genetically Engineered Foods, Mercola.com. See http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2014/05/18/gmo-foods-inflammation.aspx? e_cid=20140525Z1_SNL_MV_1&utm_source=snl&utm_medium=email&utm_content=mv1&utm_campaign=20140525Z1&et_cid=DM45580&et_rid=530782318 Sager, J. (2014). Monsanto Controls both the White House and the US Congress: No Matter Who Wins the Presidential Election Monsanto Benefits. See: http://www.globalresearch.ca/monsanto-controls-both-the-white-house-and-the-us-congress/5336422 Samsel, A. & Seneff, S. (2013). Glyphosate’s Suppression of Cytochrome P450 Enzymes and Amino Acid Biosynthesis by the Gut Microbiome: Pathways to Modern Diseases. Entropy – special issue Biosemiotic Entropy: Disorder, Disease, and Mortality, 15:4, 1416-1463. See: http://www.mdpi.com/1099-4300/15/4/1416 Sourcewatch.org. (2014). “Big 6” Pesticide and GMO Corporations. See: http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php/%22Big_6%22_Pesticide_and_GMO_Corporations © Copyright 2014 Joan Rothchild Hardin. All Rights Reserved.
DISCLAIMER: Nothing on this site or blog is intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.
Comments submitted prior to 8/25/2021
Thank you SO much for helping to raise awareness, and for the thoughtful links back to our site. Keep up the great work!!!
In reply to GMO Awareness
The link back to GMO-Awareness.com was the least I could do. I was appalled reading the considerable evidence of serious dangers from the GMOs in our food supply. Other animals besides humans are also being harmed – as well as harm being done to the soil microbiome.
THE INHERENT UNSUSTAINABILITY OF CHEMICAL AGRICULTURE
“Industrial agriculture” refers to the proliferation of genetically engineered (GE) seeds. In India the use of GE seeds costs farmers up to 400% more than conventional seeds – and produces 30% less yield.
A 2006 study found that 60% of Indian farmers using GE seeds could not recoup their investment, causing more than 250,000 of them to commit suicide. Many can’t even feed their own families. And yet farmers are left with few options as Monsanto and other chemical technology companies are buying up seed companies, eliminating the competition.
Just wanted to point out that the fern spider and paper tree were April Fools’ Day jokes on ist Universe back in 2008. Please see http://hoaxes.org/af_database/permalink/the_paper_tree_and_fern_spider
It doesn’t help the arguments against GMOs if the legitimacy of examples isn’t verified with two minutes worth of research.
In reply to Brian
Oh dear! You’re absolutely right – I should have checked these out first.