What you don’t know about GMO won’t hurt you

Get Your Gen Mo Out of My Food Yo: Part III – What you don’t know about your GMO won’t hurt you

By Kenda Swartz Pepper | Published: February 5, 2010

So, What’s the Problem with Genetically Modified Food?

For starters…the health of the planet, your food, your body and your children’s bodies are at risk.


Do you know someone who is highly or even mildly allergic to soy?  More than 60 serious health risks have been discovered as a result of GM foods including serious allergies that are a direct consequence of new proteins found in these organisms.

Many years ago, I was diagnosed with a corn allergy.  It was unfathomable to me that I was allergic to corn!  I grew up in a region of Pennsylvania nestled within the Appalachian Mountains where corn grew in great abundance.  Corn remained a staple food for me long after leaving Pennsylvania.  After this new allergic discovery, I avoided corn for quite some time and eventually over the past few years reintroduced it back into my diet.  I need my corn!  The major difference now is that I only (to the best of my knowledge) eat organic or non-GMO corn and corn products.  So far so good.

Your health and the health of your loved ones

Doctor doctor give me the news, I got a bad case of the Monsanto blues.

The American Academy of Environmental Medicine (AAEM) has called for a moratorium on Genetically Modified foods.  They also want long-term independent studies, and labeling for GM foods.

The AAEM’s statement on Genetically Modified foods includes the following information:

Several animal studies indicate serious health risks associated with GM food consumption including infertility, immune dysregulation, accelerated aging, dysregulation of genes associated with cholesterol synthesis, insulin regulation, cell signaling, and protein formation, and changes in the liver, kidney, spleen and gastrointestinal system. There is more than a casual association between GM foods and adverse health effects

The statement continues on to address some specific problems caused by GM foods as a result of animal studies.  These include significant immune problems (asthma, allergies) and cellular changes that could accelerate aging.

The feeding of GM corn to mice has been linked to infertility, a significant decrease in offspring and significant lower litter weightInsulin regulation, immune system functioning and cholesterol synthesis are also listed among the outcomes of GM food animal studies.

Along with claims of skin and eye irritations, headache, nausea, numbness, elevated blood pressure and heart palpitations with acute exposure to small amounts of Roundup (glyphosate), studies also show intestinal pain, vomiting, excess fluid in the lungs, pneumonia, clouding of consciousness, and destruction of red blood cells.

The Glyphosate Factsheet offers a plethora of useful information.

A Swedish study of hairy cell leukemia (HCE), a form of the cancer non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, found that people who were occupationally exposed to glyphosate herbicides had a threefold higher risk of HCE.

But hey, those problems you’re having with your body’s premature aging, immune functioning, fertility or your autoimmune system are probably not one bit associated with Genetically Modified foods. So, rest well and no worries about the Monsanto empire as it hides behind the greasy veneer of solving the world’s hunger problems all the while manipulating a global population of people who are gasping in its shadows.

Would you like a tainted cow patty with that cup of genetically modified high fructose corn syrup Kool-Aid?

There’s nothing wrong with a few toxins, Right?

Please join me in contemplation. Monsanto claims that a benefit to GM Foods is increased resistance to herbicides?  That’s a benefit.  Really?  That can be translated as:  A farmer can use more herbicides on his or her crop, and the crop will not be damaged.  But what about the pollinators?  The animals who are fed that crop?  The humans who eat that crop or who eat the animals that eat that crop?  What about the earth?

There’s a new type of Superweed emerging as a result of GM crops, and it is growing like, well, weeds.  Common crop weeds are spreading their herbicide-resistant traits to nearby weeds. With the current mindset, farmers will ultimately need increasingly more and stronger toxins to eliminate the Superweeds.  They, in return, will continue to resist the herbicides thus creating a perpetual potentially devastating problem.

Institute of Science in Society shares a disconcerting story about Superweeds.

The scene is set at harvest time in Arkansas October 2009. Grim-faced farmers and scientists speak from fields infested with giant pigweed plants that can withstand as much glyphosate herbicide (Roundup) as you can afford to douse on them. One farmer spent US$0.5 million in three months trying to clear the monster weeds in vain; they stop combine harvesters and break hand tools. Already, an estimated one million acres of soybean and cotton crops in Arkansas have become infested.

Major crops genetically modified for just two traits – herbicide tolerance and insect resistance – are ravaged by super weeds and secondary pests in the heartland of GMOs as farmers fight a losing battle with more of the same; a fundamental shift to organic farming practices may be the only salvation Dr. Mae-Wan Ho

The Institute of Science in Society would like you to widely share their link to help put a stop to the destruction of GM crops.

There is a similar story for Superpests.  Common plant pests are evolving to resist pesticides and are posing a problem to organic farmers and their nontoxic pest management practices. Monsanto has designed plants that can withstand Roundup – an herbicide (keeping in mind that herbicides are pesticides).  Monsanto produces Roundup.  Do you see the connection here?  Monsanto has developed the ideal condition for double dipping.

In a July 2009 issue of Toxicology, French Scientist Gilles-Eric Séralini unveiled some harmful facts about the toxicity of Monsanto’s Roundup.  In an interview with Down to Earth, Séralini shared how he and his team of scientists:

‘tested different Roundup formulations on fresh placenta, embryonic cells, umbilical cord cells and hepatic cell lines. Even when the formulations were diluted almost 100,000 times, the cells were destroyed. The actual concentration in GM food and feed is much higher than what we tested. Consuming it can even lead to defects in newborns.’

On Monsanto’s blog it is argued that Séralini’s choice of cells for the study was not biological but political. Who cares? Séralini has some great points – both biological and political.  Monsanto, whose record is mired in politics, has little leverage with that finger pointing accusation.

Monsanto’s blog also said the scientists used high concentration of Roundup residue. Séralini states this is incorrect.  But hey, Séralini is French.  He might have been confused.  After all, the French don’t even have a word for entrepreneur.

And where does all the Roundup residue go?  Well, that which doesn’t go into your body ends up in the soil and water. The environment is also paying for Monsanto’s agrochemical runoff.  According to the Center for Food Safety

GE crops increase herbicide use by 383 million pounds from 1996 to 2008, with 46 percent of the total increase occurring in 2007 and 2008.

Studies have in the past and still continue to show how components of Roundup, which have a half-life of three months in water, are toxic to aquatic life including yet certainly not limited to frogs and fish.  It was once believed (and still is by many) that bacteria in the soil broke down the toxicity of Roundup but this is now being confirmed as a flawed fact.  Roundup is polluting groundwater – your drinking water.

A report released in November 2009 by The Organic Center entitled Impacts of Genetically Engineered Crops on Pesticide Use in the United States: The First Thirteen Years demonstrates that increased exposure to herbicides:

includes a heightened risk of birth defects and other reproductive problems, more severe impacts on aquatic ecosystems, and much more frequent instances of herbicide-driven damage to nearby crops and plants.

For a company that saw record net sales of $11.7 billion in fiscal year 2009, I’m certain those clever scientists at Monsanto can find more environmentally kind ways to help feed the world’s hungry.  Ironically, Mon Santo is translated in English from Portuguese as ‘My Saint’.  Who would’ve thunk.  To me, Monsanto is the Syndrome of the food world.  Certainly no saint.

Don’t mess with Mutha Naycha

Concerns about GM crops include problems with the ecosystem and biodiversity along with unnatural gene transfer as intended with GE crops and as unintended from GM crops to non GM crops.  The unintended consequence of GM crops is the contamination through cross-pollination of surrounding non-GM crops including organic crops.

According to In Motion Magazine,

Researchers from Cornell University found that pollen from genetically engineered Bt corn was poisonous to Monarch butterflies. The study adds to a growing body of evidence that GE crops are adversely affecting a number of beneficial insects, including ladybugs and lacewings, as well as beneficial soil microorganisms, bees, and possibly birds.

Natural Bridges State Park in Santa Cruz, California, is a main overwintering site for the Monarch butterflies.  I volunteer at Natural Bridges and have the amazing opportunity each year to witness their migration in and out of the park. I have also had the opportunity to experience a butterfly count in which we went to various sites and literally counted butterflies hanging from trees in clusters.  The numbers are in grave decline.  Widespread use of herbicides as part of road management along with herbicide-resistant crops (corn and soy mostly) have eliminated an estimated 80 million acres of Monarch habitat.  Monarchs will only lay their eggs on milkweed.  There are fewer milkweed plants now than ever, and if the remaining milkweed is toxic from herbicides, those tiny Monarch eggs have little chance of completing metamorphosis. There is a Monarch Waystation Program for anyone interested in helping those winged beauties survive.

Putting all the allergies, birth defects, superweeds, poisoned water and dead butterflies aside, there’s the simple issue of ethics.  This massive manipulation of Mother Nature’s work could very likely have some long term negative consequences as of yet to be determined.  We are, however, beginning to see a sampling of these problems as GM food pollutes the earth, affects your health and is turning biodiversity into a laboratory experiment – a science experiment that could easily get out of control.  To many US scientists and farmers, it is of the highest importance to maintain the natural genetic diversity of Native American crops.  Even the ancient and vital craft of growing corn in Mexico has been negatively impacted by the infiltration of GM corn – impacting the Mexican culture and food source.

Who’s in charge here?

For now, it is not the consumer.  It is not the farmer.  It is not mother nature. Looks like it might be Monsanto.

Uninformed society

Did you know it’s not mandatory in the US to label products that are genetically modified?  Did you know that GMO’s were introduced to the US food system seven years before it became public knowledge?  As the public awakens to a need of knowing whether or not their food system contains GMOs, the lobbyists are diligently fighting to keep GMO out of the label.  They fear it will cause a stir with the public.  They want to protect the public from having unnecessary worry, because they are concerned that products labeled nonGMO will mislead the public into thinking there is something wrong with GMO products. I liken this type of protection to putting a life vest on a drowning victim.

For now, it’s up to the chemical companies and the consumers to determine the safety of a GM product.  So far, the chemical companies have done a stellar job of transparency.  Not.  These companies are about as transparent as driving at night during a new moon with no lights and a windshield covered in mud – they are just as dangerous too.  Monsanto once claimed that Roundup was environmentally friendly and as safe as table salt.  They were slapped on the wrist for those claims.

A safety assessment constructed by Michael Taylor (FDA 1992 – end of Bush Senior’s Administration) of genetically modified foods has been based on substantial equivalence of conventional food.  This fancy combination of words is loosely defined as

If it looks, smells and feels like a tomato, then it is indeed a tomato.

This is consumer blindsiding at its best.  Given how the consumer cannot see the chemicals that have turned a conventional tomato into a killer tomato, we are being totally duped.

Dan Quail’s council was in charge of recommending there be no regulation for GM foods  – even against the wishes of FDA scientists.  This is not a surprising show of ignorance coming from a man who didn’t even know how to spell potato[e].  Here’s a peek into the FDA statement on genetically modified foods that resulted (with the help of Michael Taylor) on May 29, 1992:

The agency is not aware of any information that foods derived by these new methods differ from other foods in any meaningful or uniform way, or that, as a class, foods developed by the new techniques present any different or greater safety concern than foods developed by traditional plant breeding.

In a January 2007 FDA docket entitled GM Food Animals Coming, Prof. Joe Cummins and Dr. Mae-Wan Ho state:

“We take issue with that statement [Substantial equivalence]. “Substantial equivalence” is often used as a starting point to structure the safety assessment of a new food in the most undiscerning and reductionist way. For example, comparisons are made in the gross composition of proteins, carbohydrates and fats, or in amino acid compositions, which generally show little or no difference; and so it allows the proponent to focus on the transgene product(s) only. Moreover, the comparators are completely arbitrary. Instead of comparing the transgenic variety with the variety from which it has been derived, companies have been allowed to compare the transgenic variety with the entire species, or indeed with whole category of foodstuffs from many different species, as in the case of edible oils for example.”

The authors go on to say unless specific tests are conducted for toxicity, allergic response and immune response, using substantial equivalence as a safety mechanism for genetically modified food is misleading the public.

Sometimes it simply seems easier to not know about your GMO, but unfortunately what you don’t know can indeed be harmful.

The next post, Part IV: Farmers who save seeds are soon sued, will continue to outline just a few of the numerous issues and concerns with genetically modified foods including some curious furious twists of injustice and the problems with bovine growth hormone.

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