a medical librarian's adventures in evidence-based living
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Genetically Modified Crops include Bt (Bacillius thuringiensis) Cotton & Corn, and Herbicide-Tolerant (HT) Soy, Cotton, and Corn. Almost All Soybeans Grown in the United States are Now Genetically Modified.
If you received this post via email, click here, to get to the web version with all the links, & to watch "Genetic Roulette"
GMOs in the Grocery Store? What Does It Mean, Exactly?
A little back-story, to get you started.
“Genetic modification” refers to the manipulation of DNA by humans to change the essential makeup of plants and animals. The technology inserts genetic material from one species into another to give a crop or animal a new quality, such as the ability to produce a pesticide.
These DNA transfers could never occur in nature and are not as precise as proponents make them sound.
Some genetically modified crops have been engineered to include genetic material from BT (Bacillus thuringiensis), a natural bacterium found in soil.
Inserting the Bt genes makes the plant itself produce bacterial toxins, thereby killing the insects that could destroy it. The first GM crop carrying Bt genes, potatoes, were approved in the United States in 1995. Today there are Bt versions of corn, potatoes and cotton.
Roundup-Ready crops — soybeans, corn, canola, sugar beets, cotton, alfalfa and Kentucky bluegrass — have been manipulated to be resistant to glyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto’s broadleaf weedkiller Roundup.
The Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service says that, in 2010, as much as 86 percent of corn, up to 90 percent of all soybeans and nearly 93 percent of cotton were GM varieties.
You’re eating genetically modified foods almost daily unless you grow all of your food or always buy organic."
The pros & cons of GMO food are more than I could begin to tackle in a single blog post.
To get a handle on the concerns with the pervasiveness of GMOs in our food supply--YOU, dear reader, should you choose to accept this assignment--will have do some homework. But, no worries. All the assignments are listed below.
Frankly, the whole GMO issue is something I haven't paid all that much attention to.
That's is--until recently.
The published research into the potential adverse health effects of GMO-foods is on the scant-side, because companies like Monsanto don't have to give out their seeds to be tested. Corporate patent laws protect them from scrutiny.
But, reports from respected physicians, veterinarians, botanists, agriculture researchers, policy makers, government scientists, and farmers present a whole laundry list of worrisome side effects:
Livestock illnesses & malnutrition caused by eating GMO soy & corn (Don Huber, PhD, professor emeritus, Purdue University)
Pet illnesses, especially of the GI tract, from consuming corn or soy pet food
Birth defects in birds & amphibians; cancer, endocrine disruption, DNA & developmental damage to mammals exposed to low doses of glyphosate (that's the active ingredient in Monsanto's herbicide, Round-Up which is used as part of the whole package when farmers use Round-Up resistant seeds) (Check out the 2011 Report "Roundup and Birth Defects: Is the Public Being Kept in the Dark?--a report by 8 international scientists)
Increases in animal infertility, reproduction disorders, & birth defects.
Increases in human food allergies & digestive disorders, like leaky gut--especially in infants & children. (Dr. Michelle Perro)
Increases in inflammation caused by GMO allergies & the toxins "genetically embedded into GMO plants"
Animal liver & kidney toxicity from GMO corn
Possible autism spectrum connections
Honey Bee Colony Collapse Disorder from Bt-embedded plants, which causes "honey bee dementia"
Intestinal permeability caused by the Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) which is genetically implanted into seeds to kill insects. Bt may also be responsible for changing healthy human microflora in the gut.
Autoimmune disorders caused as a response to ingesting an "unnatural gene-modified food"
Infants & children are more sensitive to GMO's in food & formula because of their fast growth rates, high metabolisms, & low body mass. Consider the widespread exposures to GMO-soy formulas like Similac Soy, Gerber Soy, Enfamil soy, & Walmart Soy. Sadly, the WIC soy formulas are all GMO. Non-GMO or organic brands are fine.
So, how is it possible that there is so little published research on the long-term effects of GMOs on human & animal health, considering that GMO-seeds now totally dominate the farming industry?
Turns out, the FDA allowed Monsanta to conduct its own research prior to approval of GMO seeds in the 1990's. That's right! No independent investigators. Monsanto did their own research in-house. And none of the studies were long-term, which would be necessary to show any connection to cancer, birth defects, or reproductive disorders. In fact, there was only one human feeding study conducted, prior to approval of Round-Up ready soy seeds.
The FDA policy commissioner at the time of GMO approval was Michael R. Taylor, who had previous ties to Monsanto as their legal counsel--and has had a revolving door of positions between Monsanto, King & Spalding, a law firm representing Monsanto, & the FDA. Right now, he's the FDA's "Food Safety Czar".
"As the system now stands, biotech companies bring their own research to the government body overseeing their proposed products. The agency may be the US Dept. of Agriculture, the federal Food and Drug Administration or the Environmental Protection Agency.
These government bodies do no independent studies on the safety and efficacy of the proposed products. Instead, they rely strictly on the research conducted by the companies.
"We don’t have the whole picture. That’s no accident. Multibillion-dollar agricultural corporations, including Monsanto and Syngenta, have restricted independent research on their genetically-engineered crops,” wrote Doug Gurion-Sherman of the Union of Concerned Scientists in a February 2011 Los Angeles Times op-ed piece.
“They have often refused to provide independent scientists with seeds, or they’ve set restrictive conditions that severely limit research options.”
Honestly, the whole corporations-versus-consumer-versus-the-FDA-&-the-USDA controversy is so shrouded with secrecy & accusations that it's hard to get a bottom line on the real risks of GMOs to our health & our environment.
My bottom line: I'm not a GMO fan. I'm concerned. I'm going to make every effort to avoid the stuff. Why wait until it's too late?
Why Not Watch Jeffrey M. Smith's Documentary, "Genetic Roulette: The Gamble of Our Lives" and Decide About GMO's for Yourself?
Do Not Miss This One!!! It's a worthwhile investment of 1 hr and 24 mins. And besides, it's free online from Sept. 15-22nd only. So don't put this off for too long.
You'll find the link to this disturbing documentary,here. Sorry, I couldn't insert it into the post.
The Lab Rat & I watched "Genetic Roulette" last night. It's a new documentary that "reveals the serious health impacts of genetically engineered foods in our diets." No coincidence that its release is timed to the upcoming California Proposition 37 to label GMOs in food.
We were spellbound--glued to our chairs. Now we "get" what GMO seeds are all about--as well as their potential for harm to humans, animals, & the environment.
Scientists, veterinarians, physicians, policy makers, & farmers, together make one heck of a convincing case against GMO foods-& the biotech invasion into the food industry. But, decide for yourself.
I admit it--I was a little skeptical that it might be sensational pseudo-science. I was wrong (unless someone I respect & trust can convince me otherwise).
Frankly, I was unaware of the health ramifications & the lack of scientific oversight of the GMO industry--by the FDA or the USDA before viewing this documentary. This is one complex story.
Do yourself & your family a favor & watch this film--and then decide for yourself how closely you want to start reading food labels.
There's an accompanying phone app & a shopping guide that you can download to check out which foods are non-GMO. The Lab Rat just checked out his Wheat-a-Bix & then went through the fridge reading labels.
Mark Bittman gets to the bottom of the consumer's "Right to Know" Proposition 37--making GMO food-labeling a law. This quick-must-read explains the big Food-Labeling Fight in California. Big-Agra vs Consumers
How many of us want to know if our food is genetically engineered?
A whopping 91% of Americans--crossing all political party lines. (65% of California's are for Prop 37, 20% against, 15% undecided)
Who's fighting the Proposition 37 in California's Nov. 6th election with tens of millions of $$$?
Monsanto & whole lot of food manufacturers. Why? Because "as California goes, so goes the nation."
"Prop 37 isn’t a ban on foods containing genetically engineered material; it’s a right-to-know law.
Big Food is worried that this is the thin edge of the wedge, and I (Bittman) hope they’re right. If we win the right to know what’s in processed food, we might be inclined to demand to know how other food is produced. (You might think of Prop 37 as the anti-ag-gag law.) If genetically engineered food is so terrific, persuade us; if it’s not, well, fine. In any case, it should be up to us to buy it or not, but first we have to know what it is.
I (Bittman) want to know — quite technically, in all the detail available — how my food is produced, and I’m far from alone. We’d be able to make saner choices, and those choices would greatly affect Big Food’s ability to freely use genetically manipulated materials, an almost unlimited assortment of drugs and inhumane and environmentally destructive animal-production methods."
The Murky Money Story Behind the Funding for the Stanford Organic Food Study
I believed the article's disclaimer: "The authors received no external funding for this study." But, who funds Stanford's Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies, & who funded the researchers' study?
"A simple look at FSI's 2011 annual report shows that it is funded by Cargill and others who have a strong financial interest in Monsanto, McDonalds, Walmart, and other businesses that profit from industrial food practices.
Before you head out to the market, check out this slide show (in Watson's Huff Post article) to see how the Stanford Institute that funded the study gets its money and to see some of the other reasons to choose organic when you can. Tell us which ones you would take with a grain of salt."
Check out: "Uneasy Allies in the Grocery Aisle," by Stephanie Strom, September 13, 2012, New York Times. Get a better handle on the key players fighting the GMO-Labeling California ballot issue, Proposition 37.