In case you haven’t heard the term, genetically modified organism, “GMO”, let me explain. A GMO is an organism whose genetic material has been changed using genetic engineering techniques. GMO’s are constituents of genetically modified food. Putting this in layman’s terms, take a regular seed and engineer the seed to help the seed grow into a larger, bug resistant plant.
Financially, this makes sense to the big name food producers, such as Monsanto. The plants will not succumb to insects or weeds.
Currently, the most common GMO crops are corn, cotton, soybeans, canola, and potatoes. While these are the most prevalent, the USDA states that there are over 40 plant varieties that have completed all of the federal requirements for GMO commercialization. The altruistic purpose behind genetically engineered crops is to ensure we have an adequate food supply for our increasing population. GM crops may in fact accomplish this. Through careful engineering, the crops:
- Become pest resistant – engineering seeds with Bt means that farmers do not need to use a pesticide to kill the insects that harm the crops. B.t., or Bacillus thuringiensis, is a naturally occurring bacterium that produces crystal proteins that are lethal to insect larvae. B.t. crystal protein genes have been transferred into corn, enabling the corn to produce its own pesticides
- Become herbicide tolerant – the seeds are engineered to survive powerful weed killer such as Roundup
- Increase their tolerance to cold temperatures – an antifreeze gene from cold water fish has been introduced into the genes of potatoes and tobacco to help the seeds survive cold temperatures
- Increase in nutritional value by adding vitamins and minerals to certain crops, such as rice.
For living in the now, so to speak, these benefits makes sense. But what about 10 or 20 years from now?
Some healthcare critics believe GMO foods negatively impact our health, which in the end, drives up our healthcare costs. Not only are the critics worried about our increased health costs, but they are also concerned about our quality of life. Who wants to be sick with allergies and toxins?
The concern stems from the way GMO’s are created. GMO seeds are either:
- Roundup Ready and/or
Roundup Ready crops are herbicide tolerant (HT). These crops are engineered to survive direct application of 1 or more herbicides including glyphosate. Glyphosate limits the uptake of nutrients by as much as 70%, thereby making the plant less nutrient rich. Glyphosate also alters the soil biology by creating harmful super pathogens. “Recent research claims that Monsanto's Roundup Ready genetically modified crops contain an organism, previously unknown to science, that can cause miscarriages in farm animals. Purdue University's Emeritus Professor Don M. Huber presented the findings of the research, which observed the new organism using a 36,000X electron microscope. The organism can cause disease in both plants and animals, a rare feat.” (http://www.treehugger.com/green-food/new-research-finds-that-roundup-ready-gmo-crops-may-cause-animal-miscarriages.html)
Bt crops are crops that are engineered to carry their own internal pesticide, called Bt toxin. Bt toxin ruptures the bellies of the bugs that eat it. Studies have shown Bt has adverse effects on other living beings. According to Natural News, “A new study out of Switzerland confirms once again that Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) toxin, the nefarious pesticide produced by certain genetically-modified (GM) crops, is harming non-target species. Published in the journal Environmental Sciences Europe, the study reveals that two-spotted ladybird (Adalia bipunctata L.) larvae exposed to Bt toxin experience a much higher mortality rate than those not exposed (http://www.enveurope.com/content/24/1/10/abstract). Contrary to repeated claims made by Monsanto and other biotechnology industry players about the supposed safety of Bt toxin for non-target species, this new independent study reveals otherwise. It also exposes the illegitimacy of the various industry-funded studies that claim Bt toxin is safe for non-target species, including humans, an unfounded claim that has been proven false time and time again.” (http://www.naturalnews.com/035161_Bt_toxin_GM_crops_species.html)
In general, GM crops lead to:
- Growth of superweeds
- Increase in superbugs
- Increase use of pesticides (toxins)
- A newly found organism that has been found to cause sudden death in plants. This organism has also been found to cause infertility and miscarriage in cattle, horses, pigs, sheep, and poultry.
What’s in it for us?
- Ending World Hunger: Initially, GMO development had a noble purpose, that is, to end world hunger. Unfortunately, studies have shown that GMO crops do not have a higher yield than conventional organic crops.
- The Unknown Effects: We really don’t know how GMO foods are affecting us.
- Do they cause allergies? Recent studies suggest allergies have dramatically increased in people who ingest GMO foods.
- Do they make the body more toxic? Studies in animals have shown internal damage to the liver, intestines, and kidneys from ingesting GMO foods.
- Are they causing birth defects and or miscarriages? Given studies have shown this to be true in animals, it is not a far stretch to believe this would occur in humans.
- Are the foods less nutritious? As mentioned above, the plants uptakes less nutrients when treated with pesticides compared to its organic counterpart.
So far, I’m not seeing any benefits that are of interest to me. GMO’s were created to produce higher and more reliable yields, yet critics suggest otherwise. The negative effects, on human, animal and plant health, may outweigh the purported higher yield claims. Given that, the request to simply label all foods that contain GMO’s makes sense to me. I would like to know what’s in the food I purchase. California’s Department of Food and Agriculture estimates that 70% of processed foods in our supermarkets contain genetically engineered ingredients. Even IF all of the research above is false, don’t we have a right to know what we are eating?