Tuesday, October 30, 2012

What You Need to Know about GMOs and Genetically Engineered Foods

It takes more work to stay healthy these days. Even eating a nourishing, energizing meal requires extra time, careful shopping around the perimeter of the grocery store, budgeting, and preparation. Meal planning to avoid high fructose corn syrup and trans fats, limited amounts of saturated fat and the right balance of carbs to protein to healthy fat is more important now than ever.

On top of this, consumers have genetically modified organisms (GMO) food, or the newer term genetically engineered (GE) food. These have had a foreign piece of DNA inserted into the cells of the food. Agribusiness promised that GE’s would help to feed the world and be safe for consumers and the environment. GE foods were held up as a natural extension of traditional breeding methods which were more precise and safer. Unfortunately, it isn’t working out that way.

GE foods were said to be "substantially equivalent" to non-GE foods and safe to eat. This means they were approved by our government without rigorous scientific testing. Unfortunately, they are substantially different and absolutely unsafe.

Other touted benefits of GE foods included higher yields, higher nutrition, fewer pesticides, drought tolerance, greater root growth and function, disease resistance, lower cost, and greater safety.  Unfortunately, it isn’t working out that way.

The required labeling of foods that are GMO/GE foods are on the ballot in California in November. Passage of Proposition 37 will require manufacturers and farmers to notify consumers on the label if their products contain GE’s. Fifty other nations have enacted similar laws. Don't we want truth in advertising? Don't you want to know what you are eating and feeding your children?

International food and chemical companies, including Monsanto, Dow, DuPont and others have contributed about $35 million to defeat Proposition 37.  Food makers will be required to add a label showing that the food item contains GE or reformulate their products to avoid the use of GE’s.  Supermarkets will be required to make certain that their shelves are stocked with correctly labeled items. Agribusiness, farmers and retailers oppose Prop 37 claiming that it will lead to higher grocery bills, frivolous law suits, and confusion for the public. 

Kathy Fairbanks, a spokeswoman for the NO on 37 Campaign, said "It's not necessary.  Worse, it leaves people with impression that there is something wrong with the food.  That's not the case."

I firmly disagree.

Around the world GE foods are increasingly associated with disease and illness.
In Europe when GE soybeans were fed to mice, there was damage to the pancreas, testicles, and liver of the test mice. There was also damage to the offspring of mother mice. 

The Russians stopped using GE soy-based feed, when infant mortality for all rats hit 55.3%. Those who survived did not conceive in the GE soy fed group. 

Austrian scientists found “there was a direct link between the decrease in fertility and the genetically modified diet”.  Statistically significant litter size (decreases) and pup weight decreases were found in the 3rd and 4th litters in the GM fed mice compared to the control group.

Recent research in Cairo studied 9 groups of rats and mice fed potatoes, corn, grapes and tomatoes in a 10% GE and 90% non-GE diet.  After 4 weeks there was notable shrinkage of kidneys, changes in livers and spleens, new malignancies, kidney failure, hemorrhages in the intestine, and learning and memory problems.  Death rates of babies from mothers fed GE diet increased 35% and the babies were smaller.  Half died after 3 weeks.

But you argue these results are only in mice and rats. Not so. Similar findings have been found in goats, sheep, cattle, pigs.....and humans.

Human illnesses that have been associated with GE food include damage to kidney, liver, fertility, gut, cancers and learning and behavioral disorders. 

The first human study on GEs was the 1987 L- tryptophan "contamination" which caused over 1500 cases of eosinophilia myalgia syndrome (EMS). People abruptly developed weakness and pain in their muscles and eosinophils (allergy cells) in their blood. 39 people died.  It was blamed on contaminated L-tryptophan from Japan and tryptophan was banned for years. However, it wasn't contamination.  It was substitution of GE L-tryptophan for conventional L-tryptophan.  There were no cases of EMS from non-GE L-tryptophan.

Soon after GE soy was introduced into the UK, soy allergies skyrocketed by 50%.  The rate of increase in autism and inflammatory bowel disease both follow the introduction of GE foods.

In Brazil in 2010 there was a marked increase in congenital birth defects which resulted in the infants’ deaths which had been increasing yearly since the implementation of planting GE crops and using increasing amounts of pesticides.

In 2011 the same physicians in Brazil, who noted the continued increase in congenital birth defects, found that there was a reduction in the average age and height of residents in crop sprayed towns. Birth defects, miscarriages, depression, suicide, spina bifida, lupus, leukemia and other kinds of cancers, skin problems, asthma, allergies, respiratory problems, male sterility and impotence, hormonal disruption and other hormone disorders, diminished childhood development, prolonged febrile illnesses, children's increased vulnerability to pollutants, anemia, multiple sclerosis, cerebral ischemia, and death were all on the increase.

How could GE food possibly cause all these different problems?

First there's the direct toxicity of the GE food product itself. Roundup Ready soy beans are inherently different from conventional soybeans because abnormal DNA is inserted into the seeds sandwiched between a cauliflower mosaic virus on one side and an antibiotic on the other side. Our immune system has never seen anything like this.   It doesn’t recognize it when we eat GE soymilk or feed our babies soy infant formula.  This DNA is highly antigenic or stimulating to our immune system. Our immune system responds by attacking the invaders triggering intense inflammation in the gut and body.

It is easy to see how this might trigger Crohn's disease or ulcerative colitis which are on the rise.  But if the gut lining is damaged, the inflammation will not stay local. It will spread to any organ in the body.  Depending upon one’s nutritional status, level of stress, genetic tendencies and other toxic load, disease can manifest in many other organs.

Second, the bacteria in our gut share and exchange DNA.  All the time. This is normal.  That’s how germs develop resistance to antibiotics. GE genes are even easier to transfer to bacteria.  The gene’s promoter, the cauliflower mosaic virus, works in bacteria too.

An Emeritus Professor of Plant Pathology at Purdue University, Dr. Don Huber wrote “Genetic engineering is more like a virus infection than a normal breeding process and results in a multitude of mutations and epigenetic effects as genetic integrity in the plant is disrupted. These 'foreign' bacterial genes are highly promiscuous and (are) easily transferred by wind or insects to other plants; to soil microorganisms during plant residue decomposition, or to intestinal microflora (in farm animals, lab rats and humans) during food digestion where they continue to direct the production of toxins and allergenic proteins.” 

Then there is the herbicide. The new DNA allows the corn plant that grows from the seed to tolerate being sprayed with the herbicide, glyphosate. The DNA keeps the plant alive while it is drenched with glyphosate. Inside and out. Brand name Roundup contains glyphosate and other ingredients which allow all components of the spray to penetrate the plant. That means we consume more Roundup when we ingest the fruits of the plant.

Since the GE plants can tolerate more Roundup, we are using more Roundup. A lot more. The use of pesticides has increased exponentially since the introduction of Roundup Ready soy beans and other crops.  In 1990 35 M liters of pesticide were used annually.  This year fields will be sprayed with over 300 M liters.

Unfortunately, the promise of GE food bounty and safety did not materialize. GE foods result in lower yields, less nutrition, more exposure to pesticides, drought intolerance, less root growth and function, less disease resistance, higher cost and far less safety.

Roundup was supposed to get rid of the weeds. It didn’t. We are now growing super weeds requiring more and different pesticides.

So how does Roundup damage a plant? Glyphosate is the most commonly used herbicide.  It is an antimicrobial. It kills germs in the soil leaving plants more susceptible to soil borne fungal pathogens. Its antimicrobial action is due to its being a broad spectrum chelator.  That means it binds up trace minerals in the soil and the plant. Trace minerals include manganese, cobalt, iron, zinc, copper and others.  Without these trace minerals plants, soil and animals do not function optimally. Plants, soil and animals get sick and weak and are prey for diseases and infections. 

Roundup Ready plants sprayed with Roundup demonstrate markedly lowered uptake of trace minerals by the roots and even less is transferred to the plant itself.  So the plants - soybeans, alfalfa, corn, and sugar beets among others have even fewer minerals and nutrients.  They have fewer amino acids and lignans. So while the Roundup doesn’t kill the Roundup Ready plants, they are weaker and less nutritious. And they are full of Roundup.
GE plants require 30 to 50% more water than conventional crops. And you thought the loss of this year’s soy beans and corn was due to a terrible drought in the Midwest? Soy bean prices should have been $5.38/bushel according to Dr. Huber. Instead it is going to be double that.  Due to this terrible drought. Well, it wasn't a lack of water. The conventional soybeans and corn that were grown in neighboring farms did just fine. It was the GE corn and GE soybeans that needed more water.  We are going to pay a lot more for food because of more frequent crop failures. GE crops are going to be much more expensive.

And there is more, numerous studies demonstrating that both Roundup and glyphosate are endocrine disruptors. They interfere with testosterone production. They cause tumors, and damage genes at trace levels. It’s also associated with chronic botulism in cattle in Germany and miscarriages and poor health of baby calves due to manganese deficiency in this country caused by the chelator action.

There are other GE crops. Bt-toxin corn has had DNA inserted so the corn itself will produce its own poisonous insecticide in every cell. The insecticide, called Bt-toxin, breaks open the stomach of certain insects to kill them. Recent evidence shows that Bt-toxin can also break into the walls of human cells. Bt-toxin from GE corn was found in the blood of 93% of pregnant women and 80% of their unborn fetuses.

So where will you find these GE foods?

There are currently 9 genetically modified food crops. According to the Center for Food Safety  up to 85 percent of U.S. corn, 90 percent of canola, 91 percent of soybeans, 88 percent of cotton (cottonseed oil is often used in food products), and up to 95 percent of sugar beets are now GE. It has been estimated that greater than 70 percent of processed foods on supermarket shelves–from soda to soup, crackers to condiments–contain genetically engineered ingredients.  50% of papaya from Hawaii is GE and a limited number of zucchini and yellow squash are GE. Lastly, GE alfalfa was approved in the past year for feed for animals. These animals or products from these animals will eventually end up on dinner plates.

The Institute for Responsible Technology has a campaign goal to push GMOs/GEs out of the entire food supply, protecting our health and the health of future generations. The key is creating a tipping point where a sufficient number of shoppers in the US avoid GM ingredients, and force major food companies to stop using them. We’ve already seen a tipping point in the use of genetically engineered bovine growth hormone (rbGH or rbST) in the U.S. Consumer concerns forced Wal-Mart, Starbucks, Kroger, Dannon, Yoplait and most of the 100 top US dairies to remove products from cows treated with rbGH or rbST. It’s time to turn GMOs into a marketing liability and reach the tipping point against all GM ingredients.
What do you do if you want to eat food and want to avoid GE foods?

1.    Get educated. There is a lot of information available on the web:

The Institute for Responsible Technology provides excellent resources. This was started by Jeffrey M. Smith who wrote the book "Seeds of Deception" and recently released the movie, Genetic Roulette. They have guides for feeding families and infants and eating out. http://responsibletechnology.org/buy-non-GE

  • Tip #1: Buy OrganicOrganic producers cannot intentionally use GMOs or GEs.
  • Tip #2: Look for "Non-GMO" Verified Seals (as pictured at the top of this post)
  • Tip #3: Avoid At-Risk Ingredients: If it's not labeled organic, or doesn't have a Non-GMO Project Verified Seal, then avoid processed food products ingredients made with these GM crops: Corn, Soybeans, Canola, Cottonseed and Beet sugar.

Sugar Avoid anything not listed as 100% cane sugar since GM beet sugar recently entered the food supply. To avoid it, look for organic and non-GMO sweeteners, candy and chocolate made with 100% cane sugar, evaporated cane juice or organic sugar.

Aspartame The artificial sweetener also known as NutraSweet and Equal is derived from GM microorganisms.

Also if you have an infant or are expecting, infants and children are more sensitive to the dangers of genetically modified foods.  Unfortunately genetically modified food is in infant formula.  Independent laboratory tests show significant amounts of GE soy in Similac Soy, Enfamil Pro Soybee, Wal-Mart soy, and Gerber Good Start Soy.  All the formulas distributed by the government's WIC program contain GE food brands. If you cannot breast feed, only choose organic formulas.

2.    Vote for healthier food with your pocketbook. Don’t buy GMO/GE food if you have any other choice.

3.    Tell farmers at the market, grocers, and restaurant owners that you want non-GMO/GE food. Period.

4.    Get involved in the campaign to eliminate GMO/GE foods from the food chain to protect our futures. Support Proposition 37.

5.    Be brave. You will hear people disparage the movement to get rid of GMO food. You will read a lot of criticism. There is money, power and greed behind those opposed to Prop 37. Remember the American Academy of Environmental and Occupational Medicine has urged physicians to have their patients avoid GM/GE foods since 2009. They recognize people consuming GM/GE foods will develop diseases caused by the food.

6.     Do not use Roundup or plant GMO seeds.

7.    Lastly, this is what else I’m doing to protect myself:
a.    Take probiotics to outnumber germs in the gut that have been infected with the Roundup Ready DNA.
b.    Do a cleanse at least twice a year.
c.     Use infra-red sauna to sweat out accumulated pesticides and herbicides.