Friday, March 4, 2016

GMOther Nature. Not.

GMO - Genetically Modified Organisms are a broad group of plants, animals, and bacteria that are engineered for a wide variety of applications ranging from agricultural production to scientific research. The types of potential hazards posed by GMOs vary according to the type of organism being modified and its intended application. Most of the concern surrounding GMOs relates to their potential for negative effects on the environment and human health.

As genetically modified (GM) foods are starting to intrude in our diet, concerns have been expressed regarding GM food safety. The results of most studies with GM foods indicate that they may cause some common toxic effects such as hepatic, pancreatic, renal, or reproductive effects and may alter the hematological, biochemical, and immunologic parameters. However, many years of research with animals and clinical trials are required for this assessment. The use of some chemicals such as the recombinant GH or its expression in animals should be re-examined since it has been shown that it increases IGF-1 which may promote cancer.

Here are a few reasons that I found on why GM products should be avoided. I wish I was that smart to come up with them myself but there is a lot of chemistry and genetic technicalities in here so I had to base my research on more well-educated people in the domain. Here is a summary of my findings:

1. GMOs are unhealthy.
The American Academy of Environmental Medicine (AAEM) urges doctors to prescribe non-GMO diets for all patients. They cite animal studies showing organ damage, gastrointestinal and immune system disorders, accelerated aging, and infertility. Human studies show how genetically modified (GM) food can leave material behind inside us, possibly causing long-term problems. Genes inserted into GM soy, for example, can transfer into the DNA of bacteria living inside us, and that the toxic insecticide produced by GM corn was found in the blood of pregnant women and their unborn fetuses.
Numerous health problems increased after GMOs were introduced in 1996. The percentage of Americans with three or more chronic illnesses jumped from 7% to 13% in just 9 years; food allergies skyrocketed, and disorders such as autism, reproductive disorders, digestive problems, and others are on the rise. Although there is not sufficient research to confirm that GMOs are a contributing factor, doctors groups such as the AAEM tell us not to wait before we start protecting ourselves, and especially our children who are most at risk.

2. GNOs contaminate – forever.
GMOs cross pollinate and their seeds can travel. It is impossible to fully clean up our contaminated gene pool. Self-propagating GMO pollution will outlast the effects of global warming and nuclear waste. The potential impact is huge, threatening the health of future generations. GMO contamination has also caused economic losses for organic and non-GMO farmers who often struggle to keep their crops pure.

3. GMOs increase herbicide use.
Most GM crops are engineered to be “herbicide tolerant”―they deadly weed killer. Monsanto, for example, sells Roundup Ready crops, designed to survive applications of their Roundup herbicide.
Between 1996 and 2008, US farmers sprayed an extra 383 million pounds of herbicide on GMOs. Overuse of Roundup results in “superweeds,” resistant to the herbicide. This is causing farmers to use even more toxic herbicides every year. Not only does this create environmental harm, GM foods contain higher residues of toxic herbicides. Roundup, for example, is linked with sterility, hormone disruption, birth defects, and cancer.

4. Genetic engineering creates dangerous side effects.
By mixing genes from totally unrelated species, genetic engineering unleashes a host of unpredictable side effects. Moreover, irrespective of the type of genes that are inserted, the very process of creating a GM plant can result in massive collateral damage that produces new toxins, allergens, carcinogens, and nutritional deficiencies.
5. Government oversight is dangerously lax.
Most of the health and environmental risks of GMOs are ignored by governments’ superficial regulations and safety assessments. The reason for this tragedy is largely political. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), for example, doesn’t require a single safety study, does not mandate labeling of GMOs, and allows companies to put their GM foods onto the market without even notifying the agency. Their justification was the claim that they had no information showing that GM foods were substantially different. But this was a lie. Secret agency memos made public by a lawsuit show that the overwhelming consensus even among the FDA’s own scientists was that GMOs can create unpredictable, hard-to-detect side effects. They urged long-term safety studies.
6. Independent research and reporting is attacked and suppressed.

Scientists who discover problems with GMOs have been attacked, gagged, fired, threatened, and denied funding. The journal Nature acknowledged that a “large block of scientists . . . denigrate research by other legitimate scientists in a knee-jerk, partisan, emotional way that is not helpful in advancing knowledge.” Attempts by media to expose problems are also often censored.

7. GMOs harm the environment.
GM crops and their associated herbicides can harm birds, insects, amphibians, marine ecosystems, and soil organisms. They reduce bio-diversity, pollute water resources, and are unsustainable. For example, GM crops are eliminating habitat for monarch butterflies, whose populations are down 50% in the US. Roundup herbicide has been shown to cause birth defects in amphibians, embryonic deaths and endocrine disruptions, and organ damage in animals even at very low doses. GM canola has been found growing wild in North Dakota and California, threatening to pass on its herbicide tolerant genes on to weeds.
8. GMOs do not increase yields, and work against feeding a hungry world.
Whereas sustainable non-GMO agricultural methods used in developing countries have conclusively resulted in yield increases of 79% and higher, GMOs do not, on average, increase yields at all. This was evident in the Union of Concerned Scientists’ 2009 report Failure to Yield―the definitive study to date on GM crops and yield. They determined that the current GMOs have nothing to offer the goals of reducing hunger and poverty, improving nutrition, health and rural livelihoods, and facilitating social and environmental sustainability. On the contrary, GMOs divert money and resources that would otherwise be spent on more safe, reliable, and appropriate technologies.

9. By avoiding GMOs, you contribute to the coming tipping point of consumer rejection, forcing them out of our food supply.
Because GMOs give no consumer benefits, if even a small percentage of us start rejecting brands that contain them, GM ingredients will become a marketing liability. Food companies will kick them out. In Europe, for example, the tipping point was achieved in 1999, just after a high profile GMO safety scandal hit the papers and alerted citizens to the potential dangers. In the US, a consumer rebellion against GM bovine growth hormone has also reached a tipping point, kicked the cow drug out of dairy products by Wal-Mart, Starbucks, Dannon, Yoplait, and most of America’s dairies.

10. GMOs and Food Allergy
Food Allergy affects approximately 5% of children and 2% of adults in the U.S. and is a significant public health threat. Allergic reactions in humans occur when a normally harmless protein enters the body and stimulates an immune response. If the novel protein in a GM food comes from a source that is known to cause allergies in humans or a source that has never been consumed as human food, the concern that the protein could elicit an immune response in humans increases. Although no allergic reactions to GM food by consumers have been confirmed, in vitro evidence suggesting that some GM products could cause an allergic reaction has motivated biotechnology companies to discontinue their development.

11. Increased Toxicity
Most plants produce substances that are toxic to humans. Most of the plants that humans consume produce toxins at levels low enough that they do not produce any adverse health effects. There is concern that inserting an exotic gene into a plant could cause it to produce toxins at higher levels that could be dangerous to humans. This could happen through the process of inserting the gene into the plant. If other genes in the plant become damaged during the insertion process it could cause the plant to alter its production of toxins. Alternatively, the new gene could interfere with a metabolic pathway causing a stressed plant to produce more toxins in response. Although these effects have not been observed in GM plants, they have been observed through conventional breeding methods creating a safety concern for GM plants. For example, potatoes conventionally bred for increased diseased resistance have produced higher levels of glycoalkaloids (GEO-PIE website).

12. Decreased Nutritional Value
A genetically modified plant could theoretically have lower nutritional quality than its traditional counterpart by making nutrients unavailable or indigestible to humans. For example, phytate is a compound common in seeds and grains that binds with minerals and makes them unavailable to humans. An inserted gene could cause a plant to produce higher levels of phytate decreasing the mineral nutritional value of the plant (GEO-PIE). Another example comes from a study showing that a strain of genetically modified soybean produced lower levels of phytoestrogen compounds, believed to protect against heart disease and cancer, than traditional soybeans.
12. Antibiotic resistance
In recent years health professionals have become alarmed by the increasing number of bacterial strains that are showing resistance to antibiotics. Bacteria develop resistance to antibiotics by creating antibiotic resistance genes through natural mutation. Biotechnologists use antibiotic resistance genes as selectable markers when inserting new genes into plants. In the early stages of the process scientists do not know if the target plant will incorporate the new gene into its genome. By attaching the desired gene to an antibiotic resistance gene the new GM plant can be tested by growing it in a solution containing the corresponding antibiotic. If the plant survives scientists know that it has taken up the antibiotic resistance gene along with the desired gene. There is concern that bacteria living in the guts of humans and animals could pick up an antibiotic resistance gene from a GM plant before the DNA becomes completely digested (GEO-PIE website).

NOTE: As an additional motivation to avoid GMOs, you may wish to take a lesson from the animals. Eyewitness reports from around the world describe several situations where animals, when given a choice, avoid genetically modified food. These include cows, pigs, geese, elk, deer, raccoons, mice, rats, squirrels, chicken, and buffalo. We’re pretty sure the animals didn’t read any of the above reasons.

How can we tell that our food is genetically modified?

As you can see, the statements and research I came up with is almost solely based on US facts. It seems to me that Europe is doing much better on protecting itself from genetically modified food than across the ocean. Nonetheless, people are increasingly aware of the risks hidden in the chemical “improvements” of these products and the need to know what they are eating has become more stringent.  

It may be also, because in the US (at least) they are not required to be labeled so it’s literally a game of chance. Most soy and corn crops have been genetically modified. Some substances in them can be recognized, probably if you’re a chemist. Most people can’t even pronounce half of that list. Some large shops in the US are increasingly refusing to serve products that show GMO labels and others accept to have such products only if properly labeled so their customers have a chance to know what they’re buying.

Of course, you can go in and buy 100% organic labeled foods, all grass fed meat etc. But with this industry rising so fast and with such a high level of obscurity surrounding its effects, I personally end up mistrusting even the 100% organic. I mean, how can I tell? If a GMO weed has spread uncontrollably and cows eat it and it cannot be detected in blood/meat tests – then how can it be organic anymore? A while ago I was watching a documentary about bio-farmers growing cattle. A cow got caught in barbwire and the wound was so deep she needed antibiotics to recover. She lived but the farmer had to declare her basically, “lost for the cause” as due to antibiotics she was no longer “chemicals” free. At the time I was wondering, who does that in Romania? Who even cares? In my country I believe we, as consumers, are not extremely aware of what antibiotics on animals or herbicides on crops actually do. Nor what type they are and what effects they have on us. Or what crops they are used on. The number of farmers (or simple peasants like my gradma) still growing their tomato and veggies using nothing but water and mixed chicken or cow “poop” it’s a dying tradition. Nothing tastes as incredible as those tomatoes or greens. But truly, I have felt the difference in the cultures she has been growing for the past decade. She used to always replant the seeds from her previous crop. In time that got lost and she started mixing them with seeds of the (reportedly) same species of plants and soon enough the tomatoes didn’t even have the shape they used to have, less the taste. Those of you who have grown in the country side for a while know that type of tomato called “tatza oii” (sheep udder”). Elongated shape, incredible rich taste.

Well, it’s gone now. She doesn’t grow that anymore. Now we have purple tomatoes made out of eggplant genes that last forever. We have mushrooms who never touch soil and grow only in pots filled with chemicals. We have chickens who never see daylight and are crowded by the thousands under ultra violet light and fed chemicals to make them grow three times the size a normal chicken could ever reach in a life time. We have cows who even though naturally bulkier have now had their gene pool polluted to become walking chunks of muscle to increase meat mass production (see the Belgian Blue Cattle).

There have been tests done on lab mice that have been fed all their lives with just GMO corn and they were shown to develop horrifying tumors throughout their life. Perhaps we are physically better equipped than a mouse but I’d say playing God with DNA cannot be good no matter the species. Plus our immunity, if I may say so myself has long been affected with the overall environmental pollution and stressful life we lead every day. Without adding the increase in disease gene mutation and how viruses have become stronger and more resilient to antibiotics and so forth. We don’t need to bring more harm to our bodies than we have done so, so far, through other means. Perhaps the excuse is that the world population has increased and food isn’t being produced as fast as we need it.

I’m sorry to say, but we are throwing out millions of tons of food in some of the developed countries while there are entire nations starving. Not necessarily because it went bad, but because we are “fancier” in our choices of food and dishes. Now we like cooking live fish and snakes for sports in China and submit them to unbearable cruelty. Now we like our one Thanksgiving Turkey to feed our entire family of 30 people. I am amazed how the Natives and Settlers back in the day ever managed to survive on wild skinny ass turkeys!

Leaving all joke aside, I say pay attention to labels. Read what’s inside. I hear all these horrible stories about how baloney and sausages and gummy warms are made. And yes, I’m going to say it because you need to be horrified as well, perhaps then you’ll stop buying them: they “melt” the guts, hooves and horns and leftovers of carcasses to make a molasses of some sort that they make it taste like meat and then they put it in a biodegradable wrapping and serve it to you as a delicious meal. That usually doesn’t go bad for at least 6 months. My grandma’s sausages never made it more than 2 weeks in the fridge, salted, spiced and smoked! And still didn’t make it. They would catch “mold” as we used to say.

Just be careful. Choose wisely, the best you can. I think we all have enough problems and are fighting enough adversities nowadays to struggle with another corporately induced problem. The world is not starving because we’re out of food. It’s starving because we’re killing the Earth (yes, natural resources are limited!) and our feeding culture has become more demanding. If we stuck to more basic, decent needs we could all make it just fine. And healthier.

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