Is Genetically Modified Food Safe for Consumption?

Since food is not a luxury but a necessity, we should know what is safe to eat and to feed our families.  A two-year study in France, published in 2012, showed that

…mice fed either a diet of Monsanto’s genetically modified maize sprayed with Roundup – the company’s brand of weed killer – or drank water with levels of Roundup similar to what is found in U.S. tap water were much more likely to die and at an earlier age, in addition to other health problems. (1)

The same study also showed that these mice, who ate genetically modified corn sprayed with weed killer, were more likely to develop tumors and organ damage.

This was an unfortunate image, which broke my heart, accompanied this study, published in Food and Chemical Toxicology.

Genetically-Modified-Food-study

Franken-Science

In Holland, a student fed one group of mice genetically modified (GM) corn and soy, and another group the non-GM variety.  The GM mice stopped playing with each other and withdrew into their own parts of the cage.  When the student tried to pick them up, unlike their well-behaved neighbors, the GM mice scampered around in apparent fear and tried to climb the walls.  One mouse in the GM group was found dead at the end of the experiment. (2)

Dr. Irina Ermakova, PhD, a senior researcher at the Russian Academy of Sciences, reported to the European Congress of Psychiatry in March 2006 that male rats fed GM (Ready Roundup) soy-bean exhibited anxiety and aggression: females and rat pups attacked and bit each other and the worker who took care about them, while those fed non-GMO soy did not. Pathological changes were found in testes and in liver of males fed by GM-soy seeds. Supplementation of the diet of the females with GM soy led to the higher mortality of rat pups (more than one half) in comparison with the pups from control groups. (3)

Research has shown that GM foods are nutritionally different than their non-GMO counterparts. Soybeans, for example, have a different nutrient makeup than non-GMO soy. GM soy contains 12-14% less isoflavones (4); differences in the fat, carbohydrate, and amino acid content; and significantly more trypsin inhibitor.  Animals, when given a choice, always choose non-GMO foods. (5)  The student in Holland I mentioned earlier, who conducted the experiment on mice, reported that his mice preferred the non-GMO food prior to some of the mice being forced to consume it.

European Union Bans GMOs

Many countries in the European Union have banned genetically engineered foods. There are several reasons for this:

  1. these foods were not deemed to be safe;
  2. they almost certainly cause damage to the environment as a result of introducing them as crops;
  3. there is a lack of any scientifically proven advantage of growing GMOs;
  4. people in the European Union took action and stood up against GMO crops

When there is no consumer demand, the farmers will grow what people want! Retailers, in EU, will not carry GMO foods because the population refuses to buy them. “The environment minister who gives in and allows GMO’s into this country will never be minister again,” says Nikos Lappas, head of Greece’s largest farmer’s union. “For farmers, forcing GMO’s would be economic suicide since our market doesn’t want them.”

Insurance companies in Europe will not cover farmers for liability if their genetically engineered crops contaminate fields.

The U.S., Canada and Argentina have brought a lawsuit against the European Union through the World Trade Organization. (6) In response, the EU has stated that all members must open their countries to genetically crops. In spite of this, 5 countries have used 8 different kinds of bans, and others have used their votes in the European Council of Ministers to keep the crops out.

Genetically Modified Food Labeling

While in Europe GMOs are mandated to be labeled (you would see 8 in front of a food product number), in the US labeling is not required.  To make things worse, it is nearly impossible to tell which products have modified organisms in them and which do not–reporting of this fact is…voluntary!

Maine and Connecticut approved labeling laws this summer, while New York, Vermont, Hawaii and Oregon are planning on proposing similar bills during next year’s election cycle. The push for labeling laws was defeated earlier this year in California and Washington because opponents were funded by powerful players in the food industry like Monsanto and DuPont, makers of bioengineered crop seeds, who exponentially outspent supporters. In California, opponents received $46 million in campaign donations, compared to the $9.2 million supporters garnered (the proposal failed 51% to 49%).

Whereas the big food and big agriculture lobby focuses on funding advertising to increase opposition, especially among rural constituencies, food safety proponents continue to educate lawmakers and voters to eventually sway public opinion. While they expect legislative proposal across the country, they also demand a national standard set by the FDA. However, federal measures like this seem to be more difficult to implement in the U.S. than in more centralized nations like most European countries. It seems that the only way we can demand and pass laws on GMO labeling is by become active and caring about our food supply.

What You Can Do

  1. Buy organic as much as you can–genetically modified organisms are not allowed in organic crops.
  2. Look for the Non-GMO project verified seal.
  3. Become informed and get to know your food*! Currently, these are the only US crops grown commercially from GMO seed: alfalfa, canola, corn, cotton, Hawaiian papaya, soy, sugar beets, yellow summer “crook-neck” squash and zucchini. (7) However, these can also be ingredients in MANY of the packaged foods. For example, the five most prevalent GMO crops: corn, canola, soy, cotton and sugar beets end up as additives in all kinds of packaged foods in forms of corn syrup, oil, sugar, flavoring agents, thickeners and other additives. Over 70% of packaged food products in North America contain GMOs. (8) GE crops are also often fed to livestock around the country (for those of you who still consume flesh foods, eggs and dairy).
  4. Get involved! Write to your state representatives–the more letters they get, the more likely they will act.
  5. Vote with your purchasing power–money talks! Buy organic and NON-GMO labeled foods as much as you can afford. Buy local foods from farmers who use non-GMO seeds.

*Common Ingredients Derived from GMO Risk Crops
Amino Acids, Aspartame, Ascorbic Acid, Sodium Ascorbate, Vitamin C, Citric Acid, Sodium Citrate, Ethanol, Flavorings (“natural” and “artificial”), High-Fructose Corn Syrup, Hydrolyzed Vegetable Protein, Lactic Acid, Maltodextrins, Molasses, Monosodium Glutamate, Sucrose, Textured Vegetable Protein (TVP), Xanthan Gum, Vitamins, Yeast Products.

Have a GMO Story?

Did you learn something new from this post? Do you have a GMO story to tell? Are you passionate about food safety and have already taken action? I want to hear it all! Leave a comment under this post.

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GMO Infographic

I recently came across an inforgraphic (9) on genetically modified organisms, which is helpful in seeing how GMOs crept into our food supply

GMOs-argument

References

  1. http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-504763_162-57517377-10391704/study-says-genetically-modified-corn-causes-tumors-but-other-scientists-skeptical-about-research/
  2. http://ablechild.org/resources/information-for-help/natural-solutions/junk-food-and-gmos-adversely-affect-behavior/
  3. http://eco-irina-ermakova.narod.ru/eng/art/art15.html
  4. http://online.liebertpub.com/doi/abs/10.1089/jmf.1998.1.241
  5. http://www.i-sis.org.uk/MicePreferNonGM.php
  6. http://www.wto.org/english/tratop_e/dispu_e/cases_e/ds293_e.htm
  7. http://www.nongmoproject.org/learn-more/what-is-gmo/
  8. http://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/gmo-your-right-know
  9. Infographic provided by Carrington.edu

  10. Featured image courtesy of http://www.freedigitalphotos.net/

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