Thursday, May 24, 2012

Is the answer to use more chemicals on our food?

Genetically modified (GMO) foods have been in use in the United States for almost twenty years and are a substantial part of the crops that we consume on a daily basis. They were originally created to increase farmer's crop yield so that we could feed more people including world wide use for those with food shortages. They were also created to have a tolerance to pesticides and a resistance against cold, disease, and draught conditions. Moreover scientists have also been working on discovering a way in which to place vaccines inside of crops so they could be shipped overseas while not having the special storage considerations needed for many vaccines.  When they were first introduced, it was discussed that there was potential for harmful human side effects, environmental factors such as disturbances to wild life and insect populations, and super weeds and gene spreading to non GMO crops resulting from cross breeding.

So what are GMO foods?
The genetic code for many of our crops including corn, soybeans, tomatoes, canola, papaya, zucchini, rice and cotton have been broken apart by scientists and a small portion of genetic code from another species such as fish, soil bacteria, and even other plants are inserted in the crop's gene. This results in the crop having certain characteristics that are wanted such as no bruising in tomatoes, common crop disease resistance, or pesticide tolerance. Check out the video below for more information.
How prevalent are GMO foods?
According to the United States Department of Agriculture, 94% of all US soybeans, 88% of corn, and 90% of cotton. Read more here.

Have they helped?
Numerous studies have shown that in fact crop yields have NOT INCREASED. The tolerance and resistance have held, but the environment and the potentials we were trying to protect against have adapted and mutated.

How did they propose to prevent this?
Long term studies on human side effects, environmental side effects, and sterile crops to prevent cross breeding.

Did any of this come true?
In the US there are three different agencies that are regulating these products including the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). The EPA is responsible for monitoring the environment, the USDA is responsible for finding out if its safe to grow, and the FDA whether its safe to eat. The FDA has ruled that GMO food is substantially equivalent to unmodified "natural" food and thus does not need to be regulated. What do they mean by substantially equivalent? They mean that the GMO food or food product has the same use and characteristics of earlier food that has passed FDA standards or that the different characteristics is as safe as the previous food with no new safety issues and thus NO ADDITIONAL SAFETY INSPECTIONS ARE REQUIRED. 

Monsanto, the GMO mega company with ties to the pharmaceutical industry as well, in an open letter from Monsanto CEO Robert Shapiro to Rockefeller Foundation President Gordon Conway that it would not pursue technology to render seeds sterile. 

What is the big deal?
Dr. Arpad Pusztai, a world authority on plant lectins, did some research on GMO potato plants and rats. He found that those that ingested the GMO potatoes had significant weight changes and immune response changes. The Rowett Institute also announced the study findings on the GMO jackbean plant with ConA and the toxic effects that it produced. Independent environmental studies have found effects on monarch butterfly caterpillar deaths after eating GMO soybeans as well as other studies finding toxic and other harmful environmental effects. Critics have attempted to discredit these studies and say the science and experiments used to obtain these results were flawed.

The controversy and pressure has also led Gerber baby food to stop using GMO corn and soy in their baby food. Many other companies have also felt pressure and a few months ago Kashi food was also targeted for using GMO in their "all natural" products. They are still feeling the pressure from that one!

Many crops of farmers not using GMO crops have been cross contaminated and there are now the super weeds that are pesticide resistant. They are further contributing to a decreased crop yield. The solution is now to use more pesticides and herbicides and multiple types of pesticides to our food to protect us. The agricultural industry is also pushing for deregulation of 2,4-D, the highly toxic chemical component formerly used in Agent Orange in the Vietnam War that was responsible for the maiming or death of 400,000 people and the birth defects of 500,000 children born after the war. Read more here.

What can you do?
1) Talk to your legislators and voice your concerns.
2) Do research on the companies you are buying your products from and read labels. 
3) Buy organic. It can make a difference in your life and your families.
4) Start a vegetable garden at home with organic seeds.