GMOs: Everything You Need To Know
Friends, let me introduce you to a topic I hold very close to my heart. This is the first blog entry I am writing on Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) or Genetically Engineered foods (GE) and introducing some of you to Monsanto for the first time. If you follow me on Instagram, friends with me on Facebook, or know me at all..you know that I am extremely passionate in fighting for food transparency in our country.
Since GMOs, and their presence in our food is such a widely debated, hugely controversial and often confused topic of conversation I'm going to try to break it down for you to the best of my ability so you may see where I am coming from. I never want to tell you WHAT to think or HOW to think, I just aim to inspire. To spark some curiosity on subjects that perhaps can lead you to doing your own research or drawing your own conclusions on the subject, leading to a healthier understanding on the importance of food quality to nutrition.
What are GMOs?
A GMO (genetically modified organism) is the result of a laboratory process where genes from the DNA of one species are extracted and artificially forced into the genes of an unrelated plant or animal. The foreign genes may come from bacteria, viruses, insects, animals, or even humans. This type of genetic alteration is not found in nature. GMOs were introduced into the food supply in 1996, many of the foods we currently eat have been genetically altered and we don't know which ones have been altered because the USA does not require labeling of genetically altered foods. Genetically modified foods are different than cross-breeding and hybridization, and you can learn more about how the processes differ here.
Why do we use GMOs?
Genetically modified seeds are used in farming to create pesticide resistant produce. Conventional farmers, and GMO seed producers have lead farmers (and the public) to believe that GMOs are a necessity to produce higher yields of foods. Inclement weather, climate change, and bugs can lead to a disruption in crops. Pesticide resistant crops are grown like BT Corn (which you can learn more about here- be mindful of where you get your news from as well, the GMO seed manufacturer who I will get more into later has very deep pockets and is very influential in our government and Congress). The pesticide resistant grown seed is manufactured in a laboratory, sold to farmers to create higher yields, and is meant to kill any insect that lands on the corn and goes to eat it. The insects stomach explodes from the inside out once they attempt to eat the genetically altered corn.
While we may not be insects, we can argue that we can be considered large insects. While we consume this genetically modified corn we may be exposing our bodies to chemicals and toxins our bodies will not be able to break down over time. These GMO foods can create holes in our stomachs, and digestive tracts creating leaky gut syndrome, or allowing food to enter our blood stream creating all sorts of problems.
Conventional farmers who use pesticides often wear protective gear or masks when spraying the food to protect themselves from exposure to harmful compounds found in the pesticides.
Who else uses GMOs?
Labeling GMOs is mandatory in 64 countries throughout the entire world. GMOs have been banned and labeled in Austria, Bulgaria, Germany, Greece, Ireland, France, New Zealand and many other countries. GMOs are completely banned in Italy. Europe understands and promotes the consumer's right to know and understand what exactly is in their food. Most recently, in a very public and interesting move Vladamir Putin outlawed the use of GMOs in Russia. While 94% of Americans would like for GMOs to be labeled, ballots in big states like California and New York have been shot down in the past few years. Vermont became the first state to pass successful legislation to label GMOs, the state will have all GMOs removed from food supply by 2016. However, with this huge victory Vermont is being sued by the corporation who manufactures GMO seeds.
Where do GMOs come from?
Believing in their right to patent nature, Monsanto is the largest producer of GMO seeds in the world. Monsanto creates the GMO seeds that conventional farmers use to grow pesticide resistant crops. Never heard of Monsanto? Monsanto is the same company who developed saccharin, the artificial sweetener that has been linked to several neurological conditions even cancer (while they state in the beginning there is no clear evidence of links to artificial sweeteners continue reading and also this all comes with the general understanding that the FDA has been brought for a high price). Monsanto is also the same company that developed Agent Orange during the Vietnam War, it was later found that Agent Orange was the leading cause of cancer, tumors, rashes and psychological symptoms for US Soldiers and millions of Vietnamese people. Later in 1984, after proven health effects caused by exposure to Agent Orange Monsanto paid millions of dollars to veterans who were suffering from complications. A component of Agent Orange, DDT is also used in Monsanto's Round-Up Ready weed killer, a chemical conventional farmers use to destroy any weeds that grow and "disrupt" their produce. You might be asking yourselves, why is a biotechnology company who makes chemicals and weed killers the same company who is manufacturing our seeds? Or better yet, why is any large biotech company manufacturing our seeds? Aren't seeds supposed to belong to nature?
What foods are GMO?
The most prevalent GMO is corn. Corn is used in everything, corn syrup and High Fructose Corn Syrup is genetically modified. The top 5 most prevalent GMO crops are Sugar Beets, Soy, Canola, Cotton and Corn. It is best to refer to this list of GMO ingredients to avoid!
What about scientific studies?
There is little evidence that show GMOs are safe to consume. Most studies that are conducted on the topic are paid for by Monsanto, or the GMO food trials are only done over the course of 30 days to rats. Humans consume GMOs for longer than 30 days so that is not a true testament to the potential harmful effects of GMOs. There has only been one study conducted that was published and then retracted due to public outcry from the massive corporation Monsanto (they basically bashed the scientist who conducted this study and slandered his name) and you can learn more about that here. I recommend watching the documentary GMO OMG to learn more about that study and to watch a first hand interview with the scientist, Gilles-Eric Séralini so you can draw your own conclusions. In Séralini's study he found that over a course of three years rat fed GMO diets developed tumors and became sterile over time. If nothing else, the lack of peer reviewed and non-corporate funded studies should make you question the actual safety of GMOs.
What are the health risks associated with GMOs?
There are several documentaries that outline the health risks linked to GMO consumption. It is extremely important to note that GMOs are prevalent in processed foods, and over 80% of the food in this country is GMO. Animals like pigs, cows, chickens and even farmed fish are fed grains that contain GMO corn. Why? Because it is cheap! Spending less money to make more money unfortunately has become a principle in this country over the quality of the food we are consuming. Cows, chickens and pigs are often not exposed to the outdoors, aren't grassfed so it is extremely important to be aware of the quality of food you are spending your money on. If your meat is not grassfed it is most likely eating a GMO diet, which in turn means you and your family are eating GMOs. I know it's scary and seems almost unavoidable but being aware and mindful is the first step. It has been documented that animals fed a GMO diet often experience tumor growth, issues with fertility, immune system issues, and digestive issues.
Who is Clarence Thomas and Michael Taylor?
You may have never heard of these two men. I am here to formerly introduce you to Clarence Thomas and Michael Taylor. The poster children for the corporate revolving door between Monsanto and the United States Government. While we would all hope that there are honest men leading this country with pure intentions, unfortunately that is not entirely the case when it comes to the FDA and the Supreme Court.
Clarence Thomas was a lawyer for Monsanto for four years. He has represented the company defending their controversial practices. If he was not currently a judge on the Supreme Court he very well could have been the lawyer representing Monsanto in their current lawsuit against Vermont. Clarence Thomas has ruled in favor of Monsanto in every case he has since overseen. No one ever questions his potential bias opinion or personal ties to the company. Next up is Michael Taylor. Ahh..Michael Taylor. He is the former Vice President of Public Policy at Monsanto, and currently the deputy commissioner at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). With a flip flopping career in Government, then Monsanto, then back to Government, according to the FDA website, he is "a nationally recognized food safety expert, Mr. Taylor has served in numerous high-level positions at FDA and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), as a research professor in the academic community, and on several National Academy of Sciences expert committees studying food-related issues." These two men are just the beginning of the many ties between the FDA, Monsanto, and the Government. It is EXTREMELY important that the more you learn about GMOs, the more you have to trust where you sources and research is coming from. Monsanto has an undeniable presence in our government. The information available in mass media outlets is often swayed in their favor because of this corporation's presence and influence in our government and media.
How can you avoid GMOs?
While GMOs are highly prevalent in our food supply. Right now it may seem hopeless and I may have bombarded you with a ton of new and scary information but I assure you it is possible to avoid GMOs to the best of your ability! With continued research and practice shopping non-GMO will get easier and less overwhelming. For the full guide on avoiding GMOs, visit my favorite resource for shopping non-GMO, the Non-GMO Shopping Guide!
Look for the Non-GMO Verified Project Seal!
This seal is popping up on so many foods these days and it makes my heart so happy! I don't purchase anything that doesn't have this seal on it! The Non-GMO Project verified seal ensures that the product labeled has been tested by a third party to contain no GMO ingredients. Sales of verified food products exceed $7 Billion per year!
Mainstream foods are beginning to make changes..
This year, Cheerios was declared non-GMO, Ben & Jerry's announced their products would be non-GMO by 2016. Fast food chain Chipotle has declared their own transparency when it comes to labeling what GMOs they use and promise to rid GMOs completely by 2016. Target Home Brands have also made the switch to non-GMO!
Here are some great documentaries on GMOs:
-More Than Honey
-Hungry For Change
I know this is A LOT of information, I hope the information I have shared and the links I have provided will spark some further interest of you to continue your own research. While this has been my first post regarding GMOs, Monsanto, their financial involvement with our government, and the health risks involved with GMO consumption..this will NOT be my last post. This post has opened the flood gates of all the information I want to share with you! I have probably waited to write this because I wanted to make sure I wrote a detailed and easy way to understand GMOs, what they are, who makes them and why they are controversial.
Thanks for reading!