Genetically Modified Food: Effects on Our Health Safety and Environment
Genetically modified food also known as genetically modified organisms is a big issue, especially in light of their effects on our health safety and our environment. Politics aside, here we are taking a look at genetically modified foods and the consequences on our health and the environment. We don’t know for certain which of our foods have been modified . We don’t understand how they have been modified… have our plant-based foods been genetically engineered with genetic material from humans, animals, fish, birds, insects, or amphibians? I certainly hope not, not in this plant-based body!
“Genetic Engineering is often justified as a human technology, one that feeds more people with better food. Nothing could be further from the truth. With very few exceptions, the whole point of genetic engineering is to increase sales of chemicals and bio-engineered products to dependent farmers.” David Ehrenfield: Professor of Biology, Rutgers University
The Institute for Responsible Technology asks, “Is the FDA protecting us? No. The Food and Drug Administration policy on genetically modified organisms (GMOs), released in 1992, falsely claims that the agency had no information showing that GM foods are substantially different… FDA scientists repeatedly warned of possible allergies, toxins, new diseases, and nutritional problems; they urged long-term safety studies. But the FDA official in charge of policy was Michael Taylor, Monsanto’s former attorney, later their vice president, and now the US Food Safety Czar. The FDA ignored their scientists, and doesn’t require a single safety test. Instead, companies such as Monsanto, which have been found guilty of hiding toxic effects of their other products, get to decide if their GMOs are safe for us to eat. And the superficial studies they do conduct are widely criticized as rigged to avoid finding problems. The laboratory techniques are imprecise and bear no resemblance to natural breeding. The technology is based on outdated scientific assumptions and can lead to massive collateral damage in the plant. The DNA of GMOs, for example, can have hundreds or thousands of mutations, and the activity of up to 5% of their natural genes can be significantly changed. Even the inserted gene can be damaged or rearranged, creating proteins that trigger allergies or promote disease.
GM foods on the market
The Institute for Responsible Technology notes the six major GMO crops are soy, corn, canola, cotton, sugar beets, and alfalfa. Each has added bacterial genes, allowing plants to survive an otherwise deadly dose of weed killer such as Roundup. Farmers use considerably more herbicide on these crops, causing higher herbicide residues in our food. The second most popular trait is a built-in pesticide, found in GM corn and cotton. An inserted gene from soil bacteria called Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) secretes the insect-killing Bt-toxin in every cell. The other GM crops are Hawaiian papaya and a small amount of zucchini and yellow crookneck squash, which are engineered to resist a plant virus.
The Institute for Responsible Technology lists these concerns:
- GMOs: unnatural, imprecise, prone to side-effects
- Growing Evidence of Harm from GMOs
- GMOs and allergic reactions
- Bt corn and cotton linked to allergies
- GMOs may make you allergic to non-GM foods
- GMOs, reproductive problems, and infant mortality
- Bt crops linked to sterility, disease, and death
- Functioning GM genes remain inside you
The American Academy of Environmental Medicine (AAEM) urges physicians to advise all patients to avoid genetically modified (GM) food. They state, “Several animal studies indicate serious health risks associated with GM food.” These include:
- Immune problems
- Accelerated aging
- Faulty insulin regulation
- Changes in major organs and the gastrointestinal system.
- What are some of the advantages of GM foods?
- What are genetically-modified foods?
- How prevalent are GM crops?
- What plants are involved?
- What are some of the criticisms against GM foods?
- How are GM foods regulated and what is the government’s role in this
- How are GM foods labeled?
- Pest resistance
- Herbicide tolerance
- Disease resistance
- Cold tolerance
- Drought tolerance/salinity tolerance
- Unintended harm to other organisms
- Reduced effectiveness of pesticides
- Gene transfer to non-target species
- Human health risks
- Unknown effects on human health
(An outline extracted from the full article)
Deaths and Near-Deaths
1. Recorded Deaths from GM
2. Near-deaths and Food Allergy Reactions
POTATOES – A study showed genetically-modified potatoes expressing cod genes were allergenic.
PEAS – A decade-long study of GM peas was abandoned when it was discovered that they caused allergic lung damage in mice.
SOY – In March 1999, researchers at the York Laboratory discovered that reactions to soy had skyrocketed by 50% over the year before, which corresponded with the introduction of genetically-modified soy from the US. It was the first time in 17 years that soy was tested in the lab among the top ten allergenic foods.
Cancer and Degenerative Diseases
3. Direct Cancer and Degenerative Disease Links
4. Indirect, Non-traceable Effects on Cancer Rates: combining chemical food additives into chemical cocktails caused many times more toxic effects
Viral and Bacterial Illness
5. Superviruses: Viruses can mix with genes of other viruses and retroviruses
6. Antibiotic Threat Via Milk
7. Antibiotic Threat Via Plants
8. Resurgence of Infectious Diseases
9. Increased Food Allergies: The loss of biodiversity in our food supply has grown in parallel with the increase in food allergies. Each new food item produced contains many new potentially allergenic proteins.
10. Birth Defects and Shorter Life Spans
11. Interior Toxins: “Pesticidal foods” have genes that produce a toxic pesticide inside the food’s cells.
12. Lowered Nutrition
13. No Regulated Health Safety Testing
14. Unnatural Foods: “a profound difference between the types of expected effects from traditional breeding and genetic engineering.” “Pleiotropic effects occur in genetically engineered plants.There is “something tangibly different about the food that is material with respect to the consequences which may result from the use of the food.”
15. Radical Change in Diet: Ten companies now own about 40% of all US seed production and sales. Also 60% of all hard cheeses in the US are processed with a GM enzyme. The current result is that approximately two-thirds of all processed foods in the US already contain GM ingredients – and this is projected to rise to 90% within four years according to industry claims. In short, the human diet, from almost every front, is being radically changed – with little or no knowledge of the long-term health or environmental impacts.
“Genetic Engineering is often justified as a human technology, one that feeds more people with better food. Nothing could be further from the truth. With very few exceptions, the whole point of genetic engineering is to increase sales of chemicals and bio-engineered products to dependent farmers.”
David Ehrenfield: Professor of Biology, Rutgers University
General Soil Impact
16. Toxicity to Soil
17. Soil Sterility and Pollution
18. Extinction of Seed Varieties
19. Superweeds: It has been shown that genetically modified Bt endotoxin remains in the soil at least 18 months and can be transported to wild plants creating superweeds potentially disturbing the balance of nature.
20. Plant Invasions
21. Destruction of Forest Life: GM trees or “supertrees“ are being developed which can be sprayed from the air to kill literally all of surrounding life, except the GM trees. There is an attempt underway to transform international forestry by introducing multiple species of such trees. The trees themselves are often sterile and flowerless.
22. Terminator Trees: These super deadly trees are non-flowering, herbicide-resistant and with leaves exuding toxic chemicals to kill caterpillars and other surrounding insects – destroying the wholesale ecology of forest life.
24. Animal Bio-invasions: Fish and marine life are threatened by accidental release of GM fish threatening local fish supplies.
25. Killing Beneficial Insects: Studies have shown that GM products can kill beneficial insects
26. Poisonous to Mammals: In a study with GM potatoes, spliced with DNA from the snowdrop plant and a viral promoter (CaMV), the resulting plant was poisonous to mammals (rats) – damaging vital organs, the stomach lining and immune system.
27. Animal Abuse “supercrippling”
28. Support of Animal Factory Farming: Rather than using the best of scientific minds to end animal factory farming – rapid efforts are underway to develop gene-modified animals that better thrive in disease-promoting conditions of animal factory farms.
29. Genetic Pollution: Carrying GM pollen by wind, rain, birds, bees, insects, fungus, bacteria – the entire chain of life becomes involved. Once released, unlike chemical pollution, there is no cleanup or recall possible.
30. Disturbance of Nature’s Boundaries: Genetic engineers argue that their creations are no different than crossbreeding. However, natural boundaries are violated – crossing animals with plants, strawberries with fish, grains, nuts, seeds, and legumes with bacteria, viruses, and fungi; or like human genes with swine.
31. Unpredictable Consequences of a Gunshot Approach“wedging foreign genetic material in an essentially random manner…causes some degree of disruption…It is impossible to predict what specific problems could result.”
IMPACT ON FARMING
Small Farm Livelihood and Survival
32. Decline and Destruction of Self-Sufficient Family Farms
33. General Economic Harm to Small Family Farms
34. Losing Purity: At the present rate of proliferation of GM foods, within 50-100 years, the majority of organic foods may no longer be organic.
35. Mixing of GM and non-GMO crops
36. Losing Natural Pesticides
Control and Dependency
37. Terminator Technology: Plants are being genetically produced with no annual replenishing of perennial seeds so farmers will become wholly dependent on the seed provider.
38. Traitor Technology: Traitor technologies control the stages or life cycles of plants – when a plant will leaf, flower, and bear fruit. This forces the farmer to use certain triggering chemicals if he is to yield a harvest
39. Less Diversity, Quality, Quantity and Profit: One of the most misleading hopes raised by GM technology firms is that they will solve the world’s hunger.
40. Fragility of Future Agriculture: With loss of biological diversity there inevitably develops a fragility of agriculture.
41. Lower Yields and More Pesticides Used With GM Seeds
42. Monopolization of Food Production: The rapid and radical change in the human diet was made possible by quick mergers and acquisitions that moved to control segments of the US farming industry.
43. Impact on Long -Term Food Supply: If food production is monopolized,the future of that supply becomes dependent on the decisions of a few companies and the viability of their seed stocks.
ECONOMIC, POLITICAL AND SOCIAL THREATS
46. Health/Environmental/Socio-Political Reasons: The lack of labeling of genetically modified food violates and harms your right to know what is in our foods – given the list of health, environmental, and socio-political reasons to avoid GM ingredients. Even if GM foods were 100% safe, the consumer has a right to know such ingredients – due to their many potential harms.
47. For Religious Dietary Reasons: Previously if someone wanted to avoid foods not permitted by certain religions, the process was simple. With transgenic alterations, every food is suspect – and the religious and health-conscious consumer has no way of knowing without a mandated label. The lack of labeling makes it impossible for religious people to observe dietary customs.