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Food & Nutrition

The Truth About GMOs in Your Food

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Despite FDA claims that genetically modified foods are safe, scientific studies continue to prove otherwise.

By Tammy Mastroberte

As California readies for the vote on Prop 37 – which will require manufacturers to label food containing genetically modified organisms (GMOs) – many people in other states have never even heard of GMOs, what they are and what it means to them and the food they consume. But it’s time to start paying attention.

Corn, canola, soybeans, sugar beets and cottonseed oil – ingredients found in 80 percent of the packaged foods on the supermarkets shelves throughout the United States – likely contain GMOs. These organisms are the result of a lab process where genes are taken from one species (plant, animal, etc.), and inserted into another to obtain a desired trait or characteristic.

Those who support GMOs – specifically the corporations like Monsanto and Dupont, who create genetically modified seeds and supply them to farmers – compare the process to natural breeding, claiming it is completely safe. But many experts disagree.

“Prior to genetic modification, a farmer would notice a certain trait in corn and then grow more to develop that trait,” Dr. Cathie-Ann Lippman, an environmental and preventative medicine medical doctor, and founder of The Lippman Center for Optimal Health in Beverly Hills tells Elevated Existence. “Now, with GMO, they are taking genes from one species and forcing them into the DNA of a totally different species – creating something artificial that doesn’t occur in nature.”

She cited an example used in the documentary film “Genetic Roulette: The Gamble of Our Lives,” which compares it to someone reading a Harry Potter novel and turning the page to suddenly see some of the pages are upside down, words and letters are mixed up, and they are now reading about knitting.

“It’s like doing that to DNA, and it’s important because DNA is our main messenger of how our whole body is suppose to operate. If you have strange messages, that is going to cause confusion in the body and how it is suppose to operate,” notes Lippman, who cites scientific studies and anecdotal reports of GMOs causing digestive disturbances, kidney and liver issues, and infertility. In more severe cases, when rats were fed the GMO seeds over a long period of time, they developed cancer and organ failure in as little as two years.

So why are GMOs being used in our food? The goal is to create plants that are resistant to roundup – the pesticides used on farms to stop weeds from growing and to kill bugs. This roundup is also supplied by companies like Monsanto, who claim the modified seeds and the new, stronger pesticides increase yields of crops, and don’t require as much pesticides as in the past. But again, many experts say these theories have already been proven wrong.

“One argument in favor of GMOs is farmers won’t have to use as much pesticide, but it turns out this is not the case because nature, being as adaptive as it is, has developed super weeds and super bugs that are now tolerant to the pesticides. So farmers actually have to use more,” Lippman explains.

In fact, genetically modified crops have led to a massive 400 million pounds of pesticides in use, says Zach Kaldveer, assistant media director at California Right to Know, who is leading the campaign for Prop 37.

To respond to this, the companies producing these pesticides are now trying to gain approval for a new spray to handle the roundup resistance occurring, but Kaare Melby, campaign coordinator at the Organic Consumer Association said this spray is “much worse.”

“It has a constituent that was in Agent Orange,” he noted, which is the herbicide that resulted in hundreds of thousands of deaths and hundreds of thousands of birth defects.

Most of the pesticides and herbicides used actually bind up minerals in the soil and plants so they are not available for growth, Lippman explains. This means the plant is not as nourished as it could be, and in turn, we as humans are not as nourished. Because companies are not required by law to label foods with genetically modified ingredients, the only way to avoid them right now is to buy organic foods.

“So much of our food is genetically modified but people don’t realize it,” explains Melby. “They think, ‘I don’t eat corn or soy,’ but look at the labels. Does the product have cornstarch, corn syrup, canola or soy lecithin? Most of them are genetically modified if they are not organic.”

GMOs & Your Health
The World Health Organization, and the U.S. National Academy of Sciences have said GMOs are safe. Also, current FDA policy says there is no difference between genetically modified food and natural food. However, many scientists and genetic experts are saying there is not adequate testing being done to understand the long-term effects. Others say companies like Monsanto have ex-employees making these laws.

“Earlier this year, the FDA received more than 1 million petitions asking for labeling on GMO products – more than they received on any issue in the past,” Kaldveer points out, explaining the current FDA policy was written by a Monsanto attorney working under Dan Quale. “There has been major efforts made by different groups to get FDA to change the policy, but I’m skeptical because there is a revolving door between these companies and Monsanto.”

Some testing has been done by advocates, as well as those against the use of GMOs, but most agree more testing is needed. “When there was questions about saccharin and if it caused cancer, right away there was a government response and more testing had to be done,” notes Lippman. “We have already seen enough studies using animals to raise a concern that we need to do more testing.

Currently the government does not require safety testing before genetically modified food goes to the market for consumption, and since GMOs have only been on the market for 15 years, long-term effects remain to be seen.

Monsanto and Dupont have done 90-day studies showing no effect when feeding rats genetically modified foods, says Kaldveer. However, a study in France, recently published in one preeminent peer reviewed journal, showed the first long-term study of rats who were fed Monsanto corn sprayed with the herbicide, he notes. This took place over two years and showed “massive mammary tumors, organ failure and premature death,” he says. “This proves without a doubt that more studies are needed. We might not know for 20 years or more what we are doing to ourselves.”

He also pointed to more than 15 other studies where animals showed allergic responses and organ failure.

Prop 37
Earlier this year, Pam Leary of California Right to Know, worked with volunteers to gather more than 1 million signatures in 10 weeks to get Prop 37 on the ballet in the state. If passed on November 6, it will require all manufacturers to label their products containing GMOs – giving them 18 months to make the changes.

“Companies re-label products every six to 8 months already, so the idea that this is a radical concept and will increase the price of groceries is ridiculous,” notes Kaldveer, explaining those who oppose Prop 37 are scaring consumers into believing the price of groceries will increase due to labeling. “They said they same thing about labeling transfats.”

Right now, 60 countries throughout Europe require GMO labeling. It’s only the United States and Canada who have not made this law. In these countries, this law did not increase the price of food, or increase lawsuits, Kaldveer notes. Instead, the use of genetically modified foods decreased because once people saw the label they opted out of buying these products. This forced manufacturers to change.

“We have a fundamental right to know what is in the food we eat,” Kaldveer says. “Monsanto is on record in Europe for supporting labeling, but at the same time they are spending millions to keep Prop 37 from passing here.”

Monsanto and other supporters have spent $1 million a day on television ads in California trying to steer voters away from voting ‘yes’ for Prop 37, he says. In total, they are spending $36 million dollars to defeat the proposition, and $20 million of it is funds from the six biggest pesticide corporations in the world.

“We have the right to worship and vote, and we have free speech, so we should have the right to know what is in our food,” Lippman says.

Labels also do more than just give us a choice. “It allows us to track potential health effects back because if someone is having a bad allergic response, right now we don’t know if they are eating GMO or not. We can’t connect the dot,” Kaldveer explains.

National polls of Americans show 90 percent are in favor of labeling, and because California is one of the biggest economies in the world, it often sets the precedent for other states. In Europe, once labeling passed, and people knew GMOs were in their food, they quickly switched to non-GMO products. The hope is the same will happen in the United States, and companies will be forced to end the use of GMOs.

 

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