As another global March Against Monsanto approaches (May 23rd) more people are talking about GMOs. It still surprises me how many people have never heard of them or have any idea what they are. So this post is a brief primer on what GMO foods are, and what the controversy is surrounding this hot topic.
What Are GMO Foods?
GMO stands for Genetically Modified Organism (though some say it’s for God Move Over.) They are plants, animals, and bacteria whose genomes have been restructured by re-arranging or splicing their DNA. The organisms are engineered for a wide variety of applications ranging from agriculture production to scientific research. Altering the DNA can transform the organism and each transformation can present a unique set of outcomes. The hazards presented by GMOs vary according to the type of organism being modified and the intended application. Most of the concerns connected with the reconfiguring of plants and animals connected with our food supply are their potential for negative effects on the environment and human health.
Plants, such as soybean, corn, cottonseed, and canola, when genetically modified (GM) have foreign genes forced into their DNA, the inserted genes come from plants, animals, and pesticides as well as species, such as bacteria, pathogenic viruses, and genetic parasites that have never before been in human food.
Today at least 90% of corn, soy, and cotton crops grown in the United States are modified to be either resistant to pests or tolerant to herbicides. These crops enter the human food chain as feed for livestock and more directly in processed foods. Today 75%, a conservative number, of processed foods contain genetically engineered (GE) ingredients.
Why Are So Many People So Upset About Them?
There is no credible evidence or consensus in the scientific community that GM food is safe for human consumption, nor are adequate safety standards observed by the FDA or any other federal agency. Biotech companies don’t need to announce new seeds they are releasing and the seeds don’t have to undergo any government or third party testing. The FDA lets the producing company do their own testing and only asks they notify the FDA if they think there is a problem. These foods are not labeled. Anyone, anywhere in the world, can genetically modify a food and even if it doesn’t come out right still dump it on the American Market untested, unlabeled, and unannounced.
GMOs have been linked to thousands of toxic and allergenic reactions, thousands of sick, sterile, and dead livestock, and damage to virtually every organ and system studied in lab animals.
GM crops and their associated herbicides can harm birds, insects, amphibians, marine ecosystems, and soil organisms. They reduce bio-diversity, pollute water resources, are unsustainable, and uncontrollable once released into the environment. Farm crops manipulated to be resistant to herbicides end up cross pollinating with weeds in the creating strains of super-weeds. Crops with pesticide DNA inserted in them kill insects by rupturing their stomachs. This pesticide is now a part of the plant and cannot be washed off. It is ingested by humans and the rupturing of cells it causes leads to leaky gut syndrome (rupturing of cells of the intestines so they begin to leak – yes that – into the abdominal cavity.)
It seems fundamental to me that the people who produce our food supply have an ethical responsibility to protect human life and provide wholesome, safe, food. Yet greed, arrogance, and politics have allowed food safety laws to be ignored and questionable if not downright dangerous food products to enter the food supply untested and unlabeled. Meanwhile their production has devastating consequences on the environment, health, national sovereignty, and wildlife. We as a society must demand a certain level of accountability.
I’m Marching Against Monsanto (the world’s leader in agricultural biotech) on May 23rd. Please join me, and millions of people worldwide to raise awareness of this troubling situation. Follow this link to the MAM website and find a march near you.