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An Intro to GMOs, with Help from Bill Nye

GMOs, or “Genetically Modified Organisms,” are plants or animals that have been genetically engineered with DNA from viruses, bacteria, or other plants and animals—combinations of genes that cannot occur in nature.

We have been altering cross-breeding plants and animals for many years (think sweet corn and hairless cats). However, these processes had been limited to naturally occurring variations. In recent years, scientific advances have allowed precise control over genetic changes. We now have the ability to incorporate a gene from one species into a completely unrelated one, which in turn optimizes agricultural performance and creates the ability to produce valuable pharmaceuticals. It’s no wonder America has approved GMOs (based on studies conducted by the same corporations that created them and profit from their sale). In more than 60 countries around the world, including all of the countries in the European Union, there are significant restrictions or outright bans on the production and sale of GMOs.

A Quick Summary of Why They are Bad

Consumer Health:

The American Academy of Environmental Medicine (AAEM) reported that several animal studies have indicated serious health risks associated with genetically modified food. Potential problems include infertility, immune problems, accelerated aging, faulty insulin regulation, and changes in major organs and the gastrointestinal system. The AAEM has since asked physicians to advise patients to avoid GM foods. Before the FDA decided to allow GMOs without labeling, even after FDA scientists had repeatedly warned that GM foods can create unpredictable, hard-to-detect side effects, including allergies, toxins, new diseases, and nutritional problems.

Their findings included:

  • Thousands of sheep, buffalo, and goats in India died after grazing on Bt cotton plants
  • Mice eating GM corn for the long term had fewer, and smaller, babies
  • More than half the babies of mother rats fed GM soy died within three weeks, and were smaller
  • Testicle cells of mice and rats on a GM soy change significantly
  • By the third generation, most GM soy-fed hamsters lost the ability to have babies
  • Rodents fed GM corn and soy showed immune system responses and signs of toxicity
  • Cooked GM soy contains as much as 7-times the amount of a known soy allergen
  • Soy allergies skyrocketed by 50% in the UK, soon after GM soy was introduced
  • The stomach lining of rats fed GM potatoes showed excessive cell growth, a condition that may lead to cancer
  • Studies showed organ lesions, altered liver and pancreas cells, changed enzyme levels, etc.

Unlike safety evaluations for drugs, there are no human clinical trials of GM foods. The Institute for Responsible Technology explains, “The only published human experiment revealed that the genetic material inserted into GM soy transfers into bacteria living inside our intestines and continues to function. After we stop eating genetically modified foods, we may still have their proteins produced continuously inside our bodies. If the antibiotic gene inserted into most GM crops were to transfer, it could create super diseases, resistant to current antibiotics. If the gene that creates Bt-toxin in GM corn were to transfer, it might turn our intestinal bacteria into living pesticides.”

Because GMOs were produced before proper studies, most of the potential health dangers haven’t been identified.

The same chemical companies that genetically engineer food also created DDT and Agent Orange, and claimed they were safe.

For athletes or post-athletes who are still active, GMO food items do not the same nutrient density required to perform your best.

Environmental Damage:

Because GMOs are engineered to kill pests upon consumption, these crops have created “super weeds” and “super bugs,” which can only be killed with even more toxic poisons the commonly used toxic herbicides. Genetically modified crops aren’t covered in order to prevent the spread of their seed. Wind naturally carries the organisms to nearby plants, and crops grown by natural farmers. Like Bill Nye mentions in the video (end of post), this can kill life forms that are feeding or pollinating from contaminated plants of nearby GMO fields. This new chemical agriculture is developed and sold by the world’s largest chemical companies, and the long-term impacts are still unknown.

Violation of Farmer Rights:

The biotechnology companies that created GMOs, such as Monsanto and Dow, have been able to obtain patents with which to restrict their use. As a result, these companies now have the power to sue farmers whose fields are contaminated with GMOs, even when it is the result of drift from neighboring fields. These companies are a serious threat to farmer sovereignty and to the national food security of any country where they are grown.

Many Americans have started to boycott GMO products, but because the powerful biotech lobby has succeeded in withstanding mandatory labeling, it is difficult to tell what has GM ingredients. Organizations like the Non GMO Project, Right to Know – GMO, and the GMO Action Alliance are fighting to increase awareness and gain votes that will force biotech industries to clearly label their products. (Click on any of the above links to find out how you can take action.)

Here are some tips on how to avoid GMOs:

  • Buy organic. Certified organic products cannot intentionally include any GMO ingredients. Buy products labeled “100% organic,” “organic,” or “made with organic ingredients.”
  • Look for Non-GMO Project Seals. Products that carry the Non-GMO Project Seal are independently verified to be in compliance with North America’s only third party standard for GMO avoidance, including testing of at-risk ingredients. Look for dairy products labeled “No rBGH or rBST,” or “artificial hormone-free.”
  • Avoid the following ingredients. The eight GM food crops are Corn, Soybeans, Canola, Cottonseed, Sugar Beets, Hawaiian Papaya (most) and a small amount of Zucchini and Yellow Squash.

Also, look on your ballots for the opportunity to vote for putting laws in place that will require proper labeling. Eventually, if Americans are made aware of what they are eating and choose to eat organic products, these biotech companies will no longer be able to control our food.

 

References:

GMO Facts: Frequently Asked Questions. (2014). Non-GMO Project. Retrieved November 2, 2014 from http://www.nongmoproject.org/learn-more/.

Phillips, Theresa, Ph.D. Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs): Transgenic Crops and Recombinant DNA Technology. (2008). Write Science Right. Retrieved November 2, 2014 from http://www.nature.com/scitable/topicpage/genetically-modified-organisms-gmos-transgenic-crops-and-732.

GMO Dangers. (2006-2014). Institute for Responsible Technology. Retrieved November 2, 2014 from http://www.responsibletechnology.org/gmo-dangers.

Trusting Chemical Companies? (2014). Oregon Right to Know. Retrieved November 2, 2014 from http://oregonrighttoknow.org/trusting-chemical-companies/.

How to Avoid GMOs. (2014). GMO Action Alliance. Retrieved November 2, 2014 from http://gmoactionalliance.com/how-to-avoid-gmos/.

Genetically Modified Organisms and Sports Performance. (May 13, 2013). The McCarthy Project. Retrieved November 3, 2014 from http://themccarthyproject.com/2013/05/13/genetically-modified-organisms/.

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