GMO 101. What are genetically modified foods and how can they affect me?
So what is GMO? You see this in the grocery, in the news and on packages. The letters stand for “Genetically Modified Organism.” You will hear some claim that these are fine, no big deal, its just food. But I want to share with you some of the background story behind GMO’s so that you can decide for yourself if a deeper inquiry is warranted or perhaps strict avoidance is justified.
So why would you want to genetically modify a food anyway? The simple answer is “to make it better.” Because we can. But doing things just because you can doesn’t ensure that it is wise. You might be able to put a small jet engine on a skateboard, but it is not wise. So the first genetic alterations were in an effort to solve food problems. For example, one scientist wanted to make tomato plants hardier to withstand cold weather. So he took genes from an Arctic flounder, which is able to withstand extreme temperatures and spliced the genes of this animal into a plant. The idea was to make this ”anti-freeze gene” work in a totally different species. The problem here is that genetics are, well . . . complicated. Real complicated. There is no way to know or predict how this one gene will affect the genes of a plant. These aren’t Lego’s, genes aren’t interchangeable. Nature never intended for a tomato plant to mate and mix genes with a fish.
In another experiment scientists attempted to genetically modify a particular variety of yeast in order to increase its fermentation capacity but as a result the yeast started producing excess amounts of a natural occurring toxin by 200 fold. In a different experiment scientist were attempting to make potatoes more resistant to slugs, worms and other pests. The genetic modification resulted in a dramatic increase in the potato’s starch content. We simply can’t control the effect of a given gene within the entirety of a plants genome.
Have you heard about our modified soy? DNA from a virus was spliced into the DNA of a bacteria and then that was spliced into the DNA of soy. In today’s market, estimates suggest that 95% of our soy crops are from genetically modified plants. Since the first genetically modified foods were introduced into mainstream markets, approximately 20 years ago, we have witnessed a 400% rise in autoimmune disease. Autoimmune disease is when your own immune system attacks your own body. More than 70% of our immune system is found nestled in the wall of the intestinal tract. Can you imagine the chaos that must occur when our immune system encounters viral and bacterial DNA within the very foods we eat? It is an immunological nightmare that has tremendous potential for harm as our immune system is exposed to these monstrous Franken-plants.
There are 5 crops in America that are overwhelmingly altered by genetic modification. More than 90% of all:
have been genetically altered and it is becoming very difficult to find organic, non-GMO versions. I would avoid these crops entirely unless you are certain that they are organic. I’m surprised that wheat is not on this list.
We have been hybridizing wheat since the early 40’s. An agricultural research program began in 1943 under the influence of our government, urging scientist to find a way to feed the world. A noble desire but the resulted was the International Maize & Wheat Improvement Center (IMWIC) funded in part by the Rockefeller Foundation. By the way, it was Rockefeller that can also be credited with the removal of nutritional education from medical school curriculum. The IMWIC began a series of hybridization experiments to make the wheat plant easier to grow in all types of environments and also increase the yield for the financial benefit of farmers. Sounds nice but this new wheat was never tested to see if it was safe for human consumption. The gluten content rose 10 fold and this new carbohydrate turned into sugar faster than any wheat in history.
But the story gets worse . . . Monsanto turned their attention to wheat and made a “genetically modified” version. Genetically modified foods are dangerous. They make people and animals sick. Despite our government telling you that this is all safe for human consumption there are strong objections being leveled by governments outside of the U.S. as well as scientific groups predicting that these foods will greatly increase illness, allergy and possibly cancer risk. Did you know that many countries in Europe and the Far East refuse to import American wheat if it tests positive for being genetically modified? They know that this type of food will hurt their population.
Many countries have laws requiring you to label your product if it is GMO. These countries include England, Germany, France, Switzerland, New Zealand, and more than 20 other countries. Even China, where the smog is so thick that people wear surgical masks for protection, and many of their products are contaminated with lead, draws the line at GMO foods and requires labeling.
The United States of America however has so such laws because MOST of the GMO’s in the whole world come from us. Beyond simple labeling many GMO foods are BANNED in countries such as England, Brazil, Norway, India and Japan. Here in the U.S. our own government actually discourages manufacturers from listing their foods as “GMO-free” as they state that this type of labeling might be misleading and cause consumers to think that these foods are superior. Well . . . they are superior.
Maybe we should just label it in an effort to be honest? How about giving consumers a chance to make an intelligent choice? But our government thinks that we are not intelligent enough to make free choice despite our constitution saying something about that. So we are left to vote at the polls and also with our wallets. When we go to our grocery stores and request GMO-free food and buy foods labeled GMO-free we are sending a message and we are driving change.
So what exactly is going on with these funky genes, what are they doing in your body to cause problems and alter your biochemistry? Fascinating stuff and we will discuss that tomorrow. The body is amazing but beyond that is how amazing we are at messing up something so simple as food. Stay tuned.
References: Seeds Of Deception by Jeffrey M. Smith
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