Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Genetically Modified Foods

Have you ever heard the term genetically modified food? Or GMO? Well if you pick up a processed food item at your grocery store, you will most likely be eating a genetically modified food (GM) food. That's because over 70% of processed foods contain GM ingredients.

What is genetic engineering? Back in the mid-1970's, scientists discovered that they could transfer genes from one species to another. This was an unprecedented breakthrough in technology. Of course through normal sexual reproduction, parents contribute thousands of genes to their children. Genetic engineers however, force a gene (known as a transgene) into the DNA of organisms that could never acquire it naturally. They break the species barrier by creating completely new organisms. Genetic engineering began so that scientists could implant specific traits into different species, creating crops resistant to pesticides and diseases, foods that can deliver vaccines, and livestock that have more omega-3 fats or other nutritional attributes, among many others. What makes this frightening is that scientists are manipulating animal and plant DNA to create abnormal life forms reminiscent of Frankentstein. For example, they inserted spider genes into goat DNA so that they could milk the goat for spider web protein to use in bullet proof vests. Jellyfish genes have lit up pigs' noses in the dark and Arctic fish genes gave tomatoes and strawberries tolerance to frost. Human genes are also being manipulated. Amazingly, pharmaceutical companies have inserted human genes into bacteria, turning them into living factories to produce drugs. Innovative technological creations? Yes. Things that are safe to introduce into the human food chain and environment? Probably not!

The following statistics are from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Agriculture Statistics Service in 2006 (that was 5 yrs ago):

89% of the soybeans planted in the US were GM varieties
83% of the cotton planted was GM
61% of the corn was GM

Unlike in Europe where processed GM foods must be labeled if any ingredient includes 0.9% of genetically modified organisms (GMO) or more, here in the US, GM foods are not labeled.

Out of the four major GM food crops currently being produced (soybeans, corn, canola, and cotton), along with the smaller GM crops (zucchini, crookneck, squash, papaya, alfalfa, and tobacco), nearly three-fourths have been engineered to survive applications of a specific herbicide, and nearly one-fifth of them are designed to produce their own pesticide! Further, more than one out of ten GM crops can do both! These products are highly contaminated.

The process of genetic modification easily results in thousands of mutations. Some risks from GM products containing mutations are as follows:

- Causing overproduction of toxins, allergens, carcinogens, or antinutrients
- Reducing nutritional quality of the crop
- Changing the way that the plant interacts with its environment

And because of our limited understanding of DNA, no one knows what the additional consequences to human health and the environment will be. What is extremely important to understand about GM foods is that neither the FDA, nor any other regulatory agency, is monitoring the potential consequences of these creations. They do not require extensive evaluation of the mutations, despite the fact that the few studies that have analyzed GM crops already on the market reveal significant problems, including:

- Containing scrambled DNA, incomplete genes, or multiple fragments of the inserted
- Gene fragments in GM corn that were suppose to be in a different GM crop
- Significant nutritional differences between GM and non-GM crops

The testing done in animals have had horrible results changing their blood, liver and kidneys and even reporting black patches in both the intestines and liver of some animals, as well as enlarged bile ducts. The only human feeding study ever published showed soybeans, that had been genetically modified to make them herbicide-tolerant, spontaneously transferred out of food and into the DNA of human gut bacteria! This means long after we have given up eating GM soy, which is widely available on the market, the bacteria inside our intestines may produce the herbicide-tolerant protein inside of us!

GM corn and most GM crops are also inserted with antibiotic resistant genes. The American Medical Association, the World Health Organization (WHO), and organizations worldwide have expressed concern about the possibility that these might transfer to disease producing bacteria inside your gut, creating new, antibiotic-resistant super-diseases.

There are so many potential problems resulting from GM foods. Even rats fed GM potatoes for 10 days had horrible results. They had smaller brains, livers and testicles. White blood cells responded to a challenge more slowly, indicating immune system damage. Organs related to the immune system, including the thymus and the spleen, showed adverse changes. And the animals had enlarged pancreases and intestines and partial atrophy of the liver! Do you want to be eating stuff that causes this?!?!

We should do our best to purchase whole foods such as fruit, veggies and meats. However in the instance that you need to purchase processed food make sure you read the label for corn or soy. If a product is not organic and contains either one of these or its derivitives than it most likely contains GM organisms and should be avoided at all costs. The only GM free processed foods most times are organic. Just being aware is half the battle. Let's strive to eat real foods the way God made them and in doing that preserve our health and that of our future generations.