Genetically modified food. Those three words have been in the spotlight of late. And it is only beginning. Vermont very recently became the first state in America to require labeling of these scientifically altered products. That state has already started to build up a war chest to defend their position against the certain lawsuits that will challenge this new law.
Vermont has taken on one of the biggest lobby loaded industries in the world. And they have big dairy and many cattle raising factories on that industry side too. Farming is no longer dominated by small family farms. This is corporate power at it's mightiest. And it is all about simply labeling what is going into our food supply.
Vermont didn't ban any genetically modified food. They didn't raise taxes on it. All they did was state that the existence of any form of genetically modified food must be on the label. So what is the concern and why the backlash from the food industry? We'll start with the basics.
This would be food that is the end result of seeds being altered in some way in the hope of improving their effectiveness. In most cases this means inserting specific genes into the seeds to make them more resistant to herbicides or maybe even produce their own internal herbicide.
Here are some suggested advantages to these scientifically altered seed productions:
* Greater resistance to pests
* Resistance to herbicides
* Possible ability to grow specific crops in areas that did not support such crop growth in the past.
* Less water required to grow the crops
* Possibility of greater yields per acre according to some GM food proponents
We'll take a quick look at this list.
Greater resistance to pests is a great feature. And using less water is also a good thing. Especially when coupled with that bullet point about being able to grow food in areas that haven't had this advantage.
But the facts don't line up with the corporate hype. In fact super weeds have found a way around "Roundup ready" seeds. Now the combined forces of the international seed companies and pesticide giants are working on stronger methods of weed killing.
They are going back to a tried and true killer. 2,4-D is an ingredient in the production of Agent Orange. It is suggested that this toxin will be a centerpiece in this newest method of weed control.
It also appears as though the claim of less water usage is also falling flat. Studies are indicating that it may require more water to grow genetically modified foods.
As for the one about greater yield per acre, I'd suggest we consider the source. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture report from this year, "In fact, the yields of herbicide-tolerant or insect-resistant seeds may be occasionally lower than the yields of conventional varieties,"
According to The American Academy Of Environmental Medicine, "GM foods pose a serious health risk." There have been several studies on animals that suggest the danger is to be found in later years rather than in the first exposure to consumption of such foods.
And since there is currently no research being conducted on humans to identify long term health risks, we just don't know for sure. Some reports suggest the large upsurge in soy allergies in Great Britain can be linked to genetically modified food. The time line for years of exposure to GM foods and the matching results in lab animals seem to correspond.
Some possible dangers include:
* Liver damage
* Damage to immune systems
* Pre-cancerous cell growth
* Reproductive system complications
*Chronic kidney disease
As far back as 2001, the Centers For Disease Control reported that food was the culprit for twice as many illnesses in America as were reported just seven years prior to that year. This also lines up pretty closely to the big push in GM food production.
A major corporate talking point about the need for genetically modified food is the "ability to feed the world." GM industry proponents state this is possible with scientific seed alteration. Who wouldn't want to feed all the hungry people around the globe?
Here is a quote from the American Academy of Environmental Medicine on that topic. "the biotechnology industry claims that GM foods can feed the world through production of higher crop yields. However, a recent report by the Union of Concerned Scientists reviewed 12 academic studies and indicates otherwise: "The several thousand field trials over the last 20 years for genes aimed at increasing operational or intrinsic yield (of crops) indicate a significant undertaking. Yet none of these field trials have resulted in increased yield in commercialized major food/feed crops, with the exception of Bt corn. However, it was further stated that this increase is largely due to traditional breeding improvements." Please click here to read some great information about this major health risk.
The reality is that food production is not the solution to world hunger. Poverty and distribution are the causes of people not having enough food. When they cannot afford to buy anything to eat, people go hungry.
When insurgencies and political factions hold back food delivery people go hungry. It isn't about production as much as it is about getting the food to the people who need it and making sure it is affordable.
The immediate concern to me is the level of entrenchment the genetic food industry is undertaking on this seemingly simple area of food labeling. If they are that certain there is no danger in their product, they shouldn't fear labeling.
I do find it ironic that we look to areas of the world that have had centuries of great health and try to follow their traditional diets. And fast food joints are throwing up restaurants in these places. So their health will get worse as they emulate our failed food choices.
Here is a link to a great website. I classify it as great for two reasons. The content is excellent. It sheds more specific light on this very important health concern. We've presented tremendous books about better food choices. But this fundamental source of supply has an impact on the effectiveness of the advice given in those books. If the product and the ground in which it is grown is compromised from the start, the results will be equally compromised.
The second reason for promoting this web site is that it is built from the efforts of a person not yet twenty years old. It fits in perfectly with our pages about "teaching your children well."
This might add some light on to the push back from GM seed makers. Around 90% of corn, cotton, soy and sugar beets grown in America are sown with seeds that produce genetically modified food. Much of this ends up in processed foods and cooking oils as well as high fructose corn syrup. And a great deal of it goes to feeding cows. We are what we eat. Or drink in the case of dairy milk.
As for the farmers who plant these seeds, they have to buy them from the same companies that conveniently make the herbicides. The same herbicides that are being used in greater and greater volumes. Monsanto has a bottom line reason for fighting Vermont now. They don't want to risk losing market share by labeling what we are actually eating.
In the end it is up to you. Do you want to risk it? Just like changing to clean water or home brewed ice tea in place of 44 oz slushies. Just like going past the drive through lane and eating whole foods and then getting some daily exercise.
If we spent more time actually researching the long term risks of genetically modified food, we'd have those answers. Until then, it really is up to you. My suggestion is to go with what we do know. We do know what foods are really good for us. A little research will lead you to foods that are truly not genetically modified. Natural is a good thing.