It’s National Nutrition Month, thirty-one days dedicated to helping people make healthier choices in life. I see it as a time to refresh our commitment to wellness but also as a time to pay attention to the food we eat…and what’s in it.
We should be nervous about the future of our food…and asking a lot of questions…one of which is ‘What’s a GMO and why is it in my food?’
Plants or animals that have had their genetic makeup altered to exhibit traits that are not naturally theirs.
-From the glossary on the Monsanto website.
Organisms in which the genetic material (DNA) has been altered in a way that does not occur naturally.
-World Health Organization
“Genetically Engineered Foods”, “Genetically modified organisms,” “Transgenic Foods” or GMOs are organisms that have been created through application of transgenic, gene-splicing techniques that are part of biotechnology. These transgenic methods are also known as genetic engineering.
This relatively new science allows DNA from one species to be transferred into another to create a new never-seen-before species. This science has been known to move genes from plants to animals, bacteria, even viruses from one species to another. This mixing of genes among species that have never shared genes is what makes GMOs unique…and a bit scary.
This is not the same as hybridization, a natural way in which farmers have been known to improve or alter a particular food species or crop. This is uncharted territory with no independent studies done on the long-term effects of this technology.
You might be wondering why we should be worried about this? We have so much to be concerned about: toxic dyes in food; pesticide residue on fruit and veggies; additives that we can pronounce let alone figure out what they do in food.
Why should we worry? GM ingredients have been linked to everything from:
· A substantial increase in pesticide use by farmers, according to Forbes and Dr. Ramon J. Seidler, Ph.D., former Senior Scientist, Environmental Protection Agency
· An increase in the incidence of food allergies in children, according to Jeffrey Smith, author of Seeds of Deception and producer of Genetic Roulette
· An inability by farmers to re-seed forcing them to re-buy seeds for new crops from bio-tech giants, resulting in higher food costs to the consumer, according to Global Research
· Proteins from GM plants are different from what they should be, creating allergenic proteins, which can contribute to more food allergies developing as the human body doesn’t know what to do with these new protein structures
· GMO transgenes are transferred to soil bacteria and find their way into waterways causing genetic pollution that can’t be ‘cleaned up’ with no one understanding the longterm implications for health but with a clear prediction of genetic pollution in other crops according to The Environmental Working Group
· The American Academy of Environmental Medicine reported that “Several animal studies indicate serious health risks associated with GM food,” including infertility, immune problems, accelerated aging, faulty insulin regulation, and changes in major organs and the gastrointestinal system.
GMO’s are scary stuff. The good news is we have a voice. We can’t stop the use of pesticides or artificial ingredients (well, we can, but we would have to stop buying a whole lot of stuff we like…); I’m not even sure we can stop the advance of GMO ingredients in our food.
But we can demand labeling so that just like Red #5 and Yellow #6, we know the foods containing GMO’s and we can make the decision to eat them or not.
Right now, you don’t have that option (except to buy only certified organic) but there are lots of people fighting so that you do.
And you can help.
· Labeling advocates say that including GMO’s on a food label is necessary so people who do not wish
to consume them can avoid products that contain them.
· Labeling advocates say that GMO’s should be treated like any other ingredient and clearly labeled for the consumer to see.
· Labeling laws would protect our food in much the same way as surgeon general warnings on cigarettes; as seatbelt laws changed driving safety. We still have the option to risk our lives by choosing GMOs, cigarettes or to skip your seatbelt, but you at least know the risk. We are simply asking for the same rights with food as we have with tobacco.
It’s simple, really. If I have the right to buy tomato sauce or soup without salt, why do I not have the same consumer rights when it comes to GMO’s?
The companies who comprise labeling opposition say these measures will drive up the cost of foods, create cumbersome state laws (don’t you just hate those ‘cumbersome laws’ that protect our safety?) and confuse customers by implying a risk they say is non-existent.
We all read labels now. We don’t see warnings that confuse us. We don’t read that saturated fats can cause heart disease on labels of foods containing these fats.
I don’t see warnings like on cigarettes, do you? No surgeon general cautions about salt and hypertension or food dyes and hyperactivity.
In current proposed label laws, GMO’s would be listed right along with sugar, salt, colors, dyes and other ingredients in our food. My experience of labels is that they are a laundry list of stuff, no judgment, and no assessment of good or bad qualities. That judgment is left to the consumer. Do we want salt? Red dye #5? Saturated fat? High fructose corn syrup?
We, the consumers are anything but confused. We are informed and educated and beginning to demand better food.
Which begs the question I ponder on this volatile issue…
If GMO’s are safe for humans; if GMO’s result in more nutrient-dense foods; if GMO’s help farmers produce more food in a sustainable and efficient way; if GMO’s can allow for more food to be produced resulting in reduced world hunger then why would bio-tech companies, lobby groups and coalitions work so hard to prevent the consumer from knowing GMO’s are in their foods?
If it was my product and this particular ingredient did all that biotech companies claim they do…my product would proudly claim it contained GMO’s.
However, the companies who develop GMO’s and the companies who put them in their food will do just about anything to keep these ingredients off consumers’ radar screens, which should cause us to question the safety, sustainability and viability of the world of bio-tech food.
As consumers we have the right to know what is in our food. We have the right to demand truth in labeling. Perhaps manufacturers and lobbyists are worried…worried they will lose their customer base when we all learn the truth about GMO’s. As consumers, we wield tremendous power. We decide which products become runaway hits and which ones languish on shelves.
So they would rather we were just kept in the dark about the whole thing so we continue to blindly buy and perhaps…if they can keep us from seeing the truth, we won’t connect the loss of our collective health with what they produce.
But here’s where we can really make an impact. Head to http://occupy-monsanto.com/boycott-the-grocery-manufacturers-association-member-companies/ and check out the list of manufacturers and food companies who object to your right to know and work to conceal the truth from you. Write letters to these companies, boycott their products and let them know why you’re boycotting. Enlist your friends and communities to do the same. We all have come to love the ‘voice’ that social media has given us. So many have used it as a vehicle to create change. Use your voice! Take to your social media and talk about this issue; create links to informational articles; ask your contacts, connections and followers to take action. We can save our food supply by going viral with information; not just ranting.
Companies listen and listen well when faced with the loss of your business.
Become a pro-activist in creating a healthy and sustainable food source for our future and for generations to come.