Genetic Roulette

I want to share this with you guys and I hope that it will shed some light on a rather divided topic. Genetically Modified foods. I mentioned casually in a post about homemade toaster strudel that GM crops are bad for you but did not elaborate on that so I’ll do it now.

There is a lot of division on this topic because, well, there are doctors, scientists and consumers that are concerned with personal and public health and then there are biotech industry leaders, government and food producers that are concerned with profit.

Genetic Roulette by Jeffrey M. Smith is a book and now a movie  that exposes the FDA in knowingly allowing dangerous GM foods to be thrust into the marketplace and provides documented evidence to link GM foods with a myriad of common health problems today.

You can watch the movie for free here until September 22.

One of the things discussed in the film is the subject of BT Corn. Bacillus Thuringiensis (BT) is a bacteria found (in small amounts) in soil worldwide. It produces cry proteins that are toxic to insects by bursting open the stomach. BT is organic and is used as a spray pesticide in organic farming. Because of it’s limitations, though, it has not been used widely in conventional farming until advancements in molecular biology allowed scientists to insert BT genes into the DNA of a plant. This was first done with corn in the mid 90’s enabling the plant itself to kill the pests without need for spraying. This is disturbing because while BT spray degrades rapidly under UV rays and is easily washed away…you can’t wash away DNA. In a February 2012 study it was found that human consumption of GM BT corn breaks open cells in the stomach likely causing gastrointestinal problems and who knows what else.

I definitely recommend both the book and the film if you are interested in learning more.

One of my big questions has always been…Does Organic mean non-GM?

The short answer to that is, yes.

BUT testing for GM organisms is NOT required for organic certification.

Well, isn’t that frustrating? Perhaps, one day it will be required. Until then, the best ways I know of to avoid GM foods is 1. Buy organic. You’re more likely to end up with a non-gm food by doing this. 2. Trust your source. If you’re buying from a local farmer that you’ve come to know and trust and he/she says they grow their food or raise their animals organically and with no GMOs (whether they’re certified or not) it’s a pretty safe bet that you’re getting what you’re paying for.

Genetically Modified Organisms are everywhere. Sometimes conspicuously but sometimes not.

Common foods that are or contain GMOs:

  • soy, cotton, canola and corn are most common in the US
  • zucchini and yellow squash sometimes
  • papaya and tobacco from Hawaii
  • dairy products and meats (it’s in their feed!)
  • honey and bee pollen
  • rennet (used to make cheese)
  • aspartame
  • xanthan gum
  • additives, processing agents, flavorings and enzymes found in processed foods and vitamins
  • oils – soy, cotton, canola and corn oils

Many people do not buy organic because it costs more. Before I learned about these things I, too, avoided organic because of the high price tag. I know that health is more important than money but this is simply too difficult a hurdle to jump if you have a limited budget. In many cases, food companies see that Certified Organic seal as an excuse to jack up the price but, sometimes the price is simply a reflection of exactly what you’re getting. This is certainly the case when you purchase fresh produce, dairy or meats from a more direct or local source such as a farmer’s market or a farm itself.

Think about this:

Organic farming requires more human interaction. With the absence of chemical fertilizers and pesticides it typically takes more work to produce a smaller yield compared to that of conventional growers which is less hands on work from humans and higher crop yields. As a consumer, the price of your product reflects that.

Whereas industrial agriculture has received government welfare in the way of subsidies for quite a while now, organic farming has only more recently been given that benefit. As with most government handouts, there are some pretty rigid rules to this program and it’s pretty clearly skewed towards big ag and not the little guy. This is a quick read by a respected farmer and author Gene Logsdon on the subject of the organic subsidy program.

Whether you buy organic or not, if you pay taxes then you pay for environmental clean-ups that are arguably often a direct result of irresponsible farming practice (CAFO anyone?). Check out Righteous Porkchop a book written by Nicolette Hahn Niman, former head attorney for Bobby Kennedy Jr.’s envrionmental organization’s Hog Campaign. Nicolette documents her investigation of hog manure pollution and much more. It’s eye-opening, for sure.

Consider joining an organic food cooperative (co-op) to save money on organics. Mine provides a twice a month share of seasonal organic fruits and vegetables (mostly from local farms) that saves me anywhere from $40-$80 per month. That’s huge! They also provide an opportunity to buy pantry staples like oils, rice, peanut butter, condiments etc. all organic. Try this website to find one in your area.

 

Any questions? Anyone else have info to add that I perhaps missed or didn’t touch on? Let’s discuss!