I just don’t understand how some humans can be so utterly stupid, so greedy, so crazed for short term profits, so corrupt for political or corporate power that they will risk the future of their own children and humanity, our oceans and our planet for their personal short term financial gains…all while providing ZERO benefits to consumers. Studies already prove the dangers and GMO’s and simple common sense tells you that you can not isolate and insert a single gene into the dynamic living environment of a cell or lifeform and expect that isolated gene to remain isolated. It will act and react and even mutate with every cell division and generation thereby causing unknown consequences than can easily spin wildly out of control. Yet, our FDA allows it while virtually every country on Earth rejects it. Truly unbelievable. This travesty is all explained below in a wonderful paper written by a family member.
How would you feel if you found out you were eating foods containing unnatural, lab-created DNA every single day, without having any idea you were doing so? Genetically modified foods, also known as GM foods or biotech foods, are foods derived from genetically modified organisms (GMOs). GMOs have had specific changes introduced into their DNA by genetic engineering techniques (“20”). Most of these genetically modified foods are a result of genetically modified crops, which are produced when a gene from one species is transferred to another, creating something that would not be found in nature (Urban). “A large percentage of domestic crops (including up to 85% of soybean yields) have DNA that was tweaked in a lab, yet it is nearly impossible to know which food items contain these genetically engineered ingredients because they continue to remain unmarked,” says Shilo Urban from Organicauthority.com (Urban). Rachel Mount from Oprah.com explains how genetically engineered ingredients continue to show up in most of the processed foods in your shopping cart, yet we are unaware of the potentially harmful effects they may spark in the future (Mount). Genetically modified foods are dangerous for your body, hurtful for farmers, and hazardous to the environment. They need to be labeled in all supermarkets across the United States for the safety of American consumers.
So why are genetically modified foods produced in the first place? “GM foods are developed – and marketed – because there is some perceived advantage either to the producer or consumer of these foods,” according to the World Health Organization (WHO) (“20”). The main objective for producing GMOs is to increase crop production as a result of the resistance plants build to diseases caused by insects, viruses, or through increased tolerance towards herbicides. Basically, here’s an example of using genetic modification: Scientists insert a gene into say corn seeds, which gives the corn plant immunity to the herbicides used to kill weeds that grow around the plant. Now, instead of removing individual weeds surrounding the corn, farmers fly over the crops in small planes, showering the entire field in a blanket of harmful herbicides that have often caused poisonous effects to some humans, in order to kill the weeds in mass quantities. However, the farmers don’t care. They are producing more crops, which is generating more profit for them! Unfortunately, to most big farming industries and government officials in the United States, money is more important than health.
First of all, genetically modified foods are dangerous to human health. A recent New York Times article called “Why Label Genetically Engineered Foods?” explains that “The Food and Drug Administration says it has no basis for concluding that foods developed by bioengineering techniques present different or greater safety concerns than foods developed by traditional plant breeding” (“Why”). This statement is very untrue and can be counter-argued with scientific evidence. GM foods have only been on the market since 1994, and research on their long-term effects on humans is scarce. However, Rachel Mount from Oprah.com details one experiment in which multiple generations of hamsters were fed a diet of GM soy. “By the third generation, they were losing the ability to produce offspring, producing about half as many pups as the non-GM soy group” (Mount). Shilo Urban says “many scientists are worried that the genetically altered foods, once consumed, may pass on their mutant genes to bacterium in the digestive system” (Urban).
In addition to these concerns, Urban also mentions of another experiment conducted in which “the organs of rats who ate genetically modified potatoes showed signs of chronic wasting, and female rates fed a diet of herbicide-resistant soybeans gave birth to stunted and sterile pups” (Urban). GMOs also contaminate existing seeds with their altered material. This passes on traits to species and creates a new strain of plant that was not intended to acquire such characteristics in the laboratory. Urban writes “in North Dakota, recent studies show that 80% of wild canola plants tested contained at least one transgene. In Japan, a modified bacteria created a new amino acid not found in nature; it was used in protein drinks and before it was recalled, it caused severe mental and metabolic damage to hundreds as well as several deaths” (Urban). Japan then made genetically modified organisms illegal after this horrendous experience. Another report in 1996 by Cornell University showed that milkweed, a Monarch butterflies favorite food, caused toxic effects and led to death amongst the endangered species when the milkweed was cross-pollinated from a type of genetically altered corn (Urban). A recent ABC News report by Kansas University entomologist Chip Taylor stated, “Monarch butterfly populations have now dropped 40 percent in the last decade” (Robin). If these kinds of harmful effects are occurring in other animals as a result of consuming GMOs, humans are surely prone to similar consequences too.
But that’s not all. The safety assessment of genetically modified foods generally investigates toxic direct health effects, tendencies to provoke allergic reactions, and even nutrition deficient effects associated with genetic modification (“20”). Some studies done on animals even link genetically modified foods to altered metabolism, inflammation, kidney and liver malfunction, and reduced fertility (Mount). According to Rachel Mount, “allergy sufferers worry that, as genes are transferred between plants, allergenic proteins (from, say, peanuts or wheat) will pop up in unexpected places (like soy or sugar)” (Mount). Suzanne Robin of Demand Media talks about a University of Nebraska study published in The New England Journal of Medicine in March of 1996, where scientists found that “soybeans that were genetically modified with genes from Brazil nuts could acquire the proteins responsible for allergic reactions” (Robin).
Not only are genetically modified foods dangerous to us humans, they’re hurtful to farmers as well, and even more hazardous to our own environment. James H. Maryanski, the Biotechnology Coordinator of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, claims that GMO’s help to increase crop yield and efficiency, and can also help to control pests and provide resistance to the elements (Maryanski). However, cross-contamination between fields poses as a huge threat to farmers, which leads to crops not intended for genetically modified altering. Suzanne Robin mentions “This has already occurred in the United States, when a maize field intended for animal feed cross-contaminated a field intended for human use, according to the World Health Organization” (Robin).
Aside from cross-contamination which poses as a serious problem to farmers already, big biotech firms have been known to have a history of toxic contamination too. These companies then sue small farmers when their patented seeds blow across to other fields (Urban). To extract even more money, Shilo Urban quotes “Biotech firms sell sterile seeds to African farmers- meaning the seeds are only good for one season, because the plants that grow up will not be able to reproduce. Farmers must buy new seeds every year instead of growing from the previous year’s yield” (Urban). On top of all that, GMOs require massive amounts of costly pesticides, herbicides, and fungicides. Clearly, genetically modified organisms are not a farmer’s friend, and they aren’t our environments’ either!
According to Gmo-safety.eu, the Swiss national research program on “Benefits and Risks of the Deliberate Release of Genetically Modified Plants” carried out a five-year investigation on the effects of GMOs. A few months ago, they finally published a report that stated, “Plant biotechnology does not pose risks to health or the environment” (“No”). Conversely, The World Health Organization lists the environmental issues of concern regarding genetically modified organisms, including: “the capability of the GMO to escape and potentially introduce the engineered genes into wild populations; the persistence of the gene after the GMO has been harvested; the susceptibility of non-target organisms (e.g. insects which are not pests) to the gene product; the stability of the gene; the reduction in the spectrum of other plants including loss of biodiversity; and increased use of chemicals in agriculture” (“20”). Not to mention the substantial quantities of pesticides and herbicides which are poisons, and should not be eaten or allowed to run off into our water supply. However, Urban points out “they are, every day, by companies who care far more about the bottom line than they do about your health, your environment or your children’s future” (Urban).
Now, instead of coming in contact solely with the outside of the fruits and vegetables Americans eat, these chemicals will actually be genetically present inside the food itself! In fact, the lifespan of ladybugs was reduced to half when they ate aphids that had fed on genetically altered potatoes in Scotland, according to a London Times article by Science Editor, Nigel Hawkes. The ladybugs also laid fewer eggs (“20”). Note that these effects were apparent in the insects without even consuming the GMOs directly, but rather eating something else that already had them ingested in its system. And who knows, those deadly pesticides and other genetically engineered chemicals that are running off into our rivers could end up in our ocean and disrupt the DNA of plankton – the first link in nature’s food chain on which most fish feed. Soon, the entire marine population could be contaminated with these dangerous GMOs and there’s nothing anyone could do about it. If the plankton die, the oceans die, humans die, and eventually our planet dies.
As if their environmental effects didn’t seem tragic enough, genetically modified organisms are actually illegal in most of the world. Why are we so different than much of the rest of our planet? America is one of the only countries that allow the use of GMOs, and the foods that contain them still remained unlabeled. U.S. Food and Drug Administration: What are you trying to hide? Shilo Urban claims, “the European Union has banned GMOs, as have Australia, Japan, the UK and two dozen other countries that recognize that a lack of long term studies and testing may be hiding disastrous health defects” (Urban). Thankfully, some companies have already taken a stand against genetically modified foods, attempting to force brands to distinctly label products that contain GMOs. Whole Foods Market is the first national grocery chain to set a deadline to label these goods. “Clearly labeled products enable shoppers who want to avoid foods made with GMOs to do so. Accordingly, we have set a deadline that, by 2018, all products in our U.S. and Canadian stores must be labeled to indicate whether they contain genetically modified organisms (GMOs)” (“Genetically”).
Ultimately, there is clear blatant evidence to prove that genetically modified foods are dangerous for your body, hurtful for farmers, and hazardous to the environment. “They have not been proven in any way to be safe, and most of the studies are actually leaning the other direction, which is why many of the world’s countries have banned these items whose DNA has been genetically engineered” (Urban). These genetically modified foods must be labeled in all food stores to allow the consumers to choose whether or not to take the risk themselves. In fact, a recent New York Times article by Stephanie Strom claims “more than 90 percent of respondents to a poll of potential voters in the 2012 elections, conducted by the Mellman Group in February last year, were in favor of labeling genetically modified foods” (Strom). By not labeling products containing GMOs, Americans have no idea that they are eating lab-created DNA on a daily basis. Nevertheless, until the FDA recognizes the true dangers of genetically modified foods, Americans are advised to go organic. “The USDA National Organic Standards do not allow genetically engineered seed and ingredients in the growth and production of organic foods” (“Genetically”).
Sources and References:
“20 Questions on Genetically Modified Foods.” World Health Organization. WHO, n.d.
Web. 9 Apr. 2013. <www.who.int/foodsafety/publications/biotech/20questions/en/>.
“Genetically Engineered Foods.” Whole Foods Market. N.p., n.d. Web. 8 Apr. 2013.
Maryanski, James H.. “Genetically Engineered Foods.” U S Food and Drug
Administration Home Page. N.p., 19 Oct. 1999. Web. 10 Apr. 2013. <http://www.fda.gov/newsevents/testimony/ucm115032.htm>.
Mount, Rachel. “Genetically Modified Foods Affect Health and Body – Oprah.com.”
Oprah Winfrey’s Official Website – Live Your Best Life – Oprah.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 7 Apr. 2013. <http://www.oprah.com/health/Genetically-Modified-Foods-Affect-Health-and-Body>.
“No health or environmental risks from plant biotechnology – News – gmo-safety.eu.”
GMO Safety – gmo-safety.eu. N.p., 28 Aug. 2012. Web. 9 Apr. 2013. <http://www.gmo-safety.eu/news/1424.plant-biotechnology-swiss.html>.
Robin, Suzanne. “The Good Vs. Bad in Genetically-Modified Foods | Healthy Eating | SF
Gate.” Healthy Eating | SF Gate. N.p., n.d. Web. 7 Apr. 2013. <http://healthyeating.sfgate.com/good-vs-bad-geneticallymodified-foods-3108.html>.
Strom, Stephanie. “Major Grocer to Label Foods With Gene-Modified Content –
NYTimes.com.” The New York Times – Breaking News, World News & Multimedia. N.p., 8 Mar. 2013. Web. 7 Apr. 2013. <http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/09/business/grocery-chain-to-require-labels-for-genetically-modified-food.html?pagewanted=all>.
“Why Label Genetically Engineered Food? – NYTimes.com.” The New York Times –
Breaking News, World News & Multimedia. N.p., 14 Mar. 2013. Web. 9 Apr. 2013. <http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/15/opinion/why-label-genetically-engineered-food.html?ref=geneticallymodifiedfood&_r=0>.
Urban, Shilo. “8 Reasons GMOs are Bad for You.” Organic Food, Organic Living –
Organic Authority.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 6 Apr. 2013. <http://www.organicauthority.com/foodie-buzz/eight-reasons-gmos-are-bad-for-you.html>
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