You may have heard the term ‘Frankenfood” recently. This term has been used so much that it has made its way into many urban dictionaries and even has an entry on Wikipedia. Frankenfood refers to any food that has been Genetically Modified (GM) or what is commonly know at GM food. Biologist that work for, or whose research is funded by big Agri-bio-tech firms like Monsanto, will tell you that Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) are the solution to end world hunger and are safe. Advocacy groups like The Non-GMO Project say the risks of GMOs has not been adequately identified or managed, and question the objectivity of regulatory authorities. Opponents say that food derived from GMOs is not safe to eat, is bad for the environment, and want it banned or at least labeled. This article will look at myths and stats, environmental concerns and health issues surrounding the GMO controversy.
GMO’s scary health issues
Concerns about the health risks of GMOs have been rising since they were first introduced into the food system in the early 1990’s. Many people believe that the consumption of GMOs may contribute to serious health issues. In fact, recent studies raise serious concerns about the safety of GMOs and show they contribute to the following conditions:
- Intestinal Disorders: A study recently done in Australia claimed that pigs fed genetically modified (GM) soy and corn displayed a 32 percent rate of severe stomach inflammation whereas pigs not fed a GMO diet only showed 12 percent.
- Infertility: A study performed at the University of Vienna showed that mice fed GM corn over a period of 20 weeks had impaired fertility. In addition, some of the offspring of the mice displayed decreased weight.
- Kidney and Liver Issues: The International Journal of Biological Sciences offers a study that showed certain varieties of GM corn to have a negative impact on kidney and liver function. As a result, the study concluded that some GM varieties may contribute to hepatorenal toxicity.
- Increased Allergies: While it’s hard to pinpoint the source of any food allergy, there is concern that new proteins in GM soy and corn crops might increase their frequency.
- Organ Toxicity: An abstract from the National Institutes of Health (PubMed) indicates that studies show most GM foods cause some form of toxicity to certain organs like the pancreas, kidneys, and reproductive organs and also show hematological, biochemical, and immunological factors.
GMO environmental dangers
Since 1996, over 170 million worldwide acres have been converted to growing GMOs with little concern for the ecological impacts and risks associated with this transformation. Scientists have approached the technology and its vast application with caution based on the following impacts:
- Increased weediness from crop to wild relative genetic exchange
- Creation of insect resistant pests
- Impacts to non-target beneficial organisms
- Gene exchange from crop to wild resulting in extinction of rare plants and weedy relatives
GMO spooky myths
GMOs are a multi-billion dollar industry and unsurprisingly the big bio-tech companies have spent millions of dollars to launch one of the largest PR campaigns in the history of the food industry. The purpose of the campaign is to convince the public that GMOs are safe, healthy and beneficial. Here are three of the main claims they make – see how they stack up to reality.
- GMO crops have better yield and will end world hunger. Contrary to what the biotech giants say on their industry-sponsored websites, GMO crops do not produce greater yields. A comprehensive 2009 report by the Union of Concerned Scientists demonstrated that GMO soybean and corn produced no increase in intrinsic yield over conventional soybean and corn and will not help end world hunger.
- GMOs reduce pesticide use. A 2012 paper concluded that the rise of glyphosate-resistant “superweeds” in the wake of the GMO revolution has actually increased pesticide use in the last 15 years by 7%.
- There is no scientific proof of adverse health effects from GMOs. the FDA doesn’t even test the safety of GMO crops. Instead, all GMO foods are assumed to be safe unless there is already evidence to the contrary. In other words, the FDA relies on self-reported data from the companies that manufacture the crops as to their safety. What few independent studies have been conducted have shown a range of adverse health effects from reduced fertility to immune system dysfunction, liver failure, obesity and cancer.
Stats about GMO’s
- According to the Non-GMO Project, as much as 80 percent of the processed foods available contain GMOs.
- According to ISAAA, 28 different countries grow genetically modified crops. Of the top 10 countries, the U.S. is number one and grows 69.5 million hectares of corn, soybeans, cotton, canola, sugar beets, alfalfa, and squash.
- 64 countries have GM labeling laws, including countries in the European Union, Australia, Brazil, China, India, Ecuador, Japan, New Zealand, Taiwan, and El Salvador – The United States doesn’t currently have any labeling laws.
- According to GMOInside.org a bag of GM corn seed may cost $300, while non-GM corn seed costs about half of that amount – In the fourth quarter of 2012, GM producer Monsanto earned $126 million in profits.
Top five GMO crops
According to the Cornucopia Institute GM foods are prevalent in our supermarkets. The only true way to be sure your food is GMO free is to buy foods that are certified organic or labeled Non-GMO. Here is a list of six of the most prevalent GMO foods found in the supermarket.
- Corn: 88 percent of American corn is genetically modified. Corn is used in oils, flours, fillers, thickeners, flavorings, sweeteners, livestock feed, and many other applications.
- Soy: 93 percent is genetically modified. Soy is a very common ingredient in processed foods. It is used in processed food as oils, fillers, and proteins.
- Cottonseed: 94 percent is genetically modified. Cottonseed oil is a common food ingredient, used for shortening and frying.
- Papaya: 75 percent of Hawaiian papaya is genetically modified.
- Canola: 90 percent of canola (used in oil) is genetically modified. Canola oil is a common ingredient in a number of processed foods.
- Sugar beets: Over 50 percent of the sugar beet crops are genetically modified. Sugar beets are used to make sucrose (sugar), as well as in food colorings. They are also used as livestock feed.
A scary movie about GMO’s
For a more information about GMOs I suggest you watch this film ‘Genetic Roulette‘. This film shows how genetically engineered foods are a major contributor to rising disease rates in the US population, especially among children. It also exposes Monsanto’s strong arm tactics, the FDA’s fraudulent policies, and how the USDA ignores a growing health emergency. Please share your thoughts.