If you’re like I was, you might be pretty confused right now about GMO’s , or genetically modified organisms. You may be wondering exactly what they are, if they’re safe or not, and what the long-term effects on humans, animals and the earth might be.
Like anything connected to nature, to creation and death and rebirth, this is not a simple issue. But I hope I can break it down in a way that makes sense and offers the reader a better understanding of a very complex matter that is affecting all of our lives, whether we know it or not.
GMO’s – What are they?
Simply put, genetically modified organisms are ones created in a laboratory by direct manipulation of genes. No romantic dinners here. No lovely little honeybees and hummingbirds and all matter of birds and insects flitting and buzzing happily about, spreading pollen and spring happiness in their midst.
Test tubes, needles and sterile conditions are where this “life” is created. Due to their asexual beginnings, genetically modified organisms can combine traits between entirely different species: think pigs with apples, fish with tomatoes, bacteria with corn. (Think that sounds crazy? Don’t.)
The most common applications of genetic engineering in our food supply include pesticide-producing crops (yep, you read that right) and genetically modified bacteria and fungi which are used in the production of enzymes, vitamins and flavorings. Aspartame is a good example and is found in literally thousands of products on our grocery store shelves.
The bio-tech industry, the closest thing to parents these “offspring” will ever have, like most parents, has a favorite. The superstar gene-baby of the bio-tech industry is the “terminator gene.” This little bugger causes a crop to commit genetic suicide after just one generation.
Are you beginning to see why GMO’s might properly be called death crops? If not, keep reading.
GMO’s – Are they safe?
The short answer to this question is no. But I’m sure you’re going to want more information before deciding for yourself.
The American Academy of Environmental Medicine reports that multiple animal studies report immune dysregulation associated with allergy, asthma and inflammation. Animal studies also show altered structure and function of the liver, including altered lipid and carbohydrate metabolism.
To put that in perspective, here are some highlights from studies done on animals who ate GM crops:
- Rats fed GM tomatoes developed stomach ulcerations.
- Offspring of rats fed GM soy had 4 times the death rate of offspring of rats fed non GM soy.
- Rats fed GM oilseed developed enlarged livers.
- Mice fed GM insecticide-producing corn over four generations showed a build-up of abnormal structural changes in various organs (liver, spleen, pancreas), major changes in the pattern of gene function in the gut and reduced fertility.
- Buffalo that ate GM cottonseed had reproductive complications such as premature deliveries, miscarriages and infertility.
The data continues to mount. If you’re wondering if it’s biologically possible for genetically modified foods to cause adverse effects in humans, let me assure you that it’s not only possible, it’s proven.
Already scientists have found that the genes from genetically modified foods transfer into the DNA of bacteria inside our intestines and continue to function. Since many of the genes inserted are pesticide genes, our intestinal bacteria could form its own little pesticide factory, with no way to shut it down. Once it’s there, it’s there. If it makes you sick, so sorry. And it can make you sick – it can even kill you.
In 1989, 707 people were diagnosed with EMS (Eosinophilia myalgia syndrome), after taking the supplement L-tryptophan. L-tryptophan had been a safe supplement for decades and was often prescribed as an alternative to addictive prescription medication for insomnia and anxiety disturbances. But this L-tryptophan was different. The company that manufactured it sought to boost its efficiency by inserting a new genetically engineered bacterium called Strain V. This modified supplement killed 37 people and left 1500 permanently disabled in the United States by the time they discovered the source.
Oh, there’s something you might want to know about those inserted pesticide genes: the level of toxin expression can be many times greater inside our bodies than when the same pesticide is sprayed on crops.
So, GMO’s are not so good for animals and humans; how about the earth?
Well, first there’s the contamination problem. When GM crops are planted, they create GM pollen which is then spread by the wind and all those previously happy little critters. Once this pollen mixes with pollen from natural crops, well, say good-bye to the natural crops. They will forever and ever amen be altered crops. Unless, of course, they are contaminated with that superstar gene-baby, the terminator gene, at which point they will just be dead.
Because GM crops require large land areas to be mono-cropped (that is, planted with only one crop), biodiversity and nutritional values suffer along with the possibility that the soil will be contaminated with GM bacteria causing it to guess what?
Oh, and those previously happy little critters? You can read the latest about colony collapse disorder at this link, the “mysterious new disease” that is killing off the honeybee and the possible effects of GM pollen on the monarch butterfly here.
What’s happening to these winged protectors of our food supply?
So if the short answer is no, the long answer is not only Hell No! but how in the world did this happen and what in the world can we do about it?
I’ll start biting into that apple in the rest of the series. In the meantime, I hope you’re convinced that having these DNA-altered crops and foods in our groceries and pantries is just about the worst idea since the pesticides they were created for. To take action, you can start here. And remember, taking action these days is as easy as a click or two on the computer.
You can be part of an American Food Revolution. Or you can eat the food they’re feeding and be . . . .
Sources: Sources are linked in the article. Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, Barbara Kingsolver, Harper-Collins, 2007 is the source for many of the facts and a boatload of inspiration.