Organic: Worth It or Waste of Money?

Organic: Worth It or Waste of Money?

The debate over organic food has been hashed over so many times, but I feel compelled to weigh in.  Choosing to buy organic food has so many positive impacts on kids’ health that it makes it a really apropos topic when it comes to inspiring healthy kids.  Organic foods are both tastier and more nutritious, so try to buy organic when you can.  If you can’t buy all your fruits and vegetables organic, focus your purchasing on a few items that are more likely to be sprayed and that include the most important vitamins and minerals, such as dark leafy greens.

Plants can only pass on whatever nutrients are in the soil. If there are too many plants growing in one place, or the soil is depleted from overuse, there simply are not that many vitamins, minerals, and nutrients to pass on in the fruits and vegetables they are growing. Instead of replacing or enhancing depleted soil with compost, they are dumping on fertilizers. In addition to the toxins and health hazards discussed above, fertilizers just don’t add nutrients back into the soil. Conventional fruits and vegetables often have significantly lower vitamin and mineral loads than do organic fruits and veggies.

A new analysis appears to refuel the debate about the nutritional value of organic versus conventional foods, by finding that organic crops and crop-based foods contain up to 69% more of certain antioxidants, are four times less likely to contain pesticide residue, and have significantly lower levels of the toxic heavy metal cadmium. (quote source)

This is not the only study of its kind.  Other studies have also shown statistically significant nutritional differences in organic versus conventional foods.  Conferences, like the Quality Low Input Food conference, have tried to untangle the web of conflicting studies.  The above-referenced study, published last year in The British Journal of Nutrition, was a compilation of over 300 studies that found statistically significant differences between organic and conventional produce.  One such study, published in The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine found that

Organic crops contained significantly more vitamin C, iron, magnesium, and phosphorus and significantly less nitrates than conventional crops. There were nonsignificant trends showing less protein but of a better quality and a higher content of nutritionally significant minerals with lower amounts of some heavy metals in organic crops compared to conventional ones.

You don’t have to be a scientist to be able to tell the difference between organic and conventional fruits and vegetables.  You can even taste the difference between them!.  We can always tell if something is organically grown just by the flavor – without anyone having to tell us. Sometimes we will be eating at a friend’s house and will ask if something tastes especially powerful whether it is organic – our friends are always impressed.  Try it and you’ll notice it, too.

The biggest benefit of big flavor in your fruits and vegetables is, of course, that your children will enjoy it. There is never any reason to put sugar on blueberries or strawberries, which should naturally be bursting with flavor and sweetness. Bananas, grapes, and watermelon should taste as sweet as candy – especially if you train your taste buds to appreciate it by avoiding processed sugars.

The biggest arguments I often hear about organic foods (and my husband used to own an organic food business, so we fielded a lot of questions) are that they cost more and that they are not as “fresh,” so let me address those two issues as well.

First, organic food costs more because it is higher quality. It is usually farmed by smaller, independent or family-owned farms, which don’t get the government subsidies big conglomerates do. Also, because they are smaller, they don’t have the ability to purchase things in such bulk and don’t have the clout to negotiate discounts with suppliers. They also use more expensive compost to replenish their soils and regularly let land lie fallow so it can naturally recuperate, which means they are not earning any money on certain fields at all times. Also, they don’t spray their plants with poisonous chemical pesticides and toxins, so sometimes they lose crops to animals or bugs. They then have to adjust their prices to account for those losses.

At any rate, anything that’s really good for you is worth a spending a bit more money. As they say, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, and feeding your children organic food will help prevent many diseases. Not only will it prevent them from getting diseases associated with pesticides and fertilizers, but by feeding them a nutrient rich diet, you will be boosting their immune systems so they will be able to fight off any other illnesses that come their way. Don’t think of it as spending money on food, but think of it instead as saving money on doctors’ visits. Besides, if you buy what is fresh and in season from an organic farmer’s market, you may find yourself spending the same amount or only slightly more than you would at a more expensive local grocery store for conventional, out-of-season produce! (As an example, I recently bought 10 kg of organic, locally-farmed grapes at a farmer’s market for just $10, while conventionally grown and heavily sprayed grapes at the local supermarket were $2 per kilo.)

Additionally, food is cheaper now than it ever has been in history. Throughout most of history, humanity has struggled to find food just to survive. In some parts of the world, this is still true. But for the majority of Americans today, it is possible to buy groceries for a family for the whole week after just one day of work. For some, it is possible after just one or two hours! The average American spends less than 13% of their income on food. That means that we are spending less than one fifth of our money on food, when in the past we would have been spending the vast majority of our earnings on food. When you compare your child’s vitality and health to your own need for a plasma TV or a new iPhone, don’t you think your priorities should be clear? If you have to, forego the newest fancy gadget or the nicer car, and spend that extra money on giving your kids what is best for them.

Furthermore, many people spend money in the store without really thinking about it.  Often, shoppers buy what they want, regardless of the price.  Sometimes shoppers will choose an expensive version on sale even when it is still more expensive than the cheaper brand.  If you begin to pay close attention to the amount you are spending while shopping and ask yourself how much you spend on individual items, you may find ways to cut costs.  For example, I buy my brown rice when it is on sale 50% off.  I might buy 20kg of rice at a time, but I never pay full price!  You can then use those savings to buy healthier food items.

Next, organic produce is almost always fresher than what you find grown conventionally. However, it is not pumped full of pesticides and preservatives to keep it appearing perfect for extended periods of time. Conventional apples are coated with wax and then may sit in cold storage for months before they hit the shelves in your grocery store. Organic produce never works that way. It is only what is fresh, and usually it is only what is local. If it doesn’t seem to last as long in your fridge that is because it is fresh! Fresher food also contains more vitamins and minerals, so by buying organic weekly (or even daily), you are giving your kids more of the “good stuff.”

Remember, however, that when we speak about “organics,” we are speaking about fresh produce. Organic meat and dairy will also be free of hormones and antibiotics and will contain more nutrition – but they will still contain the unhealthy animals fats and cholesterol that your kids don’t need. If you have to continue eating meat and dairy, by all means, go organic… but if you can do without, then that is much healthier.

Furthermore, just because a product is labeled “organic” does not automatically make it healthy. Organic snacks can still contain added sugar (and just because it is “organic” added sugar does not negate the harm that added sugar does!) and organic products can also contain lots of added sodium. It’s up to you to read the labels and decide from there.

Pesticides & Herbicides are Poison

Pesticides & Herbicides are Poison

Organic food is controversial in the eye of the public debate. Some people love it and some people hate it. But regardless of what you feel about it, when it comes to feeding your kids, it is the safest and most nutritious option.  Giving your kids organically grown produce is really the only way to avoid feeding your kids the pesticides and herbicides that are so liberally sprayed on conventionally grown produce today.

The produce you normally buy in supermarkets is what is known as “conventional” produce. It’s grown primarily by really big companies who have forced small farmers out of business, largely by cutting their costs as much as possible. They do this by farming in bulk and by trying to get as many fruits and vegetables as possible to grow on their land.

There are three main ways these companies use to grow as much as they possibly can: 1) they use fertilizers and chemicals to make produce grow faster and bigger; 2) they spray plants regularly with pesticides to keep bugs from eating crops; and 3) they plant as much as possible, as frequently as possible. All three of these things conspire to turn otherwise healthy fresh fruits and vegetables into vehicles of poison for your children.

Just as we are what we eat, plants are also what they “eat.” The soil they grow in provides them with all the nutrients that are then passed on to us. If the soil is full of chemicals and toxins, the fruits and vegetables grown therein will be full of chemicals and toxins. And if the fruits and vegetables are full of chemicals and toxins, then by feeding them to your children, you are feeding your children poison.

The same goes for plants that are heavily sprayed with pesticides or are coated with preservatives. Certain crops, like corn, greens (such as spinach or lettuce), and soft fruits (like berries or peaches) are sprayed more heavily than others. Other crops, like cucumbers and apples, are often coated with a preservative layer of wax to help them last longer in the cold storage they sit in until shops get around to selling them to you (which could be months and months). Now, pesticides really are poison, in every sense of the word. They are put on crops to kill animals that want to eat them. Just because your child is bigger than an insect and won’t die (at least immediately) from eating them does not make them any less poisonous. Would you offer your child some candy, saying, “Don’t worry, honey, it only contains a little bit of cyanide”? Of course not! Nobody wants to feed their child poison. The big companies are just hoping you don’t realize that the products they’re selling you are coated in it.

As an example, one of the most commonly use pesticides is taken from a bacterium called bacillus thuringiensis (“Bt”) that contains a powerful insect-killing toxin. When mice were fed vegetables sprayed with this chemical, they not only had powerful immune responses,[i] but the chemical even damaged their intestines![ii] But not only do mice[iii] and rats[iv] react to this chemical, so do humans.[v] People exposed to the chemical exhibit allergy-like reactions[vi] – even if they’re only handling the plants, not eating them.[vii] Yet, you are feeding your child this toxin, or any number of other pesticide toxins, every time you feed them conventionally grown fruits and vegetables!

Not only are plants sprayed with pesticides, but they are also sprayed with harsh herbicides designed to kill weeds. The most common, and strongest, of these is called Roundup (you have probably heard of it). Tests reveal that this herbicide is incredibly toxic. When rats were given water with trace amounts of Roundup in it (the levels legally allowed in our drinking water supply), they suffered from a 200% to 300% increase in large tumors. When they ate corn with trace amounts of Roundup, they suffered severe organ damage, including liver and kidney damage.[viii]   But you are feeding this poison to your children whenever you give them any food not grown organically!

To make matters worse, processed foods are often made with genetically modified (GM) fruits and vegetables. Many of these, such as rice, corn, and soy, actually have the gene for the harmful Bt toxin and/or the Roundup herbicide coded into their cells! Rats that were fed the same variety of GM corn used in breakfast cereals, corn tortillas, and corn chips developed large tumors and more than half of them died early deaths.[ix] So if you feed your child genetically modified fruits and veggies, there is no physical way to wash it off. You are literally feeding your child poisonous plants.

Organic farms are not allowed to use GM seeds.  They might use some sprays, but they are all natural, not the harsh poisonous chemicals used on conventional produce.  Unless you can grow your own fruits and vegetables, organic food is the best and healthiest option for your kids.

[i] Vazquez et al, “Intragastric and intraperitoneal administration of Cry1Ac protoxin from Bacillus thuringiensis induces systemic and mucosal antibody responses in mice,” 1897–1912; Vazquez et al, “Characterization of the mucosal and systemic immune response induced by Cry1Ac protein from Bacillus thuringiensis HD 73 in mice,” Brazilian Journal of Medical and Biological Research 33 (2000): 147–155; and Vazquez et al, “Bacillus thuringiensis Cry1Ac protoxin is a potent systemic and mucosal adjuvant,” Scandanavian Journal of Immunology 49 (1999): 578–584. See also Vazquez-Padron et al., 147 (2000b).

[ii] Nagui H. Fares, Adel K. El-Sayed, “Fine Structural Changes in the Ileum of Mice Fed on Endotoxin Treated Potatoes and Transgenic Potatoes,” Natural Toxins 6, no. 6 (1998): 219–233.

[iii] Alberto Finamore, et al, “Intestinal and Peripheral Immune Response to MON810 Maize Ingestion in Weaning and Old Mice,” J. Agric. Food Chem., 2008, 56 (23), pp 11533–11539, November 14, 2008.

[iv] Joël Spiroux de Vendômois, François Roullier, Dominique Cellier and Gilles-Eric Séralini. 2009, A Comparison of the Effects of Three GM Corn Varieties on Mammalian Health . International Journal of Biological Sciences 2009; 5(7):706-726; and Seralini GE, Cellier D, Spiroux de Vendomois J. 2007, New analysis of a rat feeding study with a genetically modified maize reveals signs of hepatorenal toxicity. Arch Environ Contam Toxicol. 2007;52:596-602.

[v] See for example “Bt cotton causing allergic reaction in MP; cattle dead,” Bhopal, Nov. 23, 2005.

[vi] M. Green, et al., “Public health implications of the microbial pesticide Bacillus thuringiensis: An epidemiological study, Oregon, 1985-86,” Amer. J. Public Health 80, no. 7(1990): 848–852; and M.A. Noble, P.D. Riben, and G. J. Cook, Microbiological and epidemiological surveillance program to monitor the health effects of Foray 48B BTK spray (Vancouver, B.C.: Ministry of Forests, Province of British Columbi, Sep. 30, 1992).

[vii] http://news.webindia123.com Ashish Gupta et. al., “Impact of Bt Cotton on Farmers’ Health (in Barwani and Dhar District of Madhya Pradesh),” Investigation Report, Oct–Dec 2005; and M. Green, et al., “Public health implications of the microbial pesticide Bacillus thuringiensis: An epidemiological study, Oregon, 1985-86,” Amer. J. Public Health 80, no. 7(1990): 848–852; and M.A. Noble, P.D. Riben, and G. J. Cook, Microbiological and epidemiological surveillance program to monitor the health effects of Foray 48B BTK spray (Vancouver, B.C.: Ministry of Forests, Province of British Columbi, Sep. 30, 1992).

[viii] Joël Spiroux de Vendômois, François Roullier, Dominique Cellier and Gilles-Eric Séralini. 2009, A Comparison of the Effects of Three GM Corn Varieties on Mammalian Health . International Journal of Biological Sciences 2009; 5(7):706-726.

[ix] Joël Spiroux de Vendômois, François Roullier, Dominique Cellier and Gilles-Eric Séralini. 2009, A Comparison of the Effects of Three GM Corn Varieties on Mammalian Health . International Journal of Biological Sciences 2009; 5(7):706-726.

Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs): The Government Won’t Protect You

Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs): The Government Won’t Protect You

You cannot count on the government to protect you and your children from the dangers of genetically modified organisms. In the 1990s, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) claimed that GMOs are safe for consumption – yet they had done no studies on safety at all.  And no wonder… the FDA official who created their GMO policy used to be the attorney and later the vice president of Monsanto, the largest biotech company out there.[i] Talk about bias!

The only requirement for a GMO to meet FDA standards is for it to be “substantially equivalent” to the natural food in its nutrition profile.[ii] This means that if GM soy has roughly the same amount of carbohydrates, proteins, fiber, etc., as traditional soy, it is acceptable for human consumption. There is no mention in that protocol of it needing to be synthesized the same by the human body, or that side effects, like infertility or digestive problems, are forbidden (or even measured at all). Tests on GM products are not required, and when done, are done by the companies themselves and are kept secret, so that the true effects of these products are unknown unless examined by independent scientists.[iii] At the times when these tests have been, by court order, provided to independent scientists, they found that there were significant physical changes to test animals as a result of the GM diet, which the GMO companies nevertheless determined were “irrelevant” when it came to human consumption.[iv] When these scientists do undertake these tests, they are criticized by the companies, which do not want the truth about their products to be known.[v]

And there is no obligation for companies to label their products in the USA. The FDA has not approved any such regulation because the food companies are a powerful lobby. And even the “healthy” brands, such as Morningstar Farms, are opposing a GMO labeling law. This is because their products contain GMOs. In short, you cannot even make your own informed decision not to buy GMOs just by reading the labels on your favorite products. And don’t think you’ll be safe if you live outside the US or if you buy foreign products – the World Trade Organization (WTO) forbids governments to restrict the sale of GMOs because that would be an “unfair trade practice” or a “technical barrier to trade.” The WTO is no more concerned for your safety than the big companies are. Fortunately, in the European Union, GMOs are more highly regulated than in any other parts of the world.[vi] Even with their stricter review system, 49 GMOs have been approved, including 28 varieties of GMO corn, 7 GMO soybeans, 3 oilseed rapes (canola), and one sugarbeet.[vii] It is a good precedent that in Europe, unlike in America, foods containing GMOs at any point in their production must be labeled, even if the GMO cannot be detected in the end product.[viii]  In Australia only unprocessed foods with a GMO as the main component need be labeled. (http://www.foodstandards.gov.au/consumer/gmfood/labelling/Pages/default.aspx)

The only way to avoid eating genetically modified foods is to stop buying conventional processed foods unless they are labeled as GMO free. In the United States, over 80% of processed foods contain some form of GMO, including: rice, corn, wheat, soybeans, soy products, vegetable oil, soft drinks, dairy products, eggs, meat, chicken, pork, infant formula, and additives used across the board, such as in ice cream, margarine, tomato sauce, peanut butter, etc. Even the fruits and vegetables in your typical grocery store are not safe.[ix] For instance, a new type of apple was recently engineered so that it would not turn brown when it is bruised – you cannot even buy apples without them being genetically engineered.[x] The only safe option is to buy organic produce.

The behavior created as a result of eating genetically altered foods is not the kind of behavior you want to encourage in your kids. Nor are these the kind of side effects you want them to experience. GMOs are not better for your kids because scientists have messed with them – they’re worse. Any substance that can cause antisocial behavior, nervousness, anxiety, and increased stress is a type of poison. So stop feeding your children processed foods containing GMOs. GMOs are poison.

[i] See Part 2, Jeffrey M. Smith, Genetic Roulette: The Documented Health Risks of Genetically Engineered Foods, Yes! Books, Fairfield, IA 2007.

[ii] Society of Toxicology. The safety of genetically modified foods produced through biotechnology. Toxicol. Sci. 2003; 71:2-8.

[iii] Spiroux de Vendômois J, Cellier D, et al. Debate on GMOs Health Risks after Statistical Findings in Regulatory Tests. Int J Biol Sci 2010; 6(6):590-598. doi:10.7150/ijbs.6.590.

[iv] Séralini GE, Mesnage R, Clair E. et al. Genetically modified crops consumption at large scale: possible negative health impacts due to holes in assessment. Environ Sci Pollut Res.

[v] Spiroux de Vendômois J, Cellier D, et al. Debate on GMOs Health Risks after Statistical Findings in Regulatory Tests. Int J Biol Sci 2010; 6(6):590-598. doi:10.7150/ijbs.6.590.

[vi] Davison, J. (February 2010). “GM plants: Science, politics and EC regulations”. Plant Science 178 (2): 94–98.doi:10.1016/j.plantsci.2009.12.005

[vii] Staff EU register of genetically modified food and feed European Commission, Health and Consumers, EU register of authorised GMOs, available at http://ec.europa.eu/food/dyna/gm_register/index_en.cfm, Retrieved 32 February 2015

[viii] GMO Compass, New Labelling Laws: What Has Changed? Available at http://www.gmo-compass.org/eng/regulation/labelling/93.new_labelling_laws_gm_products_eu.html; See also European Commission: Food, GM Food & Feed – Labelling, available at http://ec.europa.eu/food/food/biotechnology/gmfood/labelling_en.htm.

[ix] Jeffrey M. Smith, Genetic Roulette: The Documented Health Risks of Genetically Engineered Foods, Yes! Books, Fairfield, IA 2007.

[x] Pollack, A. “Gene-Altered Apples Get U.S. Approval” New York Times. Feb 13, 2015, available at http://www.nytimes.com/2015/02/14/business/gmo-apples-are-approved-for-growing-in-us.html; Tennille, Tracy (Feb 13, 2015). “First Genetically Modified Apple Approved for Sale in U.S.”. Wall Street Journal. Retrieved Feb 2015, available at http://www.wsj.com/articles/first-genetically-modified-apple-approved-for-sale-in-u-s-1423863994

More Impacts of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs)

More Impacts of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs)

For the past couple of days I have been exploring genetically modified organisms (GMOs).  I first explored how GMOs work and how GMOs are created.  Then I looked at some of their effects on animals.  Now I am going to look at some effects that have been observed in humans and also some of the motivations for creating GMOs and the impacts those GMOs have had on the societies into which they have been introduced.

In spite of the challenges associated with testing the effects of GM foods on human subjects, scientists have been able to do some basic studies. One major study revealed that the toxic genes inserted into genetically modified soy do in fact transfer to the bacteria that live in our gut.[i] Essentially, once we eat genetically modified foods, we are carrying around toxins that we cannot get rid of – and the full effects of which are unknown. Even being exposed to genetically modified plants – without eating them – has made people ill.[ii] The very safest bet for you and your family is to never feed your children genetically modified foods, ever.  If you have ever fed your kids genetically modified food, stop, immediately.

Today, our food sources are no better off for having been tampered with. Genetically modified foods (often called “genetically modified organisms” or “GMOs”) are found everywhere. In fact, they are so prolific that they are in almost everything. There’s no requirement to label things as such, so companies don’t. Big companies want to make money and they know they won’t do that by boasting of using genetically engineered fruits and vegetables.

In fact, money is the reason companies genetically engineer their plants in the first place. Some people believe GM foods must be higher in nutrients, bigger, or better tasting, simply because they have been modified. But this is not the case. Not one of the internationally approved genetically modified foods has been altered to improve nutrient load, size, or flavor.

Most genetic modification is done to increase yield, so farmers can grow more food in the same amount of space and therefore sell it later for less (yet earn more). According to the World Health Organization, all internationally approved GM products are altered to create “resistance to insect damage; resistance to viral infections; and tolerance towards certain herbicides.”[iii] In other words, companies are creating plants that have toxic pesticides as part of their genetics. Genetically modified plants are ones with pesticides you cannot even wash off.

And humans have also had allergic reactions to these pesticides and the genes for them that are coded into food, including redness, itchiness, swelling, skin eruptions, eye irritation, sneezing, and even hospitalization.[iv] Simply coming into contact with GM crops containing these pesticide genes, or even merely breathing the air nearby during pollination has caused hundreds of people to become ill with headaches, dizziness, extreme chest pain, extreme stomach pain, vomiting, fever, allergies, and respiratory, intestinal, and skin reactions. Blood tests showed the reaction was to the pesticide gene contained in the nearby GM crop, so there is no doubt as to what is making us sick.[v] This should come as no surprise when you are consuming what is, quite literally, poison.

These chemicals reduce digestive enzymes, which could make it much harder for your child to digest not only GM foods, but really any foods.[vi] Mice fed these toxins began having allergic reactions to foods they used to find harmless.[vii] In some cases, the mice began reacting to such a range of foods that they actually died.[viii] But these kinds of tests are not routinely done on genetically modified foods before they hit your table, so you would never know the real risks of feeding them to your children. It’s not a risk you want to take because even in small doses, over time, these toxins will be stored and come to harm your child.

It’s no joke or exaggeration that these foods can kill. In India, thousands of sheep, buffalo, and goats died after grazing on cotton plants that had been altered to include a pesticide gene – the same gene that is inserted into the soy and corn sold to you and I.[ix] Those animals that did not die suffered from illness and had difficulties reproducing.[x] Animals in Asia and even Europe have fared no better, with countless cows, water buffaloes, horses, and chickens dying after being fed genetically modified corn.[xi]

Animals like cows, buffaloes, and horses are much bigger and stronger animals than we humans, yet they have died as a result of eating genetically modified foods. We humans are not safe. And indeed, hundreds of people have died from, and thousands have been made ill or disabled by, contamination contained in genetically modified food.[xii] GMOs kill. They are poison and if we feed them to our children, we are feeding them poison.

[i] Netherwood et al, “Assessing the survival of transgenic plant DNA in the human gastrointestinal tract,” Nature Biotechnology 22 (2004): 2.

[ii] See for example Mae-Wan Ho, “GM Ban Long Overdue, Dozens Ill & Five Deaths in the Philippines,” ISIS Press Release, June 2, 2006; “Study Result Not Final, Proof Bt Corn Harmful to Farmers,” BusinessWorld, 02 Mar 2004; and “Genetically Modified Crops and Illness Linked,” Manila Bulletin, 04 Mar 2004.

[iii] World Health Organization. Food Safety: 20 questions on genetically modified foods. Available at http://www.who.int/foodsafety/publications/biotech/20questions/en/

[iv] M. Green, et al., “Public health implications of the microbial pesticide Bacillus thuringiensis: An epidemiological study, Oregon, 1985-86,” Amer. J. Public Health 80, no. 7(1990): 848–852; and M.A. Noble, P.D. Riben, and G. J. Cook, Microbiological and epidemiological surveillance program to monitor the health effects of Foray 48B BTK spray (Vancouver, B.C.: Ministry of Forests, Province of British Columbi, Sep. 30, 1992). “Bt cotton causing allergic reaction in MP; cattle dead,” Bhopal, Nov. 23, 2005. http://news.webindia123.com Ashish Gupta et. al., “Impact of Bt Cotton on Farmers’ Health (in Barwani and Dhar District of Madhya Pradesh),” Investigation Report, Oct–Dec 2005; and M. Green, et al., “Public health implications of the microbial pesticide Bacillus thuringiensis: An epidemiological study, Oregon, 1985-86,” Amer. J. Public Health 80, no. 7(1990): 848–852; and M.A. Noble, P.D. Riben, and G. J. Cook, Microbiological and epidemiological surveillance program to monitor the health effects of Foray 48B BTK spray (Vancouver, B.C.: Ministry of Forests, Province of British Columbi, Sep. 30, 1992).

[v] See for example Mae-Wan Ho, “GM Ban Long Overdue, Dozens Ill & Five Deaths in the Philippines,” ISIS Press Release, June 2, 2006; “Study Result Not Final, Proof Bt Corn Harmful to Farmers,” BusinessWorld, 02 Mar 2004; and “Genetically Modified Crops and Illness Linked,” Manila Bulletin, 04 Mar 2004.

[vi] M. Malatesta, M. Biggiogera, E. Manuali, M. B. L. Rocchi, B. Baldelli, G. Gazzanelli, “Fine Structural Analyses of Pancreatic Acinar Cell Nuclei from Mice Fed on GM Soybean,” Eur J Histochem 47 (2003): 385–388.

[vii] Vazquez et al, “Bacillus thuringiensis Cry1Ac protoxin is a potent systemic and mucosal adjuvant,”Scandanavian Journal of Immunology 49 (1999): 578–584. See also Vazquez-Padron et al., 147 (2000b).

[viii] V. E. Prescott, et al, “Transgenic Expression of Bean r-Amylase Inhibitor in Peas Results in Altered Structure and Immunogenicity,” Journal of Agricultural Food Chemistry (2005): 53.

[ix] “Mortality in Sheep Flocks after Grazing on Bt Cotton Fields—Warangal District, Andhra Pradesh” Report of the Preliminary Assessment, April 2006, http://gmwatch.org/latest-listing/1-news-items/6416-mortality-in-sheep-flocks-after-grazing-on-bt-cotton-fields-warangal-district-andhra-pradesh-2942006

[x] “Mortality in Sheep Flocks after Grazing on Bt Cotton Fields—Warangal District, Andhra Pradesh” Report of the Preliminary Assessment, April 2006, http://gmwatch.org/latest-listing/1-news-items/6416-mortality-in-sheep-flocks-after-grazing-on-bt-cotton-fields-warangal-district-andhra-pradesh-2942006

[xi] Mae-Wan Ho, “GM Ban Long Overdue, Dozens Ill & Five Deaths in the Philippines,” ISIS Press Release, June 2, 2006; and Mae-Wan Ho and Sam Burcher, “Cows Ate GM Maize & Died,” ISIS Press Release, January 13, 2004, http://www.isis.org.uk/CAGMMAD.php

[xii] William E. Crist,Toxic L-tryptophan: Shedding Light on a Mysterious Epidemic; and Jeffrey M. Smith, Seeds of Deception, Yes! Books, Fairfield, IA 2003, chapter 4, Deadly Epidemic

How Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) Affect Animals

How Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) Affect Animals

Most of the studies done on GMOs are done by the companies that produce them.  They have the money, time, and staff to undertake studies to see if GMOs are safe to consume.  However, these companies have a vested interest in showing their products to be safe.  Their experiments are done in secret and only the information the company wants is released.  Of course they do not want to do an intense study of how their products impact humans because if the impact is negative, there will be no way to keep that secret.  Independent scientists have limited funding and support for these studies and doing a large-scale human study is quite difficult.  Animal studies are one very important way to learn how genetically modified foods affect us.

Remember that “you are what you eat” really is true, especially for children. Your children are growing and that means they’re using their food for much more building, unlike adults, who use their nutrition mainly for upkeep, repairs, and energy. Toxins, allergens, or altered nutrients are easily assimilated by their bodies and made a part of them for life.[i] One of the biggest concerns is that genes for antibiotic resistance, which have been added to plant DNA, will be transferred to humans upon consumption. If this is a concern, it is a concern on a much higher level when it comes to your children, who are still growing and developing.[ii]

In humans, it’s hard to measure the effects of eating GMOs because there are so many other factors in our lives that can throw off scientific studies. GMOs are most often found in processed foods, which means that the health impacts on people who eat GMOs could be coming from a variety of sources: a diet high in fats, sugars, and simple carbohydrates, a sedentary lifestyle, a diet of overly processed foods, and, of course, a diet high in GMOs. If someone who lives this way gets sick, it’s almost impossible to pinpoint exactly what is triggering what illness and why.

Not so in mice. Mice are a great substitute for humans because they’re social and physically active animals. It’s easy to measure their ability to learn new tasks and it’s not hard to keep an eye on them and observe changes in their behavior. We can easily assess physical changes in their bodies by doing autopsies on them. Plus, we have total control over the food we choose to give them, which means we can create an experiment in a controlled environment.

You can even try this experiment yourself: Take two groups of mice. Feed one group healthy, normal food. Feed the other group only genetically modified food. Now sit back and see if you can notice the difference. What you’ll see – what has been noticed before when this experiment has been done – is that the mice on the GMO diet become less social. They become withdrawn and hide in their own parts of the cage rather than playing with one another. And if you try to pick them up, they’ll run away, frightened, and try to climb the walls, which is not normal behavior for a mouse accustomed to being regularly handled.[iii] If a diet of genetically modified food causes anxiety and aggression in mice and rats, imagine the effect it could be having on your child!

Of course, these are just the behavioral impacts you or anybody else can see for yourself. You don’t need to be a doctor or a scientist to observe these changes. Yet, the American Academy of Environmental Medicine (AAEM) warns that animal studies on the impact of genetically engineered food have noted in their subjects infertility, immune problems, accelerated aging, faulty insulin regulation, and changes in major organs and the gastrointestinal system.[iv] That is to say, not effects you want to foist upon your children.

Let’s look at a few specific examples of side effects of GM foods that have been noted in animal tests. In one study, rats were fed a diet of GM potatoes. The result? Excessive cell growth in their stomach lining – a condition linked to the development of cancer. Their immune systems and some of their other organs were damaged, too.[v] When fed a lifetime diet of GM corn, they developed tumors and females died young – even when the dose they were fed was very small. The results were shocking because tumors began to develop within just a few months.[vi]

Speaking of organs, one of the organs that is a good barometer of changes in diet is the liver, which cleans toxins and wastes out of our bodies. In rats who ate GM potatoes, their livers were smaller and partially atrophied,[vii] while in rats who ate GM canola the livers were 12-16% heavier.[viii] The liver cells of mice fed GM soy reacted just the same as if the mice had been eating toxins.[ix] But there is hope. Once the mice were switched to a non-GM soy diet, their livers recovered.[x] The human body is incredibly resilient and even if you’ve been feeding your child poison for years, they can still recover, but only if you switch them to a healthy, natural diet.

No wonder many animals that have been tested will instinctively steer clear of GM foods. When given a choice, mice, rats, cows, pigs, geese, squirrels, deer, elk, and even raccoons will all choose a natural food source over a genetically modified one.[xi]

This is why it is so imperative that we insist our governments mandate labeling of GMO food and ingredients.  We at least should have the option of choosing to avoid these foods.  In the meantime, be a smart shopper.  Many foods now advertise themselves as GMO free and buying those products sends the message that we as consumers want food that is all natural.

[i] Smith, JM. Why Schools Should Remove GE-Tainted Foods from Their Cafeterias. Institute for Responsible Technology Newsletter on GM Foods, Spilling the Beans. Available at http://www.wanttoknow.info/050520schooldietchange

[ii] World Health Organization. Food Safety: 20 questions on genetically modified foods. Available at http://www.who.int/foodsafety/publications/biotech/20questions/en/

[iii] I.V. Ermakova, “Diet with the Soya Modified by Gene EPSPS CP4 Leads to Anxiety and Aggression in Rats,” 14th European Congress of Psychiatry. Nice, France, March 4-8, 2006; “Genetically modified soy affects posterity: Results of Russian scientists’ studies,” REGNUM, October 12, 2005; http://www.regnum.ru/english/526651.html; Irina Ermakova, “Genetically modified soy leads to the decrease of weight and high mortality of rat pups of the first generation. Preliminary studies,”Ecosinform 1 (2006): 4–9.

[iv] Finamore A, Roselli M, Britti S, et al. Intestinal and peripheral immune response to MON 810 maize ingestion in weaning and old mice. J Agric. Food Chem. 2008; 56(23):11533-11539. Kilic A, Aday M. A three generational study with genetically modified Bt corn in rats: biochemical and histopathological investigation. Food Chem. Toxicol. 2008; 46(3):1164-1170. Dean A, Armstrong J. Genetically Modified Foods. Executive Committee of the American Academy of Environmental Medicine. May 8, 2009. Available at http://www.aaemonline.org/gmopost.html

[v] Arpad Pusztai, “Can science give us the tools for recognizing possible health risks of GM food,”Nutrition and Health, 2002, Vol 16 Pp 73-84; Stanley W. B. Ewen and Arpad Pusztai, “Effect of diets containing genetically modified potatoes expressing Galanthus nivalis lectin on rat small intestine,” Lancet, 1999 Oct 16; 354 (9187): 1353-4; and Arpad Pusztai, “Facts Behind the GM Pea Controversy: Epigenetics, Transgenic Plants & Risk Assessment,” Proceedings of the Conference, December 1st 2005 (Frankfurtam Main, Germany: Literaturhaus, 2005)

[vi] Joël Spiroux de Vendômois, François Roullier, Dominique Cellier and Gilles-Eric Séralini. 2009, A Comparison of the Effects of Three GM Corn Varieties on Mammalian Health . International Journal of Biological Sciences 2009; 5(7):706-726.

[vii] Arpad Pusztai, “Can science give us the tools for recognizing possible health risks of GM food,”Nutrition and Health, 2002, Vol 16 Pp 73-84.

[viii] Comments to ANZFA about Applications A346, A362 and A363 from the Food Legislation and Regulation Advisory Group (FLRAG) of the Public Health Association of Australia (PHAA) on behalf of the PHAA, “Food produced from glyphosate-tolerant canola line GT73,” http://www.iher.org.au/

[ix] M. Malatesta, C. Caporaloni, S. Gavaudan, M. B. Rocchi, S. Serafini, C. Tiberi, G. Gazzanelli, “Ultrastructural Morphometrical and Immunocytochemical Analyses of Hepatocyte Nuclei from Mice Fed on Genetically Modified Soybean,” Cell Struct Funct. 27 (2002): 173–180.

[x] M. Malatesta, C. Tiberi, B. Baldelli, S. Battistelli, E. Manuali, M. Biggiogera, “Reversibility of Hepatocyte Nuclear Modifications in Mice Fed on Genetically Modified Soybean,” Eur J Histochem, 49(2005): 237-242.

[xi] Smith, JM. Why Schools Should Remove GE-Tainted Foods from Their Cafeterias. Institute for Responsible Technology Newsletter on GM Foods, Spilling the Beans. Available at http://www.wanttoknow.info/050520schooldietchange

Playing G-d: An Introduction to Genetically Modified Foods

Playing G-d: An Introduction to Genetically Modified Foods

Humans love the idea of playing god. We love to build and to create. We even enjoy having the power to destroy. And we think we know best when it comes to everything, including plants and animals.   If there’s something we don’t like about them, we want to change it.

In the past, this took the form of selective breeding, so you would find farmers planting the seeds from their very best crops again and again in order to get better quality vegetables, which seems harmless enough. But selective breeding can also bring out certain weaknesses, as we see with many domesticated breeds of animal. Certain types of dogs and cats sport weaknesses that come from generations of selective breeding and inbreeding. German shepherd dogs often have hip problems, for example, and Persian cats often have respiratory issues. You would think that things like this would clue us in that we’re really not meant to be tinkering with such things… but apparently it doesn’t.

Today, humans are tinkering more than ever.   Wealthy people are cloning their dead (or even live) pets. And scientists are able to select human embryos based on the desired sex of the baby so that if you don’t want a girl you don’t have to have one – or if you do want one, you’ll be sure to get her – provinces that once were considered to be untouchable, entirely up to G-d. Of course, there is always speculation that scientists will continue to engineer human babies to create “designer” babies, with the “perfect” hair or the “perfect” eyes. If this doesn’t scare you, it should. Just look at what happened when people tried to engineer cats and dogs.

The problem is that when scientists tweak just one little thing in the DNA – whether of a plant, animal, or human – they don’t always know what else it might trigger. In one study, just one foreign gene was inserted into a plant, but when the DNA was examined, that one change had affected the way 5% of the genes in the plant worked. That’s a massive amount of change. And there is no way to predict what will change or how.[i] It is a technique that completely sidesteps any of the safeguards associated with natural breeding, transfers genes across the boundaries of biological kingdoms (merging plants and animals), and has been used commercially for less than 20 years.[ii] Scientists are only just now beginning to understand its full range of effects.

You see, adding genes to plant DNA is not like cutting and pasting a paragraph from one document to another in a word processor, where the results are clean and crisp. DNA, with its thousands of genes and complicated twisted double helix design, is not just something you can snip apart and put back together again. To get new genes in, scientists have to blast cells with a “gene gun” or attack cells with invasive bacteria.[iii] Because these techniques are so imprecise, changing or adding even one gene can alter hundreds or even thousands of other genes in the plant.[iv] It can turn on genes, turn off genes, or cause existing genes to act differently.[v] And in the process of being inserted, the inserted gene itself may change or react differently.[vi] The scientists doing the genetic modification may know what effect they want to have, but they cannot control or predict the full effects their changes will really have.

As a result, scientists are only just beginning to understand the effects of genetic modification on foods we have been consuming for decades.   The biggest problem is that scientists just don’t always know what to test for. Just because a test for certain nutrients comes back fine, it doesn’t tell us about all the other components of foods we’re ingesting, from antioxidants to allergens. The GM soy discussed above contains fewer antioxidants, protein, fatty acids, and amino acids, and more allergens. GMOs cause animals to age faster, infertility, problems in immune systems, improper insulin uptake (diabetes), problems with production of cholesterol, and physical changes to the kidney, liver, spleen, and entire gastrointestinal system.[vii] That certainly was not what Monsanto was intending when it engineered it, yet it is not entirely unexpected.

Remember, companies can insert any genes they want into their new plant creation, without knowing the full range of its effects. A company can insert a gene taken from the peanut plant into a corn plant and possibly transfer the peanut allergen, too.[viii] But you, as the consumer, have no way of knowing what changes have been made to a particular plant’s genome, or their source. If you don’t avoid GM foods altogether, you have no way of protecting your children from them.

[i] Smith, JM. Why Schools Should Remove GE-Tainted Foods from Their Cafeterias. Institute for Responsible Technology Newsletter on GM Foods, Spilling the Beans. Available at http://www.wanttoknow.info/050520schooldietchange

[ii] Freese W, Schubert D. Safety testing and regulation of genetically engineered foods. Biotechnology and Genetic Engineering Reviews. Nov 2004. 21.

[iii] See for example 233-236, chart of disproved assumptions, in Jeffrey M. Smith, Genetic Roulette: The Documented Health Risks of Genetically Engineered Foods, Yes! Books, Fairfield, IA 2007.

[iv] J. R. Latham, et al., “The Mutational Consequences of Plant Transformation,” The Journal of Biomedicine and Biotechnology 2006, Article ID 25376: 1-7; see also Allison Wilson, et. al., “Transformation-induced mutations in transgenic plants: Analysis and biosafety implications,”Biotechnology and Genetic Engineering Reviews – Vol. 23, December 2006.

[v] Srivastava, et al, “Pharmacogenomics of the cystic fibrosis transmembrane conductance regulator (CFTR) and the cystic fibrosis drug CPX using genome microarray analysis,” Mol Med. 5, no. 11(Nov 1999):753–67.

[vi] Latham et al, “The Mutational Consequences of Plant Transformation, Journal of Biomedicine and Biotechnology 2006:1-7, article ID 25376, http://www.hindawi.com/journals/jbb/; Draft risk analysis report application A378, Food derived from glyphosate-tolerant sugarbeet line 77 (GTSB77),” ANZFA, March 7, 2001; E. Levine et al., “Molecular Characterization of Insect Protected Corn Line MON 810.” Unpublished study submitted to the EPA by Monsanto, EPA MRID No. 436655-01C (1995); Allison Wilson, PhD, Jonathan Latham, PhD, and Ricarda Steinbrecher, PhD, “Genome Scrambling—Myth or Reality? Transformation-Induced Mutations in Transgenic Crop Plants Technical Report—October 2004,” http://www.econexus.info; C. Collonier, G. Berthier, F. Boyer, M. N. Duplan, S. Fernandez, N. Kebdani, A. Kobilinsky, M. Romanuk, Y. Bertheau, “Characterization of commercial GMO inserts: a source of useful material to study genome fluidity,” Poster presented at ICPMB: International Congress for Plant Molecular Biology (n°VII), Barcelona, 23-28th June 2003. Poster courtesy of Dr. Gilles-Eric Seralini, Président du Conseil Scientifique du CRII-GEN, http://www.crii-gen.org; also “Transgenic lines proven unstable” by Mae-Wan Ho, ISIS Report, 23 October 2003, http://www.i-sis.org.uk

[vii] Smith, JM. Why Schools Should Remove GE-Tainted Foods from Their Cafeterias. Institute for Responsible Technology Newsletter on GM Foods, Spilling the Beans. Available at http://www.wanttoknow.info/050520schooldietchange

[viii] World Health Organization. Food Safety: 20 questions on genetically modified foods. Available at http://www.who.int/foodsafety/publications/biotech/20questions/en/