Over the last few months, the hot topic in the food industry has been the pushing for labeling requirements for GMO foods.
Millions of people are marching and petitioning to force the U.S. government to enforce regulations on the massively unregulated biotech industry which produces much of the food we eat.
Corn, soy, cotton, canola and many others are all now being produced by biotech companies as Genetically Modified Organisms. Each of these are in many of the foods we buy at grocery stores and people, for the most part, don’t even know they’re eating them.
What is a GMO? Genetically Modified Organism or Genetically Engineered Foods (GE) are foods in which the DNA strands have been genetically altered to include the DNA of something else. For example, biotech companies have taken the DNA of spiders and crossed them with DNA of goats to produce a milk that’s crossed with spider web material that has been used in manufacturing bulletproof vests. True story. Sounds pretty science fiction but the reality is even scarier.
In 1996, biotech giant Monsanto started to create genetically modified corn and soy and sold it under the guise that it would be the savior to the world’s food shortage. Higher yields, disease repellant and drought resistant crops were claims they were making. None of these claims came true.
However, now after 15 years, Monsanto has dropped the pretenses and are simply making it impossible to choose anything but their products.
They produce basically two different kinds of modified organisms. One has an insecticide built into the vegetable that when the insect eats the vegetable the stomach of the insect explodes during digestion and kills it.
The other is called roundup ready seed. These seeds are the most popularly produced as a way for Monsanto to sell its biggest product, the herbicide called Roundup. As the Roundup is sprayed over the fields the plants that are roundup ready can withstand it while the weeds are all killed around it. In both these instances, you are eating either the stomach exploding food or the roundup laden food. Either way, it’s lose-lose for everyone.
One of the scariest things about these products is how the companies have managed to skirt having to prove the safety of the product for human consumption. The FDA has stated that it is up to the company to prove that its products are safe for human consumption, but Monsanto have said that it is the FDA’s responsibility to provide safety for the public. So if the FDA isn’t doing it, who is watching out for your best interest? The answer is no one.
Below are some of the scary truths of GMO products through independent research done over the last 15 years.
No crops on the market today are genetically engineered to increase crop yield, resist drought, or reduce chemical fertilizer use. They haven’t helped third world countries, they aren’t feeding the world, and they haven’t lowered food prices at all. GE food has never been proven safe for human consumption; scientists have no idea what it will do to people who eat it and are starting to see that there is a significant body of scientific evidence that has proven serious human health risks associated with it.
As far as U.S. regulatory agencies are concerned, if a biotech company says its products are safe, that is enough for approval.
Genetically engineered food is not labeled in the United States. At the same time, more than 40 countries have either banned GE food outright or have laws requiring the labeling of it—giving citizens in those countries the freedom to choose not to eat it.
An estimated 70-75 percent of processed foods on supermarket shelves-from soda to soup, corn chips to veggie burgers, pizza, and even baby food and infant formula-contain GE ingredients. There are many documented health risks associated with GE food. According to independent scientists, human health effects of consuming GE foods can include toxic and allergic reactions, antibiotic resistance, immune suppression, and other serious illnesses including Crohn’s disease, irritable bowel syndrome, autism, reproductive diseases and even death.
Dr. David Suzuki, scientist, geneticist, and environmentalist recently commented about GMOs: “Any scientist that tells you they are safe is either ignorant or lying to you.”
The results of actual GM-fed experimental animals are scary. When GM soy was fed to female rats, most of their babies died within three weeks—compared to a 10 percent death rate among the control group fed natural soy. The GM-fed babies were also smaller, and later had fertility problems.
When male rats were fed GM soy, their testicles actually changed color—from the normal pink to dark blue. Mice fed GM soy had altered young sperm. Even the embryos of GM fed parent mice had significant changes in their DNA. Mice fed GM corn in an Austrian government study had fewer babies, which were also smaller than normal.
In India, animals graze on cotton plants after harvest. But when shepherds let sheep graze on GMO “Bt” cotton plants, thousands died. Post mortems showed severe irritation and black patches in both intestines and liver (as well as enlarged bile ducts). Investigators said preliminary evidence “strongly suggests that the sheep mortality was due to a toxin… most probably Bt-toxin.”
In a small follow-up feeding study by the Deccan Development Society, all sheep fed “Bt” cotton plants died within 30 days; those that grazed on natural cotton plants remained healthy.
In a small village in Andhra Pradesh, buffalo grazed on cotton plants for eight years without incident. On January 3, 2008, the buffalo grazed on “Bt” cotton plants for the first time. All 13 were sick the next day and all died within three days.
Most doctors are now prescribing that anyone with allergies or gastro-intestinal issues stop eating GM products all together. If everyone is now becoming so aware of the problem then why is it still a problem? Why are elected officials not doing their part to protect the people who elect them? Only one answer remains: Money.
However, I’m just a chef who wants his guests to eat the best food possible and that food is always not genetically modified.
For those who want to check out some quality films on the subject please watch Genetic Roulette, that was just released this past week. Or one of my favorites about the corruption of the food industry called Food Inc. It’s a great view about the lengths these companies will go through to hide the truth.
If you are interested in finding out more or just would like some ideas on how to proceed in eliminating GMOs from your diet please feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Also, remember to bring in a copy of one of my articles on any weeknight to Flying Fish to receive a free drink with your meal.
By Chef Tim Tibbitts
Tim Tibbitts is the chef and owner of Flying Fish Modern Seafood in Freeport Bahamas. Flying Fish is the #1 rated restaurant in the Bahamas on tripadvisor.com. You can see what Flying Fish is all about at www.flyngfishbahamas.com or www.facebook.com/flyingfishmodernseafood and follow Tim on twitter @flyingfishfreep