Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Decoding GMO's, What We Need to Know About Them and Our Food Supply

By now you have all heard the term 'GMO', or genetically modified (or engineered) organism.  I had thought "So what if my food is genetically modified.  Haven't they been doing that kind of stuff to food for awhile now and it's been ok, hasn't it?"

What has been going on for decades now is the cross breeding of the same kind of plants.  It's similar to dog breeding where you take maybe a great dane and breed it with a poodle to try and make a new breed of dog.  The motive of this whole process is to try and get specific traits from each of the animals to show up in a new breed of dog.  Plants are like that too, and that's what's been going on for decades with little to no problems resulting from that kind of interference.

GMO's are a whole new deal.  GMO is an organism that has had its genetic material altered by using genetic engineering.  Basically someone went in and changed the blue prints just a little bit.  In an effort to make crops be able to with stand practices like high levels of pesticides being sprayed on the crop without killing it, the crop is engineered by inserting a gene from a different plant, animal or insect into the DNA of a different species of plant or animal. (source)

There have been great uses for genetic engineering over the years, with what seem like good intentions behind them.  There are even many benefits to genetically modified plants that may save some crops from the harm of insects.

Corn Field - insideThe largest producer of GM foods in America is Monsanto.  In 2009 President Obama appointed Michael Taylor as Senior Advisor to the FDA.  Taylor used to be the Vice President for Monsanto.  During this time GMO's were approved, without undergoing tests to see if they are safe for human consumption.

When food goes into our bodies it doesn't just go in one end and what's left over comes out the other end.  No, in fact what enters our bodies sets off a chain of natural chemical reactions within us that break down what we have consumed, and then tries to use it for fuel and nutrients.   There in lies the problem with genetically engineered food.  What has been changed genetically causes a different reaction within our own bodies than would have occurred had the food never been altered.

As early as 2008, NaturalNews.com reported about a condition called Morgellon's disease. The article went on to report the symptoms of the disease as follows: crawling, stinging, biting and crawling sensations; threads or black speck-like materials on or beneath the skin; granules, lesions. Some patients report fatigue, short term memory loss, mental confusion, joint pain and changes in vision. Furthermore, there have been reports of substantial morbidity and social dysfunction leading to a dip in work productivity, job loss, total disability, divorce, loss of child custody and home abandonment.
 Prior to its reporting, the condition was dismissed as a hoax, but upon further investigation, the evidence pointed out that the disease was real and may be related to genetically modified food.
 Despite this link being established, the CDC declared Morgellon's disease of unknown origin. Worse, the medical community could not offer any information to the public regarding a cause for the symptoms.
 When a research study was conducted on fiber samples taken from Morgellons patients, it was discovered that the fiber samples of all the patients looked remarkable similar. And yet, it did not seem to match any common environmental fiber. When the fiber was broken down, and it's DNA extracted, it was discovered to belong to a fungus. Even more surprising was the finding that the fibers contained Agrobacterium, a genus gram-negative bacteria with the capacity of transforming plant, animal and even human cells.
 Morgellon's disease is not the only condition associated with genetically modified foods. A growing body of evidence has shown that it may cause allergies, immune reactions, liver problems, sterility and even death. Moreover, based on the only human feeding experiment conducted on genetically modified food, it was established that genetic material in genetically modified food product can transfer into the DNA of intestinal bacteria and still continue to thrive. (source- emphasis mine)

More than 30 years ago a food supplement called L-trytophan killed 100 people and affected 5,000 to 10,000 more. The cause was narrowed down to the genetic engineering process used in its production. If the symptoms had not had three simultaneous characteristics - namely, they were unique, acute and fast-acting - the disease could never have been identified. (source- emphasis mine)

Scientist have argued the safety of GMO's saying that they break down in the gut, and therefore can't cause any harm.  If it doesn't leave our guts then that means it shouldn't, and couldn't, possibly end up in our blood stream, which would then carry the abnormal gene to every part of our body.

Fresh doubts have arisen about the safety of genetically modified crops, with a new study reporting presence of Bt toxin, used widely in GM crops, in human blood for the first time.
Scientists from the University of Sherbrooke, Canada, have detected the insecticidal protein, Cry1Ab, circulating in the blood of pregnant as well as non-pregnant women. They have also detected the toxin in fetal blood, implying it could pass on to the next generation. The research paper has been peer-reviewed and accepted for publication in the journal Reproductive Toxicology.
They were all consuming typical Canadian diet that included GM foods such as soybeans, corn and potatoes. Blood samples were taken before delivery for pregnant women and at tubal ligation for non-pregnant women. Umbilical cord blood sampling was done after birth.
Cry1Ab toxin was detected in 93 per cent and 80 per cent of maternal and fetal blood samples, respectively and in 69 per cent of tested blood samples from non-pregnant women. Article from May 2011      (source emphasis mine)

The study concludes that toxins from GMO's were found in the blood, and therefore do in fact cross over into our blood stream, and even into unborn babies.

 In a new study, Chen-Yu Zhang's group at Nanjing University present a rather striking finding: that plant miRNAs could make into the host blood and tissues via the route of food intake. Moreover, once inside the host, they can elicit functions by regulating host "target" genes and thus regulate host physiology. (source emphasis mine)
As the research has shown this altered DNA in the form of miRNA enters the blood stream of those who consume them, and then binds to the host RNA to change the way this RNA works. The way that I see it genetically modified crops CAN genetically modify those who consume them! (source)
If this is all sounding too science fiction for you National Geographic may help.  I recently read an article in their January 2012 magazine discussing how environmental factors, such as what we eat and stress, can actually active or suppress switches, called epigenetic tags,  in our DNA.  They do not change DNA but allow parts of it to either reveal itself or be suppressed.

Why does this matter when we are talking about GMO's?  Because all of the above evidence shows that what we eat we are passing on genetically, and physically through the womb, to the next generation of kids.

Here are the top 10 genetically modified foods:

Yellow and Brown1. Corn - Corn has been modified to create its own insecticide. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has declared that tons of genetically modified corn has been introduced for human consumption. Monsanto has revealed that half of the US's sweet corn farms are planted with genetically modified seed. Mice fed with GM corn were discovered to have smaller offspring and fertility problems.

2. Soy - Soy has also been genetically modified to resist herbicides. Soy products include soy flour, tofu, soy beverages, soybean oil and other products that may include pastries, baked products and edible oil. Hamsters fed with GM soy were unable to have offspring and suffered a high mortality rate.

3. Cotton - Like corn and soy, cotton has been designed to resist pesticides. It is considered food because its oil can be consumed. Its introduction in Chinese agriculture has produced a chemical that kills cotton bollworm, reducing the incidences of pests not only in cotton crops but also in neighboring fields of soybeans and corn. Incidentally, thousands of Indian farmers suffered severe rashes upon exposure to BT cotton.

4. Papaya - The virus-resistant variety of papaya was commercially introduced in Hawaii in 1999. Transgenic papayas comprised three-fourths of the total Hawaiian papaya crop. Monsanto bestowed upon Tamil Nadu Agricultural University in Coimbatore technology for developing papaya resistant to the ringspot virus in India.

5. Rice - This staple food from South East Asia has now been genetically modified to contain a high amount of vitamin A. Allegedly, there are reports of rice varieties containing human genes to be grown in the US. The rice will create human proteins useful for dealing with infant diarrhea in the 3rd world. China Daily, an online journal, reported potential serious public health and environment problems with genetically modified rice considering its tendency to cause allergic reactions with the concurrent possibility of gene transfers.

Tomato 16. Tomatoes - Tomatoes have now been genetically engineered for longer shelf life, preventing them from easily rotting and degrading. In a test conducted to determine the safety of GM tomatoes, some animal subjects died within a few weeks after consuming GM tomatoes.

7. Rapeseed - In Canada, this crop was renamed canola to differentiate it from non-edible rapeseed. Food stuff produced from rapeseed includes rapeseed oi (canola oil) l used to process cooking oil and margarine. Honey can also be produced from GM rapeseed. German food surveillance authorities discovered as much as a third of the total pollen present in Canadian honey may be from GM pollen. In fact, some honey products from Canada were also discovered to have pollen from GM rapeseed.

8. Dairy products - It has been discovered that 22 percent of cows in the U.S. were injected with recombinant (genetically modified) bovine growth hormone (rbGH). This Monsanto created hormone artificially forces cows to increase their milk production by 15 percent. Milk from cows treated with this milk inducing hormone contains increased levels of IGF-1 (insulin growth factors-1). Humans also have IGF-1 in their system. Scientists have expressed concerns that increased levels of IGF-1 in humans have been associated with colon and breast cancer.

9. Potatoes - Mice fed with potatoes engineered with Bacillus thuringiensis var. Kurstaki Cry 1 were found to have toxins in their system. Despite claims to the contrary, this shows that Cry1 toxin was stable in the mouse gut. When the health risks were revealed, it sparked a debate.

Snow peas - Isolated10. Peas - Peas that have been genetically modified have been found to cause immune responses in mice and possibly even in humans. A gene from kidney beans was inserted into the peas creating a protein that functions as a pesticide.
(Article from May 2012, source- Natural News)

If you aren't having an allergic reaction or health problem related to GMO's that doesn't mean you are in the clear.  As the information shows there is a strong likely hood that we are passing along these genetic mutations to the next generation.  And in turn leaving them with greater health concerns because of what they have been given.

Organic Plum
There are very easy ways to avoid GMO's.  When you buy "Certified Organic" or "USDA Organic" that comes with the guarantee that that product shouldn't have anything genetically modified in it.  Processed foods, which contain lots of ingredients, are a place to look out for.

Fun Fact- That tiny little sticker they put on fruits and vegetables at the store actually has a number system on the sticker.  If the number is 5 digits long and starts with 9-XXXX, then the item is Organic.  If the number is 5 digits long and starts with an 8-XXXX, then the item has been genetically modified.  If the number is 4 digits long XXXX, then it has been conventionally grown and contains pesticides.

If your curious about genetically modified things having an impact on our environment...check out this story from Texas about GMO grass spontaneously emitting poisonous cyanide gas and killing cows, click here.
Shopping Guide
From Dr. Mercola.com

It's all a little bit scary to think about, however once you know how to avoid them it becomes a lot easier to just purchase one product over another at the grocery store.   Health food stores and Trader Joe's are a great place to start, but even regular grocery stores can offer a lot.

Check out this Non-GMO Shopping Guide that is also an app you can download, or this one by Dr. Mercola, to help with your shopping experience.  Once you start it becomes easier from there!

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