Just When I Thought It Was Safe to Eat Out and Shop Food Again  (without reading labels)!

In the nearly 35 year old movie “JAWS” (still one of the most popular films ever) nearly everyone in Amity Island thinks it’s safe to go in the water again after an innocent tiger shark is killed. Wrong! That one wasn’t the villain. Like the people of Amity Island, I was beginning to feel pretty confident. My confidence was returning about the safety of our food from stores and restaurants. After all, didn’t we wholesome food advocates win the battle against manmade hydrogenated fats in baked goods, snacks, and in nearly everything else some years ago? Or at least the major battles seem won, if not the entire war just yet. And finally many people, if not most, are beginning to recognize the real or potential harm in high fructose corn syrup used nearly recklessly (IMHO) in so many prepared food products. Even some manufacturers have started to advertise that they don’t use high fructose corn syrup. Amazing what a little pressure can do, isn’t it?   I have also noticed that aluminum compounds seem to be used much less in foods (the aluminum was primarily found in some baking powers).

So, “all good, so far”, I thought. I felt this way for a while until I read a sentence similar to this: Eighty-nine percent of the soybeans grown in the United States are genetically modified by adding (inserting) a gene from bacteria to make them (the soybeans) resistant to ROUNDUP and other similar herbicides! I added the exclamation point. I think you can see why I added it. This is scary stuff in my opinion. I don’t know about you but I don’t want genes from bacteria in foods I eat. Talk about “Franken foods.”  I can see the movie title now “The Monster Soybean That Ate Chicago.” Sorry for the lame attempt at humor. This is not a laughing matter. Over sixty percent of the field corn raised in the U.S. is now also genetically modified to resist herbicides and also (recently) pesticides by adding other genes or proteins to modify the corn plants reaction to the chemicals. Understand that the natural corn and soybean plants would have been killed or greatly weakened by being sprayed with herbicide/pesticide. Now the grower of these modified crops can “spray away” freely, only killing the weeds or bugs. The advantage to the grower is less crop loss from weed crowding and/or insect damage, thus allowing potentially higher crop yields. I say potentially because there are serious questions raised recently whether the crop yields are really significantly higher that they were before genetic modification. 

Franken Food?

Unfortunately, our food watchdog agency (the FDA) does not specifically test and approve the safety of each GMO food but instead reviews the food safety data obtained and then submitted to FDA by the developers of engineered foods, such as Monsanto. The FDA scientists review the data from the developers of the GMO food and if they deem the test method and data appropriate then the agency acknowledges that the developer of the product has asserted that it is safe. At this point there has been no long term testing of new GMO products by an independent and qualified research group with no ownership ties to the developer! The FDA for years has been concerned mainly with pharmaceuticals, cosmetics and food products and additives, not whole foods. A genetically-modified ear of corn, if sold at a produce stand or grocery store is not regulated by the FDA. This is because under current regulations (or lack of such), the corn is considered a whole food. A box of cornflakes, however, is regulated because it is a food product. The stance of the FDA is that GM foods are substantially equivalent to natural, unmodified foods, and therefore are not subject to FDA regulation (or labeling).

Many scientists think that GMO foods are safe. They point out that genetically engineered foods have been existent, and in common use, for over 12 years and no proven ill health effects have been observed in consumers.  A somewhat smaller group of scientists feel that there have been ill effects demonstrated in lab animals (especially over several generations). These concerned scientists also point out that there are incidents in several foreign countries of humans falling ill after being exposed to pollen from engineered plants or after eating GMO foods or meat from animals that were fed GMO. Several experiments have shown that the ooffspring of rats fed GM soy show a five-fold increase in mortality, lower birth weights, and the inability to reproduce.  Those in favor of engineered plants (and animals) say that these reported ill effects are not scientific proof of any harm. Do we really know? I would think the safe way would be to more completely test any existing or proposed GMO product for long term harmful effects. One potential danger of GMO plants is that they may spread their genetic strangeness to other plants in the area when in pollination phase. Remember, you can’t “recall” genes from the environment after they have spread into the genetic structure of other (non-GMO) plants or animals!

A problem with GMO plants, not related to our health, is an economic issue. The modified seed costs more in most cases than the natural seed. More serious is the fact that the GMO seed is patented. The farmer (grower) is not allowed to save some of the crop seed for planting next year. In some cases the seed produced by the GMO plant (second generation) will not even grow as it is “engineered” to be sterile. This is a serious issue as farmers in poor countries (and poor farmers in our country) have depended on saving some seed from each year’s crop to plant the following year. This is no longer legal to do or it is even impossible to do with GMO crops!

Think you can avoid modified corn and soybeans? Just start reading labels on prepared foods and I believe you will change your mind. You will be greatly challenged to find even two food products in the grocery store that don’t have either corn or soybean, or one of their products like corn oil,  soybean oil, soybean meal, corn syrup, or corn starch in them.  Oh, by the way, most cottonseed and canola oil also now come from genetically modified plants! It looks to me like we are all unwilling subjects in a gigantic scientific experiment. Today rice, peppers, squash, sugar beets, and even a fish (salmon) are proposed GMO products under development, not yet “approved.” I read recently that The Grocery Manufacturers of America estimate that 75% of all processed foods in the U.S. contain a GM ingredient. I believe this statement was made prior to 2006 so the percentage of GMO is likely higher today. To avoid GMO foods it looks like we have to ask that all prepared foods with GMO ingredients be labeled. In the meantime I am going to avoid prepared foods as much as possible. Homemade usually tastes better anyway. :o)

Note: I feel sorry for the family farmers in America. In most all cases they did not ask for these GMO plants but were practically forced into using them by being told by the GMO seed producers and by our US Department of Agriculture of the wonders of these products and how they must use them or fall behind in crop yield. So please don’t blame the farmer for a major role in this sorry situation.

This is an original article written and researched by me (G. Phillip Smith). For more information you may look at some of my source material including Wikipedia (GMO foods), United States FDA (center for food safety and applied nutrition), responsible technology (dot org), organic- center (dot org), Dr. Mercola blog (GMO).

Please take a look at my health related website: www.GettingHealthy-Naturally.com Thank you!

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