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chapter 5

Genetically-Modified Foods A Threat to our Health, Our Food Supply, and the Environment “It is estimated that about 75 percent of processed foods sold in the U.S. contain at least some genetically modified food ingredients. Unlike many other countries, there is no law in the U.S. requiring the labeling of foods that contain GM ingredients.” — Health Freedom Alliance

Most developed nations do not consider Genetically-modified (GM) crops to be safe—in many countries around the world, including Australia, Japan, and the European Union, there are restrictions or bans on the production and sale of genetically-modified organisms (GMOs). India recently became the 50th nation in the world to require labels on GM foods. But in the U.S., the government has bowed to pressure from the biotech industry and so far has refused to legislate restricting or labelling GM products, and has approved GMOs based on studies conducted by the same corporations that created them.  A growing amount of evidence is connecting GM food crops with health problems and environmental damage. Other issues that have created a huge controversy all over the world include the violation of farmers’ and consumers’ rights, the effect on GM crops on natural ecosystems, gene flow into non GM crops, and corporate control of the food supply.   The American Academy of Environmental Medicine (AAEM) has stated that several animal studies indicate there are serious health risks associated with ingesting GM food, including infertility, immune problems, accelerated aging, insulin regulation, and changes in major organs and the gastrointestinal system. The AAEM has called on physicians to educate their patients, the medical community, and the public to avoid GM foods when possible and provide educational materials concerning GM foods and health risks. They have called for a moratorium on GM foods, and have requested that long-term independent studies be started. They also suggest labeling for GM foods. They conclude, “There is more than a casual association between GM foods and adverse health effects. There is causation as defined by recognized scientific criteria. The strength of association and consistency between GM foods and disease is confirmed in several animal studies.”   Many pressure groups opposed to GM crops argue that governments should use independent studies rather than industry studies to assess crop safety, and have called for the EPA to require that independent researchers have free access to GM products for testing. But the truth about the effect of GM food crops on humans and the ecosystem is hard if not impossible to scientifically assess due to restrictive end-user agreements, so researchers are forbidden by law from publishing independent research in peer-reviewed journals without the approval of the agritech companies. Cornell University’s Elson Shields, the spokesperson for a group of scientists who oppose this practice, submitted a statement to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) arguing that “as a result of restrictive access, no truly independent research can be legally conducted on many critical questions regarding [GM] technology.” And the magazine Scientific American reported that several studies were blocked from being published when scientists found results that were “unflattering” to the industry, even though they were initially approved by agritech companies.   Meanwhile, grass-roots movements such as Food and Water Watch, the Organic Consumers Association, and Millions Against Monsanto are fighting corporate interests in the attempt to control the spread of GM crops and to legislate labeling of GM foods. We have a right to know what we are eating and what we are feeding to our children, and how these foods will affect us in the long-term.

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Despite Promises, No Benefits Seen from GM Foods Despite all the assurances, none of the GM products currently on the market seem to offer the benefits initially promised by the biotech industry, such as increased yield, drought tolerance, or enhanced nutrition. In fact, GM crops have been found to be more susceptible to disease than normal plants, and some crops have been shown to need twice as much water as non-GM crops.   GM crops are not more productive, according to data collected by the Union of Concerned Scientists in a report called “Failure to Yield.” Corn, soy, cotton, canola, alfalfa, and sugar beets have all been modified with engineered DNA that either resist an herbicide or produce an insecticide. But insects and weeds quickly take up the altered DNA from the GM crops through the soil and develop herbicide and pesticide resistance themselves. These superweeds and Bt-resistant insects (Bt is a toxin made by the bacteria Bacillus thuringiensis) have become a chronic problem for farmers who grow GM crops. Over the past 16 years, it’s estimated that more than a quarter of a million Indian farmers have committed suicide after being convinced to plant Monsanto’s GM seeds, especially Bt cotton, then having their crops fail, leaving them in financial ruin.   Widespread adoption of GM crops would not help feed the world as their promoters claim, according to ActionAid. In fact, they believe that the dangers from GM crops will actually worsen the plight of the 800 million hungry people in the world, and that there should be a moratorium until more research is done. Only one percent of GM research is aimed at crops used by poor farmers in poor countries: “It is not the interests of poor farmers but the profits of the agrochemical industry that have been the driving force behind the emergence of GM agriculture. Four multinationals—Monsanto, Syngenta, Bayer CropScience, and Dupont— now control most of the GM seed market. About 91 percent of all GM crops grown in the world are from Monsanto seeds.”

Monsanto’s Herbicide Roundup and the Environmental Problems it Causes Monsanto’s Roundup Ready GM crops are engineered to be able to withstand heavy applications of Roundup, a broad-spectrum herbicide whose active ingredient is the isopropylamine salt of glyphosate. One of the results of heavy use of Roundup is that glyphosate resistance in weeds is on the rise. These super-hardy weeds are nearly impossible to get rid of—it is estimated that more than 130 types of weeds in 40 states in the U.S. are now herbicide-resistant, and farmers are applying ever increasing amounts of toxic herbicides to their crops in the attempt to control them.   Monsanto’s scientists apparently did not believe that weeds 29

could become resistant to glyphosate. When requesting government approval for the herbicide in 1993, Monsanto claimed that “glyphosate is considered to be an herbicide with low risk for weed resistance,” and support for this viewpoint was given by several university scientists who agreed that “it is highly unlikely that weed resistance to glyphosate will become a problem.”  In 2009, a French court found Monsanto guilty of falsely advertising its herbicide as “biodegradable,” “environmentally friendly” and claiming it “left the soil clean.” Even Monsanto’s own tests showed that only two percent of the herbicide broke down after 28 days. Glyphosate has been found in the air and in rain samples that were collected in Mississippi and Iowa, according to a study published in the journal Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry in March 2011. Glyphosate was detected in 60 to 100 percent of all air and rain samples, which is further evidence that Roundup does not readily break down in the environment.   “The truth is, GM crops are designed to do nothing more than sell herbicides,” explains Alexis Baden-Mayer, political director of the Organic Consumers Association. “That they’ve done successfully; Monsanto’s RoundUp Ready GM crops have made Monsanto’s RoundUp the number one herbicide.”

Roundup Affects Fertility in Humans There is considerable evidence that glyphosate is dangerous to humans, affecting the endocrine and reproductive systems and altering fertility by throwing off the delicate hormonal balance that governs the reproductive cycle. It has been shown to interfere with aromatase, which produces estrogen, and is highly toxic to the placenta in pregnant women. In a 2009 French study, scientists discovered that glyphosate can kill the cells in the outer layer of the human placenta which in turn can kill the placenta. Only 1/500th of the amount needed to kill weeds was able to kill these cells, an amount so small, according to the study’s authors, that the “residual levels to be expected, especially in food and feed derived from Roundup formulationtreated crops, could be enough to cause cell damage and even [cell] death.” Glyphosate has also been shown to inhibit other plant enzymes, and to affect animal enzymes. In April 2010, researchers at Russia’s Institute of Ecology and Evolution of the Russian Academy of Sciences and the National Association for Gene Security found that after feeding hamsters GM soy for two years over three generations, most lost the ability to produce young by the third generation.  A group of international scientists has released a report detailing health and environmental hazards from the cultivation of GM Roundup-ready soy and the use of glyphosate. The report, “GM Soy: Sustainable? Responsible?,” highlights new research by Argentine government scientist Professor Andrés


Carrasco who found that glyphosate causes malformations in frog and chicken embryos at doses far lower than those used in agricultural spraying. “The findings in the lab are compatible with malformations observed in humans exposed to glyphosate during pregnancy,” said Carrasco. The report is released with testimonies of Argentine villagers whose lives have been radically disrupted by the cultivation of GM soy. In Argentina and Paraguay, doctors and residents living in GM soy producing areas have reported serious health effects from glyphosate spraying, and studies confirm links between exposure to glyphosate and premature births, miscarriages, cancer, and damage to DNA and reproductive organ cells. Carrasco said people living in soyproducing areas of Argentina began reporting problems in 2002, two years after the first big harvests of GM Roundup-ready soy. He said, “I suspect the toxicity classification of glyphosate is too low . . . in some cases this can be a powerful poison.”

Children are Most Vulnerable to GM Foods “Swapping genes between organisms can produce unknown toxic effects and allergies that are most likely to affect children.” —Dr. Vyvyan Howard, President of the International Society of Doctors for the Environment

GM organisms are now found in more than 75 percent of processed foods on sale in the U.S. A report released in October 2012 by the Environmental Working Group showed that Americans are eating their weight and more in genetically engineered food every year—an average of 193 pounds of GM foods annually. It is estimated that a child in the U.S. who eats processed foods on a regular basis consumes at least 10 percent GM ingredients, though the actual percentage may be far higher than that.   “What’s shocking is that Americans are eating so much genetically engineered food, yet there have been zero long-term studies done by the federal government or industry to determine if its consumption could pose a risk health,” said Renee Sharp, lead author of the report and the director of Environmental Working Group’s California office. “If you were planning on eating your body weight of anything in a year or feeding that much food to your family, wouldn’t you first want to know if long-term government studies and monitoring have shown it is safe?”   Glyphosate has been shown to build up in the body so its toxic effects are accumulative. This may become a serious concern for the next generation as most young children growing up today are eating a large amount of processed foods containing GM ingredients whether their parents are aware of it or not.

“There is no need for, or value in testing the safety of GM foods in humans.” —from the website of Monsanto Inc.

The GM Foods in our Food Supply and Supermarkets are Unlabeled How do we know which foods contain GMOs? Unfortunately, we don’t. The United States is one of the few countries in the developed world that doesn’t require labeling of GM food, even though polls consistently show that a significant majority of Americans want to know if their food contains GMOs—a recent poll released by ABC News found that 93 percent of the American public wants the federal government to require mandatory labeling of genetically engineered foods. ABC News stated, “Such near-unanimity in public opinion is rare.”  Although 50 countries around the world require labelling of GM foods, Monsanto continues to fight it. With an annual income of over $11 billion, the company has the money and power to push its agenda of controlling seed and food production around the world by influencing politicians and legislators. A ballot initiative was held in November of 2012 in California, the eight largest economy in the world, to mandate labeling of GM foods and food ingredients, but Monsanto and other food and pesticide producers including PepsiCo, Coca-Cola, Kellogg, General Mills, DuPont, and Bayer spent a sum believed to be in excess of $45 million to defeat the initiative. Vermont legislators, despite overwhelming public support, dragged their feet on a proposed GMO labeling bill because Monsanto threatened to sue the state if the bill passed.  According to OpenSecrets.org, “Monsanto basically lives at the doorsteps of legislators in Washington” where it spent $5.3 million in 2011 lobbying the nation’s lawmakers. The power of Monsanto can be seen through its influence in Washington, including making contributions to Rep. Frank D. Lucas, chairman of the House Agriculture Committee, through which every farm-related piece of legislation must pass.  But this begs the question, if GM foods are not dangerous to our health, why is Monsanto so resistant to labeling them? Other more enlightened and ethical food companies, however, are volunteering to label their food as safe to eat, such as Green Mountain Gringo whose Tortilla Strips are made from GMO-free corn, which is clearly marked on the packet and on their website.  In the meantime, until our politicians come to their senses, the simplest way to avoid GM foods is to buy organic foods. By definition, growers of foods that are certified organic must never intentionally use GM ingredients, and the food must be produced without artificial pesticides and fertilizers and from animals reared without the routine use of antibiotics, growth promoters, or other drugs. Additionally, grass-fed beef will not have been fed GM corn feed.

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Chapter 6

Nutritional Equivalents of Naturally-Produced Foods Compared to Processed Foods As processed foods have become more and more a major part of the American diet, our health has progressively deteriorated, so it makes absolute sense to eat the most nutritionally-dense foods we can get. People complain that organic food is expensive, but in fact, the actual cost of eating cheap food is enormous, it’s just that people rarely think about it. When you add in the cost of medical treatment, cheap food is no longer cheap.  The SAD diet is heavy in carbohydrate foods, which is a poor source of nutrition, and the truth is, the poorer the food in our diets, the more of it we will need to eat to reach our nutritional needs. This leads to overeating and weight gain, because if the body is fed inferior food it will keep on eating, trying to derive some nutritional value from the food being consumed. In this way, we consume excess calories, not to mention undesirable food additives, in this attempt to reach our body’s nutritional goals, which leads to overeating, weight gain, and ill health.  There is no greater investment you can make in yourself and your family than eating the best food available. If you do, you will be in perfect health. This is the natural state for the body—we are born in perfect health, and if we feed our body the right foods, we will stay that way. We are not designed nor destined to get sick. Our body has extraordinary healing capacities, and when we feed it nutritious food, we are giving it the tools it needs to stay healthy.  One of the biggest advantages of being in optimal health is not having to worry about getting sick. Imagine not having to worry about whether we’ll get cancer or heart disease, not having to take time off work for expensive and uncomfortable medical tests, and not being depressed about being overweight and out of shape. And most importantly, knowing we can look forward to many vibrant years as a senior citizen, allowing us to say NO to long-term care insurance, because we KNOW we will remain healthy in our later years.

Why Our Bodies Need Nutritious Food The function of food is not to satisfy any deep psychological needs we might have, or titillate our taste buds, or relieve us from boredom. We need food because it is fuel for the body and provides the building blocks that the body needs in order to create new cells and tissues and repair itself.  Food cravings are often caused by imbalances in our nutritional intake. The body is an intelligent multi-celled organism that knows what it needs to be healthy, and if properly nourished, it will not generate food cravings. Most diet advice focuses on calories, but nutrition is not just about calories, which is simply a measurement of the energy a food produces when it is burned in the body. Yes, the body needs energy foods, but not getting enough energy foods is the least of our concerns as they are overabundant in the average diet. Most importantly we need building foods, elements in our 31

diet that provide our body with the raw materials necessary to build and repair itself, such as high-quality proteins and fats. If it were all about the energy, we could eat two pounds of sugar a day and we’d be off and running like the Energizer Bunny. But we all know that’s not the case.  On his website, nutritional expert Dr. Joseph Mercola writes, “What most people don’t know is that you don’t actually need carbohydrates—they are not essential for survival and the RDA for carbs is actually zero. If you ate no carbohydrates, like many traditional Eskimos do, you would survive as long as you had enough high-quality protein, fat, water and minerals.”   Many of the ingredients added to our foods, as well as some of the ways our food is produced and grown, actually count as “anti-nutrition.” For instance, sugar added to a


food reduces its nutritional value dramatically—one cup of unsweetened applesauce calibrates at an optimum level of nutrition, while that same cup of applesauce sweetened with one teaspoon of sugar calibrates at the level close to poison. Due to “negative nutrition,” you would have to eat four cups of sweetened apple sauce to gain the nutritional equivalent of one cup of unsweetened apple sauce, and you’d be consuming four teaspoons of unnecessary refined sugar.  A list of more comparisons between natural foods and

processed foods is shown in the table on the opposite page. Remember that a healthy food consists of a combination of ALL the nutrients that are present in its original, natural state—including, but not limited to, vitamins, minerals, enzymes, antioxidants, phytonutrients, and energy from the sun, or life force energy. Processed foods, deprived of some or all of these components, are deficient foods and are the main reason why the average American is now overweight and undernourished.

Comparison of Organic vs. Supermarket Foods True Nutritional Equivalents and Costs of a Sample Breakfast, Taking into Account Negative Nutrition As we can see from these equivalents, we have to eat a much larger amount of processed foods compared to whole organic foods to reach our body’s nutritional requirements. And the unhealthy food in this example would actually cost four times more than buying the equivalent nutritional value of a healthy breakfast of organic food.

All Organic/Naturally-Raised

1 organic orange $1.50 2 oz. Applegate Farm organic bacon 1.75 2 organic eggs 1.00 1 slice organic whole wheat bread .55 2 oz. organic oatmeal, milk & honey .60 TOTAL COST

Generic supermarket food: COST

COST

$5.40

= = = = =

32 oz. Tropicana orange juice $2.20 1 lb. Oscar Meyer bacon 6.99 6 supermarket eggs 1.00 1 loaf Pepperidge Farm Soft Wheat Bread 3.99 2 lbs. Cheerios (average price $3.79/18 oz.) 7.00 TOTAL COST

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$21.18


Nutritional Equivalent of Certain Foods Comparison of Functional Nutritional Values Organic/Naturally-Raised Food

Standard Supermarket Food

4 oz. grass-raised beef

equals

1 lb. corn-fed beef

4 oz. naturally-raised chicken

equals

10 oz. Purdue chicken or 16 oz. White Gem chicken

2 oz. naturally-raised bacon

equals

1 lb. Oscar Meyer bacon

1 egg from free-range chickens

equals

4 eggs from battery-raised chickens

4 oz. organic raw milk

equals

20 oz. of Hood low-fat milk, pasteurized and homogenized

4 oz. baked organic potato

equals

5 lbs. Cape Cod russet potato chips

4 oz. fresh organic corn kernels

equals

4 lbs. Lays corn chips

4 oz. fresh organic corn kernels

equals

21 / 2 lbs. Kellogg’s corn flakes

2 oz. organic milled oats

equals

2 lbs. of Cheerios

1 slice of organic whole wheat bread

equals

2 loaves of Wonder Bread

1 slice of organic whole wheat bread

equals

1 loaf of Pepperidge Farm whole wheat bread

1 oz. Kerry Gold Irish Butter

equals

8 oz. Land O’Lakes butter or 2 oz. Horizon organic butter

1 oz. organic cream cheese

equals

6 oz. of Philadelphia cream cheese

1 medium-sized organic orange

equals

4 eight-ounce glasses of Tropicana orange juice

1 medium-sized organic apple

equals

2 eight-ounce glasses of Mott’s apple juice

1 large organic apple

equals

3 whole Mrs. Smith’s apple pies

1 medium-sized tomato

equals

20 oz. bottle of Heinz tomato ketchup

1 oz. organic mayonnaise (olive oil)

equals

20 oz. Hellman’s Mayonnaise (soy-bean oil)

1 oz. extra-virgin olive oil

equals

16 oz. refined canola, soy bean or sunflower seed oil

1 oz. extra-virgin olive oil

equals

20 oz. refined corn oil

1 oz. of raw walnuts

equals

6 oz. of candied walnuts

1 oz. of raw organic peanuts

equals

12 oz. of Beer Nuts

1 oz. of raw organic peanuts

equals

4 lbs. of chocolate-covered peanut M&Ms

1 oz. of raw organic peanuts

equals

12 oz. jar of Skippy peanut butter

1 oz. of raw organic peanuts

equals

16.3 oz. jar of Skippy Roasted Honey Nut Super Chunk

1 oz. of unsweetened raw chocolate

equals

12 oz. of Hershey’s milk chocolate

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Genetically Modified Foods, Chapter 5