As a mother, my first and foremost concern is the well being of my family. Many things can threaten the safety of my family, especially our children, who are more vulnerable due to the underdevelopment of their bodies. One of those things is Genetically Modified Organisms, or GMOs which have been in our food supply for twenty years, unlabeled.
The safety of GMOs has been highly contested. While proponents of GMOs say that they are safe, recent studies show that they have inherent risks. They say that GMOs happen in nature all the time — like a hybrid. However, GMOs are created only in a lab with a gene gun and by a process that scientists have patented to protect their technology.
GMOs are not hybrids and cannot occur naturally in nature. Genetic engineering, for example, the altering of DNA with foreign species, or editing out DNA to remove a trait from a species permanently, or altering DNA or RNAi for a desired trait, does not happen naturally. It is not found in nature in any shape or form.
The scientists and media that say GMOs are natural are misleading the public. Many of these scientists are not impartial, but are instead supported by advertising dollars or grants to universities from the GMO/chemical manufacturers and have incentives to make these claims.
Regardless of their reasoning, they are certainly ignoring the “precautionary principle” — the principle that the introduction of a new product or process whose ultimate effects are disputed or unknown should be resisted. Any scientist worth his or her salt will admit that many aspects of GMOs are still unknown.
Here’s what we do know — there are three general types of GMOs:
1. Bt Toxins
In a Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) GMO corn, for instance, the Bt toxin from the carcass of a dead grain caterpillar is genetically engineered to continuously reproduce itself and create Bt toxin. It does not dry up and die off as it does naturally in organic farming practices.
The GMO Bt toxin becomes a toxin factory. It is then put into the transfer “vehicle,” so to speak, of the cauliflower mosaic virus or other bacteria and injected into the DNA of the corn so that every single cell of the plant becomes infected with this virus or bacteria with the Bt toxin factory inside.
When the corn rootworm eats any part of the corn plant, the Bt toxin creates a toxin factory in the rootworm’s stomach. The toxins cause holes in the worm’s stomach that break open, the toxin leaks into the worm’s body, and the rootworm dies. Bt GMO corn is a registered pesticide with the EPA. Most people would agree that a toxin that explodes the stomach of a bug is not a toxin that they would care to be eating in their corn chips, cereal, or tacos.
2. Herbicide Tolerant GMOs
Herbicide tolerant (HT) GMOs — typically corn, soy, sugar beets, canola, and cottonseed — are genetically engineered to resist herbicides, so farmers can drive a spraying tractor or aerial spray an entire field and kill only the weeds. Over 80 percent of the herbicide tolerant GMO crops have been engineered to withstand glyphosate herbicides.
Glyphosate, originally used as a pipe cleaner, is the declared active chemical ingredient in Roundup. Hundreds of millions of pounds of glyphosate herbicides are used in the USA every year. Although proponents claim that GMOs are not significantly different from non-GMOs, new scientific studies show otherwise.
There is more than one problem with GMO technology and glyphosate-tolerance traits:
- Glyphosate herbicides do not dry off, wash off, or cook off. They are absorbed into the cells of the plant. When we consume the toxic chemicals, they do impact our health.
- Glyphosate functions as a chelator, meaning it holds or makes unavailable the vital nutrients of any living thing it touches. Reducing the nutrient content in our food supply is counter to good health and leads to mineral and vitamin deficiencies, which can cause illness and cancer.
- The manufacturer Monsanto first claimed that glyphosate-based herbicides only affect the shikimate pathway (a metabolic route used to produce essential folates and amino acids, which play a central role both as building blocks of proteins and with metabolism) in plants, which is not found in humans. Recently scientists have discovered that glyphosate herbicides do affect the shikimate pathway found in our gut bacteria, which is where our immune system lies.
3. What I am Calling DT or Desired Trait GMOs
The third kind of GMO is engineered to have a desired trait, like greener lettuce or a redder tomato. GMO proponents call them GMO 2.0 — but I dislike the insinuation that they are somehow “better or improved” so I simply call them “Desired Trait” or DT GMOs. They do not include pesticide or herbicide tolerance, so they seem less harmful, but there are unknown risks to genetically modifying genes for any reason.
It is unknown if they are on the market currently because they are unlabeled. (GMOs are not required to be labeled in the USA.) We do know that the Simplot potatoes, the Arctic (non-browning) apple, the pink pineapple, Hawaiian papaya, and some varieties of zucchini and yellow crookneck squash are all examples of Desired Trait GMOs currently on the US market.
It should be noted that after twenty years of claiming GMOs are beneficial, there is not one GMO on the market that has provided any improved nutritional benefit to humans.
RNAi GMOs could be extremely dangerous because we, as parents or consumers, would have no idea if these promoters are waking up genes of rare diseases or if the silencers are silencing genes in our children or our own bodies. We would never have any way of knowing or proving if our child’s rare disease or health issue was connected to GMOs. This unknown is unacceptable.
There are new genetic engineering technologies that are constantly being developed. The problem is that, as it currently stands, they will not be considered GMO and therefore not labeled — not even with a Quick Response (QR) code or symbol as the recently passed GMO labeling “law” requires.
(Law is put in quotes because it is the opinion of the author that a law that does not require mandatory labeling, with wording on the package, is not a law. It is a farce.)
There are several types of nanotechnology. One concerning nano application in the food sector is nano-clay plastic polymers used as a coating to keep pesticide gasses from mixing with our food.
The Food Packaging Forum Foundation admits that “the migration potential of engineered nanomaterials (NMs) from food contact materials into food cannot be easily predicted. Even within one batch of nanoparticles, size may differ significantly, and the primary components of the nanoparticles may still remain in the mixture as impurities.”
However, buying whole, organic, seasonal food from your farmer’s market, Community Supported Agriculture (CSA), or co-op eliminates the need for or use of nanomaterials to protect from pesticide gassing and antimicrobials, and in addition you reduce plastic packaging in landfills.
Synthetic biology treats genes like computer code, remixing DNA sequences to create foods (and medicines, biofuels, and lots of other things) that do not occur in nature. Scientists are literally printing DNA and then placing that DNA in GMO yeast to create SynBio vanillin.
CRISPR/Cas9 genetic modification allows the permanent modification of genes within organisms. In other words, this type of genetic engineering can eliminate a genetic trait in an entire species forever — even in humans.
One might well ask: Who decides who gets to play God? Who decides what traits are or are not desirable? What are the ramifications of these decisions?
Dr. Vandana Shiva, world-renowned eco-activist, founder of Navdanya, and author of numerous books on ecology, recently discussed a study published in the journal Nature Methods May 30, 2017 issue showing that one gene edit resulted in over sixteen hundred mutations per mouse. Clearly, the ramifications are uncontrollable. She says, “GMOs are not an invention to be patented, they are a pollution of life.” I agree.