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Health and Harmony | Genetically Modified Foods

December 12, 2011

Do you know what you are eating? Are you aware that recent estimates show upwards of 70% of processed foods on supermarket shelves, from soda to soup, crackers to condiments, contain genetically engineered ingredients. (The Center for Food Safety).

88% of corn, 91% of soybeans and 88% of cotton are genetically modified.  These are the base ingredients in many of our foods and are those that are fed to animals such as cows from which we get our milk and other diary products in addition to consuming the meat as foods.

So, what are genetically modified organisms (GMO)? 

According to the World Health Organization, “GMO’s are organisms in which the genetic material (DNA) has been altered in a way that does not occur naturally.  The technology is often called “modern biotechnology”, “gene technology”,”recombinant DNA technology” or “genetic engineering”.  It allows selected individual genes to be transferred from one organism into another, also between non-related species. Such methods are used to create GM plants-which are then used to grow GM food crops”.

So, why should you care?

This technology has fundamentally altered some of our most important staple food crops. Taking genetic material from one organism and inserting it into the permanent genetic code of another has enabled biotechnologists to create “marvels” such as “super” pigs with human growth genes, fish with cattle growth genes, tomoatoes with flounder genes and thousands of other genetic variations of palnts, animals and insects. 

Sounds like fun and super science? NOT! A plethora of studies from independent researchers have demonstrated serious health risks to humans, and damage to our ecosystem and environment from genetically engineered foods.

While we are far from understanding the cumulative effects on our long term health, renowned biologist Pushpa M. Bhargava believes that GMO’s are a MAJOR contributor to the deteriorating health in America. 

The American Academy of Environmental Medicine (AAEM) has called on all physicians to prescribe diets WITHOUT GM foods to ALL patients. They called for a moratorium on GMO’s, long-term independent studies, and labeling. They stated, “Several animal studies indicate serious health risks associated with GM food, including infertility, immune problems, accelerated aging, insulin regulation, and changes in major organs and the gastrointestinal system.  There is more than a causal association between GM foods and adverse health effects.  There is causation...”

As a doctor, I have seen a significant rise in food allergies, asthma, immune disorders, diabetes, infertility and autism over the last decade. While the evidence of direct causation is not there yet, GMO safety expert Arpad Pusztai says that changes in immune status are “a consistent feature of all animal studies.”  From Monsanto’s, (the giant producer of GMO’s), own research to government funded trials, rodents fed Bt corn had significant immune reactions. This toxin, Bt, is now showing up in the cord blood of newborns.

Soon after GM soy was introduced to the UK, soy allergies skyrocketed by 50%.  Ohio allergist, Dr. John Boyles, said, “ I used to test for soy allergies all the time, but now that soy is genetically engineered, it is so dangerous that I tell people never to eat it.” (www.naturalnews.com)

Despite the known studies indicating wide ranging health risks, Congress has done little to protect the consumer. “Unsuspecting consumers by the tens of millions are being allowed to purchase and consume unlabeled genetically engineered foods, despite a finding by FDA scientists that these foods could pose serious health risks.” (Center for Food Safety).

When critical issues arise in society that need to be addressed, it is often the young adults that cry out for reform. The think tanks of our colleges and Universities cultivate students who step out of the box to ask the hard questions, expose fraud and deception and demand recourse.

I spoke to one such student on a recent trip to Barcelona where I had the pleasure of an extended conversation on the ethics of introducing GMO foods into our food supply without the knowledge or consent of the consumer.

Michael Dier, our own from Rockaway, is a student studying abroad this semester in Barcelona. Apart from an intelligent, lively discussion on the pros and cons of genetic engineering, I was privy to reading his white paper on the ethical considerations inherent in the industry of bioengineering.  His accurate reporting of both sides of the argument for and against and his capture of the salient points of each necessarily led to the conclusion that big corporations have the money and power to skew studies in their favor and misrepresent the truth to the public. This allows them to exercise some control over governmental regulatory agencies and reap enormous profits at our expense. 

“From the time genetic engineering started being practiced, much controversy has risen over whether or not it is ethical to intervene with the natural evolution of the earth and the human race”, said Dier. Dier continues, “The fact that these companies market their food as “healthy” without actually knowing the effects of them is unethical. The uncertainty of GMO’s safety and their potential to throw the Earth and the human race off their own natural paths of evolution are enough reasons to stop their production immediately”. Dier advocates sticking with foods made by Mother Nature and calls for ethical considerations in labeling foods that are GMO so that consumers can make informed choices and have conscious control over their health.

I believe that this is a directive to all of us to inform ourselves, to contact our legislators and ask for bills supporting labeling of our foods. I would join in on the moratorium that the AAEM and Michael Dier call for on GMO production until we determine the safety issues more clearly from independent sources. I ask you to join us in creating a culture of wellness and health promotion. And I applaud Mr. Dier’s fine work on introducing the question of ethics into this conversation. Money and power should never be devoid of the ethical consideration of the consumer.

May The Blessings Be!

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