What you should know about GMO (Genetically Modified Foods)

Genetically Modified Foods

by Shenali Waduge

Some facts:

· Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are now in over 30,000 food products

· 92.5% of arable land around the world is GMO free

· The first genetically modified food item, a tomato, appeared in the United States in 1994 and in Britain in 1996

· The risk is especially great when crops meant for human consumption are grown near crops altered and grown for specialized pharmaceutical needs.

· The four countries that grow 90% of GMOs worldwide are the US (53%), Argentina (18%), Brazil (11.5%) and Canada (6.1%).

· There are 13.3 million farmers cultivating GM crops. The vast majority are smallholders in China (7.1 million) and India (5 million) who are growing GM cotton

· Almost all commercial GM crops today are genetically altered for one or both of two main traits: herbicide tolerance (63 percent) and insect resistance (15 percent), while 22 percent have both traits. Different genetic traits are combined to create “stacked” GM crops.

· Future GM crops likely to be commercialized by 2015 include rice, eggplant, potatoes, and wheat. Drought resistant and nutritionally enhanced crops are also expected in the near future.

· In 2008, seven of the 27 countries in the EU officially planted Bt maize for commercial purposes.  These countries are:  Spain, Czech Republic, Portugal, Germany, Poland and Slovakia

·  Of the 55 countries that have granted approvals for biotech crops, Japan tops the list followed by USA, Canada, Mexico, South Korea, Australia, Philippines, New Zealand, the European Union and China.

· most soft drinks have high fructose corn syrup which is very highly likely to be genetically modified: Mountain Dew, Amp energy drink, Sun Chips, Lays potato chips, Doritos, Tostitos, Tropicana juices, Dole juices, Quaker Oats, Aunt Jemima Syrup, Rice-A-Roni, Gatorade, and Aquafina .

What are the companies involved in global GMOs – Monsanto, BASF, Pioneer (DuPont), Syngenta

Since when have GMO crops been used in the food chain – since 1994 (In US, President Bush approved in 1992 that no special Government tests of safety for GMO seeds would be conducted and former attorneys for Monsanto were appointed responsible for Environmental Protection Agency and FDA rules govering GMO seeds). President Obama appointed Michael Taylor in 2009 as senior adviser for the FDA – he used to be vice president for Monsanto and he approved GMO use in US without testing.

GM crops have been grown commercially since 1996. Since then the GM market has grown 74-fold and spread to 25 countries. The global value of the GM crop market was 7.5 billion dollars in 2008.

What do these companies have in common:

They prohibit independent research – a precondition to buy seeds is to sign an End User Agreement with the company (scientists cannot test a seed to examine if GMOs lead to “unintended” side effects to the environment/animals or humans.

Only research pre-viewed by these companies can be released as publication

Examples of some GMO foods

§  Rapeseed– Resistance to certain pesticides and improved rapeseed cultivars to be free of erucic acid and glucosinolates. Gluconsinolates, which were found in rapeseed meal leftover from pressing, are toxic and had prevented the use of the meal in animal feed. In Canada, where “double-zero” rapeseed was developed, the crop was renamed “canola” (Canadian oil) to differentiate it from non-edible rapeseed. In fact, some honey products from Canada were also discovered to have pollen from GM rapeseed.

§  Canola – Canola oil. May include edible oil products, fried foods, and baked products, snack foods.

§  Honey – Honey can be produced from GM crops. Some Canadian honey comes from bees collecting nectar from GM canola plants. This has shut down exports of Canadian honey to Europe.

§  Cotton – Resistant to certain pesticides – considered a food because the oil can be consumed. Introduced 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.

§  Wheat – an article last year from the Organic Consumer’s Association discusses genetically modified wheat and the potential problems it could cause with foreign markets.  One farmer is speaking out and against GM Wheat with a big ‘Won’t do it’, but he is not with the majority.

§  Rice – Genetically modified to contain high amounts of Vitamin A. Rice containing human (yes, some GM Food contains human parts – definitely not vegetarian rice) genes is to be grown in the US. Rather than end up on dinner plates, the rice will make human proteins useful for treating infant diarrhea in the developing world. 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.

§  Corn – Has been designed to resist certain pesticides.  Products and ingredients   include:  Corn oil, sugar, syrup, corn flour, meal, corn starch, gluten, and sweeteners such as fructose, dextrose, and glucose. May include snack foods, baked goods, fried foods, edible oil products, confectionery, special purpose foods, and soft drinks. 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 GM seed. Mice fed with GM corn were discovered to have smaller offspring and fertility problems.

§  Sweet corn – genetically modified to produces its own insecticide. Officials from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have said that  thousands of tons of genetically engineered sweetcorn have made their way into the human food supply chain, even though the produce has been approved only for use in animal feed. Recently Monsanto claims that about half of the USA’s sweetcorn acreage has been planted with genetically modified seed this year.

§  Soybean – Genetically modified to be resistant to herbicides – Soy foods including, soy beverages, tofu, soy oil, soy flour, and lecithin. Other products may include breads, pastries, snack foods, baked products, fried products, edible oil products and special purpose foods. When GM soy were fed to rats, their testicles changed color, they produced fewer babies. Hamsters fed with GM soy were unable to have offspring and suffered a high mortality rate. In 1996, Brazil nut genes were spliced into soybeans to provide the added protein methionine and by a company called Pioneer Hi-Bred. Some individuals, however, are so allergic to this nut, they can go into anaphylactic shock (similar to a severe bee sting reaction) which can cause death. Using genetic engineering, the allergens from one food can thus be transferred to another, thought to be safe to eat, and unknowingly.

§  Sugar cane – Developed to be resistant to certain pesticides. A large percentage of sweeteners used in processed food actually come from corn, not sugar cane or beets.

§  Tomatoes –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.

§  Potatoes– (Atlantic, Russett Burbank, Russet Norkatah, and Shepody) – May include snack foods, processed potato products and other processed foods containing 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.

§  Flax – More and more food products contain flax oil and seed because of their excellent nutritional properties. No genetically modified flax is currently grown. An herbicide-resistant GM flax was introduced in 2001, but was soon taken off the market because European importers refused to buy it.  There was a recent discovery in Canada that Canadian flax has been contaminated with a genetically modified flax.  Now farmers are concerned about finding a market for their flax.

§  Papaya– The first virus resistant papayas were commercially grown in Hawaii in 1999. Transgenic papayas now cover about one thousand hectares, or three quarters of the total Hawaiian papaya crop. Monsanto donated technology to Tamil Nadu Agricultural University, Coimbatore, for developing a papaya resistant to the ringspot virus in India.

§  Squash – (yellow crookneck) – Some zucchini and yellow crookneck squash are also GM but they are not popular with farmers.

§  Cotton seed oil – Cottonseed oil and linters. Products may include blended vegetable oils, fried foods, baked foods, snack foods, edible oil products, and small goods casings.

§  Tobacco -The company Vector has a GMO tobacco being sold under the brand of Quest® cigarettes in the U.S. It is engineered to produce low or no nicotine.

§  Meat – Meat and dairy products usually come from animals that have eaten GM feed.

§  Peas – Genetically modified (GM) peas created immune responses in mice, suggesting that they may also create serious allergic reactions in people. The peas had been inserted with a gene from kidney beans, which creates a protein that acts as a pesticide. 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.

§  Vegetable Oil– Most generic vegetable oils and margarines used in restaurants and in processed foods in North America are made from soy, corn, canola, or cottonseed. Unless these oils specifically say “NonGMO” or “Organic,” it is probably genetically modified.

§  Sugarbeets – May include any processed foods containing sugar – including your favorite chocolate bar!

§  Dairy Products– About 22 percent of cows in the U.S. are 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.

§  Vitamins– Vitamin C (ascorbic acid) is often made from corn, vitamin E is usually made from soy. Vitamins A, B2, B6, and B12 may be derived from GMOs as well as vitamin D and vitamin K may have “carriers” derived from GM corn sources, such as starch, glucose, and maltodextrin.

Why GMOs are harmful

·  Over 800 scientists from 84 countries have signed The World Scientists open letter to All calling for the ban on the patenting of life-forms and emphasizing the dangers of GMOs/GMO seeds and GM foods.

· The British Medical Association has called for the ban of GMFoods and labeling same

· Hybridization – conscious life is being manipulated with biotechnology (roses are not crossed with roses but mated with pigs, tomatoes with trees, fish with cows, etc) – this is called biolistics. It is likely to cause environmental harm and threaten 1/3 of species with extinction inclusive plant species and half of all mammals while increasing cancer. (Just ask where have all the bees/butterflies gone)

· Land will with time get contaminated and affect the natural soil and cause great harm to all living beings. Tens of thousands of transgenic bacteria, viruses, plants and animals would be released to the Earth’s ecosystem

· When pesticides were first introduced they were said to be a breakthrough and a miracle cure for farmers. Today we see the lethal implications on health, environment, farming practices, economic political and social implications.

· Healthwise – recombinant DNA technology means redesigning living organisms. It is intervening in an evolutionary process of 3billion years. People suffer food allergies because elements never before in the human body have been included into their foods and they do not know what they consume. Whatsmore these are not tested or labeled – even if labeled who would want to eat tomatoes genetically modified with a pig or rat?

· GH protein hormone injected into cows stimulate the pituitary gland to produce more milk increasing profits for dairy companies. FDA approved Monsanto’s GM rBGH genetically modified growth hormone in 1993 – cancers have increased drastically for those who consume milk. Bromoxynil or BXN cotton is cancerous and causes birth defects and brain damage.

· The viruses are so many that doctors do not know how to treat them even.

· In India most bufffalos that ate GM cottonseed had premature deliveries, abortions, infertility and prolapsed uteruses and the calves died. In the US pigs had become sterile after consuming GM corn.

· 60% of all hard cheeses in the US are processed with a GM enzyme. A percentage of baking and brewery products are also GM modified. US cotton production (where cotton oil is used as foods) is bioengineered. 2/3 of all processed foods in the US contain GM ingredients.

· Genetic engineering is justified as a human technology arguing that it feeds more people with better food – absolutely false. Genetic engineering ONLY increases SALES of chemicals and bio-engineered products to dependent farmers who once caught to use them are imprisoned to use them. Sri Lanka should not fall for the trap.

· GM trees are being developed which can once sprayed from the air kill literally all surrounding life except the GM trees – there is an attempt to transform international forestry by introducing multiple species of such trees. These GM trees are sterile and flowerless. Monsanto has developed plans with New Zealand Forest Research Agency to create such lethal tree plantations.

· Fish and marine life are being threatened by accidental release of GM fish which grow upto 6x times fast than natural fish.

· Carrying GM pollen by wind, rain, birds, bees, insects, fungus, bacteria – the entire chain of life becomes involved.

· We are seeing a decline in self-sufficient family farms – in 1850 – 60% of US working population were involved in agriculture. By 1950 that figure was just 4%. Today it is 2% or 2million farmers producing 5% of US foods. Everything is being controlled by Agri corporations who even hold economic and legislative power and dictate GATT regulations in their favor.

While the world is fighting one conflict after another the food producers are monopolizing the food chain and poisoning the food we consume with genetically modified matter and we don’t seem to be knowing what we put into our system. We wonder why hospitals are increasing and patients are doubling and why inspite of the machines available doctors remain baffled how to treat patients and cannot even diagnose a common cold from a virus or allergy. That is because a group of evil people are fiddling around with nature and what is natural and doing harm while the world’s attention is kept to other things. Every morsel of food we eat is being poisoned, every plant has been tampered with, trees are likely to disappear, the great oceans may see no fish except bio-engineered ones – we may be looking at a return to the dinosaur times and this is no exaggeration.

Politicians need to be canvassed to support to eliminate GM foods – voters must play a prominent role in making the correct demands from those they vote into power. The people are not guinea pigs for companies to fill their pockets by poisoning them. Such immoral methods of becoming rich needs to stop.

Sri Lanka was at the forefront of agriculture in the past – the farmers deserve better than how they are being looked after and the Ministry concerned as well as the Ministry of Environment need to approach GM on a policy that a small country such as Sri Lanka cannot encourage cross-pollination and allow the fertile soil that we have inherited to be destroyed as a result of these genetically modified products in whatever forms that are currently being lobbied to be used.