Friday, March 2, 2007

Genetically Modified Foods - Pandora's Box??

I once heard someone quip that America could put an end to starvation by feeding the starving countries of the world with genetically modified (GM) foods. This may be true, but would these starving people really be nourished, or would they just be victims of “full belly starvation?” Or worse, can GM foods harm our bodies more than help them?

2/3 of all U.S. processed foods contain some sort of GM ingredients. Ever since the U.S. Supreme Court held that life forms could be patented for commercialization, millions of acres of farmland have been converted to grow GM crops.

You may be surprised to find out just what genes lurk in GM foods. Oftentimes, animal genes are infused into GM produce, such as fish genes in tomatoes! The arguments in favor of genetically modified organisms (GMO’s), which, by the way, includes both plants and animals, vary from being able to feed the Third World to producing plants that are more disease and pest resistant. Scientists at the Roslin Institute in Scotland have inserted human genes into sheep’s milk to isolate a protein in the milk that could possibly be used in treating cystic fibrosis.

Arguments against GMO’s emphasize that there are potential unknown health risks caused by animal genes being inserted into other animals or plants. What if a pig gene is put into a vegetable that will be eaten by a Jew or Muslim? What about the possibility of a weed-resistant GM plant taking over or crossing with wild populations of similar species? There are so many arguments to be addressed here, but I am only going to address one concern: how healthy are these GMO’s, both for our bodies and the environment? Do the possible benefits really offset the detriment to our bodies?

So much of GM technology is dedicated to eliminating the natural environment that would prevent normal growth of certain non-GM plants. Time Magazine has called genetic engineering of “terminator trees” (trees which have been engineered to do nothing but excrete poison from its leaves that kill insects) and other deadly organisms the “Death of Birth.” And what about “built-in” genetic pesticides found in some of these GMO’s? If we ingest those foods, it follows that those genetic pesticides end up in our bodies. They may never leave!

Effects on Human Health:

Food Allergies: in 1996, a company called Pioneer Hi-Bred spliced Brazil nut genes into soybeans. The resulting product that went to the market was eaten by people who suffered from nut allergies and those people almost died. What about other products where genes of certain animals or foods have been spliced into other foods? Allergic reactions are likely to result, and possibly cause death.

Cancer/ degenerative diseases: the growth hormone rBGH (a GMO) has been injected into dairy cows since 1994. rBGH has been linked to a 400-500% increase in prostate, breast, and colon cancer in humans. Rat studies show internal organ damage after ingesting rBGH, and the FDA’s own experiments cast suspicion that leukemia may be linked to the hormone. According to researcher Sharyn Martin, foreign DNA fragments from GMO’s are not fully digested in the human digestive tract and thus some autoimmune diseases are aggravated. Cancer is mainly caused by a genetic mutation; it makes sense that environmental chemicals combined with genetically mutated organisms cause cancer.

Lower Nutritional Value: studies suggest that GM foods have less nutrients than naturally grown produce. This is especially so in that they do not possess the phytoestrogen (which protects against heart disease and cancer) non-altered plants naturally produce.

Never-Before Eaten Things: modified proteins present in GM foods have never been consumed by humans before. The unknown consequences could be unexpected and uncontrolled.

Worse yet: the FDA has almost NO regulations in place for GMO’s. As long as companies conduct their OWN research before putting the product on the market, the GMO’s can be put on store shelves with no questions asked!!

This issue is so big that the risks and consequences could never be fully outlined here. But it is worth thinking about: do we really want to play God and cross the plant and animal kingdoms with each other? Could disturbing the boundaries put in place by nature have detrimental effects on our bodies, our offspring, and our environment? The health effects, birth defects, and environmental consequences are already starting to be seen.

We need to speak out and rally for better testing of these GMO’s, and perhaps even eliminate them. Disease and insect - resistant foods are not worth the irreversible, unpredicted, and possibly uncontrollable side-effects that come with them!



Matthew said...

I want to read your argument about the pig gene in a vegetable eaten by Jews or Muslims. That one made me laugh.

Matthew said...

I want to read about you talking about the pig gene in a vegetable eaten by Jews or Muslims.