What are GMOs?
A GMO (genetically modified organism) is the result of a laboratory process where genes from the DNA of one species are extracted and artificially forced into the genes of an unrelated plant or animal. The foreign genes may come from bacteria, viruses, insects, animals or even humans.
Haven’t GMOs been around forever?
No. Corgis are not GMO wolves. Corn is not a GMO grass. Modifying an organism through hybridization or cross pollination is NOT the same as taking the genes from an completely unrelated species and inserting them in a lab. Breeding to select traits is not the same as bastardizing nature with totally unrelated species or organisms.
So how is genetically modifying different that cross-breeding?
Traditional cross-breeding is creating natural hybrids, such as crossing two varieties of roses, different types of squashes, or different breeds of dogs.
GMOs are made by actually splicing a gene from a virus or another species into the GMO seed. Some examples are, fish genes being spliced into tomatoes, human genes in corn, mouse genes in potatoes.
I have heard that we should not worry about GMOs. Are GMOs really harmful?
GMOs are banned in 27 countries. Also, in 61 countries foods must be labeled as being genetically modified – but not in the U.S. Many GMO crops are developed to withstand pesticides that would otherwise kill them. The pesticides are sprayed liberally on these crops. The pesticides then find their way to your dinner table and into the soil, killing many beneficial bacteria that are necessary for fertile growing conditions and the health of people and the planet. It is not just the GMOs that may be unsafe, but the growing practices that are intended with these crops.
Glyphosate? What is Glyphosate?
Glyphosate, the chemical originally developed to de-scale pipes, boilers and metals, is now used to KILL plants. What’s more, it is found in 75% of processed foods. Big Agriculture and companies like Monsanto have drastically influenced agriculture in America, leading to corrupt, inhumane and toxic farming practices. Glyphosate is the main ingredient in Roundup, but not the only harmful chemical in the Roundup cocktail.
Haven’t we always used chemicals to protect crops?
There are many natural alternatives to Dicamba and Glyphosate. In the past there were many smaller farmers who were able to effectively manage their crops with less harmful chemicals. With Big Ag, many of those farmers have disappeared and profit comes before people in large commercial scale farming.
Between 1996 and 2008 US farmers sprayed and extra 383 million pounds of herbicide on GMO crops. Overuse actually created superweeds that were resistant to Roundup. This did not cause a decrease in chemical use and a return to manual removal of weeds, it resulted in the use of more toxic chemicals linked to sterility, hormone disruption, birth defects and cancer.
Is there proof that GMOs are harmful?
Health problems have increased since the introduction of GMOs into our food system in 1996. Americans with chronic illnesses have have gone from 7% of the population to 13% of the population in 9 years. Food allergies, autism, reproductive disorders, digestive problems and a myriad of other health issues are on the rise. Though there are not sufficient studies to prove a link to GMOs, many find relief for disorders when they are removed from the diet of individuals. (Statistics from responsibletechnology.org)
Surely the Government is making sure that we are safe, right?
Crazy as it sounds, the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) does not require safety studies, does not mandate labeling of GMOs and allows companies to put GMO foods onto the market without notification. Many trials that are conducted are done by scientists hired by the company in question are short term studies. There are no long term studies conducted.
Independent studies are often attacked and suppressed. If you have a moment, Google Tyrone Hayes.
We were once told that chemicals like Agent Orange, PCB’s and DDT were safe. Monsanto was lying all those times. It is doubtful they would be truthful now.
If I eat GMO free will I be OK?
For the most part. All things are interconnected, so we should be concerned about the broad scope of what GMOs can do, not just to our bodies, but to wildlife, the soil and the integrity of our food supply, namely seeds.
GMO crops and the herbicides associated with them cause harm to birds, insects, amphibians, our water supply, marine ecosystems and soil health. They reduce biodiversity, cause water sources to become polluted and are not a sustainable practice.
Monarch butterfly populations are down 50% in the US. Roundup has been shown to cause birth defects, endocrine disruption and organ damage.
What you are saying is that if we stop using the herbicides, then GMOs would be safe?
NO!!! Remember, it was mentioned above that sometimes viruses and bacteria are spliced with unrelated species? Monsanto has also created the sh*t storm called Bt. There is a naturally occurring bacteria that is toxic to insects, Bacillus thuringiensis. Bt for us laymen. Bt crops are engineered to express the Bt gene. Here is the thing though. Bt is not selective. It is toxic to all insects, even the ones that pollinate our food.
Back in 1999, Cornell researchers published a paper that expressed concern that that pollen from Bt-engineered corn would drift onto milkweed and poison monarch butterflies. In lab tests, it was found that when monarch caterpillars fed on milkweed dusted with pollen from Bt crops, they consumed less food, developed more slowly, and died at much higher rates than the control group. In 2005 the USDA did a study that found that Bt was not a threat to the monarchs, yet populations continue to decline.
Also on the rise are intestinal disorders in humans. Researchers are just starting to discover that within our guts we have tiny microbiomes of bacteria that could even be considered an ecosystem within each of us. Not only that, but our gut may actually work as a second brain (Which explains why it is so hard to stick to a diet, your stomach may literally have a mind of it’s own.). Pesticides and Bt bacteria actually throw our systems out of balance, and may be the cause of neurological and immune disorders as well as intestinal issues. A great book is Modified, by Caitlin Shetterly.
Does Monsanto really sue farmers over saving seeds?
Yes, yes they do. They also sue when there is pollen drift and their byproduct is expressed in fields where farmers have planted non-GMO seeds.
Don’t tell Monsanto, but we are taking this quote directly from a statement they made (We would not want to get sued for using their words.):
“When farmers purchase a patented seed variety, they sign an agreement that they will not save and replant seeds produced from the seed they buy from us. More than 325,000 farmers a year buy seed under these agreements in the United States.”
Frankly we are shocked they don’t force you to pay for each tomato that may be the result of one of their patented seeds. Seed saving is a tradition that is part of the heart of those who love to grow their own food. A patent on a living organism is wrong. If someone finds a way to insert a gene into a growing fetus that prevents cancer, would the developer of said gene then own that baby?
What next? Corporations are people?
You did not ask but we have to mention declining seed varieties.
Creating a GMO free zone actually promotes biodiversity. Seeds get passed down from generation to generation and within one generation we could lose an entire variety. Remember the Irish potato famine? Lack of genetic variation in Irish potatoes contributed to the severity of the Irish potato famine, which devastated Ireland’s population and economy. The U.S. lost 75% of its durum wheat crop in 1953-54 and 50% of its corn crop in 1970, both due to genetic uniformity.
Monoculture. Evolutionary theory tells us that low genetic variation will lead to disaster. If Monsanto had it’s way, they would be the sole source of seeds, and a limited variety of GMO seeds at that.
Variety is the seed of life!
Since the 1900s, some 75 percent of plant genetic diversity has been lost as farmers worldwide have left their multiple local varieties and landraces for genetically uniform, high-yielding varieties.
Today, 75 percent of the world’s food is generated from only 12 plants and five animal species.
30 percent of livestock breeds are at risk of extinction; six breeds are lost each month.
Of the 4 percent of the 250 000 to 300 000 known edible plant species, only 150 to 200 are used by humans. Only three – rice, maize and wheat – contribute nearly 60 percent of calories and proteins obtained by humans from plants.
From 1600 to 1900, one species of seed disappeared every four years; now perhaps 1,000 species become extinct each year.
WE HAVE LOST 94% OF OUR SEED VARIETIES IN THE 20TH CENTURY.
In 1903, there were almost 500 varieties of lettuce. By 1983, we had a mere 36. Radishes, peas, and beets have we hit just as hard. Even the tomato, a favorite of home growers who relish the rare and variety, lost about 80% of its seed diversity.