GMOs and Labeling

studentvoices01By Joseph Centeno Cid Jr.
LCC-Wai’anae student
April 2013
Instructor Danny Wyatt
Leeward Community College-Wai’anae instructor – English 100

[Note from the instructor: “With GMOs in the news, and a big topic for Hawaii especially, I have my class writing a couple of essays and research papers on whether labeling GMO products should be required. The first essay is on ‘reasons for requiring labeling of foods with GMO ingredients.’ The final submissions are students’ research papers examining what research appears to show about GMOs and proposals for labeling foods with GMO ingredients.” -Danny Wyatt]

The subject of Genetically Modified Organisms has boomed since Proposition 37 denied in November 2012 in California. Since then, GMO has become one of the biggest topics talked about in the United States. Why are GMO crops so bad though? According to studies, GMO crops are to blame for some of the diseases that attack human’s immune system (Grout, Genetic Roulette). With attacks on our immune system, human beings’ body react with symptoms such as allergies and conditions like autism. Thus, this alarms the nation and petrifies people causing them to be cautious about what they should consume. People don’t know which foods in grocery stores containing GMOs. Thus forcing the nation to rise against GMOs by pushing for laws that label foods in stores that contain GMOs. With such actions, people will have the right to choose what they want to purchase thus exposing the wrong doings of GMO companies such as Monsanto. But why hasn’t it happened yet?

Genetically Modified Organisms are the result of “forcing” genes of one species into another (Smith, Genetic Roulette). GMOs were first introduced in the early 1990’s and they have posed a threat since. One of the biggest and most common genetically modified crops is those containing herbicides and pesticides. This is when scientists take Bacillus Thuringiensis, also known as Bt toxin, and input it into crops to kill insects without the trouble of using insecticides (Smith, Genetic Roulette). Herbicides are similar, but use a chemical known as glyphosate instead which kills weeds thus ruling out the use of as much Roundup, at least initially (Smith, Genetic Roulette). Monsanto’s main intention is supposed to be positive. Their promises with GMOs are to increase yields, farmer profits and US exports, yet none of these has occurred since GMO crops have been introduced. With such intentions, Monsanto’s main goal along with those promises was to completely replace all natural and organic seeds with genetically modified seeds (Witherspoon, Genetic Roulette). That would be a total abomination, especially with the trend in bad health conditions attributed to GMOs. Just imagine what the future would hold if every crop were genetically modified.

Allergies are typically something very minor to most. Some may think they’re suffering from just a common cold or itch, but to others allergies can be life threatening. When people find out they are allergic to specific foods, they stay completely away from those foods and just stick to the foods they normally eat to avoid more allergic reactions. It’s already as hard for people to avoid food they’re allergic to, but just imagine if they start developing allergies to almost every food that they consume. Worse still, people are having allergic reactions to food they’ve been eating for years without having any reactions. It is misleading because these people have grown accustomed to the food they have been eating for years since they had no allergic reaction to it before. With people developing allergic reactions to their food, they turn to a solution, which is turning to organic food thus coming up with the assumption that the food they are now allergic to contains GMOs. Why would they suddenly assume this though? It’s probably because of the current uproar against foods in stores that contain GM crops. It also brings upon the concerns by specialists like Ashley Koff and Emily Lindler. Koff and Emily then suggest to their patients to start consuming organic foods as a result of their allergic reactions to GMO foods (Genetic Roulette).

At least allergies can be cured, or at least controlled, within a short period of time, but a condition like autism is permanent. Autism is most common in youngsters, which makes it a giant concern for most parents since parents want to take every precaution to avoid it in their child. Autism is a very harsh condition especially for the young, but just imagine if 4 out of 5 children develop autism, and the reason for this could be GM foods. According to Professor Emeritus of Plant Pathology at Purdue University, Don Huber, he has spoken to an autistic doctor; they discussed how livestock that are being fed GMO crops are showing symptoms of autistic spectrum disorder similar to children with autism (Genetic Roulette). Therefore, the consumption of GM foods appears to be promoting autistic spectrum disorder in both livestock and children. Just like the health specialists who take care of the allergies caused by GM foods, parents also eliminate the consumption of GM foods to help suppress autism in their children.

Allergic reactions and autism are not as threatening as the side effects of consuming the crops and products that contain herbicides and pesticides. The chemicals and toxins in both herbicides and pesticides are only meant for controlling weeds and insects. Since crops treated with both herbicides and pesticides are harmful to certain living organisms, what would happen if humans consume GM foods made from these treated crops? When a human being consumes GM foods containing pesticides and herbicides, it destroys their internal system as well. Bt toxin is a natural substance that is involved in pesticides that kills bugs by exploding their stomachs, thus leading to the relation that this may be the cause of the increase in “gastro intestinal problems,” according to doctors across the nation (Smith, Genetic Roulette). The side effects from consuming herbicides too are deadly for that they affect the nutrients one can absorb. The key term “chelate” is used by Jeffrey Smith to describe what glyphosate does in crops (Genetic Roulette). Glyphosate’s role in herbicides is to gather up the trace minerals available to a crop thus depriving them of nutrients needed to survive; these are same exact symptoms that occur when humans consume GM foods that contain herbicides (Smith, Genetic Roulette). The most obvious solution to this would be to avoid GMO crops that are used to produce food that people consume. However, people don’t know which foods contain GMOs.

More and more people want to avoid purchasing GMO infested products as a result of GMOs being the reason to a massive number of horrifying health issues, but they are ill-educated about what ingredients that are from genetically modified plants. This only brings up the speculation of making it easier for customers by labeling foods in stores that contain GMO. According to a poll by Gary Hirshberg, 90 percent of the United States citizens feel that GMO products should be labeled, yet they have been “denied,” this right for 20 years (717). It is also said that organizations were formed such as “Just Label It,” and within a 180 day campaign, “Just Label It” obtained 1.2 million comments from the United States on a petition toward the FDA (Hirshberg, 717). With bringing this type of attention to the Monsanto Corporation and FDA, the government is one step closer to passing the Proposition 37 because of the opinion of the United States citizens.

But why is the nation continuously denied? It is because Monsanto’s former Vice President, Michael Turner, is now a director in the FDA, which is the government agency that deals with food safety (Smith, Genetic Roulette). With Turner in the FDA, it is easy for them to be selective of evidence that GM foods are a threat to humanity. Every bit of evidence has been gotten rid of and so will future evidence as well; and this is the reason why Proposition 37 has been denied many times. However, Monsanto being as powerful as they are, paid 8 million dollars to prevent the California law from passing (Stonebrook 256). It is an outrage, but that’s what happens when Monsanto’s former VP becomes a head within the FDA who can make it possible. Monsanto was the main contributor, but other companies added to the pot to prevent California’s Proposition 37 as well. Companies such as DuPont paid 5.4 million dollars as well as familiar companies like Pepsi, Coca-Cola, Kellogg’s, General Mills, Campbell’s Soup and many others contributed too (Stonebrook 256). People would never think these companies would mean any harm, well think again.

GMOs are banned in more than 60 countries world-wide, so if they constitute no threat, why not label them (Goldstein A15) as suggested in a Letter to the Editor? GM foods have been proven for decades to be related to not one, but countless health issues in the United States. Whether it’s autistic spectrum disorders, allergic reactions or digestion disorders, they are all harmful to human beings. The United States is best when it uses its democratic solutions to come up with a consensus, so why not allow labeling so the nation could speak for itself against GMOs.

Sources:

Goldstein, Hesh. “GMOs are good? Then Label them.” Honolulu Star Advertiser. A15. 13 Mar. 2013.

McLure, Jason. “Genetically Modified Food.” CQ Researcher 31 Aug. 2012: 717-40. Web. 8 Mar. 2013.

Genetic Roulette. Director. Smith, Jeffrey M. Issuetalk Communications. 2013. DVD

Stonebrook, Shelley. “Big Ag Defeats GMO-Labeling Proposition.” Mother Earth News 256 (2013): 16. Academic Search Premier. Web. 24 Mar. 2013.

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