Shopping for GMOs?

studentvoices01By Raezheen Pascua
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]

While shopping for groceries, does it ever across a person’s mind to pay attention to what is actually being used to produce the food that they are buying. People who are very health conscious will be more aware of reading the label stamped on the back of the cardboard box, but when reading through the ingredients, does anyone bother to look for an ingredient that could be considered genetically modified? For people who have never heard of the term ‘genetically modified’ can soon become curious. According to Barbara Ruhs, genetically modified organisms,  GMOs, are organisms that have been altered through a laboratory process when the genetic material from an organism is extracted from one species and forcefully placed in the gene of another organism (6). Since the 1990’s when genetically modified ingredients were first introduced to the American food market, they have now become a very common ingredient in processed foods today.  Currently there is an argument in America about whether or not foods containing any amount of GMOs ingredients should be labeled. To some people the topic of genetically modified food can come off as boring, but everyone must become more aware of the subject at hand because GM food does not only affect the individual, but the nation as a whole and the generations to follow.

According to Nelson, the FDA does not require the labeling of genetically modified food being sold because there are no outstanding differences between conventionally grown food and those that have been altered within a lab. The FDA states that biotechnology is not food, but rather a process to speed up the conventional ways of growing food. Statements like these are the reasons why people are worried about the creation of genetically modified plants. Now that biotech industries like Monsanto are bringing science into food, no one can say exactly what this may bring. There are the stated possibilities of depleting world hunger, but at risk? Scientists that are against biotech industries are worried about the harm that consuming GMOs will have on the human body. In the article “Say No to GMOs,” it states that the American Academy of Environmental Medicine has linked the consumption of genetically modified foods to health risks like gastrointestinal problems, infertility, organ damage, and accelerated aging (Smith). There could be no possible benefits for people who consume genetically modified food when they create serious health problems for anyone ranging from a young child to elderly.

Growing genetically modified seeds has a harmful effect on the environment. As farmers continue to grow GMs they risk creating a new species of plant. The World Health Organization announced that the cross pollination between genetic engineered plants and conventional plants can be a serious problem according to the Natural News website. Cross pollution happens because the wind or insects bring the pollen of one plant to another. The cross breeding of GM plants and conventional plants can create a new hybrid plant, which in result could radically changed ecosystem (Dill). This is just another concern that people have about GMOs; they could potentially ruin the planet. Also, with the increased concern about of toxins being used to kill off the now super weeds ruins the nutrients within the soil. These super weeds were created because, like GM plants, they have also developed herbicide  resistance.

Currently, biotech industries claim that labeling genetically modified products products will raise prices for consumers, insisting that the increased costs will place a big burden on those of low or fixed income. This argument is also inaccurate. Joanna Shepherd-Bailey points out labeling GMOs will likely cost little to nothing for consumers, the figures came out to be a total of $2,820 (“Pro-GMO Propaganda”). The cost is so low compared to the thousands of people living in each state. If prices were to increase, it would be a mere one dollar due to the fact that it will be distributed evenly amongst thousands. Including, stores would not want to pass on the cost to their customers for fear of losing them. Grocery stores already compete to have the lowest prices to draw in costumers, so why would they risk possibly losing customers to another store. Also, their  profit levels would cover the minimal costs  of genetically modified food  labeling. Subsequently, manufactures already change their labels constantly by themselves. Whenever they want to make people aware of their new products or changes, then it is easy to find all types of new colorful labels. During market strategy meetings, the finance department never complains about how they can pass on the costs to consumers. Biotech industries insist that there will be a thousand dollar prices influx when that is not the reality.

At this point, the FDA claims that genetically modified products do not need labeling because they are not significantly different from organic products. These GM foods are supposed to have the same nutritional value and cause similar allergic reactions as food grown by the conventional method. The website “Stunning Corn Comparison…” compares genetically modified corn to non-genetically modified corn to find that there is a huge nutritional difference between the two (Honeycutt). Since GMO corn is made with Bt, it is no surprise that it has less nutritional value because this particular bacteria works with Roundup and draws out nutrients from any source. The nutrient lacking genetically modified corn is deficient in calcium, magnesium, and manganese trace minerals. Not only does the GM corn fall short compared to organic corn, but typically the lack of these and other trace minerals result in sickness, disorders, and cancer in humans.

Preceding, genetically modified food is already linked to food allergies, but GMOs are also causing allergic reactions from pollen. A Filipino village located near a Bt corn crop experienced a devastating allergic reaction when the plants began pollinating notes Smith. The villagers experienced severe headaches, dizziness, skin, and respiratory reactions. Blood results showed that their bodies had built antibodies to fight against the Bt corn pollen (40-42). Now, people have more to worry about besides consuming GM foods if the air is poisonous as well.  Genetically modified plants not only harm the human body from the inside, but now there is a concern that it can affect people on the outside as well. During  pollen  season, people with allergies already have to worry about itchy eyes and running noses, but with genetically modified  pollen, the reaction appears to be much more serious like those villagers experienced. Also, inhaling this pollen is putting everyone at risk of serious respiratory issues. Genetically modified foods are sold as being just the same as organic food to prevent people from getting scared of what they might be eating. Nevertheless, studies are showing that people should be afraid of what’s in their food because people’s bodies are not receiving the proper nutrients that they need. Despite that alarming evidence, people should be fearful of the food being grown as well because of the serious allergic reactions that are being caused by genetically modified plants.

Finally, Philip Nelson states “Biotech crops have been researched, grown and consumed for nearly 30 years. In that time, not a single allergy, sickness or reaction has occurred” (McLure). The FDA and biotech industries claim that eating GM products has no harmful effect on humans. GM foods may cause allergic reactions, but none are more severe than their conventional counterparts. On the other hand, doctors in the video “Genetic Roulette” say that the information being provided from biotech industries saying their food is safe for consumption is false. Michelle Perro, a pediatrics doctor explains that many children coming in for examinations have leaky guts. Leaky guts are when food particles pass through the intestine lining and into the bloodstream causing the body to treat these particles as foreign virus. When the body begins to attack these food particles, food allergies occur (“Genetic Roulette”). Food allergies appear to be becoming an epidemic amongst children. Food that was once considered safe is causing havoc within the human body causing many children to suffer allergic reactions to every food group possible. Both Maria Mills and Robyn O’Brien now have children who have life-threatening food allergies although no one in either family had food allergies before. Both Mills and O’Brien have linked this allergic reaction to the consumption of genetically modified food after being educated by doctors. As a result, Emily Linder has begun to prescribe a GMO free diet to her patients once being aware of their food allergies. The result? After completely removing corn, soy, and rapeseed GMOs from their diets and slowly reasserting their organic equivalent, patients are no longer experiencing food allergies (“Genetic Roulette”). The food allergies only occurred when consuming genetically altered food.

Also, Jeffrey Smith discusses the problem with eating genetically modified food. GM corn is made with bacillus thuringiensis bacteria, also known as Bt. When insects eat Bt corn, it causes their stomachs to explode. This is the exact same corn being sold to people at grocery stores. Smith explains that the consumption of Bt corn appears to be the cause of increased gastrointestinal problems amongst Americans (“Genetic Roulette”). The damage to humans’ intestines is the main cause of leaky gut. Next, the consumption of genetically modified food can cause serious birth defects or infertility. Smith reports on different studies involving animals being forcefed Roundup Ready soy; the studies show that the animals were developing reproduction disorders. First, male mice fed GM foods experienced a change in their testicles turning from pink to blue. Second, female rats had changes in their uterus and ovaries. Both female mice and rats still had babies, but they were smaller and half of the babies died in the first three weeks.  Worse still, hamsters after the third generation were infertile (“Genetic Roulette”). Yet, there have been no studies done on humans who consume GMOs. Since mice, rats, and hamsters reproduce quicker than humans, it is a representation of what appears can happen to the male and female human body over time. If these animals are experiencing such serious reproduction problems, scientists, doctors, and even ordinary people can make their own assumptions about what eating GMOs can do on the human body. Although, the FDA and biotech industry claim that genetically altered food is safe for human consumption, doctors and scientists have appeared to have found nightmarish evidence that shows otherwise.

From afar, the biotech industry sells genetically modified organisms  as beneficial in many different ways. They endorse the idea that GMOs are substantially the same to organic food and just as safe for people to consume. However, when people look close enough at the campaign pitch for genetically modified food there are flaws. Genetically modified foods have been shown to have less nutritional value according to Honeycutt  by lacking in trace minerals such as calcium, magnesium, and manganese. In addition, GMOs threaten the reproductive system in the human body. Studies in the video “Genetic Roulette”, identify mice and rats experiencing changes with their uterus and testicles. Americans should be more of how food is being made and not fall for the gimmicks that the biotech industry promotes. More than 60 countries  require labeling all foods containing genetically modified ingredients, now Americans should be demanding the same requirement to just label it. Although, GMOs are not directly labeled, there are ways to avoid them by looking for products that are labeled USDA organic or non-GMO verified, and avoid food items that contain the ingredients soy, corn and canola because they are the top three genetically modified ingredients in the United States.

Work Cited

Hembree, Brandon. “Economic, environmental benefits of GMO crops have been ‘substantial.” Southeast_Farmers Press. Penton Media, Inc., 26 April 2010. Web. 23 April 2013.

Dill, John. “The Dangers of GMOs: Know the Environmental Hazards.” Naturalnews. Natural News Network, 28 Sept. 2012. Web. 3 May 2013.

Honeycutt, Zen. “Stunning Corn Comparison: GMO versus NON GMO.” N.p., 15 March 2013. Web. 13 April 2013.

McLure, Jason. “Genetically Modified Food.” CQ Researcher 31 August 2012: 7171 – 40. Web. 8 March 2013.

“Pro-GMO Propaganda in California Dismantled by New Cost Study.” Anh-usa. Alliance for Natural Health USA, 14 August 2012. Web. 13 April 2013.

Smith, Melissa  Diane. “SAY NO TO  GMOs.” Better Nutrition 73.3 (2011): 46-50. Academic Search Premier. Web. 4 May 2013.

Smith, Jeffrey M. “Genetically Modified Foods May Cause Rising Food Allergies.” Total Health 29.4 (2007): 40-42. Academic Search Premier. Web. 25 Apr. 2013.

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