Why Nature Needs Labels

crops field

In recent news, President Obama signed a controversial government spending bill that, slipped in at the last minute, included a rider within the Agricultural Appropriations called The Farmer Assurance Provision. This rider permits the Monsanto corporation judicial immunity over the next 6 months if any of its food products – grown with Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) – are to come under any form of legal scrutiny regarding their safety. The 250,000 and growing furious protesters nationwide who signed a petition to revoke the rider, howver, are instead calling it the “Monsanto Protection Act” as it was written by former Monsanto affiliate and Missouri Senator Roy Blunt (R). 

Politics aside let’s take a look at why Monsanto was so insistent on this kind of legal protection and why they were so careful to keep this rider discreet. For many, Monsanto has become a household name not only because it’s the leading agribusiness in the country, but because for decades it has been a subject of environmental controversy. Before the corporation was concocting super seeds in its laboratories, Monsanto was the brand behind the herbicide and insecticide DDT and Agent Orange. Both products were used as chemical warfare because of their known cancer-causing, landscape demolishing side effects. They were also the inspiration behind Rachel Carson’s groundbreaking book Silent Spring, arguably the trigger of the environmental revolution. Not exactly the kind of history you want tied to the food you eat…

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AsMg2Sc1nSE&w=560&h=315]

Persisting today as the leading corporation for biotechnology in the agricultural field, Monsanto now focuses on its GM products in an attempt to create what it sees as “sustainable farming”. They have found ways to combine desirable genes from different crops and cross breed them to create a kind of super seed. Many seeds produce crops that are on their own resistant to certain pests and weeds, eliminating the monetary and environmental costs of chemicals used during farming. Some genetic combinations are even capable of making crops resilient through extreme weather conditions, such as drought or flooding. Proponents of GM crops and Monsanto will stress that while yields are not necessarily bigger with GM seeds, they are more successful, offering a possible remedy to food and nutrient shortages worldwide. However, the long term effects of exposure to GM foods, though seemingly intended for good, are unknown. And without brands being required to label their products as containing GMOs, this uncertainty, this inability to guarantee holistic safety, is more of a threat than knowing the truth about our food and choosing to eat it still. Here is some food for thought about the food we unknowingly eat.

tomato injection

OUR HEALTH: It is public knowledge that while scientists have not found any harmful side effects from eating GM foods YET, they also have not given the slightest of a nod that they are HARMLESS. We literally have no idea what could come from eating these man-made strands of DNA. It is quite possible that the GM foods’ DNA could create new kinds of food allergens. Even more threatening, there is a chance the genes that make these seeds disease resistant (to things like fungus) could, once inside our body, mutate with our own genetic code and create enlarged anti-biotic-resistant cells, completely manipulating our immune systems. These possibilities are only speculative, but their likelihood is still unknown. The only tests available showcasing the long term impact of GM foods have been done on lab rats, resulting in the growth of tumors, organ damage, and premature death. Female rats fed GM foods gave birth to stunted, deformed, and sterile offspring. The risk factor in consuming GM foods is increasingly dangerous because, as of now, the FDA has not required food companies to label their products regarding the use of GMOs in their foods. So we are currently eating these hybrid genes without knowing what harm or good is within them, and without knowing we are even consuming them. Several cases have even shown products dubbed “organic” as containing Monsanto’s GMOs as a result of seed drifting, without the organic farmers even realizing the contamination occurred, but with Monsanto insisting the crops are then legally their own, taking away what is left of small-scale, local, organic farming and safety-ensured GMO-free products. With this new legislation, if harm does come from eating Monsanto’s seeds, not only is the company safe from being reprimanded, but they cannot legally be stopped from producing more of the same product.

Long after we stop eating GMOs, we may still have potentially harmful GM proteins produced continuously inside of us. Put more plainly, eating a corn chip produced from Bt-[toxin] corn might transform our intestinal bacteria into living pesticide factories, possibly for the rest of our lives.” – Jeffrey M. Smith, Founder of the Institute for Responsible Tecnology

THE ENVIRONMENT: Biodiversity is not just an aspect of nature, it’s what keeps everything in check. Food chains, predation, population and evolution itself all rely on the flow of biodiversity. Pollen created by the plants grown using GMOs has been linked to studies showing rapid decreases in populations of certain regulating species like monarch butterflies. Other insect species, responsible for such significant duties as decomposition and natural fertilization, are also falling victim to the chemicals in the GM seeds’ “natural” pesticide genes. Another threat posed by introducing powerful hybrid genes with pest resistance is the possibility that the modified genes could naturally breed with the genes of existing plants – even weeds – birthing a super weed that is resistant to pests as well. This could wipe out an entire field of crops. As could a freak change in weather – the kind of weather the GM crops were not programmed to withstand and the kind of weather drastic climate change has been delivering. When there is no genetic variation and traits are hyper sensitive in some areas but non-existent in other areas, the slightest change created by nature, not man, could take down an entire yield. Tampering with genetics and releasing them into a realm we will always remain powerless in (no matter how hard we attempt to conquer it) will inevitably lead to habitat destruction, loss of species diversity, and an actual food shortage. And I say actual because as much as corporations backing GMOs like to think their product is making headway in feeding the growing – and starving – human population, the source of food shortage actually lies in the problem of food distribution, an issue all on its own.

It has been too little realized that blasting genetically engineered DNA into a plant arbitrarily—like throwing darts into a haystack—disrupts a sequence of genes that has evolved over hundreds of millions of years so as to optimize the functioning of the organism and is bound to destabilize the biochemistry of the plant.” – Micheal Meacher, former UK Government Environment Minister

This information is meant to inform, not to preach or protest. The fact is our health, collectively within nature, is at risk and the only way we can protect our bodies and the environment is to make conscious decisions about what we feed them. Luckily other corporations, particularly Whole Foods, has taken an individual stand against this new legislation and is fighting back by demanding all of its partners label their products, or they will not be sold in stores. While to some this may seem like a risky business move, the reality is that once more people learn about the dangers of the unknown it is likely that business will boom for GMO-free and even labeled brands, as they will be the ONLY safe options. It is only a matter of time before the truth is unveiled, but waiting until then to protect yourself could be too late. Discover more facts by researching GMO pros and cons and discovering new brands and vendors who are working to ensure happy, healthy and safe eating. Here are some of our favorite and most trusted sites regarding news updates on GMO’s, how to change your diet and consuming habits in order to protect your safety, as well as a link to what Whole Foods is up to now and in the future!

Organic GMO Tomato

  • The Non-GMO Report – http://www.non-gmoreport.com/
  • Whole Foods Blog http://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/blog/whole-story
  • Whole Foods & GMOs – http://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/site_search/gmo
  • Organic Consumers Association – http://www.organicconsumers.org/ 

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Allison Beauregard

Allison is a New York City based writer with a focus on sustainability. Her work demonstrates how it is possible to have the “things” that make us happy without compromising the resources that provide these goods. With this vision, Allison sees a future where environmental degradation is reversed and the quality of human life is equally distributed. She is the Category Editor of The Franklin Report and was among the top 5 contributors for Elephant Journal in October 2014.

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