Why are biotech firms so against GMO labeling; better yet, why is Monsanto trying to portray the March Against Monsanto movement as an "elitist" jab at their "effort to eradicate world hunger"? I'll get back to these questions, but let's start with the basics....
What are GMO's?
or genetically modified organisms, are
bacteria/yeast/animals/insects/mammals/etc that are genetically
modified using advanced genetic engineering techniques. These
organisms are then used to create genetically modified foods, or
rather they are used to create genetically modified “goods”.
One of the most widely-used example of this is the Roundup-ready soy
Roundup, a potent herbicide which is shown to be directly “non-toxic” to humans, is used on a significant portion of crops in the United States and around the world. In the past, this herbicide was used in small amounts and isolated over the weeds but were not sprayed on the crop themselves. Long story short, a bacteria was found that was resistant to this powerful herbicide; that bacteria was then genetically engineered with the soy crop to make the crop resistant to the Roundup (aka Glyphosate), thus making it easier to spray blindly without worrying about killing the crop (easier, cheaper).
Conveniently, the seed and biotech company Monsanto (yeah, the chemical company responsible for DDT, Agent Orange) is also responsible for Roundup. Wait, did I get that right? Yes, that is correct....the same company that sells Roundup also is responsible for the Roundup-resistant crops. Talk about double-dipping. But that's just the tip of the iceberg.....
Unfortunately, the narrative that we're “fed” says that we need GMO agriculture in order to feed the starving people of the world. However, 20 years of research has show that 1) GMO agriculture is not less expensive and has shown an increasing cost over the years and 2) there is more than enough food in the world and the problem is access not availability. Monsanto holds patents on these genetically-modified seeds, and the contracts with the farmers that purchase these seeds are suffocating. Many of the seeds yield sterile crops or the contract does not allow the farmer to use the seeds to replant (because they claim it is a food 'good' that they have the patent to)....permanent return customers. They have these poor farmers by the proverbial balls.
Why do I need to worry about GMO's?
Unfortunately, most of the biotech-backed research is only done in 3-month intervals and tend to not follow the progress of the animal's diet past a single generation or for any prolonged period. However, the research of multiple generations of lab mice, done by independently-funded groups, is startling. Many biotech companies will claim that “GMO's are safe and are not much different from other food”. But after looking at the various sources of independent-research that show large tumor growth, and in some cases decreased birthrates or sterility, it's hard to still hang on to the thought that these foods are safe.
80% rate of tumor growth in mice found in mammory glands of female
mice? I know one thing; when my mother found out she had breast
cancer, she fit in very few of the “risk” categories. She always
stayed active and ate relatively healthy, cutting her diet to
produce, lean poultry, tofu, and soy milk. Now, I'm not saying that
her eating soy directly caused her cancer....but I do know that her
oncologist told her to stop eating any soy products.
Okay, so you may be wondering “if these food goods are unsafe, why are the legal or why don't they have to be labeled?”. This is a loaded question, and I'll get to the heart of it. But at the end of the day it comes down to one thing: lobbying/money. Last year Monsanto spent $6 million on lobbying, and it was money well spent for them. At the end of last year, Prop 37 which would have required GMO's to be labeled in food products was rejected. There is also a convenient double-standard dialogue taking place....Monsanto tell consumers and the FDA “it's perfectly safe and not any different than non-GMO crops or other food goods”, while simultaneously telling the government and courts “this is a unique food good that we own the patent to, it's different than other food goods and we have the RIGHTS to it”. Okay, so which is it....is it different or is it the same, I'm confused?
Monsanto: The Convenient Revolving Door
So as if the idea of “chemical company turned seed company” isn't enough of a revolving door, it gets worse. You may be thinking, “if there's all this information that says it's not safe, why doesn't the FDA ban GMO's or require labeling?” Funny you should ask. Well, below are some of the people responsible for making decisions on issues like “safety” or “legality”.
Meet Michael Taylor
Meet Justice Clarence Thomas
Okay, the food is poisoned: but what can I do about GMO's if they're so prevalent?
I've heard from many of my friends or family members lately that “they don't know what to do about it”. Well, the first way to start is protesting where it counts: with your wallet. Many people are deterred by the idea that “organic and all-natural is just so expensive”. But when you shop smart and find local alternatives, combined with a savings in your healthcare costs, it really is not all that expensive. In fact, since we've switched to buying local and organic, we actually spend less than we used to at the major grocery store. So here's a few ideas for those of you that are feeling lost in the GMO abyss:
Use the internet to your advantage. Search for local small markets. There are also many local organic co-ops that have weekly markets or food delivery/pick up services. Orlando has several, for example Orlando Organics which has seasonal/mostly local produce and offers weekly/biweekly/monthly door delivery. Their small “grocery bag” of produce is about $24 including delivery, and usually lasts about a week and a half between my husband and I. We did a shop comparison to buying comparable items at our local Publix, and there was no cost difference. They don't have the same produce year-round (hence “seasonal” items), but produce is not meant to naturally grow year-round.
If it is food and has a commercial, it's probably not a great choice.
Use apps like Fooducate or Buycott to scan items. Fooducate will allow you to 'flag' for processed/GMO/vegan diet/etc, and Buycott allows you join “causes” for various things like GMO/Monsanto, companies that use “sweatshops”, etc. I went through our fridge and cabinet, and using the Fooducate app cleared out any and everything “possible-GMO” or “high-probability GMO”.
- Fooducate Android app http://www.fooducate.com/ https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.fooducate.nutritionap
- Fooducate iTunes app https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/fooducate/id398436747?mt=8
- Buycott Android app https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.buycott.android&feature=search_result
- Buycott iTunes app https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/buycott/id585933440?mt=8
Grow your own food. Between blogs/facebook pages, there are a plethora of information and ideas. It's not as difficult as you may think, and gardening is a great life-long hobby.
Make your meals at home. Be your own chef, it's fun and you know exactly what's going into your meals. We've even starting making our own homemade condiments (easy to find recipes online, the cost is significantly less and it's way more delicious).
Planning: take a few hours on your day off and prep/plan meals for the week. In our fast-paced society, these companies are thriving on our need for convenience. I started bottling my own teas, making homemade fruit-infused waters. We save glass bottles and mason jars, then use that to store and prep things. A little planning on the front-end prevents us from making those poor choices when we're “short on time”, because it's as simple as grabbing it out of the fridge.
Today at 2pm will be the local March Against Monsanto (which is or has already taken place in various places around the world). For more information on GMO labeling and the March Against Monsanto, click here.
Stay healthy my friends!