For several years now, much concern has been raised over the use of genetically modified crops in foods. There has been little to no published research into the effects of genetically modified foods on human health, and the US government has not yet required labeling of products that contain genetically modified ingredients. As a result, American consumers have no way to identify genetically modified content in their foods, even if they were aware they should be looking out for it.
While 30 countries have significant restrictions or outright bans on genetically modified organisms (GMOs), the US has approved their use.The reason for the FDA’s industry-friendly policy on GMOs is that the White House (under the first George Bush) ordered the agency to promote biotechnology. Also, the person in charge of developing the policy was the former attorney, Supreme Court Associate Justice Clarence Thomas, then of Monsanto, and later their vice president.
Monsanto, the multinational agricultural biotech giant, is also the world’s largest producer of genetically engineered seeds. Notorious for its aggressive and heavy handed business tactics, and questionable ethics, Monsanto is also deeply entrenched in our political system, having spent $2 million on lobbying in the first quarter of 2009. The policy Justice Thomas oversaw claimed that the agency was not aware of any information showing that GMO crops were no different in any meaningful or uniform way, and therefore didn’t need testing.
However, 44,000 FDA internal documents made public from a lawsuit showed that this was a complete lie. The overwhelming consensus among the FDA’s own scientists was that GMO foods were quite different and could lead to unpredictable and hard-to-detect allergens, toxins, new diseases, and nutritional problems. They suggested long-term studies, but were ignored.
In Europe, any product containing over 0.9% GMO has to be labeled, and consumers generally won’t eat foods that test above this level. In contrast, most US and Canadian consumers don’t even know what GMOs are, and do not realize that they are contained in the majority of processed foods. The Grocery Manufacturers Association of America estimates that GMOs are in 75-80% of processed food, mainly due to corn and soy that get used in so many ingredients.
Many consumers in the US believe the FDA approves GMO foods through in-depth, long-term studies. In reality, the agency has absolutely no safety testing requirements. Unlike the Europeans, Americans are uninformed and misinformed on GMOs. The US media has been too quiet about the enormous health risks of GMOs. They did not publish the preliminary study from the Russian National Academy of Sciences, that showed that more than half the offspring of mother rats fed GMO soy died within three weeks (compared to 9% from mothers fed natural soy). They also neglected to report that the only human GMO feeding study ever published showed that the foreign genes inserted into GMO food crops can transfer into the DNA of our gut bacteria.
Americans know so little about this subject, that only about 1 in 4 are aware that they have ever eaten a GMO food in their lives. The same companies that carefully avoid GMO ingredients for concerned Europeans are happy to sell GMOs to unknowing consumers in the US.
Several ways to avoid GMO foods:
Look at the stickers on fruit - there is a PLU code with either 4 or 5 numbers. If your fruit’s label has 4 numbers, it is conventionally grown. 5 numbers starting wit a 9 means it was organically grown, and 5 numbers starting with an 8 means GMO.
Buy local and talk to your farmers. This is the best way to ensure you are eating real foods.
Avoid the top 4 GMO crops: Soy, Corn, Canola and Cottonseed. Most blended oils in North America contain canola and cottonseed. Buying 100% extra virgin olive oil is a safe alternative.
Buy organically grown food. For now, the organic certification process is a relatively safe way to ensure your food is free of GMOs.
Over 90% of this year’s sugar beet harvest will be Monsanto’s. That means if you are using sugar, or eating anything with sugar in it, you are eating GMOs. You can substitute conventional sugar with organic sugar, honey or evaporated can juice wherever possible.