Greetings and Happy 2015! I hope it is starting well for you.
In previous episodes of Generation Regeneration, we talked with Nutritionist Anne Baker, Naturopath Dr. Jason Barker, and MD Dr. Christopher Nagy about foods to consume and to avoid in order to properly nourish our bodies and brains. All of these guests warned about genetically modified organisms, or GMO’s. Even though ballot initiatives are sprouting up across the country regarding GMO labeling, many people still don’t understand what they are, and are frightened by television commercials paid for by those that have a vested interest in the status quo of unlabeled GMO’s. So the goal for Tuesday’s show was to provide awareness about what GMO’s are so that you can decide whether, or not, you wish to consume them. If you missed it, you can catch it here On Demand.
Let me begin by saying that I am a classically trained scientist, and am a big fan of human ingenuity. My mind is open to the possibility that genetic modification of food could, in theory, provide a benefit to humanity with little or no risk to the planet and those that consume GMO foods, whether that be livestock animals or us humans. I would love to think that there is a viable scientific solution to a pressing problem, which is world hunger. But I have to say, the more I dug into this, the more concerned I became that there are more questions than answers about the long-term safety of GMO’s and that they were rushed into the food supply in a non-transparent manner to satisfy a corporate profit motive.
My concern is that we know enough about the risks of GMO’s to warrant proceeding with caution because our genetic heritage is at stake; despite what GMO advocates say, the science is not settled. Over 60 countries have banned GMO’s, so clearly there are valid questions about their safety. However, we are not proceeding with caution at all in the US, as GMO’s were introduced into the US food supply in the 1990’s without labels and with short-term safety testing only done by the corporations that would profit from their sale. The way they were introduced means traceability and liability are impossible. What I am saying is, where there’s smoke, there’s fire, and no one should be belittled for asking valid questions about something so important.
During the show, I asked why a multi-national corporation like Monsanto would be interested in GMO’s in the first place. The corporate propaganda machine will state that they are doing it to feed millions of hungry children out of the kindness of their hearts; let’s give them the benefit of the doubt that this MAY be partly true. What is DEFINITELY true, beyond a shadow of a doubt, is that they would not get involved in this endeavor unless there was a PROFIT to be made. Let’s point out that there is not a large profit to be made in the sale of organic seeds straight from mother nature because there is nothing unique about them; they have existed for thousands of years, are readily available from many sources, and therefore can’t command a premium price. However a product which is PATENTED can command a premium price and only be sold by the party that patented it, unless they grant another party something called a license.
We spent quite a bit of time discussing patent law, which got technical, but is CRITICAL to understanding the rise of GMO’s. I encourage you to tune into the show if you want to get into the gory details. For now, let’s focus on the patenting of genetically modified seeds. Inserting genetic material from one species (such as Bt-toxin) into the DNA of corn is not obvious, and hence Monsanto was granted a patent for this product and others like it. And so the GMO saga began.
The reason I call this a saga is because Monsanto has not been satisfied with gaining a portion of the market share for their genetically modified products; they want total domination and, as we discussed, will resort to perverting patent law, intimidating and suing farmers, and thuggery to get it. The film David vs Monsanto (available online at Yekra, for example) summarizes this situation very well by telling the story of Canadian farmer Percy Schmeiser, who stood up to Monsanto, fought them in court for 8 years, and ultimately prevailed. This film is a must see if you want to understand the measures that Monsanto will take to dominate farmers and turn them into serfs on their own land, all in the name of corporate profits.
I wrapped up this section by asking whether you want your food supply controlled by executives with Monsanto stock options, who reside in a high rise far away and care only about the corporation’s bottom line and adding to their personal wealth, or your local organic farmer who is taking care of his or her land for future generations, family and community?
We then moved on to how Monsanto dominates consumers, as well, by ensuring that they are not labeled as such so that we essentially have no choice in the matter. Unless you have eaten ONLY organic whole foods and have not let a single processed item cross your threshold for the past 20 years, you have eaten GM corn and soy since over 80% of all corn and soy grown in the US is GM. You got to know if you were eating an artificial color or flavor, so wouldn’t you have like to known about this, too? I would have.
The reason this came to pass is because the FDA decided that there is “substantial equivalence” between natural and genetically modified foods. In other words, the amounts and types of nutrients in natural and genetically modified foods has been deemed to be “equivalent” and hence there is nothing to be concerned about. But the fact is that there have been no long-term safety studies of GMO’s, only short—term ones by industry, and that is supposed to be good enough. For the rest of the show, we get into why this is not good enough, who is funding anti-labeling efforts and the lies and distortions (particularly regarding food prices) that we are bombarded with. If you don’t already know what glyphosate, Bt-toxin, and leaky gut are, you will by the end of the show!
So what about lofty promises of higher yields, fewer chemicals and greater nutrition from GMO’s? Is this all worth it? Unfortunately, those are not coming to pass. The reality is that farmers are becoming serfs on their own land for a product that provides lower yields, even according to our own USDA data. GM crops require a greater amount of ever more toxic chemicals because of the development of superweeds, or weeds which become tolerant to the herbicides that are used on them, which is not a phenomenon that occurs with smaller-scale, sustainable farming practices. Also just adding a certain vitamin to a food does not ensure that it will be assimilated by the body. It’s not that simple.
I concluded by stating that I can’t avoid seeing a whole bunch of valid concerns and serious downsides to GMO’s and lofty promises left unfulfilled. Perhaps one day the lofty promises will come to pass and long-term safety data will be available. But here’s where I stand until then: we need to proceed with extreme caution. I am a big fan of something called the Precautionary Principle, which states that if the effects of a product or action are unknown, then the product should not be used or the action should not be taken. In other words, something should be shown to be safe first and not secretly introduced into the food supply, as GMO’s have been. There are simply too many unknowns about GMO’s in my opinion to consume them with abandon. And most frightening is the fact that it is not possible to co-exist with GMO’s because of the way nature works. There is no safe distance from a GM farm because the pollen will spread. There is no protective shield around an organic farm, so say goodbye to organics. Percy Schmeiser makes the point in David vs Monsanto that in Canada, all soy and rapeseed are GM by now. Wow.
So what to do when you are fighting an unethical multi-national corporation? It’s my opinion that legislation would be great, but real change will come from a grassroots effort – from each of us educating ourselves on this topic and choosing to spend our grocery budget on local, organic, non-GMO verified whole foods and NOT highly processed, artificial, modified food-like substances that don’t provide nourishment anyway. Avoid the center of the grocery store and anything in a box that proclaims how wonderful and natural it is. It isn’t and is likely full of GMO’s, artificial colors, flavors and sweeteners. Stuff that will make you sick and fat – yuck. Go with foods that are as minimally processed as possible and proudly display the non-GMO verified label. Even better, choose organic whole foods. Eat simply – smoothies for breakfast, salads for lunch, no soft drinks, fruity snacks, and grass-fed beef/ or pasture raised chicken/ or wild-caught fish for dinner along with lots of veggies for dinner. And the amazing thing about making these changes? You’ll lose weight, feel better, and spend less time in the doctor’s office. There’s a saying – either pay the farmer or the doctor. Pick one.
To wrap up – this is David vs. Goliath fight, no doubt, but it’s one we have to win because once this GM genie gets out of the bottle, there’s no getting it back in and our genetic heritage will be lost. We owe the legacy of a safe food supply to all children, everywhere.
And that does it! We look forward to 2015 and hope you will continue to join us, either live or On Demand. You can learn more about all of our activities at http://www.wcubedcommunity.com. Namaste!