The Great Debate and The Current State of GMO's In The United States (INTRO)

Gimme-MO’ - or - G.M…NO!

 GMO farmer vs chemist

artwork courtesy of Cam Cottrill. See more of his work at http://www.camcottrill.com

 

So, you want the scoop on GMOs?

Well, join the club! If you are not radically on one side or another of the GMO debate then you are just like the rest of us, wondering what to make of it all and who to believe. GMOs have been a major topic of debate for what seems like centuries now. Some science experts claim that they are the future, and health activists have put them in the same category as Radon, Arsenic, and Honey Boo-Boo. Unwinding the truth on this one is like untying a 5-foot barb-wire knot, it’s extremely overwhelming and you’re bound to get stuck more than just once or twice. So lets cut the knots, strip down to solid facts, and brush away the glowing arguments and organic opinions.

What really is a GMO?

G.M.O. stands for Genetically Modified Organisms, also known as Genetically Engineered (GE) and/or Genetic Modification (GM). According to the World Health Organization (WHO) as written in a South University publication; a GMO is explained as, ‘organisms in which the genetic material (deoxyribonucleic acid, or DNA for short) has been altered in a way that does not occur naturally. Recombinant DNA (rDNA) technology, also called genetic engineering, allows selected individual genes to be transferred from one organism into another, also between non-related species. The resulting organism is said to be genetically modified, genetically engineered, or transgenic.

In short, scientists and geneticists try to manipulate the genes of an organism to take on certain new beneficial traits or remove certain unwanted traits for various reasons. Some organizations have tried to make fruits and vegetables that are impervious to disease and extreme weather conditions. Others have tried altering animals to create all new and innovative materials. Both the Universities of Wyoming and Utah own Genetically Altered goats that have been modified with the genes of a spider. No, the goats don’t crawl up walls, swing through the city, or have a thing for redheads named Mary Jane! But they do produce a very special milk containing a new silk protein that when spun into thread could be used for superhero’s new wardrobe. This special protein thread is reportedly 7-10 times stronger than steel, has the potential ability to stretch up to 20 times its unaltered size without losing its strength properties, and has an incredible resistance to extreme temperatures i.e. not losing any of its properties within -20 to 330 degrees Celsius. Sounds like Mr. Freeze might have to get his tailor out in front of this one! Other than outfits for fictitious super-villains this genetically engineered thread has the potential for some amazing applications, including use in artificial ligaments and tendons due to its elastic tendencies and natural attributes that will synthesize much better with the body. Other applications include the creation of bulletproof vests which could possibly be thinner yet stronger than Kevlar vests, improved car airbags and stronger, more reliable parachutes. So what are we waiting for? Lets get this stuff moving before the fictitious villains do right?!....

            Well, not so fast. As much as GMOs have the potential to do some incredible things, as with most brand new technology there are some potential drawbacks here. Think of the genetic alterations that scientists are doing as baking, but with ingredients you’re not fully familiar with. Things like doubling the ingredients, and adding or subtracting new ingredients is much more of an educated guess than it is a sure thing. We are far from fully understanding the genomes and the full effects of alteration. There is strong potential for side effects that could never be preconceived. Furthermore, it turns out that your local bakery has hired these baking scientists to work in the bakery you have gotten products in for years, just without telling you.

So wait a second, you’re saying that my local bakery has scientists making cakes? No, no, no, it’s actually much bigger than that. Large companies like Monsanto, an American multinational agrochemical and agricultural biotechnology corporation, have been selling farmers GMO seeds for over 10 years now. In short, many of the produce and packaged products contained in local grocery stores are and/or utilize GMOs. This is one of the major arguments that health advocates and anti-GMO groups have against GMO-producing companies like Monsanto and the FDA (Food and Drug Administration.

 

European Union GMO stateThe fact is that many European countries quickly banned the import of GMO products after their initial release (see the image to the right courtesy of greenpeace.org). Many other major countries, including the latest two Mexico and Russia, have followed them. The reasons for these bands range from health issues, private test results, religious beliefs, and most commonly the lack of transparency and controversy that comes from the major GMO producing organizations within the US. An example of this is labeling. Lobbyists and company executives from major US GMO producers have continually blocked non-private regulations, testing, and labeling of their products in the US. Leading the charge has been, you guessed it, Monsanto. According to JustLabelIt.org, “In November of 2012, some of America’s biggest and most profitable chemical companies teamed up with a handful of large food companies to spend more than $45 million in an advertising blitz to stop Prop 37, an initiative to require labeling of genetically modified foods. In 2013, the same companies raised millions to try to defeat a similar initiative in Washington State. In 2014, they were pouring money into anti-GMO labeling ballot campaigns in both Oregon and Colorado. While claiming their products are safe and that biotechnology is beneficial, they are emptying their pockets to fight a simple label. What is there to hide?”   That is the big question. With so many political battles raging over GMO labeling and health organizations supporting anti-GMO campaigns we are left wondering what is so bad that non-biased testing and regulations for a label could potentially uncover?

Well, we have a GPP (Gathering of Potential Problems) for you, so that you as a consumer can make a strong educated decision. Some of the potential health concerns brought to light by various testing links milk from cows that have been Genetically Modified to excessive amounts of the hormone IGF-1, which has been known to help cause cancer cells. The American Academy of Environmental Medicine refuses to condone the use of GMOs, and cites various animal studies that show use of GMOs causing organ damage, gastrointestinal and immune system disorders, accelerated aging, and infertility. A famous private study done by Gilles-Éric Séralini replicated a previously conducted study done by Monsanto proving that there were no negative effects from using GMOs. Séralini’s experiment showed very different results including increased liver and kidney damage when the rodent subjects were given the correct amount of time for such symptoms to develop. The findings were published in a 2012 medical journal Food and Chemical Toxicology, but were later forcibly retracted for reasons that many have called questionable technicalities.

Many of these claims have been opposed by GMO groups and their supporters, adding that GMO products are not only safe, but provide larger, fuller, and longer lasting produce. The ability for fruits and vegetables to remain ripe longer allow for more widespread distribution and easier access to off-seasonal products. Even though many of the claims from both sides are highly debated, a large group of health claims stem not from the GMOs themselves but from the herbicides that can be found on and in them.

One of Monsanto’s flagship products is a powerful extra strength Herbicide, Roundup®, that would normally destroy most of the crops it touched. But not when used in conjunction with the company’s GMO Seeds, genetically modified to be immune to their specific pesticides. This tag-team system, and others like it, allows farmers to kill harmful bugs and weeds without destroying their crops. But consumers and health experts have raised some major concerns about these chemicals not get fully expelled from the fruits and vegetables before being brought to market. Also, some serious concerns have been raised regarding the chemicals leaching into rivers, other plants, into feed for other animals, etc all leading them into the mouths of unsuspecting consumers. 

Wait can’t were find out for sure by doing some tests and experiments? Both sides of the debate over GMOs have cited numerous scientific studies saying one thing, while the other side points to another study that says the complete opposite. In many cases the same study has been used to both ratify and condemn Genetically Modified Organisms. But according to Forrest Pritchard, a 7th generation farmer and author of the book Gaining Ground (A Story of Farmers’ Markets, Local Food and Saving the Family Farm), Americans are missing the MAJOR issue.

 

GMO farm fieldMr. Pritchard wrote in a Sept. 2015 Huffington Post article that he has raised and brought to market both GMO and fully Organic crops, and over the years he has seen a major shift over to GMO by fellow farmers. He notes that with so many farmers switching to GMOs the amount of land that is being sprayed with pesticides and herbicides is roughly the size of California! This means that these chemicals are killing everything but the plans themselves including grass, insects, birds and small animals, etc. “The bottom line is this. Instead of worrying about whether a bag of GMO corn chips is safe to eat, we should probably be asking ourselves some bigger questions. Such as, are we okay with using billions of gallons of herbicide each year, supplied by many of the same companies that provide our seeds?”

That last statement by Pritchard speaks volumes. When a few large organizations are making all the agricultural chemicals, as well as the ONLY seeds that can stand up to those chemicals, how long until farmers can no longer grow anything that isn’t Genetically Modified in the dirt that has been scorched by chemicals for decades. Then, how long after that do prices start to rise, and large conglomerate farming companies are the only ones that can afford to grow crops

What is the conclusion to all of these facts, potential for advancement, and potential for major issues? In our opinion there can be no conclusion.

The facts are that we don’t have enough of the facts, for those that wish them not to exist have suppressed them from the public. Without all the information it’s hard to make an intelligent decision. So where do we go from here?

Well, that part is up to you. Our team is very good at producing natural skin care. Products that are guaranteed natural, healthy to use, environmentally safe, and leave your body clean and smelling amazing. But, if you are asking us to play King For a Day, heck we’ll bite.

First, Push for more stringent & non-biased testing for GMO products and manufacturers. Push for privately run studies to generate more clear and solid results aimed at what problems there are currently, but what potential problems lurk around the corner. Create a national procedure for effectively washing and testing produce for chemicals before it reaches market. Then, while that is being pushed through and decided on, form a label for GMO Free (for those products that are guaranteed GMO free), and make a GMO Tested (for the products that pass the regulation processes above) available to those GMO companies that signup. Lastly make the regulation process an annual membership paid by the GMO manufacturers, and free to the growers and farmers.

UPDATE (1/3/2016):

We came across this podcast from Underground Wellness shortly after writing this post and it's a FANTASTIC explanation of the dangers of GMO's. We will further investigate some of the topics addressed in this podcast and follow up with some good posts. Listen to this podcast here.

Sources and Further Readings-

 

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