Posted: Aug 07, 2013 11:00 AM
 
By now you've probably heard about Monsanto and GMOs as the new axis of evil, but what are the real issues for families and why should we, as parents, care at all?

Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) have been "created through the gene-splicing techniques of biotechnology (also called genetic engineering, or GE)… science [that] allows DNA material from one species to be injected into another species in a laboratory, creating combinations of plant, animal, bacteria and viral genes that do not occur in nature or result from traditional crossbreeding methods" (source).

There's a lot of information about GMOs and Monsanto swirling around the internet and various media sources. Monsanto, having an enormous financial interest in GMOs, claims their genetically engineered crops will reduce use of pesticides and herbicides, result in stronger crops and therefore decrease world hunger.

I don't believe a word they say. They are a giant company enjoying material gains from GMOs. What else are they going to say?

Personally, I want to know what the heart of the matter is, so I can make educated decisions for my family. I'm not one to jump on the latest panic bandwagon — in fact, I'm generally rather skeptical of that which "everybody" says we should worry about. However, after doing my own research on GMOs, in the interest of my health and that of my children, I've made the decision to avoid them as best I can.

Here are the five main reasons I question the consumption of GMOs:

1^ The "science" determining that GE foods are approved for human consumption is not peer-reviewed or in the public domain.

testing tubes in labIn other words, biotech companies like Monsanto independently test their own products behind closed doors. Other scientists do not review their processes or findings, and the public does not even have access to their exact methodology or findings. We are told only, "We promise this is safe." Without peer review, there is no way for us gauge the accuracy or reliability of industry methods. There is no way for us to determine if they're actually testing anything at all using any sort of scientific method. And with a clearly determined bias toward the legality of GMOs, it isn't hard to imagine some skirting of rules and scientific standards.

2^ Though we don't know what GMOs do to our bodies in the long term, it's not looking good.

...Rats fed GMOs 'developed potentially precancerous cell growth in the digestive tract, inhibited development of their brains, livers and testicles, partial atrophy of the liver, enlarged pancreases and intestines and immune system damage.'

Though GMOs have not been widely tested in the public domain, independent research has found that rats fed GMOs "developed potentially precancerous cell growth in the digestive tract, inhibited development of their brains, livers and testicles, partial atrophy of the liver, enlarged pancreases and intestines and immune system damage" (source). On this page, you'll find a whole list of adverse effects on animals fed GMOs. This study, released by the peer-reviewed International Journal of Biological Science, found rats fed GMOs faced organ damage and in some cases failure. This paper by the Non-GMO Project contains over 100 research studies and other authoritative papers documenting the limitations and risks of GE crops.

3^ And yet, GMOs remain unlabeled in America, despite the fact that Japan, New Zealand and many other countries have banned them entirely.

man signaling stopWhat do these other countries know that we don't? Why are other countries taking the reasonable stance of "let's test these before releasing them to humans" while America is allowing giant biotech companies like Monsanto to perform their own testing? These questions lead me to wonder if enormity and monetary value of Monsanto is not the ticket allowing them safe passage in America. Giant companies have a lot of power in this country. And though I want to believe our safety and health is of primary concern, historically, large companies, with their vast lobbying powers, seem to carry more sway than basic decency.

4^ Once GMOs are out, there's no going back.

Our bodies are designed to consume food that occurs in nature. We already have extensive evidence of the adverse effects of processed foods on our bodies.

Once these genetically modified crops are planted, cross-pollination will move them into organic crops, possibly resulting in the obliteration of all naturally occurring food. This terrifies me. We're talking about our food, here, people. We're talking about redesigning our food. Our bodies are designed to consume food that occurs in nature. We already have extensive evidence of the adverse effects of processed foods on our bodies. If we no longer have access to organic, natural food in any form, even if we make the choice to eat "real" food, how exactly do we expect to remain healthy individuals? At the very least, I really don't want some giant company deciding the future of the American food system.

5^ Biotech companies like Monsanto are shady as hell and putting small farmers out of business.

Monsanto is behind the creation of pesticides, insecticides and herbicides that are detrimental to the honeybee population, ground water and human populations. Monsanto is also the number one producer of rBGH, a synthetic hormone banned (for health reasons) in every industrialized country other than the U.S. In other words, the company is engaging in activities that harm us, our environment and our children. And while (some) other countries are cautiously regulating Monsanto and other biotech products, the U.S. seems relatively uninterested in protecting us from the side effects and detriment resulting in Monsanto's "creations."

farmer walking towards combine

Also, because Monsanto has a patent on their GMOs, they are entitled, through patent infringement laws, to receive payment from any farmer "using" their seeds. However, due to cross-pollination, pollen from neighboring Monsanto crops can end up polluting farmers' crops without the farmers' desire or knowledge. Monsanto can then claim the farmer owes them astronomical fees. According to Food Democracy Now!, "Since 1997, one year after the approval of Monsanto's GMO Roundup Ready soybeans, the world's leading chemical and biotech seed company admits to filing 150 lawsuits against America's family farmers, while settling another 700 out of court for undisclosed amounts. During this time, Monsanto has investigated an average of more than 500 family farmers each year."

So what do families do now?

Buy as many organic products as you can. Research which products are made from GMO products (basically, it's all corn, soy and canola products). Look for organic or "non-GMO" labels. There are even apps you can buy for your phone to alert you to a product's GMO content.

But above all, do your own research. Spend an afternoon doing a Google search of the pros and cons of genetically engineered food. Read what both sides say, and choose for yourself.

I shared with you what I found. For the sake of your family, for the health of your children, do the same work and find out for yourself what's best for you and your kids. Find out what's on your food.

The choices we make as parents will affect the health and living conditions of our children and grandchildren, and generations after that.

It's definitely serious, and nobody can make these decisions for us.

And while Monsanto and the government are trying to do just that, we have a choice of where to spend our money, and as Monsanto has demonstrated, there's a lot of power there.

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Amy Vowles August 07, 2013
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I worry about this so much! This is a HUGE reason I shop almost exclusively at Trader Joe's. All of their Trader Joe's branded items are sourced from non GMO ingredients, thank goodness!