Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Are Genetically Modified foods safe?

In 2010, the share of genetically modified crops in the US, represented 86% of all corn planted (up 2% from last year), 93% of all soybeans planted (up 2% from last year), and 93% of all cotton planted (up 19% from last year).  Other genetically modified plants grown in the US include canola (rape seed), sugar beets, sweet corn, squash (zucchini and yellow crookneck squash), and papayas in Hawaii.

Every year since 1996, Americans have been eating a greater percentage of genetically modified (GM) and genetically engineered (GE) foods directly and indirectly through food additives, flavors, and vitamins.  The majority of the livestock, hens, and dairy cows around the world are fed solely GM feed and in the US injected with genetically engineered hormones such as rbGH (also known as rbST).  An increasing amount of honey is from bees fed on GM plant flowers.

We wonder how safe GM foods really are and if the reduced health and rising obesity in America is partly due to our new GM diet?

The big GM companies, Monsanto and Bayer, cite the lack of litigation for any substantiated health impacts due to GM food as proof of the safety of GM foods. Though we are not sure that a lack of litigation is proof of food safety, it does indicate that should there be any health effects from eating GM foods, they might be subtle.

Here are some recent developments that concern us about the GM food health question.
·         In 2009,  the American Academy of Environmental Medicine released a position paper on Genetically Modified foods stating that “GM foods pose a serious health risk” and called for a moratorium. They cited several animal studies and concluded  that there is more than a casual association between GM foods and adverse health effects and that they pose a serious health risk in the areas of toxicology, allergy and immune function, reproductive health, and metabolic, physiologic, and genetic health.
·         A new disease, called Morgellon’s disease, is thought by some to be due to eating GM food. This painful disease creates a feeling of insects crawling under the skin and in some cases lesions on the skin that produce colored cellulose fibers. Analysis of the fibers showed that they contain DNA from a fungus and bacterium used in GM foods.
·         Biotech companies claim the Bt toxin gene added to GM plants from soil bacteria bacillus thuringiensis is safe since organic farmers use it in a spray. But Bt sprayings by plane to kill gypsy moths caused hundreds of people to report allergy or flu symptoms and some to go to the emergency room due to its effects. The Bt toxin in GM plants is more concentrated than the spray and remains in the plant rather than being able to be washed off.
·         Farmers in India are reporting allergic symptoms from handling Bt cotton and victims of itching are increasing dramatically.  It has been reported that cattle fed on Bt cotton fodder and oil cakes in India have suffered from infertility, reduced milk yield, bloody dysentery, excessive salivation, bloated stomachs, and have also died.

Living in Hilo we thought we could reduce the amount of GM foods in our diet.  However, the more we learn about genetically altered foods and food additives, the more we are confronted with their presence in products we never imagine they could be in.

Products from GM foods like corn, soy, canola, and cotton are spread throughout the manufactured food supply through popcorn, corn starch, corn flakes, corn oil, corn syrup (fructose and glucose), corn sugar (dextrose),  gluten, modified food starch, canola oil, soy flour, soy margarine, tofu, tempeh, natto, soy protein, lecithin, isolate, isoflavone, vitamin E (tocopherol), cotton oil, vegetable oil, vegetable protein, cellulose (used as a thickening agent and binder), sugar beet sugar, and more.

GM technology is used in other food additives produced with GM microorganisms including aspartame (an artificial sweetener),  vitamin B (riboflavine), glutamate(a flavor enhancer), and xanthan (a thickening agent). GM microorganisms produce enzymes used in foods including: chymosin for producing cheese; starch-splitting amylases used in bread and pastries; sugar-splitting invertases in sweets and chocolates; amylases and other enzymes used in the production of glucose syrup from starch; and pectinases used to degrade cell membranes in juice and wine. GM microorganisms also help produce other foods including: wheat beer with GM yeast and corn sugar; yeast extract from GM yeast; yoghurt with GM lactobacilli (lactic acid bacteria); salami (raw sausages) with GM lactobacilli (lactic acid bacteria); blue cheese with GM moulds; and Quorn (a new vegetarian food in the UK) from GM fungi. GM growth mediums are used to create bakers' yeast cultured on a medium containing GM corn; vitamin C produced by microorganisms raised using glucose derived from GM corn starch; and citric acid is produced by microorganisms raised using molasses derived from GM sugar beets.

And more GM products are entering the market and our food supply.  AquaBounty claims it is on the verge of receiving government approval to market eggs of a quick growing Atlantic salmon modified with a gene from a Pacific Chinook Salmon. If approved by the FDA, it will be the first GM animal to reach consumers in the US. In June 2010, the supreme court ruled that Monsanto could sell their GM alfalfa with USDA approval. Alfalfa is the 4th most planted US crop with the dairy industry being the biggest consumer.  
The existing organic and non-GM farms are getting contaminated by seeds and pollen blowing in from the ever increasing GM crop acreage.  In July 2010, Bayer was sued for introducing GM long-grain rice into the US food supply chain in several states which restricted US rice exports and caused a decline in rice futures.  Most non-GM products are allowed some percentage of GM content due to contamination.  The GM seeds are suppose to be sterile so that they can’t reproduce themselves, but scientists are finding GM canola plants along the highways and in wild areas where they shouldn’t be able to grow.
We will let you know if we can create a diet that is organic and results in us attaining excellent health and maintaining our “wealth BMIs”.


Kaua'i Freind said...

Aloha. I love reading your blog. I read it whenever you make a new post. I was interested enough in this topic today to post a comment and a link.

On Kaua'i some of the spraying for one of the GMO's, right next to one of our elementary schools, made our children and teachers sick enough that they had to go to the hospital.

Also, the reasons why the seeds can't reproduce, is so you have to buy more. What I mean by that is that they aren't supposed to be hierloom. That's why we have hierloom seed exchange fairs here on Kauai, where most of the GMO crops are being grown.

Here is a link to the articles about the school incident:


Chuck Anderson said...

Thanks for another great post. The research you do and the information you share are much appreciated.

Are you back in Hilo or are you still preferring Kona? As someone who continues to think about the BI as an option, your experience of one versus the other is quite valuable.

HiloLiving said...

Thanks for the comments Kaua'i Friend and Chuck. We are renting on the Kona side right now and having a great time. We love the Hilo side of the island as well and continue to visit and enjoy the east side of the island. Each community on the Big Island is so unique they are not easily compared. We hope to live in as many Big Island communities as possible over the next decade.

1063022257 said...

On my trip from Ames to Des Moin in Iowa, USA 3 years ago I passed a nasa bio lab that genetically modified seeds. Gosh it smells like raw sewage from a 10 mile radius. It was the same putrid smell of rotten corpses as a district called Lingley Mere in my home town of Warrington, Uk; which was where all the cows in the UK were slaughted, drained of fluid and burned over the mad-cow-disease (bse) saga. So I reckon that if green peace says gm and ge food stuffs are cloned from dead animal bodies and bacteria, then I don't want any. I have since given up meat again, for good this time, as my body is my temple. And what did cows, sheep and chickens ever do to harm me except give me milk, wool and eggs. I reckon bse was a conspiracy to start a new wave of cattle that would actually adapt to genetically modified food. Plus I reckon gm cloned food is a government conspiracy to nanny state what we consumed when we excrete. If the rats, flies and slugs wont eat gm or ge food; then neither will I. If the government can kill off all known cows in the UK because they cant be put in your oven then I dont trust that this ge and gm deal is really so pretty.

Anonymous said...

I was kind of shocked to see this information. I mean I knew it was going on but not to this extent. It is very important that people are aware of what is going on. For more information on what we can do to "go green" visit

Becca Blossoms said...

If you want to know about what are genetically modified foods are, Genetically engineered foods have had foreign genes (genes from other plants or animals) inserted into their genetic codes.Genetic engineering can be done with plants, animals, or microorganisms. Historically, farmers bred plants and animals for thousands of years to produce the desired traits. For example, they produced dogs ranging from poodles to Great Danes, and roses from sweet-smelling miniatures to today's long-lasting, but scent-free reds. May be you are find a clear concept about what are genetically modified foods are ....

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