Wednesday, November 19, 2008



There, I said it. I'm not a reporter so I'm not going to hide my bias. If there's one thing I'm as passionate about at Green Acres as I am of the environment, it's the food we eat and our health. And it just so happens that they're all connected. How we produce our food affects our environment as well as our health. When it comes to genetically engineered (GE) or modified (GM) crops, what many call "frankenfoods", it's no different (though assuredly worse).

But I'm not going to bother with the environmental aspects of GE foods today. Though they're vast and important, I'm going to stick to the food and health aspect of them. Besides, the images I could stir up of what the possible hazards are of unleashing an unproven technology into the outdoors isn't as scary as the possible hazards of what eating those foods could do to us- and what studies are starting to show.

You're probably aware of GE or GM corn, soybeans, cottonseed, canola and soon sugar beets. What you may not be aware of is that there have been over 60 serious health risks documented when feeding GE and GM foods to laboratory and farm animals. Those risks include serious fertility problems, lower birth weights and increased mortality in offspring of laboratory animals among other not so pleasant things to farm animals. (They're pointed out in detail in the book "Genetic Roulette" by Jeffrey M. Smith.)

But those foods pale to what is up next for GE and GM foods. Pharma crops to produce drugs and industrial chemicals and genetically engineered or modified animals. Other than creating industrial chemicals in crops, this technology is being touted as the answer to feeding or medicating a growing population. Done right, maybe they could be. For instance, scientists creating genetically engineered corn with antibodies to prevent the virus that causes AIDS or genetically engineered salmon that grows twice as fast as regular farmed salmon seems promising. But setting aside the environmental and now also setting aside ethical issues, they're not being done right. The USDA is considering relaxing regulations on growing pharma crops outdoors. Engineering food plants to be medicine in a global economy opens the door to people being medicated who shouldn't be. Also, drift happens. Corn pollen can travel miles away pollinating other corn plants not intended as medicine.

As far as the salmon goes, the reason they grow twice as fast is because they're engineered with a protein that makes them produce a growth hormone year-round. That makes them aggressive eaters. It may be an old cliché, but we are what we eat. We know fish oil feeds our brains. How do we know if the trait genetically engineered into salmon couldn't transfer to the humans or pets that eat them?

The FDA is responsible for regulating GE fish and farm animals and is currently drafting (or has just drafted) rules for an approval process that requires review of the effectiveness of the genetically engineered trait and any health impact on the ANIMAL, but no review or studies on the health impact to humans who eat those animals. There's also no provisions for making companies label genetically engineered meat that ends up on grocery store shelves allowing us to be informed consumers.

Even Andrew Zimmern from the Travel Channel's "Bizarre Foods" wants to know what he's eating before he eats it!

And I'm no Andrew Zimmern.

But I'd willingly eat what he eats before I'd willingly eat frankenfoods.

Because it's not just limited to salmon engineered to grow fast. They've genetically engineered goats with spider genes so their milk produces silk stronger than steel. They've engineered pigs with mouse and bacterial DNA to improve their digestion to limit pollution. They've genetically engineered cows to produce disease-fighting human antibodies in the plasma of their blood. There are more examples but you get the idea.

Let me tell you that I don't believe this technology is about feeding a growing population or providing them with cheap drugs. I believe it's strictly about corporate profits. If there were true altruistic people behind them they would instead work towards a clean environment and producing healthy food through organic farming and green chemistry. They would clean up the oceans and promote sustainable fisheries. They would not risk our health, the health of future generations or our planet by creating foods and medicines that are not freely shared but corporately controlled. Remember, our health is directly connected to the health of the environment as well as to the food we eat. We wouldn't need to “engineer” our food and medicine if we cleaned up our environment, produced healthy food (and fostered family planning).

Anyway, it seems illogical to me that GE animals fall under the FDA and GE pharma crops fall under the USDA but that's the way it is. The Union of Concerned Scientists has a pre-written letter to the USDA to oppose weakening the regulations on growing pharma crops. If you oppose it too you can find it here:

Food and Water Watch has a pre-written letter to the FDA asking them to ban GE animals for food. You can find it here:

Here’s an article explaining why the FDA regulates GE animals:

A good article " Pharma Crops' Threaten Food Safety":

Another good article "Should Biotech Piggy go to Market?" (You may have to hit enter in the upper right hand corner to read it.)

And here’s a link to the Institute for Responsible Technology website where you can learn more about GE foods:

Tofu anyone? Oh, wait. Is it made from non GMO sourced soybeans?

TTFN, LDouglas

If y'all would like to email LDouglas, to discuss her postin in length, please just send it to Miss Vero and we promise it will arrive safely. Of course, comments are always encouraged!



LDouglas said...

I opened up the latest issue of Forbes last night and within the first ten minutes of reading came across two blurbs about GE foods. One boasted about the EU changing its thinking about accepting GE foods because of inflated food prices.

Not entirely true. They're being strong-armed, but that's another story. (The EU is kind of the leader when it comes to acknowledging and weighing environmental and health risks. So hinting they're accepting them is IMO, a PR stunt.)

The other chided people for embracing IVF or gene therapy cures while shunning GE foods. Then insulted us by calling us obese and stupid for shunning them while choosing death by doughnuts. It went on to say that genetic modification is "simply selective breeding" and that we've been breeding better traits into crops and animals for centuries.

Again not entirely true. And the differences are huge. One of which is they didn't patent animals for centuries. They didn't have patents that didn't allow you to save the seeds from the plants you grew. They didn't have terminator technology so your plants wouldn't have any seeds forcing you to buy them year after year. And they selectively bred stronger hardier plants that would stand up to insects- not be an actual insecticide.

They make some claims that are true. We are going to need better drought tolerant plants and to increase our output. But, GE crops are not proving to live up to it. Thousands of farmers in India are committing suicide because they went into debt buying GE cotton seeds with promises of drought tolerance and better yields. Yet, two seasons of droughts have left them with nothing but debt and many have lost their farms.

virtual vero said...

And I thought it was menopause that caused this thickening of the midsection. I'll never eat another farm raised salmon again! Well, maybe only on big eating days like Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year's Day, Easter, my birthday, my husband's birthday, our anniversary... oh heck, at $8/pound versus $18/pound, I don't know if I can afford wild salmon ever again.

The only meat I serve my kids is chicken, free range, of course. Are they cross breeding chickens with spiders too?

Gosh. That's so gross!

Is tofu genetically modified? How about those green cauliflowers they have in Publix?

Should we only buy organic? Sam's sells organic veggies, but then we're supporting Walmart.


I need a martini... and a doobie, but I quit that a long time ago too.

fairy delilah said...

So, it's finally come to this:

Soylent Green

LDouglas said...

Gosh, I hope we're not reaching Soylent Green stage yet. :-)

Virtual Vero,
The salmon I mentioned aren't on the market yet (supposedly). They're still awaiting approval. So the farm raised salmon your eating is safe right now as far as GE goes- (I'm not sure about the other things I've heard about it).

From time to time, Publix has fresh wild salmon on sale for $10 a pound. I've also found frozen wild salmon at Walmart for $6 or $7 a package (my m-i-l's favorite store so I'm sort of forced to go). I don't recall the weight but I think they had 3 filets in it.

As far as I know, there's been no tampering with chickens.

I think half the soybeans in the world are GM so there's probably a 50/50 chance anything made with soybeans is GM unless they say it's non GMO.

I don't really know what's safe to eat unless you grow and raise it yourself. I just try to stay away from what I know is really no good and eat the rest in moderation. Instead of a martini, my food gets washed down with a watered down glass of wine. (In the name of moderation and because it's "good for you".)

BlessUrHeart said...

Make sure you look at the labels on all frozen fish, especially at WalMart and Sam's -- it's all from China, and that's the stuff they keep re-calling owing to "minor" problems with chemicals, etc.

Look at the label! ;-)