In May of 2009, the American Academy of Environmental Medicine (AAEM) asked doctors to advise their patients, the medical community and the public to avoid genetically-modified (GM) foods whenever possible, and to provide educational materials regarding GM foods and their associated health risks. The AAEM also called for a moratorium on GM foods, as well as long-term independent studies and clear, concise and consistent labeling on all foods (AAEM. "Genetically modifed foods").
The AAEM position paper stated, “Several animal studies
indicate serious health risks associated with GM food,” including
infertility, immune problems, accelerated aging, insulin regulation, and
changes in major organs and the gastrointestinal system. They concluded
“There is more than a casual association between GM foods and adverse
health effects. There is causation,” as defined by recognized scientific
criteria. “The strength of association and consistency between GM foods
and disease is confirmed in several animal studies (AAEM "Genetically modified foods").”
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), Genetically Modified
Organisms(GMOs) are "organisms in which the genetic material (DNA) has
been altered in such a way that does not occur naturally" (for more information, see WHO's publication "20 questions on genetically modified foods"). This technology is also referred to as "genetic engineering",
"biotechnology" or "recombinant DNA technology" and consists of randomly
inserting genetic fragments of DNA from one organism to another,
usually from a different species (AAEM).
The first GM food (a delayed-ripening tomato) was introduced on the US market in the mid-1990s (GMO Compass). Although these tomatoes are no longer available and were pulled from supermarkets after increasing consumer concerns, GM strains of maize, soybean, rape and cotton have been adopted by a number of countries and marketed internationally (WHO, "Modern food biotechnology"). The cultivation of genetically modified plants worldwide also increased
in 2009. In comparison to 2008, field area increased by seven per cent
to 134 million hectares. For comparison, the total acreage of Germany is 35 million hectares. In the case of soybeans, 77 per cent of world
production is achieved with GM soy (GMO Compass).
GMO crops continue to be promoted as beneficial because of their hardiness and increased yield, not to mention maximized nutritional value (SUNY, The Levin Institute). The original vision of GMOs was to feed the world and to reduce the need for synthetic pesticides (MIT, "Mission 2014"). More crops, more nutritious food to underdeveloped countries. More better, more happy. More money for Monsanto (canola, cotton, sorghum, sugarbeets, wheat), AquaBounty Technologies (salmon), Okanagan Specialty Fruits (non-browning apples) and Syngenta (a variety of vegetables).
Why I am so worked up about this? I think the research is more than compelling regarding the adverse effects to human life. When we consider the currently available genetically modified strains of things such as wheat, corn, soy, canola, cottonseed, rice, potatoes, papaya, squash, sugar cane, beets and several other commonly ingested foods, including honey derived from these plant sources, the impact is massive. Add to that the fact that American consumers have not demanded GMO labeling, and the complacency among us is appalling.
Can you consider for a moment that perhaps allergies, attention-deficit disorder, thyroid issues, gluten-sensitivity, autism spectrum disorder and many other neurological disorders such as Alzheimers may be linked to what we casually toss into our baskets at the supermarket? Inflammation and heart disease? Diabetes and auto-immune disorders? And what about cancers? Cancer is big business in the U.S.
Call me paranoid, but does anyone else see the link among illness, Big Pharm, the food industry and the push for GMO production?
My arm-chair/amateur social-psychologist opinion is that people won't do anything about GMOs until: 1.) they themselves or their loved ones experience adverse effects from environmental illnesses or illnesses that can't be addressed by traditional medicine; and 2.) they're tired enough of being sick to do something about it, which means modifying what they eat. Admittedly, it is impossible to purge one's daily diet completely of GMOs, and I am a chronic offender. But there are still many things you can do:
Look for GMO products on supermarket shelves. READ YOUR LABELS!
Request that your supermarket carry more non-GMO products. Find out what those products are and give your supermarket a list.
Make a commitment to make one small change at a time in your food purchases--like buying soy milk that is labeled "non-GMO" and "organic."
Buy your whole foods from people you know and trust. Responsible and safe food production is happening all around you. Ask.
Talk to your kids and extended family about your concerns.
Talk to the people you know about your concerns about GMOs. If you are brave, talk to the people in line at the supermarket about concerns they may have.
Get the Non-GMO Shopper's Guide app for your mobile phone, or download a printable version here.
Boycott and refuse to buy products from companies that produce GM foods and crops, such as Monsanto, et al., and companies that process them, such as Kraft and Kelloggs, et al.
Demand that GMOs be labeled as such. Here is just one organization of many who are spearheading this movement.
Revive efforts such as Proposition 37, which unfortunately failed for a variety of reasons.
Good night, and good luck.