Friday, February 8, 2013

Why non-GMO foods matter

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.


  1. For over 20 years I have been telling everyone who would listen that it is the additives and GMOs (didn't know what to call it back in the 70's and 80's) that we put into our bodies daily that are making us sick! My mother was an RN and in the late 70's she read a book titled "Who Shall Play God?" .......which set her hair on fire about the subject....

    1. Thanks for your comment, Shirley. I've been on fire about this issue at various levels since early in my life as well. I think what we've managed to poison ourselves but that it's really too late to do anything about it except for future generations.

  2. If a particular gmo foods were to be found to be hazardous to certain people, or people in general, the appropriate response would to ban the use of that particular trait nationally, not to label it at a state level. No such hazard has been documented for dozens of biotech foods traits over 16 years of extensive commercialization, so “hazard” has never been a reason to require labeling of a gmo foods.