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Ask JJ: GMOs

Genetically modified or GMO foods (GMOs) are plants that have been genetically altered to increase crop yield or shelf life. They're engineered by inserting foreign genes into the DNA of the plant.
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Injecting with hypodermic needle a bright green substance into a red tomato. Biotech
Injecting with hypodermic needle a bright green substance into a red tomato. Biotech

Dear JJ: I've read so much conflicting information about GMOs. Some experts argue GMO foods are perfectly safe while others claim they're not. From your research, what's your perspective?

Genetically modified or GMO foods (GMOs) are plants that have been genetically altered to increase crop yield or shelf life. They're engineered by inserting foreign genes into the DNA of the plant.

My friend Jeffrey Smith, author of Seeds of Deception and founder of The Institute for Responsible Technology, has become a leading expert about GMOs and their health risks. "With genetically engineered foods," he writes, "you take single genes or combinations of genes, typically you make changes in the structure of them, and then you artificially force them into the DNA (the genome) of other organisms. So it is not natural."

Some people call GMO foods Frankenfoods. Unless you've lived under a rock the past few years, you've heard about their potential threat to the environment and our health.

Why do some manufacturers and other food producers prefer GMOs? Well, GMO crops can arguably withstand heavy pesticide and insecticide exposure. They also supposedly offer more nutrition, drought tolerance, and other benefits while yielding more crops. Food corporations claim GMOs allow them to grow more food using less land and water, plus GMO crops are sprayed with fewer chemicals.

Giant farming organizations argue GMO foods are perfectly safe for human consumption. However, we have no proof of that long-term safety, yet plenty of evidence reveals their potential dangers. According to the American Academy of Environmental Medicine, GMO foods pose serious health risks. Among those risks include skyrocketing levels of chronic diseases including cancer, obesity, Type 2 diabetes, and food allergies.

Take that last one. We have a growing number of people who struggle with food allergies, including celiac disease. Studies show about five percent of the population suffer from either celiac or gluten intolerance.

Some critics argue better diagnostic tools contributed to that surge in celiac disease diagnosis. Yet one study tested frozen sera (blood serum) taken between 1948 and 1954 for gluten antibodies. Researchers compared the results with sera taken from a matched sample from people living today. They discovered a four-fold increase in celiac disease over that time. That's a real problem because undiagnosed celiac disease, which has increased significantly in the U.S. during the past 50 years, creates an increased risk of death, mostly due to increased cancer risk.

How do GMO foods contribute here? Research shows glyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto's herbicide Roundup, among the reasons for increased celiac and gluten intolerance diagnosis.

California has officially classified this nasty herbicide as a "possible carcinogen to humans." Of course, Monsanto claims glyphosate poses no risk to humans and recently sued California over that claim.

Once considered to be nontoxic to humans, recent research links glyphosate to obesity, autism, Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's, infertility, depression, and cancer.
Other studies find glyphosate can potentially increase your risk for nutritional deficiencies, reproductive issues, thyroid disease, kidney failure, cancer, and non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma as well as reproductive issues like infertility, miscarriages, and birth defects.

Monsanto stands firm on GMO safety. The biggest producer of pesticides and GMO crops in the world, this company researched rats and Roundup to convince the general public that GMOs are safe. They found "no biological differences" between their GMO crops and non-GMO crops.

However, Dr. Giles-Eric Seralini found just the opposite results in his long-term study that showed female rats fed GMO corn developed multiple organ damage, gigantic mammary tumors, kidney and liver damage, and increased death rates. Rats developed these problems whether or not the GMO corn they ate had been sprayed with Roundup or fed low levels of Roundup in drinking water.

Those are among the reasons many countries have banned GMO crops. Not America, where GMOs run rampant in many commercial foods. In fact, studies show over 80 percent of American foods in the U.S contain GMO ingredients, including cotton, soy, corn, canola, sugar beets, Hawaiian papaya, squash, zucchini, and alfalfa. Soy, another popular GMO food, is ubiquitous in processed foods.

You might also find GMOs in other ingredients including aspartame, natural or artificial flavorings, high-fructose corn syrup, and hydrolyzed vegetable protein. That's another reason to steer clear of processed foods, scrupulously read labels, and only buy professional-quality supplements.

I wonder whether our government wants to keep us in the dark about what's in our food. After all, lobbyists risk losing massive amounts of money when we become more conscious about our food.

There's good news amidst this controversy. The Senate just blocked the "Deny Americans the Right-to-Know" Act (also called the DARK act), which would have prevented states from labeling GMO foods.

A few states are also speaking up. Vermont will become the first state to require GMO labeling. Likewise, the Hawaii Legislature considered GMO food-labeling bills but hasn't passed them.

Many food companies and farm industry groups feel these laws will hurt them because consumers will stop buying their products. And some scientists argue GMOS are safe to consume with no risk to human health.

Yet Bland and other advocates continue educating the public on GMO dangers and exposing misleading, self-funded studies conducted by huge chemical manufacturers like Monsanto and to prevent the hijacking of our food supply.

Regardless of your perspective, the majority of Americans want to at least know what's in their food and make their own decision on what to eat. Labeling GMOs makes that easier.

The easiest way to avoid GMOs is to go organic. For a food to be classified as certified organic, it cannot contain any GMO ingredients. You can learn more about how to avoid GMOs here. I realize buying organic is not always possible. Until GMOs are on our labels and highlighted in red, it's worth the additional legwork to sleuth them out.

For more information and a complete list of where they might be slipping onto your plate, visit this link and download their non-GMO shopping list. Also, look for certification from the nonprofit organization Non-GMO Project. It puts its seal on brands it verifies as GMO- free, so you can buy worry-free.

Have you become more concerned about GMO foods? Share your thoughts, pro or con, in the comments below. And keep those great questions coming at AskJJ@jjvirgin.com.