Some of you know that I was born in the Soviet Union – my family was able to emigrate and leave the oppressive, persecutory regime in the late 70’s. It is not often that today’s Russia does something I admire, recently it did just that and I applaud them for it. Russia announced that it will ban production of all goods using genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in order to protect their citizenry from the unforeseen consequences of these foods. Taiwan, a country that already had a solid GMO labeling policy in place, recently announced that it is banning GMOs from school lunches.
What do Russia and Taiwan know that we don’t? Why are many countries in the European Union continuing to limit the proliferation of GM crops instituting a de facto moratorium on their production, import and domestic sales? All this, while our own government continues to approve more and more products with GM ingredients for general availability.
Would you be surprised to know that Genetically Modified foods have never undergone human testing? The American Academy of Environmental Medicine in 2009 stated that, “Several animal studies indicate serious health risks associated with genetically modified (GM) food,” including infertility, immune problems, accelerated aging, faulty insulin regulation, and changes in major organs and the gastrointestinal system”(http://www.aaemonline.org/) . Feel better now? Most processed foods, with the exception of those with a USDA Organic designation, contain Genetically Modified ingredients. To add insult to injury, most animals raised for commercial consumption are fed GM corn and soy; as a result, when we consume non-organic animal products such as beef, chicken, dairy and eggs, we are ingesting GM ingredients.
Even if we were to put aside the issue of the safety of GM products, why can’t our government agree that they should be labeled? Not only is such labeling not mandated in the US, but bills are out there to make it illegal for individual states to require such labeling. The EU and Canada have long held stringent labeling requirements, why can’t we? Fortunately, due to grassroots efforts, many commercial food producers are beginning to see the writing on the wall. Just look at the list below for a smattering of recent announcements by mainline food companies about GMO ingredients:
- Chipotle will be removing GMO ingredients from their food
- General Mills, since 2014, has proudly maintained that Cheerios, the ubiquitous all-American cereal is GMO-Free
- Campbell’s, the manufacturer of the quintessential American soups, will be labeling GMO ingredients in their products
- Post now proudly displays the Non-GMO Verified seal on their Grapenuts cereal
- More than 60 US retailers, including COSTCO, have rejected AquaBounty AquAdvantage GM salmon – the first genetically modified animal approved for sale in the United States
- Tropicana, America’s Orange Juice, will now carry the Non-GMO Verified seal as GM oranges have been approved in the US
- Hershey, the candy maker, is phasing out beet sugar made from genetically modified beets and using cane sugar instead
In addition to the concerns over safety of genetically engineered (GE) foods and their labeling, there is a huge issue of glyphosate – a ubiquitous herbicide weed killer and the main ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup. In March of 2015, The World Health Organization designated glyphosate to be a “probable carcinogen”. Many stores in EU and South American countries have been taking Roundup and other glyphosate-containing herbicides off their shelves. Municipalities all over the world are curbing the use of Roundup in public spaces, especially those where children play.
What is the link between glyphosate and GE food? Many GM crops are bred as “Roundup Ready” – able to withstand ever increasing amounts of glyphosate without perishing along with the weeds the herbicide is designed to kill. This allows more and more of this probable carcinogen to be used in agriculture and has made Roundup the world’s leading selling herbicide. Current Roundup Ready crops include soy, corn, canola, alfalfa, cotton, and sorghum, with wheat under development.
Scared now? I definitely am – scared enough to buy organic whenever possible and to ask my landscaper not to use Roundup or any other glyphosate-containing chemicals on my yard. Will you follow along? I sure hope so. Our bodies are wondrous creations; don’t feed them genetically modified food and probable carcinogens – believe me, they will thank you.