You can’t fool Mother Nature – GMO foods

Sep 27

Do you remember the slogan from the 1970’s for Chiffon Margerine? “You can’t fool Mother Nature.” In their commercial, of course, you could fool Mother Nature. A lot has changed in the relationship between man and nature in the past 40 years. Man has begun to manipulate nature in ways that would have been inconceivable back then. Giant leaps in the science of genetics has made it possible to do the unnatural with nature in myriad ways.

I became interested in how these “advances” were impacting the food supply about nine years ago. My husband was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease (PD) at the early age of 44. I started researching potential causes and looking at data on where PD is most prevalent. I am one of these people who considers a problem as a challenge and I will research every angle looking for a possible solution or connection that nobody else has thought of. I learned that there are higher concentrations of PD in the corn belt and other areas where there are large swaths of agricultural land. While this wasn’t the case with my husband, his might be more related to working on a golf course growing up, it was an intriguing thread for me to follow.

I began to read everything I could put my hands on about our food and what’s been happening to our food over the past several decades. We have moved to a more industrialized food supply system and to longer and longer shelf lives and more processed foods. At that same time I learned that I had friends and neighbors who worked for large agribusiness. I wanted to be thorough and fair in my research so I read books from many points of view. One was Bioevolution by Michael Fumento. There is much to think about in his book. I am not an activist and not the type that runs out and only gathers information from one side of the story to support an opinion I have already formed. I am still forming my opinion because there is so much change going on. But at the very least I feel it is critical for us as consumers to have the information in our labeling to make an informed decision.

The growing population of the world requires more and more food with less and less arable land. This poses a huge challenge for governments, farmers and scientists. How do we grow more food to feed more people without accelerating our science to improve our crop yields? Norman Borlaug, the Father of the Green Revolution, won the Nobel Peace Prize for his work on increasing crop yields and helped divert famine for our rapidly growing population. His career is fascinating. He died a few years ago and there was quite a bit in the press about him. I think he would never have imagined his impact on the world when he began his work.

As the Green Revolution advanced, so did population growth and the science that was fueling increased yields. Genetic engineering suddenly allowed for the insertion of DNA from other organisms into plants and animals to add “helpful” traits such as drought, insect or pesticide resistance. Genetic engineering might be the only possibility for helping to save the most popular fruit in the world – the banana. and that’s a good thing. But there are so many things we still don’t know about what this gene modification is doing to our food supply.

For example, there is a certain gene present in some artic fish that keeps them from freezing. This gene is being inserted into some tomatoes to prevent freezing. Little is known about how this impacts people with food allegeries, one of whom is my daughter. She suffers from a long list of severe food allergies. Two weeks ago she had a terrible episode after eating a club sandwich. We searched the ingredient list and talked to the restaurant several times. Nothing she was allergic to was on the list but there was a tomato on the sandwich. Was it a genetically modified tomato? We have no way of knowing because there are no regulations requiring the labeling of genetically modified foods in the US.

I venture to guess that most of you have no idea that you are eating GMO food on a daily basis if you eat anything that has corn or soy derived ingredients. According to the grocery manufactures association GMO foods are present in 75-80% of processed foods. This is disturbing from a number of angles. First, there hasn’t been sufficient testing to determine how these foods affect people over the long term with consistent consumption every day. Second, we should be able to be informed consumers so that we can chose for ourselves whether or not we want to participate in a wholesale experiment. Finally, with the onset of GMO we no longer grow the same number of varieties of corn and soy in the US. We are losing the biodiversity of our food supply which brings about risk in and of itself.

A few years ago while research a novel I am writing I visited the National seed storage lab in Colorado. I learned some very interesting things about crop biodiversity and how precarious our seed stock really is. Did you know that there are more than 30,000 varieties of corn? Only 4 varieties are grown in any large quantities anymore. When seeds are no longer replanted to produce new viable seed the following year, the old seed is eventually no longer viable and that variety can no longer be grown. While the new seed allows for greater yield, the concentration of the seed stock into such a limited number of varieties creates significant systemic risk to our food supply should something evolve to attack these few varieties. When I visited the storage lab a few years ago I saw a number of seed packages marked GMO. I would like to go back for a follow up visit and see how much that number has increased in the last few years and how many varieties of conventional seed are no longer being provided to the storage bank. Read more about the facility here

Up until recently this modification and seed control was based primarily on feed corn. The most recent concern, you may have seen in the news, is that now they are turning their resources to produce GMO sweet corn which is the corn we eat at the dinner table.

This brings me to my point about fooling Mother Nature. In the book Seeds of Deception by Jeffery M. Smith he discusses a number of the issues and potential risks around GMO. In particular, I was taken by the numerous examples of farmer’s doing tests with their animals to see how they reacted to GMO vs. Non-GMO corn. Here is an excerpt that will really start you thinking:

Wisdom of the Cows
In 1998, Howard Vliegar harvested both natural corn and a genetically modified Bt variety on his farm in Maurice, Iowa. Curious about how his cows would react to the pesticide-producing Bt corn, he filled one side of his sixteen-foot trough with the Bt and dumped natural corn on the other side. Normally, his cows would eat as much corn as was avaialbe, never leaving leftovers. But when he let twenty-five of them into the pen, they all congregated on one side of the trough with the natural corn. When it was gone, they nibbled a bit on the Bt, but quickly changed their minds and walked away.”

Wisdom of the Cows and Hogs
Bill Lashmett watched as two or three cows were let into a feeding area at a time. The first trough they came to contained fifty pounds of shelled Bt corn. The cows sniffed it, withdrew, and walked over to the next trough, which contained fifty pounds of natural shelled corn. The cows finished it off. When they were done and release from the pen, the next group came in and did the same thing. Lashmett said the same experiment was conducted on about six or severn farms in Northwest Iowa, in 1998 and again in 1999. Identical trials with hogs yielded the same results, also for two years in a row.

Lashmett, who has a background in biochemistry and agriculture, says that animals have a natural sense to eat what is good for them, and avoid what isn’t.”

We don’t seem to have that same innate sense so shouldn’t we at least be able to read on a label whether or not what we are eating has been genetically altered.

“Nature never deceives us; it is always we who deceive ourselves.” – Jean-Jacques Rousseau

Just wanted to provide some food for thought and discussion. You’ll hear more from me on this front. I started writing a novel a few years back with an underlying them of genetically modified seeds in hopes of raising some awareness of the issue. I have just picked it back up and may provide an excerpt here in the coming month. In addition, I am hoping to be working on some data analysis and research using some sophisticated software that may provide more clues to the connection between neurological disorder prevalence in agricultural areas and the neuro-toxins used in GMO seeds.

One comment


    Interesting article I found this week on the subject of GMO corn in Canadian supermarkets.

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