Genetically Modified Foods

Back in the 1980s, four independent groups of scientists created the first transgenic plants, or genetically modified plants. Some of the experimental plants grown were created by inserting bacterial genes into plant genes. Other experimental plants grown were created by inserting genes from one plant species into a different plant species. The end result of those four experiments yielded the creation of new plants — genetically engineered plants. Without human intervention, those plants would have never existed —  the genetically modified methodology is unnatural and not true to plant genetics.

Fast forward a few decades and the science of genetic engineering has now created many new plants. And those new, genetically modified plants are now crops grown in fields. Those crops have become part of the food-chain now, because many of the crops are grown on a commercial level for animal feed or human consumption.

BigAg2

If you are a gardener and grow most (or all) of your yearly food supply, you are probably not worried about genetic engineering or genetically modified plants. But because of seed contamination, open pollination, and several other environmental influences, there is no way to prevent the possibility of  garden vegetables becoming genetically altered. Unless you grow everything in a sealed-bubble eco-environment.

Cross-pollination or seed contamination is only part of the dilemma we now face with genetically modified plants. What about genetically modified crops that are incorporated into food?

When those plants become foods, the dangers of those genetically modified plants worsen. The Union of Concerned Scientists has listed some of the risks of genetic engineering:

1. Potential Harms to Health

  • New Allergens in the Food Supply
  • Antibiotic Resistance
  • Production of New Toxins
  • Concentration of Toxic Metals
  • Enhancement of the Environment for Toxic Fungi
  • Unknown Harms to Health

2. Potential Environmental Harms

  • Increased Weediness
  • Gene Transfer to Wild or Weedy Relatives
  • Change in Herbicide Use Patterns
  • Squandering of Valuable Pest Susceptibility Genes
  • Poisoned Wildlife
  • Creation of New or Worse Viruses
  • Unknown Harms to the Environment

Genetically modified foods are grown in most states in America. These foods are also in the international marketplace now, although some countries have banned genetically modified foods. The foods are produced from genetically modified seeds by scientists and there are definite concerns about their safety for both human and animal health, and for the health of our environment.

The Center for Food Safety writes, “Instead of tightening controls to protect the public and environment from contamination and harm, what the USDA has offered further endangers your right to choose the foods you and your family eat and farmers’ rights to their chosen livelihoods.”

PAAmishFarms

Genetically modified foods are definitely NOT real foods, these are foods that have been artificially created. The genetically modified foods are  plants that exist only because of human intervention.

Genetically modified foods, also known as genetically engineered foods,  have been created with profit and power as the sole reasons for their production. Naturally, GM foods are made available for big agricultural enterprises, no surprise there. Genetically engineered foods are supported by the Federal Government and developed by chemical companies so that corporate farming can easily manage their enormous crop fields, regardless of the final outcome or negative impact they may have on our world.

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Genetically engineered seeds, used to create these foods, are also the means being used to control our world seed bank and the crop production of foods. And these GM seeds, which have been proven to spread into neighboring farms, are the subject of a number of lawsuits by chemical companies which is becoming a financial assault on many farmers. Monsanto is the leading litigant in the majority of these lawsuits.

Gardeners know that two of the important factors that affect any garden crop involve invasions of weeds and invasions of insect pests. Sometimes garden pests and weeds can be troublesome but we have the ability to eradicate the problems without chemicals. This is proper garden management.

To the corporate farming enterprise, their methodology to manage pests and weeds is to industrially control the situation on a very large scale. Their methodology is directly correlated with their primary motive: highest yield possible for highest profit. Fast-n-dirty, the industrial corporate farms employ an arsenal of chemicals that can be used with their enormous equipment to get their problem under control. But because the industrial corporate farm is of enormous size, their methodology to manage pests and weeds is resolved with a very different solution than the average farmer, small scale farmer, or homesteader. Through their large-scale practices and the use of biotechnology, their style of agricultural farming will create another area where industrialized, corporate farming is harmful both for our environment and for our health.

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Genetically modified foods begin as genetically manipulated seeds that have been engineered and tweeked by scientists for very specific traits or characteristics. The scientists who are involved in this business are primarily from chemical and biotech corporations. They seek very specific traits, or characteristics, for their foods with respect to crop management.

The traits that are being genetically engineered are classed as phenotype categories. These traits that are being genetically altered include the following traits:

  • Herbicide tolerance
  • Bacterial resistance
  • Fungicidal resistance
  • Viral resistance
  • Insect resistance
  • Product quality
  • Agronomic properties
  • Genetic containment
  • Marker gene
  • Selectable marker
  • Other

If you have basic knowledge of plant genetics, you can easily see how specific phenotyping can alter not just a plant’s gene, but the gene pool. And when other animals are consuming those altered genes, the future consequences are actually unknown. There are NO long-term studies which have outcome results on genetically modified food consumption. A variety of short-term studies indicate that reactions to the consumption of GM foods do indeed elicit negative reactions. One study by the FDA (in 1989 using rats in a 90-day study): rats that were fed the genetically modified BT-corn developed multiple reactions typically found in response to allergies, infections, toxins and diseases. Is this what we can expect after a meal with GM foods?

Currently two of the phenotyped categories of certain genetically engineered plants are on the market. One type of crop was created for insect resistance. The other type of crop that was engineered is tolerant of toxic pesticides that can be directly sprayed onto the crop. Sounds frightening, doesn’t it?

The genetically engineered crops that were created for insect resistance are known as IR crops, and they constitute about 30% of the GM crops in the market now. The other GM crops, those that are tolerant of direct pesticide spraying, are known as herbicide tolerant, or HT crops. The HT crops make up about 70% of the GM crops in the market at this time.

One group of the herbicide tolerant (HT crops) are the Monsanto RoundUp Ready Crops, or RR crops. If you are a gardener, you are aware of a product called RoundUp. If you are an organic gardener, you don’t use it, but you know that RoundUp is an herbicide used to chemically-kill any unwanted plants. So what RR crops are being marketed now? Corn, soy, canola, and cotton.

The insect resistant crops (IR crops) are even more covert as a genetically modified ‘food’. Most of the IR crops are foods with BT grown inside the genes of the individual foods. That’s right….The IR foods are actually BT foods: foods that contain Bacillus thuringiensis in the genetic makeup of each plant.

One of the questions with GM crops is how safe will a food be for consumption when it has been repeatedly sprayed with chemical pesticides to control bugs? Another question is whether some BT-bred foods will prove to be safe to consume? The big questions involve the overall, longterm safety issues on animals and humans — will consuming GM crops show side effects in 5 years/10 years or in the next generation?

Many people believe that we are what we eat. Many of us use foods correctly and as nutritionally as possible for our health and well-being. Who in their right mind believes that eating foods which have been genetically engineered to mimic chemical spraying for pest and farm management would be good for our health?

The industrial corporations who are behind genetically modified foods include chemical companies, pharmaceutical companies, and agricultural companies. They include: Syngenta, Aventis, Monsanto, Dupont, Dow, and BASF and each major corporation owns a number of smaller corporations, many of which are becoming inter-related and involved with the agricultural industry.

The following corporations and some of their holdings are all involved with genetically modified foods:

Syngenta

  • Sandoz
  • Novartis Seeds
  • Ciba-Geigy
  • Northrup King
  • Rogers
  • Rogers NK
  • Zeneca
  • Hilleshog
  • Wilson Genetics

Aventis

  • AgrEvo
  • Hoechst-Roussel
  • Agritope
  • Exelixis
  • Limagrain
  • PGS
  • Plant Genetics
  • Plant Genetic Systems
  • Harris Moran
  • Rhone-Poulenc

Monsanto

  • Calgene
  • Holdens
  • DeKalb
  • Asgrow
  • Upjohn
  • Agracetus

Dupont

  • Du Pont
  • Pioneer

Dow

  • Agrigenetics
  • Mycogen
  • Biosource

BASF

  • American Cyanamid
  • ExSeed Genetics
  • Rohm and Haas

Frightening, isn’t it? And no one knows if the food they are consuming has been genetically modified or not — unless you specifically choose Certified Organic foods. To me, this is a no-brainer. If I don’t grow it, I buy organic foods. Or I do without.

For more information on this subject, refer to this sampling of articles, or Google the subject:

Center For Food Safety article “Genetically Engineered Food”

Center For Food Safety report “Monsanto vs. U.S. Farmers”

Colorado State University, Department of Soil and Crop Sciences article “Transgenic Crops”

True Food Network article listing “GE Crops”

Union of Concern Scientists stories about the “Impacts of Genetic Engineering”

Union of Concern Scientists article “Questions and Answers About Pharmaceutical and Industrial Crops”

Wikipedia’s “Transgenic Maize”

9 thoughts on “Genetically Modified Foods

  1. It really is scary when man messes with nature. I’ve been reading about what could or will happen when a virus, insects, or perhaps super weeds adapt to all this foolishness. Some think the whole monoculture system we/they have created could crumble overnight, leaving everyone with massive fields of defunct soil and crops that can no longer cope with nature.

    We walked through an Albertson’s grocery store yesterday and could not find the “edible” food. The middle isles were full of processed junk in boxes and jars. The outer sections full of meat that has had who knows what done to it before poor animals were slaughtered, and “perfect” chemicalized vegetables. The organic sections were scarce to say the least. I’m so glad we grow our own food.

    You are right though, it is just a matter of time before you and I, and our gardens, are also directly affected by this mad agricultural science experiment. I think the nutritional aspect is already affecting us via high health insurance rates. So many sick people, so little real food.

    I have almost given up trying to share this type of information with others because most people just don’t seem to care…denial of reality. The next time I have an opportunity to talk about this with others I am going to direct them to this most excellent article you have written. Thank you.

    • Grocery shopping is pretty much a let-down for me because there is so much choice, but as you said, many of the choices are simply not real food or quality food.

      Our local grocery store has 2 entire aisles and 1 full aisle of refrigerated organic, whole foods. We are spoiled! I shop that section and the perimeter of the store. Oh, and the beer aisle for my husband! :-)

      A few months ago, I was driving home from Winchester and I saw an 18-wheeler hauling hauling chickens down to Harrisonburg. All of the chickens on the truck were dead. Harrisonburg is a large town with some Perdue chicken processing plants. This was an eye-opener for me and the image was very disturbing. Since then, I’ve read more about the subject and learned that yes, indeed, many of the chickens hauled in for processing and butchering are DOA. Chickens cannot live in a weather-exposed, small compartment for long. And transporting live chickens in those small cages stacked one on top of each other like chicken-condos, then driven down a highway for a day or two…no animal could endure that. So, the chickens arrive dead….But the dead is resurrected to become a roaster or a tray of chicken pieces in shrink-wrap. And people laugh about road-kill. Please tell me the difference here…..

      Family came over on Thursday and one of my sons told me that he has been reading about the rights of organic farmers being eliminated. He and his wife (and granddaughter) eat organically and they are vegetarians (granddaughter gets some free-range, organic chicken once in a while). He is very concerned about our food supply and mentioned what he’s been reading. He mentioned Monsanto taking over the world seed-bank…..Geez, I love my kids…..Boy did we have an interesting discussion!

      Try not to get discouraged about people who are hesitant to the GMO threat. The majority of people are not interested in complicating their lives with such things as this, much less becoming homesteaders, foragers or big-scale gardeners. And frankly, a quick check of the overall health of Americans is a give-away to how our society views body and health. If more people did work for their food, I guarantee they’d be healthier. Ever see a fat farmer? Yeah, me neither….

  2. Gosh … reading here is an eye opener! I was so happy to have planted my second garden this year .. from ‘store bought (probably scientifically engineered seeds) then discovering that I should be planting heirloom seeds .. and learning how to save said seeds .. Next year’s garden will be planted differently with good seed stock. And I’ll be sure to find out exactly what our local beef supplier has been feeding their red angus we are purchasing .. I think most people are clueless about how much government intervention has taken place to get food from the supplier to the table. We do have a good size natural store in town that has a meat counter with a full time butcher .. and all organic veggies. I just about want to gag now when I walk into a big box grocery store and see all of the plastic looking veggies/fruit .. all without dimple or blemish .. waxy looking and all. This year we have been trying to only eat seasonally available foods .. which is actually a good way to go because you rather crave foods that are in season .. instead of buying imported tasteless produce. I’m teaching my family: If we don’t have it .. you have to wait until it’s locally available.

    You mentioned the H1N1 vaccine in a comment on my blog .. I have been seeing bits and pieces of this in news reports of late.

    Keep writing and informing .. someone will gain info from your research.

    • It’s so nice to watch how a relatively new gardener grows their own knowledge and spirit while they are growing their garden!! Once you garden, you realize how much better your produce is than the store-bought stuff. Personally, it’s kinda gross to know that the fruits and veges have a waxy shine from carnuba wax. I mean, I don’t even wax my truck so why would I wax a vegetable? Yuck!

      Saving seed is fun and it appeals to people who are not just careful with their seeds but also frugal. The hardest seed to save is tomato seed, I think. But a quick read on how-to will help. This year, I bought tomato seedlings because my greenhouse wasn’t running last winter and my youngest son was living here for a few months with his cat. The cat was getting into my dining room where I set up my seed trays! Scattering potting soil was a game to her and she loved eating the seedlings I grew. After a few attempts, I gave up trying to keep her out and had to buy some seedlings.

      When you eat in-season, it’s a very different world. You spend about 9 months talking about some of the things you want, crave, and are anxious for. Then when the season arrives and you finally get them — it’s like a gift! My big cheating items are coffee, oranges, and pineapples. We don’t grow them (can’t grow them here), but consume them. I’ve been kicking around the idea of giving up coffee for some time now. And I still may switch to chickory and/or some of the teas. I DO love the taste of coffee though….

  3. How do you think all of the new regulations .. including the bill that was recently passed a week or so ago regarding food ‘safety’ will affect say my local u-pick farm? They don’t spray their crops .. and let you know ahead of time about having more weeds than some farms because they don’t use chemicals .. although they are not ‘certified organic’ .. they use good farming methods. I’d hate to see their operation (family run farm) be drastically affected. We buy a year’s supply of local honey from them too.

    Our green beans are ready to pick today (hooray!) A neighbor brought extra broccoli from her garden and said I could pick her green beans once while she’s on vacation for a week. Sharing veggies/fruit is a good way to make gardening buddies .. and gaining new insight. She has supplied me with my raspberry plants from her garden as well. I have some nice watermelon & tuscan melon growing .. they have quadrupled in size in one week.

    • H.R. 2749 The Food Safety Enhancement Act of 2009 gives a great deal of power to the FDA. This Bill has been supported by Monsanto and other large ag/chem corporations. The Bill was a Democrat bill with Dem co-sponsors.

      On the surface, this Bill seems benign and was created to provide a means to regulate and mandate safer handling of foods. However, looking into the Bill itself, the power that the FDA gains is frightening. Frightening not only for farmers but for consumers, too, because the regulations could impose such restrictions as the prevention of food supplies to reach the markets, and of course, hungry people.

      The FDA will gain powers that will include the ability to quarantine a farm, should they determine a food safety issue (like an e. coli outbreak). The FDA can also quarantine a geographic area or prevent transportation of foods in or out of a “restricted” area.

      The other nasty issue is how the FDA can regulate how crops are harvested and even raised. Wonder why Monsanto is interested in supporting this Bill?

      Some changes were added into the bill and the changes exempted livestock, poultry and feed grain. That still falls under the jurisdiction of the Dept of Agriculture. For now….

      A few positive actions with this Bill: (1) the term “color additive” was re-defined to include carbon monoxide that may affect the color of fresh meat, poultry products, or seafood, (2) country of origin labeling (3) registration of importers.

      The government bureaucracy and paper-burden will probably hurt the small farmers. Talk with your local farmer or farm manager and get their opinion. Most of the bacterial problems that have surfaced with our food supply is 100% contaminant-based. The bacteria contaminate our foods from poorly cleaned working environments (peanut butter) or contaminants in the field (e. coli in spinach was traced to fresh cow manure in a nearby farm). These situations are unfortunate, but we are not a sterile society and no matter how much regulation there is, we are always exposed to microbiotic organisms and no amount of Federal regulation can prevent it.

      This Bill just passed the House of Representatives. Now it moves to the Senate. Here’s the government blurb on the Bill:

      http://www.govtrack.us/congress/bill.xpd?bill=h111-2749

    • Absolutely. all of this mad-scientist food tampering is really frightening to us. The seed banks may be called into action much before any of us ever realized….

      Thanks for stopping by. I quickly visited your blog and will re-visit when I have more time. As an orchid grower, I especially loved the Disa posts….no, never tried to grow one as they are much too finicky in captivity, I believe.

  4. It’s interesting that, despite claiming that there’s nothing wrong with GMOs, bio-tech industries don’t want them labeled. It seems to me, that if something was so beneficial to the environment and farmers, you would want to promote it, so consumers could support it.
    Or in most peoples case, chose not to buy it.

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