[Editor's Note: This is Part I of a four-part blog series.]
Some of you may have heard some chatter recently about genetically-modified organisms (GMOs), but I am guessing most of you are asking yourselves right now, "what are GMOs?"
When I first learned about GMOs a few years ago, my initial reaction was a mixture of fear and anger. You should expect a similar reaction, especially if this is the first you are really hearing of GMOs.
It is my hope that this blog, and all my blogs for that matter, will help you make educated decisions about the food you eat. No matter what you decide in terms of eating GMOs or not eating GMOs, you should at least have all the necessary information. So, please read on!
First of all, GMOs are NOT real food. GMOs are genetically modified organisms that are produced by taking the genes from one species (i.e. animals, plants, bacteria or viruses) and literally forcing those genes into the DNA of a food crop or an animal to introduce a new trait. Does that even sound like food to you?
Sounds more like science fiction to me. GMOs were created by biotech companies in order to make a lot of money. But, the last time I checked there were no biotech companies necessary when growing vegetables or raising an animal, right? That used to be the responsibility of farmers alone. So how did biotech companies get involved in our food?
It's a really long story. You can read that story in the fantastic book "Seeds of Deception" by Jeffrey Smith. But essentially, GMOs are the result of what happened when biotech companies got greedy, the government neglected to regulate and protect Americans (I use the word neglected very loosely as this was a purposeful oversight), and the American people were taken advantage of.
WHAT ARE GMOS?
There are currently five widespread GM Food Crops on the market: (1) Soy; (2) Corn; (3) Canola; (4) Cotton; and (5) Sugar Beets. GMOs have been engineered to be either herbicide resistant, pesticide producing, or both. Many dairy farms in the United states are also injecting the cows with a genetically engineered hormone called rbGH or rbST.
Herbicide resistant crops are able to survive a high dose of herbicides which are used to kill weeds. You can imagine that when the crop is resistant to a particular herbicide, the farmers can spray extra herbicide to kill the surrounding weeds which means a much greater herbicide residue on the vegetable crop being grown specially for you. One particular herbicide resistant crop is the Round Up Ready Soybean. The company, Monsanto, engineered a Soybean that is resistant to Round Up and now currently sells the herbicide as a package with its Round Up ready soybean seed which accounts for at least 40 percent of the companies annual revenue.
A small amount of Hawaiian papaya, zucchini, and squash have also been genetically modified to resist a plant virus. Previously there were GMO tomatoes and potatoes but they have been taken off the market.
Pesticide producing crops include corn and cotton. A gene from BT (Bacillus thurgiensis), a bacteria found in soil, was inserted into the plant's DNA which then caused the crops to literally produce their own pesticide by secreting BT toxin.
Essentially, pesticide-producing crops have been engineered to release their own poison.
GROWTH HORMONES - rbGH, rbST
Cows, like humans, produce their own hormones. Bovine somatotropin is a hormone produced by the cow's pituitary gland. Through technology, the hormone can now be created in labs and delivered to a dairy farm near you under the names rbGH, rbST, or artificial growth hormone. Let it be known that the United States is the only developed country where it is legal to use these artificial growth hormones in cows that are producing dairy for human consumption. Australia, Cananda, Europe, Japan, and New Zealand have all outlawed the use of artificial growth hormones. Does that concern any of you? If using artificial growth hormones is too dangerous for the citizens of all those countries, it's too dangerous for Americans as well.