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Genetically Modified Foods: The Latest Findings

Note: Chris MacDonald of www.Food-Ethics.com has pointed out that the information presented originally in this article regarding using PLU numbers to identify produce that is genetically modified is NOT reliable. In other words, you cannot buy conventionally raised produce and determine with certainty whether or not it is GMO. I’ve corrected the information in the article, but feel this is important enough to also note here. Thanks to Chris for taking the time to clarify this issue!

Genetically modified (GM) foods are an ongoing source of controversy.

Predictably, the companies making them (notably Monsanto), regularly espouse the opinion that these foods are safe and nutritious.

But are they? As it turns out, the happy-face reassurances coming from those who generate income selling GM foods are based on… nothing! In fact, the actual research being done shows huge problems with these foods.

In an outstanding article on the website, Responsible Technology, researcher Jeffery M. Smith presents hard data about the dangers of these products. This data comes from physicians who’ve reviewed the research and concluded that GM foods cause multiple health problems.

Here are a few highlights from Mr. Smith’s article, illustrating the dangers of these foods:

  • Dangers to pregnant women and babies
    Because children’s growth & development are strongly affected by exposure to toxins and dietary deficiencies, pregnant women and babies should avoid GM foods like the plague.

    For example, in studies with pregnant rats, when GM soy was fed to the female rats, most of their babies died within 3 weeks, compared to only 10% dying in the control group fed conventionally raised soy. Even embryos of GM fed parent mice had significant changes in their DNA and babies that survived had low birth weights along with massive levels of infertility.

  • Eating foods intentionally designed to produce deadly toxins
    Genetically modified corn includes genes that manufacture their own pesticides. The pesticide is called “Bt” and the argument for it’s production in GM plants is that it is a naturally occurring soil bacteria (Bacillus thuringiensis) used by organic farmers.

    What isn’t mentioned is that the Bt in GM corn is thousands of times more concentrated than that used to protect organics. In addition, the toxin is contained inside the plant itself, not as an externally applied spray. Unlike a spray, it cannot be washed off.

  • Negative effects on the immune system
    A group of doctors concluded that, “Multiple animal studies show significant immune dysregulation” [from GM food intake] including increase in cytokines, which are “associated with asthma, allergy, and inflammation.” All of these problems are on the rise in the U.S.
  • Death
    In India, animals grazing on GM cotton plants died in the thousands. They were found to have severe irritation and black patches in their intestines and livers.

    In a follow-up study, all the sheep fed this GM cotton died within 30 days, while those eating natural cotton plants remained healthy.

  • Unknown and untested long-term consequences to eating these foods
    Remember cyclamates? The FDA allowed foods to contain these as artificial sweeteners for 11 years from 1958 until 1969 when they were banned due to research showing they caused cancer. It’s telling that the ban came 3 years after that research. That means people ate foods containing these poisons far past the time when they were found to be dangerous.

You can find much more detailed information in James M. Smith’s article. If any doubts remain in your mind about eating GM foods, I recommend you read the whole thing.

How To Identify Non-GM, GM and Organically Grown Produce

75% of processed foods have GM content, most particularly if they contain soy or corn. That means you have a better than two out of three chance of eating GM food if you eat processed foods (those that come in a box, a jar, a bottle, a can or a package).

But you can’t tell if processed foods contain genetically modified ingredients because they don’t have to label where they came from. Nor, as it turns out, can you reliably identify GMO foods from labels on conventionally grown produce. The only real protection you have for now is to buy organic.

PLU stickers will tell you if the produce was conventionally grown or organically grown. Here’s the key:

  • The PLU code for conventional produce has only four numbers: For example, PLU: 1022 (the actual numbers may be different, it’s the number of digits that’s important). Remember that some of these may be GMO products.
  • SOMETIMES GM produce has five numbers preceded by the number 8: For example, PLU: 81022 (again the last 4 numbers may be different, but the first number will always be an “8”). However you can’t rely on this number being there. Produce that is genetically modified can be labelled as conventional produce. Buyer beware!
  • Organically grown produce has five numbers, preceded by the number 9: For example, PLU: 91022 (again, it’s the first “9” rather than the other numbers you need to be aware of).

Because organically grown produce will not be Genetically Modified or contain pesticides, look for the number 9 when you want to protect your health. It’s the best way to avoid becoming a human guinea pig…


References:

James M Smith’s Responsible Technology Web Site Article

Wikipedia Article on Cyclamates

Pure Zing Website Article on GM Foods

{ 4 comments… add one }
  • Chris MacDonaldSeptember 9, 2010, 12:32 pm

    PLU codes are NOT a reliable guide. PLU numbers are voluntary, and the “8” prefix for GMOs is not currently in use. The lack of an 8 at the beginning is meaningless.
    For more, see:
    http://food-ethics.com/2010/09/09/gm-foods-and-plu-codes/

  • Dr. BruceSeptember 9, 2010, 1:44 pm

    Hi Chris,

    Thanks for your input on this important issue. I will be modifying the article to correct this misinformation. I appreciate you taking the time to share this with us all.

    Dr. Bruce

  • Chris MacDonaldSeptember 9, 2010, 5:02 pm

    Dr Bruce:

    Thanks for your gracious response.
    I see now that my initial comment above was more terse than I had intended. I’m glad you took it in the spirit in which it was intended.
    Regardless of anyone’s views on GM foods, we all agree, I think, that it’s good for consumers to understand what does and what doesn’t count as a reliable label.

    Best regards,
    Chris.

  • Dr. BruceSeptember 12, 2010, 8:24 am

    Chris,

    I think it’s hard to always see how what we write might look to the reader. After all we know what we mean… This is something I work to pay attention to, but don’t alway succeed in doing. When I looked at the information you linked to it was very clear that I’d gotten a bum steer regarding GMO labelling. I am grateful that you pointed this out so I could correct it.

    I completely agree that as consumers we should at least be able to make informed decisions based on clear and correct labelling. Your input to correct the misinformation out there is hugely appreciated.

    Thanks again,

    Dr. Bruce

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