RODALE NEWS, ANAHEIM, CA—More than half the people in the U.S. say they don’t want to eat genetically modified (GM) food, but many of them probably aren’t sure why, or how to avoid it, Jeffrey M. Smith, author of Seeds of Deception and Genetic Roulette, explained Saturday to an audience of food retailers and manufacturers at Natural Products Expo West in Anaheim, CA.
THE DETAILS: There’s a push in the U.S. to get genetically modified organisms (GMOs) out of our food supply. Other countries have already done this, and Smith, executive director of the Institute for Responsible Techology, hopes U.S. consumers will start paying closer attention to the issue. He estimates that if just 5 percent or so start rejecting GM food, it’ll force a big change.
How do foods become genetically modified? In the traditional cross-breeding process, two varieties of, say, tomatoes might be crossed for a more robust fruit. But today’s technology inserts out-of-species genes, often from bacteria and viruses, into the DNA of plants like corn, soybean, cotton, and canola, introducing genetic matter into our food that’s never been there before. The process allows conventional growers to douse even larger amounts of poisonous herbicides onto the modified plants without killing the crop. That introduces more chemicals into the groundwater and waterways near the farm, but it also increases the amount of chemical residue on the foods. Some crops have even been modified so the plant produces its own pesticide.
Smith reports that GM foods are being blamed for allergies, new toxins, and immune problems. For instance, Smith says soy allergies rose by 50 percent in the United Kingdom after GM soy was introduced. In animal studies, feeding mice GM foods has caused digestion problems, smaller livers, reproductive problems, and infant mortality. Livestock that have grazed on GM cotton fields have died abruptly, too. And Smith points out that if pesticide genes transfer into the bacteria in our gut—as the only human study on the subject suggests they can—we’re in for some serious changes in our bellies. “They might turn our intestinal bacteria into living pesticide factories,” he says.
WHAT IT MEANS: Since the U.S. Food and Drug Administration doesn’t require safety testing of these foods (the FDA takes the word of the biotech companies on that), you’ll have to do a little detective work if you want to lower your exposure to GMOs. Fortunately, there are alternatives.
Here’s how to clear your cart of GM foods: