By now, you’ve probably heard a thing or two about GMO foods and their potential effect on your health and our earth. If you haven’t, here’s the short story: GMOs are genetically modified organisms; essentially, the end product of inserting genes from one species into another to produce desired, supposedly controlled, results. This may sound harmless enough, but many people feel we are toying with nature in a way that we shouldn’t; in fact, the acronym “GMO” is even known as “God, move over!” in some groups. The fact is, very little research has been done on GMO foods – because the process is relatively new, we haven’t yet had the time to perform long-term studies on our bodies (the first FDA GMO approval occurred in the 1980s). While the FDA claims there is no difference between unmodified and GMO crops, some already assert that GMOs are simply dangerous. Jeffrey Smith, author of Genetic Roulette, asserts that there are more than 65 health risks of GMO foods; potential toxins created as a by-product of many GMO foods include everything from allergens to carcinogens. GMOs are so controversial, in fact, that many countries and communities across the world have banned GMO crops altogether. Other countries have imposed required labeling of GMO crops contained within food products so that people at least are outwardly aware of the GMO presence in the foods they purchase.
And, for the U.S.A.? Not so much. According to the Institute for Responsible Technology, 94% of soy, 90% of cotton, 90% of canola, 95% of sugar beets, and 88% of corn in the U.S. is GMO. Now, consider just how many processed foods contain corn and soy bases – it is estimated that roughly 60 to 70 percent of processed foods in U.S. grocery stores include at least one GMO ingredient. Bills requiring mandatory GMO labeling have been proposed, but the U.S. has much work to do before any such initiatives reach the to-do list of agricultural giants like Monsanto.
Monsanto, the leading producer of GMO seeds, is a controversial supplier, to put it lightly. The company is the largest producer of glyphosate herbicides, the base for the weed-killer also known as Roundup. Until 1977, Monsanto was the top manufacturer of polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs. If you’re not aware, this stuff was outright banned after it was found to cause cancer in animals and humans – and let’s not mention the environmental damage the production of PCBs caused. You know that stuff rBST, a synthetic hormone that most every milk label now touts the absence of these days? Monsanto made it. Deadly Agent Orange? Yeah, Monsanto played a part in that, too. Toxic DDT? You guessed it: Monsanto was a lead producer.
Ties noted between Monsanto and the government are disheartening. In 2009, Michael R. Taylor, a former Monsanto vice president for public policy, was appointed as the deputy food commissioner to the FDA. According to OpenSecrets.org, Monsanto spent nearly $6 million in lobbying in 2012. Now, that’s a lot of potential clout.
If you’re feeling by now that you want to reduce Monsanto’s influence in our food supply in the form of “safe” GMOs, there are movements sweeping the country to help build awareness and garner support for anti-GMO initiatives. One such entity, March Against Monsanto, is set to hold marches across the world in less than two weeks. On Saturday, Oct. 12, people in the estimated “tens of thousands” will march to show support against Monsanto’s initiatives to gain even more control of the global food supply. As of today, marches are planned in 36 countries on six continents, with events in over 250 cities planned. The marches will begin at 11 a.m. Pacific time in 47 states. You can join a march, put up flyers, or just learn more by visiting http://march-against-monsanto.com.
If you’re not able to join a march, keep in mind: the first step to any change process is awareness. Read more about the potential effects of GMO foods and decide for yourself. If you decide you’re not okay with feeding yourself and your family this controversial form of “food,” the next step? Buy less processed food. And buy organic. Not just “local,” but organic – it’s your certified best bet to reduce the chance of GMO genes in your food, and it’s the best way to help ensure you and your family are not potentially serving as guinea pigs for the long-term effects of a technology not yet proven to be safe for human consumption.
Image Source: John Novotny/Flickr