Updated 5/15/2016 & 5/16/2016.
Comments made by people I’d thought understood why growing and eating genetically modified and other non-organic foods are dangerous to humans, other animals and the planet spurred me to write this post.
“Why should I pay more for organic carrots? They’re not any bigger than the other kind.”
– heard at a farmers’ market
“Organic is just a label for getting us to pay more for our food.”
– said by an MD
“Genetically modified foods have been tested and are safe to eat.”
“The US government protects the safety of our food supply.”
“GMOs (or “genetically modified organisms”) are living organisms whose genetic material has been artificially manipulated in a laboratory through genetic engineering, or GE. This relatively new science creates unstable combinations of plant, animal, bacteria and viral genes that do not occur in nature or through traditional crossbreeding methods.” (Non-GMO Project, 2016)
Although at least 90% of Americans want labeling, genetically engineered foods generally are not labeled in the US – thanks to powerful efforts by Monsanto and other big agribusiness companies.
Conventionally grown foods are grown using synthetic chemicals such as fertilizers and pesticides, chemicals which get absorbed into the soil and cannot be removed. The purpose of conventional farming is mass production, out of season growing, and creating a longer shelf life. This type of farming uses monoculture. This means crops are often planted over and over in the same place which leads to more insect infestation and disease, and depletes the soil of nutrients which then leads to more fertilizer use. This endless cycle often leads to massive topsoil erosion. It is also argued that conventionally grown foods are tasteless due to all the chemical treating. (Raj, 2012)
Conventionally grown foods are also not labeled in the US and often contain GMOs along with synthetic chemical fertilizers, herbicides, and pesticides.
Organic foods are grown in nutrient rich soil and are free of synthetic chemicals. They are not treated with pesticides or chemical fertilizers. Organically raised farm animals are free of antibiotics and added hormones. They are not fed GMO’s or other drugs. Organic animals are not allowed to have their genes modified. They are raised in healthier environments, are organically fed, and generally eat a wider range of nutrients than animals in factory farms. Organically raised animals are not bred from a test tube. (Raj, 2012)
GMO Free means not genetically modified or fed feed containing GMOs.
A SUMMARY OF THE ISSUES
SAFETY FOR HUMANS
The only way to avoid consuming the cocktail of toxic chemicals in genetically modified and otherwise commercially grown foods is to eat organic. “More than 600 active chemicals are registered for agricultural use in America, to the tune of billions of pounds annually. The average application equates to about 16 pounds of chemical pesticides per person every year. Many of these chemicals were approved by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) before adequate safety testing.
“The National Academy of Sciences reports that 90% of the chemicals applied to foods have not been tested for long-term health effects before being deemed “safe.” Further, the FDA tests only 1% of foods for pesticide residue. The most dangerous and toxic pesticides require special testing methods, which are rarely if ever employed by the FDA. ” (Loux, 2011)
Contrary to Monsanto’s and other GMO manufacturers and supporters’ claims, the pesticides associated with GMO crops are unsafe for humans, other organisms, and the environment.
A primary example is glyphosate, a broad-spectrum, non-selective systemic herbicide, that is the main ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup and Dow AgroSciences’ Rodeo and is found in many other herbicides as well.
Exposure to glyphosate has been linked to a host of serious health effects: (Robinson, Antoniou & Fagan, 2015)
Severe liver and kidney damage
Chronic kidney disease
Disruption of hormonal systems, potentially leading to multiple organ damage and hormone-dependent cancer
Developmental and reproductive toxicity, including sperm damage, miscarriage, and premature birth
High Glyphosate levels are now turning up everywhere:
In our blood
In breast milk
In water supplies
“Glyphosate levels have been found to be significantly higher in the urine of humans who ate non-organic food, compared with those who ate mostly organic food. Chronically ill people showed significantly higher glyphosate residues in their urine than healthy people.” (Robinson, Antoniou & Fagan, 2015)
SAFETY OF THE PLANET
Those more than 600 agricultural chemicals the US government has approved for agricultural use are contaminating our environment and destroying the ecosystem:
Polluting the soil and water with toxins
Depleting nutrients from the soil, destroying its fertility
Destroying organisms in the soil necessary for growing healthy crops and animals
Killing and mutating insects, frogs, birds and other wildlife
Organic farming, while avoiding use of these chemicals, supports the tapestry of ecology, achieving eco-sustenance.
“Certified organic standards do not permit the use of toxic chemicals in farming and require responsible management of healthy soil and biodiversity.
“According to Cornell entomologist David Pimentel, it is estimated that only 0.1% of applied pesticides reach the target pests. The bulk of pesticides (99.9%) is left to impact the environment.” (Loux, 2011)
Also see Repair the Soil’s Microbiome to Resolve the Climate Crisis for clear thinking writer Michael Pollan’s cogent advice on how climate change can be reversed by organic farming. (Hardin, 2016)
Organically grown foods are more nutritious than non-organic foods. They contain more vitamins, minerals, enzymes, and micronutrients than commercially grown foods because the soil they’re grown in is managed and nourished with sustainable practices by responsible standards. “The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine conducted a review of 41 published studies comparing the nutritional value of organically grown and conventionally grown fruits, vegetables, and grains and concluded that there are significantly more of several nutrients in organic foods crops.
“Further, the study verifies that five servings of organically grown vegetables (such as lettuce, spinach, carrots, potatoes, and cabbage) provide an adequate allowance of vitamin C, whereas the same number of servings of conventionally grown vegetables do not.
“On average, organically grown foods provide: 21.1% more iron (than their conventional counterparts); 27% more vitamin C; 29.3% more magnesium; 13.6% more phosphorus.” (Loux, 2011)
ORGANIC VS FACTORY FARMED ANIMALS
Even aside from the huge issue of the heart breaking, inhumane treatment of factory farmed animals, the meat and dairy products they provide are the foods at highest risk for contamination by harmful substances. For example, over 90% of the pesticides Americans consume comes from the fat and tissue of meat and dairy products. (Loux, 2011)
(I’ll also point out that the corn fed to the factory farmed cow on the right above is almost certainly genetically modified. )
The EPA reports that a majority of human pesticide intake comes from meat, poultry, fish, eggs, and dairy products because these foods are all high on the food chain. “For instance, a large fish that eats a smaller fish that eats even smaller fish accumulates all of the toxins of the chain, especially in fatty tissue. Cows, chickens, and pigs are fed animal parts, by-products, fish meal, and grains that are heavily and collectively laden with toxins and chemicals.” (Loux, 2011)
The antibiotics, drugs, and growth hormones fed to factory farmed animals are passed directly into their meat and dairy products. “Tens of millions of pounds of antibiotics are used in animal feed every year…. The hormones fed to cows cannot be broken down, even at high temperatures. Therefore they remain in complete form and pass directly into the consumer’s diet when meat is eaten.” (Loux, 2011)
“Between 1985 and 2001, the use of antibiotics in feed for industrial livestock production rose a startling 50%. Today, antibiotics are routinely fed to livestock, poultry, and fish on industrial farms to promote faster growth and to compensate for the unsanitary conditions in which they are raised.
“According to a new report by the FDA, approximately 80 percent of all antibiotics used in the United States are fed to farm animals. This means that in the United States only 20 percent of antibiotics, which were originally developed to protect human health, are actually used to treat infections in people.” (Grace, 2016)
ORGANIC TASTES BETTER
Organically grown foods are generally more flavorful and easier to digest than foods treated with synthetic fertilizers and pesticides. They’re more environment-friendly too. (Quinn, 2000)
ORGANIC IS ACTUALLY COST-EFFECTIVE
To decide whether it’s worth it to pay more money for organic foods, you have to factor in the additional costs of eating non-organic:
Widespread and ever increasing suffering with acute and chronic illnesses
The financial cost of treating these illnesses
Treatment of bacterial-resistant infections
Subsidies paid to farmers
Egregious treatment of animals on factory farms
Cost of pesticide clean ups
Destruction of the environment
Loss of export markets for US-produced GM products
Organic farming produces nutritious foods that keep us and other animals well instead of making us sick as most of our food supply is currently doing. Organic practices also preserve the environment for the future.
And then there are these additional, hidden costs in figuring how much you’re actually spending for non-organic foods:
“Buying organic food is an investment in a cost-effective future. Commercial and conventional farming is heavily subsidized with tax dollars in America. A study at Cornell University determined the cost of a head of commercial iceberg lettuce, typically purchased at 49 cents a head, to be more than $3.00 a head when hidden costs were revealed. The study factored in the hidden costs of federal subsidies, pesticide regulation and testing, and hazardous waste and cleanup.
“Every year, American tax dollars subsidize billions of dollars for a farm bill that heavily favors commercial agribusiness. Peeling back another layer of the modern farming onion reveals a price tag that cannot be accurately measured but certainly includes other detrimental associated costs such as health problems, environmental damage, and the loss and extinction of wildlife and ecology.” (Loux, 2011)
WHAT IS FOOD?
Having apparently lost the ability to understand the function of food – to provide nourishment that keeps us well, we’ve reached the point of calling everything we put in our stomachs ‘food’.
READ MORE ABOUT GMO MYTHS AND TRUTHS
If you’re interested in learning more about GMOs and the research on them, I recommend this clear, easy to read source of information:
GMO Myths and Truths – A Citizen’s Guide to the Evidence on the Safety and Efficacy of Genetically Modified Crops and Foods, 3rd Edition. Its authors are Claire Robinson (an editor at GMWatch), John Fagan (PhD in biochemistry, molecular biology, and cell biology, pioneer of genetic testing methods for GMOs, researcher on biosafety and sustainable agriculture, and Director of Open Earth Resource), and Michael Antoniou (PhD in Molecular Genetics and Head of the Gene Expression and Therapy Group, King’s College London School of Medicine).
Grace Communications Foundation. (2016). The Issue: Antibiotics and the Food Animal Industry. See: http://www.sustainabletable.org/257/antibiotics
Hardin, J.R. (2016). Repair the Soil’s Microbiome to Resolve the Climate Crisis. See: http://allergiesandyourgut.com/2016/01/29/4404/
Loux, R. (2011). Top 10 Reasons To Go Organic: Choosing fresh foods can help you feel better and preserve the environment. Prevention. See: http://www.prevention.com/food/healthy-eating-tips/top-reasons-choose-organic-foods
Non-GMO Project. (2016). See: http://www.nongmoproject.org/learn-more/
Raj, T. (2012). Conventional vs. Organic vs. GMOs. See: http://www.examiner.com/article/conventional-vs-organic-vs-gmos
Quinn, J. (2000). Essential Eating: A Cookbook – Discover How to Eat, Not Diet. P. 6. See: http://www.amazon.com/Essential-Eating-Cookbook-Discover-Diet/dp/0967984351
Robinson, C., Antoniou, M, & Fagan, J. (2015). GMO Myths and Truths: A Citizen’s Guide to the Evidence on the Safety and Efficacy of Genetically Modified Crops and Foods, 3rd Edition. See: http://www.amazon.com/GMO-Myths-Truths-Citizens-Genetically/dp/0993436706
© Copyright 2016. Joan Rothchild Hardin. All Rights Reserved.
DISCLAIMER: Nothing on this site or blog is intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.