Before you get in an uproar and send me a bunch of hate mail, please hear me out. You all know that I am a huge proponent of NATURAL HEALTH so am I actually going to be supporting Monsanto and their GMO's? Not hardly. However, GMO may not be exactly what you think. I started this blog over a year ago and didn’t know where I wanted to go with it, still don’t. There is just so much to weed through, no pun intended. I am going to go over only a few things here and hope that this will prompt you to do more of your own research. Good or bad is subjective. It is going to depend on what side of the coin you are on and if you stand to profit from it.
What does the term GMO mean?
GMO stands for 'genetically modified organism'. According to wikipedia, "Genetically modified crops (GM crops or biotech crops) are plants used in agriculture, the DNA of which has been modified using genetic engineering methods. In most cases, the aim is to introduce a new trait to the plant which does not occur naturally in the species."
Not all genetic engineering is bad. Many believe hybridization can be considered a form of genetic engineering. There is a problem though, the new technology is far different from the hybridization and selection methods used in the past. So, depending on what kind of modification is happening, GMO’s can be a very bad thing.
How are GMO's created?
"The way GMOs are created disrupts the plant’s DNA in unintended, potentially harmful ways. In genetic engineering, a single gene is removed from one organism and forcibly inserted into another. First, scientists identify the gene they want and analyze its sequence. (If the source gene is to be taken from bacteria, some of its sequence has to be rearranged because bacteria produce certain amino acids using a code different from the one used by plants)." (1)
"After figuring out a working gene sequence, engineers add a promoter sequence at one end of the gene to turn it on (the most popular one in GM crops being CaMV 35S, which forces the gene to constantly churn out the protein), and a terminator sequence at the other end (which tells the DNA to stop). Lastly, scientists add a marker gene, usually one that confers antibiotic resistance, so they can later douse the plant cells with antibiotics, killing off normal cells and revealing those that have been genetically modified. This combination of gene sequences – called a “gene cassette” – is then multiplied into millions and inserted into target plant cells via one of two primary methods, both of which trigger a wound response the cell." (1)
Basically, a GMO is not the same plant as it's predecessor. It isn't like grafting or natural hybridization. It's all forced farming to obtain what the scientist wants to see in a lab, then grown and fed to us or the animals humans eat.
According to google dictionary
the process of an animal or plant breeding with an individual of another species or variety.
In reproductive biology hybridization is a process of producing offspring by mating two parents from different varieties or species. We see this a lot with apples when we get new varieties and also vegetables. Hybridization is sometimes used synonymously with crossbreeding, which is defined as “the process or the act of producing offspring particularly through mating two purebred individuals but come from different breeds or varieties, or even species. We see this with the animal kingdom on occasion. We have a Chinchi dog. She is ½ Japanese Chin and ½ Chihuahua. Mules and ligers are also examples of this. (3)
When talking about plants, hybrid, rather than crossbreed, is more preferred. Hybridization in plants is important because these hybrids may be more disease-resistant and hardy for that particular climate. Can hybrids be considered genetically modified?
Before I wrote this article, I thought that yes, they were the same thing. However, they are not the same. Not even close.
Gardeners and farmers around the world have been cultivating new varieties of plants for thousands of years through selective breeding. By cross-pollinating 2 different, but related plants over 6 (or more) plant generations, a new plant variety is created.
This is a long and arduous process, while very rewarding. By taking the time and cross-pollinating in this way they were able to create new varieties of plants that were healthier and stood up to the climate in their area. Each area has the own issues with pests, weather and soil. (5)
Fast forward to the 19th century where Mendel and Darwin discovered their own mention of controlled cross-pollinating that could give these desired traits in just one generation. This was known as producing F1 hybrid seeds. These seeds are as natural as ones created generations ago during the longer process.
Basically, hybrid seeds are nothing to fear. However they may not be the best thing to support due to the issues they have created around the world. On the other hand, GMO seeds are highly unnatural and likely to cause issues to you and the environment. Neither is desirable and more about the profit. It's like the devil you know vs. the devil you don't.
There may be a global down side for hybrid seeds. "When two dissimilar varieties are crossed, the result is a hybrid which will often be bigger, brighter, faster-growing or higher-yielding than either of its parents, which makes for a great selling point. But it’s a one-hit wonder. Subsequent generations don’t have the same vigour or uniformity, and the idea is that you don’t save seed from it, you just throw it away and buy some more. This is bad for the plants, bad for the garden and bad for you, but the seed companies make a packet out of it and gain increasing control of what we buy and grow. " (source)
Due to this corporate hybridization, many farmers around the world were and are unable to afford these seeds and the products it takes to maintain them. They are losing their livelihood.
What problems may occur with GMOs?
Opponents have objected to GM crops on grounds including environmental impacts, food safety, whether GM crops are needed to address food needs, whether they are sufficiently accessible to farmers in developing countries and concerns over subjecting crops to intellectual property law. Safety concerns led 38 countries, including 19 in Europe, to officially prohibit the cultivation of these seeds. (2)
One of the reasons these crops were created was to make it easier to control weeds. By making these seeds resistant to glyphosate, it can be sprayed on the crops so the weeds die around them but don't kill the plants we want to keep.
Exactly how much glyphosate (Roundup) are we consuming when eating these products? No one knows so how can anyone say that these GMO crops are safe?
What about new allergens that are being created due to the result of genetically engineered foods? Things like soybeans have been crossed with Brazil-nuts, yet the public doesn't know. Those who have a Brazil-nut allergy will have a reaction to this plant. With the rise of peanut allergies, how many of the new plants out there have been crossed with peanuts?
While I was digging, I found this piece of information that is quite concerning. "44,000 FDA internal documents later made public as a result of a lawsuit revealed problems with GMOs, and the overwhelming consensus among the FDA’s scientists was that GM foods were “substantively different”, so different that their consumption might result in unpredictable and hard-to-detect allergens, toxins, new diseases and nutritional problems." (1)
Genetic engineering in general is a big concern. Especially Roundup Ready crops. Scientists have yet to discover the true effect of these plants on the human race and the environment. Other issues come as the idea that changing one gene does not necessarily change just one function. A variety of changes in the expression of such a gene could occur in the resulting organism.
Round Up Ready Seeds and Crops
Before I started working on this blog, I had no idea any of this existed. I didn’t know there was even such a thing as a “Round Up Ready” seeds or crops. I am dumbfounded at what I have found. Round Up ready seeds have been genetically modified to be resistant to the herbicide, Roundup. A huge problem with these seeds is that farmers who plant them must then turn around and use Roundup to keep weeds from growing in their fields.
The crops that are produced from Roundup Ready seeds are sterile. Each year, farmers must purchase the most recent strain of seed from Monsanto. This means that farmers cannot reuse their best seed. Cha-ching!!!! Roundup Ready seeds have what is known as "terminator technology;" seeds that are grown for a second generation are sterile. Farmers need to purchase seeds from Monsanto each year if they want to continue to use their crops. As you would expect, farmers are upset that they need to purchase new seeds each year while Monsanto argues that this technology will help prevent the spread of the glyphosate (Roundup) resistance to other fields and species of plants. (4) This is a HUGE business. So far, as of the publishing of this article, 2 people have sued Monsanto due to cancer caused by glyphosate and won. Why are we still using it on our food?!
Why are GMO’s a concern?
One of the reasons genetically engineered foods are concerning is we don’t really have published data showing how it affects us, and our health. Many are concerned about eating the crops themselves, along with the toxicity of the herbicide Roundup. The EPA currently regulates the allowable concentration of glyphosate in drinking water. They say that glyphosate is safe for humans in small concentrations, however, exactly how much of what we are consuming is safe? When the herbicide is sprayed on seedlings, does it stay on the plant and grow with it making the entire plant full of the herbicide? Are seeds harvested from those plants or pollination done with these plants and spreading elsewhere? We may be ingesting more of the chemical than anyone realizes because we still don't know the true effects of it.
If you are traveling to Europe, no worries, GMOs are banned in EU foods. They know better than the US does.
I don't see all GMO products as being bad in theory. Making disease resistant crops or crops that can withstand hard seasons would be amazing! An informed public needs to know exactly what is in their food. As stated above, new allergens are being created due to GMO engineering. The fact that many of the GMO products are done to enable the use of Roundup makes me and I am sure many of you never want to eat anything with a GMO in it. How do you know if this GMO is ok and the next one not?
We prefer to buy organic when possible and have become HUGE label readers. If there is a non-GMO certified option available, we buy it. Too much is left unknown. With the rise of cancer and other medical conditions, we need to be cognizant of what we put into our bodies. There is a lot of scientific research regarding GMO’s which can be found here.
I am by no means an expert on this, but I have descent research skills. I was so disturbed doing this article I had to stop numerous times and put it away. I don't understand why our government is the only one in the world that will allow these things in our food source. Well, I do, but we the people need to be more important than the money. I am opposed to GMO's the way they are now. We have the ability to make things better and help the world. We aren't doing that. We could create a product that doesn't need roundup or any pesticides. Sadly, that is not our focus. Should you have any questions, please feel free to email me at Melissa@sweetwillowspirit.com.
Love and light,