Thu, 13 Feb 2014 16:54 CST
Several years ago the general public was completely unaware of GMOs and GE foods (genetically modified organisms or genetic engineering), but today the topic is becoming rather well known, thanks to growing education and alternative media coverage. The general public is becoming better informed about the potential harms and health issues associated with biotechnology and bioengineered foods, but the smoke and mirrors the mega-corporations use to obfuscate deeper understanding of the dangers inherent in such ‘mad science’ increases in tandem with growing awareness.
Ok, so a lot of people know they are eating GMO’s and what they are, but the real question is: are GMOs actually safe, as proponents and supporters of biotechnology claim, or are they not? Should we be worried about the long-term health and environmental effects of genetically altered foods? In the following article I hope to present clear evidence and data for stating very definitively: YES! We should be very concerned!
As an organic farmer, agriculture consultant and researcher, I became interested in the GMO issue over seven years ago, particularly their effects on the soil and the contamination or mutation of various plant species. ‘Connecting the dots’, so to speak, it dawned on me how serious this issue is, not just in terms of the environmental effects of GMOs, but also the consequences of eating GMO foods for human health.
A very disturbing picture began to emerge.
As I realized that this ‘genetic engineering’ is essentially a mad science, I joined a local group called ‘Seeds of Truth‘. We began meeting weekly to discuss how to get the word out about the growing takeover of Hawaii’s agricultural lands by several biotechnology corporations.
In November 2010, I had an opportunity to do a podcast with the SOTT team: GMO Frankenfoods and What You Can Do to Improve Your Health. The transcript for the podcast can be read here.
What exactly is Biotechnology & Genetic Engineering?
For those who are new to this topic, it’s important to explain some background knowledge when using the term ‘Biotechnology’. According to Wikipedia:
Biotechnology (sometimes shortened to “biotech”) is the use of living systems and organisms to develop or make useful products, and it is usually seen in agriculture, food production and medicine production. Modern use of similar terms includes genetic engineering as well as cell and tissue culture technologies. The concept encompasses a wide range of procedures (and history) for modifying living organisms according to human purposes – going back to domestication of animals, cultivation of plants, and “improvements” to these through breeding programs that employ artificial selection and hybridization. By comparison to biotechnology, bioengineering is generally thought of as a related field with its emphasis more on higher systems approaches (not necessarily altering or using biological materials directly) for interfacing with and utilizing living things. The United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity defines biotechnology as:
“Any technological application that uses biological systems, living organisms, or derivatives thereof, to make or modify products or processes for specific use.”
Genetic engineering, also called genetic modification, is the direct manipulation of an organism’s genome using biotechnology. New DNA may be inserted in the host genome by first isolating and copying the genetic material of interest using molecular cloning methods to generate a DNA sequence, or by synthesizing the DNA, and then inserting this construct into the host organism.
For the purpose of this article I will use the term ‘genetic engineering’ and ‘genetically modified organisms’ (GMO’s) in place of ‘biotechnology’. I hope to clearly explain that ‘genetic engineering’ is not in humanity’s best interest, regardless of claims by avid supporters. The agriculture industry, or Big Ag, began introducing ‘genetically engineered foods’ to the public in the early 1990s. Today, 80% of U.S. grocery store foods contain GMOs.The following articles carried on SOTT.net provide important background information regarding the ‘mad science’ behind GMO technology:
A GMO (genetically modified organism) is the result of a laboratory process where genes from the DNA of one species are extracted and artificially forced into the genes of an unrelated plant or animal. The foreign genes may come from bacteria, viruses, insects, animals or even humans. Since this involves the transfer of genes, GMOs are also known as “transgenic” organisms.
The genetic engineering technology was developed in the 1970s. In the early 1990s, the tomato was one of the first to fall victim to this technology. The anti-freeze genes from an Arctic fish were forced into tomato DNA, allowing the plants to survive frost. Fortunately, this type of tomato was not introduced into the marketplace. Actually, it never left the lab.
In 1976, a major biotechnology company manufactured a herbicide called Roundup. When the farmers sprayed this herbicide on their crops, not only would it kill the weeds, but it would also kill the crops. This biotech company developed genetically modified crops after finding bacteria in a chemical waste dump near its factory that were not dying in the presence of the herbicide. The bacterial gene that produced the protein that allowed it to survive in the presence of herbicide was inserted into soy, corn, cotton and canola.
In 1996, this company (Monsanto) introduced genetically modified soybeans, and slowly introduced genetically engineered corn, cotton and canola. When these crops are sprayed with this Roundup, all plants except the resistant crop are killed.
In 1992, the FDA declared that GM crops are GRAS (Generally Recognized As Safe) as long as their producers say they are. Therefore, the FDA doesn’t require any safety evaluations or labeling of GMOs. A company can even introduce a genetically modified (GM) food to the market without telling the agency. The official FDA policy stated, “The agency is not aware of any information showing that foods derived by these new methods differ from other foods in any meaningful or uniform way.” But behind closed doors an internal FDA report stated: “The processes of genetic engineering and traditional breeding are different and according to the technical experts in the agency, they lead to different risks.”
Internal memos made public from a lawsuit showed that GM crops can have unpredictable, hard-to-detect side effects including allergies, toxins, nutritional effects and new diseases as potential dangers. The FDA doesn’t require a single study, and the complex biology of GM crops may produce far more side-effects than drugs. GM foods are fed to the entire population, and they are not labeled or monitored, so symptoms are difficult or impossible to track.
Dr. Tim O’Shea, author of the website ‘The Doctor Within’, provides more background information explaining what exactly GMOs are:
Since the 1990s world agriculture and food production has undergone the most radical transformation in history. With very little public awareness, in just a few short years genetically modified foods have come to dominate both global agriculture and supermarket shelf space.
The first GMO experiment was crossing the DNA of a flounder with that of a tomato. This was done in order to make the tomato able to withstand colder temperatures. Oh yes, did we mention? – in the biotech industry, pieces of DNA can be transferred theoretically from any plant to any animal, vice versa, or any combination thereof.
Segments of DNA from one species are randomly spliced into the DNA of the other species hundreds and hundreds of times until the desired effect appears. How this cross-species DNA insertion is accomplished is a little less than scientific. The two most common methods of DNA modification are
- the gene cannon
- using bacteria and viruses as carriers for the DNA fragment
Scientists refer to the Position Effect when talking about not being able to predict where the inserted fragments will end up in the genetic sequence. Limitless possibilities result – recombining genetic sequences that can turn on or turn off vital processes that have taken thousands of years to refine.
In the gene cannon method tiny little golden bullets are shot into the cells of the target organism with a .22 calibre pistol. Not kidding. Hundreds of times. In this way the DNA of the host organism can be available for splicing in new fragments from the donor species. Of course this method is imprecise and unpredictable and anything but scientific. Only a tiny percentage of the blasted foreign DNA ends up inside the host DNA, of course. But if you do it enough times, you might eventually get a desired recombination. This was the how the flounder and tomato genes were combined.
The more popular method however is to use bacteria and viruses as carriers of donor DNA fragments which may then invade the host’s DNA and splice in the new pieces. We have long known that viruses have this ability to invade the host’s DNA and to actually splice themselves into the DNA strands. Both these methods of genetic modification result in the random scrambling of the host’s DNA, which has virtually unlimited unpredictable consequences.
Are you inflamed because of GMOs?
By ‘inflamed’, I’m not just referring to the state of anger and frustration people feel upon learning the sneaky, deceptive tactics Biotechnology corporations use to put these unsafe ingredients in our food. I am talking about inflammation in the body as a result of eating genetically engineered food loaded with ‘genetically mutated bacteria and viruses’.
Extensive study has been conducted regarding inflammatory responses to disease in the body. Doctors like Mark Hyman and Gabor Mate have written about the connections between inflammation in the body and the onset of disease:
Inflammation: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
Everyone who has had a sore throat, rash, hives, or a sprained ankle knows about inflammation. These are normal and appropriate responses of the immune – your body’s defense system – to infection and trauma.
This kind of inflammation is good. We need it to survive – to help us determine friend from foe.
The trouble occurs when that defense system runs out of control, like a rebel army bent on destroying its own country.
Many of us are familiar with an overactive immune response and too much inflammation. It results in common conditions like allergies, rheumatoid arthritis, autoimmune disease, and asthma. This is bad inflammation, and if it is left unchecked it can become downright ugly.
What few people understand is that hidden inflammation run amok is at the root of all chronic illness we experience – conditions like heart disease, obesity, diabetes, dementia, depression, cancer, and even autism.
How to Locate the Causes of Hidden Inflammation
So if inflammation and immune imbalances are at the root of most of modern disease, how do we find the causes and get the body back in balance?
First, we need to identify the triggers and causes of inflammation. Then we need to help reset the body’s natural immune balance by providing the right conditions for it to thrive.
As a doctor, my job is to find those inflammatory factors unique to each person and to see how various lifestyle, environmental, or infectious factors spin the immune system out of control, leading to a host of chronic illnesses.
Thankfully, the list of things that cause inflammation is relatively short:
- Poor diet – mostly sugar, refined flours, processed foods, and inflammatory fats such as trans fats – Lack of exercise
- Hidden or chronic infections with viruses, bacteria, yeasts, or parasites
- Hidden allergens from food or the environment
- Toxins such as mercury and pesticides
- Mold toxins and allergens
Dr. Gabor Mate also describes inflammation in the body in his book, When the Body Says No: Understanding the Stress-Disease Connection:
Inflammation is an ingenious process invoked by the body to isolate and destroy hostile or noxious particles ( think GMO’s). It does so by tissue swelling and the influx of a host of immune cells and anti bodies. To facilitate it’s defensive function, the lining or mucose, of the bowel is in a perpetually controlled or orchestrated state of inflammation. This is a normal state in healthy people. The powerfully destructive forces of the immune apparatus must be routinely regulated, kept in balance, so that it can carry out policing duties without harming the delicate body tissues, it is in charge of defending. Some substances (again think GMO’s) promote inflammation others inhibit it. If the balance is upset disease can result.
Additional information about the connection between inflammation and disease is available at the Greenmedinfo.com website:
Modern medicine describes hundreds of individual “diseases.” Each “disease” is generally named for a group of symptoms and the area of the body affected. Many are suffixed by -itis, meaning inflammation of… like tonsill-itis or arthr-itis. And interestingly, recent studies are finding inflammation involved in virtually all of them. Does this terminology serve to pigeonhole distinct “diseases” and distract us from seeing the big picture of inflammation as the disease? Have we been looking at secondary pathologies and opportunistic microbes, and treating them at symptom-level… instead of addressing a common root cause? Is there some imaginary partition that separates human health from chemistry, physics and cell biology?
Whether inflammation is acute like appendicitis or chronic like atherosclerosis and obesity, an immune response is taking place. In-flam-mation literally means “on fire” and is classically marked by the Latin: rubor, tumor, calor and dolor – or redness, swelling, heat and pain – so we know from those words that oxidation is at work.
Oxidation is simply fire or rust or whenever one molecule seizes an electron from another molecule. The needy oxidant grabs or shares the electrons of an electron rich anti-oxidant. When the electrons are stolen from chemical bonds, those molecules (like DNA) come apart or are deformed (like fats) and said to be oxidized, burnt.
Inflammation does not just happen; a bacterium or toxin or some other irritant triggers an immune response. The ammunition used by the body for immune firefights is singlet oxygen, an all-purpose defensive weapon. With an unpaired electron, an oxygen radical is a powerful oxidant.
It can deconstruct and destroy pathogens, poisons, cell debris and other unwanted substances, molecule by molecule, by snatching the electrons that hold them together. Immune cells initiate the conflagration, armed with mini-flamethrowers that generate oxidative bursts of singlet oxygen to burn the area clean.
Now that we have covered both the history of GMO technology and the inflammatory response in the body, we can begin to look at the deeper issues associated with ‘genetic engineering’ and the introduction of mutated foreign pathogens into our bodies, such as bacteria and viruses.
Is it possible that GMOs trigger and cause inflammation in the body?
With the introduction of ‘genetic engineering’ and its widespread use in the production of food for both humans and animals, we can begin connecting the dots. The issue here is that this ‘genetic mad science’ is producing disease and illness in the population based on the foods that are being touted as safe and healthy. Basically the population is being used as guinea pigs to test the long term effects of eating a diet composed of genetically modified organisms. Naysayers and pro GMO advocates say that ‘genetically altered foods’ are safe, GRAS (Generally regarded as Safe) or substantially equivalent to non GMO food, but where is the data to back up such a claim? Biotechnology corporations like Monsanto claim that there is no need for value testing the safety of GMO foods. What do scientists working in the field say?
“As a scientist, actively working in the field [of GMO] I find that it is very, very unfair to use our fellow citizens as guinea pigs.” – Arpad Pusztai, PhD