The Oxford Dictionary defines “poison” as “a substance that is capable of causing the illness or death of a living organism when introduced or absorbed.”
The legal definition of the term is: “Any product or substance that can harm someone if it is used in the wrong way, by the wrong person, or in the wrong amount.”
The medical condition of poisoning is even broader: it can be caused by substances that are not even legally required to carry the label “poison.”
Therefore, can food become poisonous? Of course, it can if it is infected, tampered with or altered in any way that it becomes detrimental to its consumer. In fact, that’s what we call “food poisoning.”
But what about the genetic engineering, tampering or alteration of our food supply? If it causes bodily harm even over the long haul, could that be considered a slow poisoning?
I call again to the stand Dr. George Wald, a Nobel Laureate in medicine or physiology and one of the first scientists to speak out about the dangers of genetically engineered foods, who explained: “Recombinant DNA technology [genetic engineering] faces our society with problems unprecedented, not only in the history of science, but of life on the Earth. … Now whole new proteins will be transposed overnight into wholly new associations, with consequences no one can foretell, either for the host organism or their neighbors. … For going ahead in this direction may not only be unwise but dangerous. Potentially, it could breed new animal and plant diseases, new sources of cancer, novel epidemics.”
Last week in Part 1, I discussed the dangers of genetic engineering to crop seeds and other foods. As a response, one of my C-Force health and fitness column readers asked, “What do you think are the best ways to avoid GMOs when they aren’t even labeled on food ingredients?”
Let me tell you how I responded.
First, contact your governmental officials and ask them to endorse or support legislation that requires food companies to start listing if their products use GMOs.
The Los Angeles Times reported that the Pew Center, Consumers Union and Harris Interactive polls have shown that the overwhelming majority of Americans would like to see genetically modified, or GM, foods better regulated and labeled.
At least 14 states have introduced legislation on GM ingredient labeling, but most face government gridlock. So take action and keep foods safe (non-genetically engineered) by contacting your state and federal representatives – as well as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, and tell them to legislate that GM ingredients be labeled on every package.
Ask your federal representatives to support the new federal labeling bill, the Genetically Engineered Food Right to Know Act, which would require the food industry to label all GE foods and ingredients. In addition, tell your representatives that corn and cotton must not be deregulated, because, without strict controls, genetically engineered crops will encroach on non-genetically engineered crops, contaminating them and rendering the organic crops as non-organic.
Right now, there is a war of words and concepts between pro-GMO food marketers and anti-GMO advocates like me. But the fact is, there’s a clear line between the truths and myths of GMOs.
The report, GMO Myths and Truths (available for free download), explains the “range of far-reaching claims from the GM crop industry and its supporters,” such as that GM crops:
- “Are an extension of natural breeding and do not pose different risks from naturally bred crops”
- “Are safe to eat and can be more nutritious than naturally bred crops”
- “Are strictly regulated for safety”
- “Reduce pesticide use”
- “Benefit the environment”
On the contrary, the report shows how the majority of scientific and nutrition evidence discredits those pro-GMO claims and instead reveals how GM crops:
- “Are laboratory-made, using technology that is totally different from natural breeding methods, and pose different risks from non-GM crops”
- “Can be toxic, allergenic or less nutritious than their natural counterparts”
- “Are not adequately regulated to ensure safety”
- “Do not reduce pesticide use but increase it”
- “Create serious problems for farmers, including herbicide-tolerant ‘superweeds,’ compromised soil quality, and increased disease susceptibility in crops”
- “Harm soil quality, disrupt ecosystems, and reduce biodiversity”
The report concludes, “Conventional plant breeding, in some cases helped by safe modern technologies like gene mapping and marker assisted selection, continues to outperform GM in producing high-yield, drought-tolerant, and pest- and disease-resistant crops that can meet our present and future food needs.”
The biggest question is: “How can we best avoid GM ingredients in our food and elsewhere?”
Here are seven of the best ways that I’ve discovered from GMO and nutrition specialists and resources:
7) Educate yourself and your loved ones about GMOs from credible articles, books or videos, such as those mentioned on the websites below or YouTube’s “Genetically Modified Organism (GMO) – Myths and Truths.”
6) Keep up to date about anti-GMO trends, legislation and action items by frequenting the website of those like the Center for Food Safety, another great GMO watchdog organization.
5) Download the Non-GMO shopping guides or smart phone applications at NonGMOShoppingGuide.com or NonGMOproject.org to help you locate and avoid GE ingredients wherever you shop.
4) Buy certified organic and local, U.S. USDA Organic and/or Non-GMO Project Verified products cannot intentionally include GMO ingredients.
The USDA explains, “The use of genetic engineering, or genetically modified organisms (GMOs), is prohibited in organic products. This means an organic farmer can’t plant GMO seeds, an organic cow can’t eat GMO alfalfa or corn, and an organic soup producer can’t use any GMO ingredients. To meet the USDA organic regulations, farmers and processors must show they aren’t using GMOs and that they are protecting their products from contact with prohibited substances, such as GMOs, from farm to table.”
The “Non-GMO Project Verified” label is the only third-party non-GMO verification program in North America. As its website explains, “Since its incorporation in 2007, the Project has grown into a collaboration of manufacturers, retailers, processors, distributors, farmers, seed companies and consumers.”
One of the very few occasions I believe in government regulation has to do with labeling and specifying food ingredients, because, without them, the food industry would get away with shoving all types of maladies in America’s bodies and jeopardizing their health.
3) Avoid at-risk ingredients that are now largely (roughly 90 percent) produced using GMOs, including soybeans, canola, cottonseed, corn and sugar from sugarbeets. Unless sugar is labeled as organic or pure cane, it likely contains sugar from GM sugar beets.
The Los Angeles Times reported, “These crops [mentioned above] often are added to processed foods as oils, sweeteners and soy proteins but also can be part of amino acids, aspartame, ascorbic acid, sodium ascorbate, vitamin C, citric acid, sodium citrate, ethanol, flavorings (natural and artificial), hydrolyzed vegetable protein, lactic acid, maltodextrins, microbial growth media, molasses, monosodium glutamate, sucrose, textured vegetable protein, xantham gum, vitamins and yeast products, according to the Non-GMO Project.”
Regarding most fruits and vegetables, the Non-GMO Shopping Guide further explains, “Very few fresh fruits and vegetables for sale in the U.S. are genetically modified. Novel products such as seedless watermelons are NOT genetically modified. Small amounts of zucchini, yellow crookneck squash, and sweet corn may be GM. The only commercialized GM fruit is papaya from Hawaii – about half of Hawaii’s papayas are GM. Even if the fruit or vegetable is non-GMO, if it is packaged, frozen, or canned, there may be GM additives.”
2) Buy only dairy products labeled certified organic, “No rBGH or rBST,” or “artificial hormone-free,” because their source cows may have been fed GM feed or injected with GM bovine growth hormone.
1) Support and patronize grocers (and commend their management) that offer lines of organic products and rid GMO ingredients from their product shelves. For example, Target, H-E-B, Giant Eagle, and Meijer recently joined more than 55 other food retailers, including Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, Aldi, Marsh and Hy-Vee, in agreeing not to sell genetically engineered fish in their stores. Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s claim that all their store brand items originate from non-GMO ingredients.