GMO labeling law fails in CA

California failed to pass Proposition 37, which would have required labeling of foods that contain genetically modified ingredients.  This came as  a surprise given the initial public support, though the money raised by the opposition managed to sway voters in the end.  For a law that would not have outlawed anything, just required labeling, it’s really sad California couldn’t get this passed.

I feel it’s inevitable that laws like this will come to be…and until then, if this is an issue you care about, shop for organic fruits and vegetables, and check out the Non-GMO Shopping Guide for more shopping advice.  In general, unless labeled as being Non-GMO (see label above), avoid corn, soybeans, canola, cottonseed, sugar beets, Hawaiian papaya, and ingredients derived from these (like ‘sugar’, instead of ‘pure cane sugar’, as it is likely to have some GM sugar beets in it).

A quick GMO summary

Check out the Huffington Post for a great, short summary of what you should know about Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs).  I’m quoting the key points below, but read the full article for the explanations, details, and supporting facts:

  1. GMOs have never undergone standard testing or regulation for human safety.
  2. But we know that GMOs have proven harmful in animal studies.
  3. And the most widely used GMOs are paired with an herbicide linked to serious health risks.
  4. The consequences of GMO technology are inherently unpredictable.
  5. GMO makers intimidate and silence farmers and scientists.
  6. GMOs undermine our food security.
  7. GMOs aren’t needed in the first place, so why would we take on these risks and harms?

Voters in California have the opportunity this year to force companies to indicate if the food they produce contains GMOs.  If CA votes to implement that, it’s likely to start a nationwide movement not to ban GMOs, but to at least let people know whether or not they’re consuming GMOs so they can make the choice for themselves.

Rats fed GM corn die young (with tumors and organ damage)

Researchers in France fed rats a lifetime diet of Monsanto’s GM corn (NK603, to be specific), and found that 50% of the males and 70% of the females died prematurely (compared with 30% of the males and 20% of the females in the control group).  They suffered from mammary tumors, also severe liver and kidney damage (this is in stark contrast to the carefree life portrayed by French rats in Ratatouille).

What’s most interesting here, to me at least, is the implications.  Specifically…NK603 is a type of corn that’s tolerant to the pesticide Roundup…it wasn’t stated specifically, but I’m assuming that when growing NK603, they did so by using Roundup as intended.  Thus these deaths are not necessarily due to the genetic modification of the corn plant, but rather the pesticides that that modification allowed the use of.  In the end, perhaps it doesn’t matter, the result is dead rats…but I worry that a GM crop could be shown to be perfectly safe by itself, but use of that will result in secondary factors that lead to problems down the line.

I’m also disturbed by the article’s statement that GM crops are approved based upon a 90 day feeding trial.  As this study showed, there are lifetime impacts that need to be properly quantified…a mere 90 day test may be insufficient to expose long-term health impacts.

NK603 was approved for food use in the US in 2000.

You can read the full article at Reuters.

This is why we need to be cautious about GM crops

If you want to know why I’m worried about genetically modified foods, read this article from New Zealand.  Scientists are concerned about GM wheat being tested in NZ and Australian, and more specifically, they claim:

  • SiRNA, a form of ribonucleic acid, like DNA, could transfer to humans through food when produced in GM wheat.
  • When eaten, the siRNA engineered to suppress the wheat-branching enzyme would also silence the human-branching enzyme which produces energy-storing glycogen.
  • This “unbranched” glycogen would have low solubility in human cells and could create build-up in the tissues of the body, especially in the heart and liver.
  • This could lead to the disease Glycogen Storage Disease IV, resulting in an enlarged liver, cirrhosis of the liver, and failure to thrive.

So, do we need to be worried?  I think the bottom line is that we don’t know.  I think this DOES show, though, that we need to be cautious and thorough in testing GM crops for possible side-effects on people…we must not rush this technology to market, but rather, each and every modification to the genetic code of our food supply needs to be tested.  Right now, that’s just not happening, and that’s the scary thing.

Drought-tolerant corn

The drought hitting much of the US is highlighting why genetically modified crops (or GMO, as they’re commonly referred to) are something that’s hard to avoid in our future.  As corn fields wither and die under the drought conditions, some drought-tolerance corn is doing OK, and while that particular strain is not GMO (next year should be the first production crops of GMO corn that has been engineered to be drought-tolerant), this does help show the promise of GMO in agriculture.  Instead of fields of dying corn and rising food prices, we could have just another normal, un-news-worthy year.

I still fear our current system of using humans as guinea pigs testing the safety of GMO crops, but I believe that if properly managed and scientifically tested for safety, GMO crops could go a long ways towards feeding a growing population on a planet with a changing, more extreme climate.  Frankly, I don’t see another choice.

(via TechnologyReview)

California leads the way on labeling GMO

This fall, voters in California will decide whether or not food that has been manufactured with genetically modified organisms should be labeled as such (it’s Proposition 37, for you Californians).  Considering that polls are finding around 90% of the public supports this, expect this to pass, but also expect it to be challenged in the courts as corporate profits would be impacted by such a law (well, assuming that people don’t want to eat food with GMO, that is).  If this passes, you can also expect other states to start following California’s lead with laws of their own, though really, given the size of California’s economy, merely enacting such a law there will have a ripple effect nationwide.

Read more here.

Can GMO be a good thing?

“Genetically Modified” is a term that can mean a lot when it comes to plants, and I think that’s going to be an interesting issue in coming years.  On the one hand, Monsanto is modifying corn to produce a pesticide, and the idea of eating that scares me (just a warning, you’re probably already eating this!).  However, there are applications for GM plants that I’m more supportive of.  For example, scientists are working on making plants more drought-tolerant.  Considering how human-caused climate changed is predicted to alter future weather patterns, and the increasing demand for food due to a rising global population, I think GM applications like this will be necessary.  They also seem to pose less risk to consumers.  However, I fear that consumers will reject ALL GM foods based upon the results of some of the more scary ones, rather than open their minds to the idea that some GM foods may be OK.  History has shown that it’s not a matter of using science to show whether foods are safe or not; just look at how many Americans reject the indisputable science behind climate change.  This is more of an emotional and social issue, and I honestly don’t know what the answer is…but I do think this is a debate we’ll be having in coming years.

Genetically Engineered Crops

If you’re not sure what all the fuss is about genetically modified crops, you owe it to yourself to check out this quick (4 minute) video that does a great job of explaining the issue:

I’m all for improving our lives through science, but GM foods is not about that…it’s about improving corporate profits through science without scientifically examining what possible effects this has on the species affected by this technology (not just the animals that eat the crops, us, but the animals that live where these crops are grown).

Blue strawberry?

Wow, talk about genetically modified food.  A BLUE strawberry?  Crazy stuff.  It seems the goal wasn’t to create a blue strawberry, but rather, one that would be resistant to freezing – which this one is – and the color was just a side effect.  Scientists took the gene that makes a type of antifreeze in flounder fish, and added it to an otherwise normal strawberry planet.  This abomination is the result.  This GMO field is one that really scares me…I recognize we may require widespread adoption of GMO in order to feed growing populations, but I’m concerned about the unknown side effects of creating living organisms like these.

Read more over at Care2.

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