Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Genetically-Modified Foods and How They Affect Us



(Sourced and adapted from Care2.com and Mercola.com. Available at: http://www.care2.com/greenliving/health-risks-of-eating-gmo-foods.html and http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2013/03/05/gmo-affects-climate-change.aspx)


Genetically modified organisms, or GMOs, are any living thing that has had its genetic material altered in some way through human scientific interference. This does not refer to “selective breeding,” such as when certain crops are selectively bred by gardeners over time to withstand heat, for instance, or the process by which different dog breeds were developed over time.

Instead, GMOs undergo a form of gene therapy under lab conditions whereby segments of DNA are spliced, rearranged or removed altogether.

You may have been eating genetically modified food for years and not even know it. In the United States, much of the corn and soybeans produced (especially those to be fed to livestock or to provide filler material in processed foods at the supermarket) contain some portion of genetically modified material.

GMOs have infiltrated our shops and food chain largely without much study into their long-term health effects on our bodies. However, The Environmental Working Group conservatively estimates that each American consumes about 190 pounds of GM foods every year despite this lack of research. Choosy consumers are worried about these potential health impacts:

1. Allergies

Perhaps the number one health concern over GM technology is its capacity to create new allergens in our food supply. Allergic reactions typically are brought on by proteins. Nearly every transfer of genetic material from one host into a new one results in the creation of novel proteins. Genetic engineering can increase the levels of a naturally occurring allergen already present in a food or insert allergenic properties into a food that did not previously contain them. It can also result in brand new allergens we’ve never before known.

2. Antibiotic Resistance

Genetic engineers rely heavily on antibiotics to guide experiments. It works like this: Not all host cells will take up foreign genes, so engineers attach a trait for a particular type of antibiotic resistance to the gene they introduce into host cells. After they have introduced the gene into the cells, they douse all the cells with the antibiotic to see which ones survive. The surviving cells are antibiotic-resistant, and therefore engineers know they have taken up the foreign gene.

Overuse of antibiotics can potentially cause the development of antibiotic-resistant pathogens. Several health organizations, including the World Health Organization and the American Medical Association, have spoken out about the need for the use of these antibiotics to be phased out of the process of making GM foods.

3. Pesticide Exposure

The majority of GM crops in cultivation are engineered to contain a gene for pesticide resistance. Most are “Roundup Ready,” meaning they can be sprayed with Monsanto’s glyphosate herbicide Roundup without being harmed. The idea is that if the crop itself is immune to Roundup, you can spray it to kill any weeds endangering the plant without worrying about harming your crop.

Sound like a good thing? Only if increased human exposure to pesticides is a good thing. Glyphosate has been linked to numerous health problems in animal studies, among them birth defects, reproductive damage, cancer and endocrine disruption.

4. Unpredictability and the Unknown

Foreign genetic material in a host can cause other genetic material in that host to behave erratically. Genes can be suppressed or overexpressed, causing a wide variety of results. One consequence of over-expression, for example, can be cancer. Nutritional problems can also result from the transfer. In one example, cows that ate Roundup Ready soybeans produced milk with more fat in it.

In another example, milk from cows injected with a genetically engineered growth hormone was found by a number of researchers, including those published in the journal Lancet, to have substantially higher levels of a compound known as insulin-like growth factor-1, which is linked to human breast, colon and prostate cancers. The milk also has higher levels of bovine growth hormones in it, along with pus and sometimes antibiotics.

GM crops have been linked to health problems as diverse as reproductive damage, cancer, Alzheimer’s disease and diabetes. Concerned scientists have been outspoken about these risks.


Corn and soy—much of which are genetically engineered—are rapidly overtaking native grasslands in some parts of the world, including a number of US states. This is a trend that may have a not-so-insignificant impact on our environment and subsequently, our ability to secure our food supply long-term.

The "faster, bigger, cheaper" approach to food is slowly draining dry our planet's resources and compromising our health. The Earth's soil is depleting at more than 13 percent the rate it can be replaced, and we’ve already lost 75 percent of the world's crop varieties over the last century. Corn, soybeans, wheat, and to some degree rice, are the most common crops grown with monocropping techniques. In fact, corn, wheat and rice now account for 60 percent of human caloric intake, according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization.

According to an articleon GreenFudge.org, monoculture is detrimental to the environment for a number of reasons, including the following:
 * It damages soil ecology by depleting and reducing the diversity of soil nutrients
 * It creates an unbuffered niche for parasitic species to take over, making crops more vulnerable to opportunistic pathogens that can quickly wipe out an entire crop
 * It increases dependency on chemical pesticides, fertilizers, antibiotics and genetically modified organisms (GMOs)
 * It increases reliance on expensive specialized farm equipment and machinery that require heavy use of fossil fuels
 * It destroys biodiversity

By contrast, polyculture (the traditional rotation of crops and livestock) better serves both land and people. Polyculture evolved to meet the complete nutritional needs of a local community. Polyculture, when done mindfully, automatically replenishes what is taken out, which makes it sustainable with minimal effort.


GMO labelling was introduced to give consumers the freedom to choose between GMOs and conventional products. Essentially, if a foodstuff is produced using genetic engineering, this must be indicated on its label. 

As of June 14, 2010, new regulations regarding the labeling of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in food have been enacted in Malaysia through amendments to the Food Regulations under the Food Act 1983.

These regulations are in accordance with provisions found in the Biosafety Act of Malaysia that require the identification and labeling of living modified organisms (LMOs), which itself has been enacted as part of Malaysia’s responsibilities as asignatory to the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety to the Convention on BiologicalDiversity of the United Nations.

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