By Eddie Levin
Alberto Gonzalez founder and CEO of GustOrganics absolutely loves chatting to people about food. And these days at his restaurant, he certainly ends up talking about GMOs. People ask him all the time what are the reasons why he does not allow any GMO foods at GustOrganics. In fact, it happen so often that he produced a list of all the reasons he chooses not to offer them to customers. The list started to get so big that Alberto decided to write it down and share it with his readers.
Background on GMO:
GMO stands for genetically modified organisms; some people also refer to them as GE (genetically engineered). According to the FDA, GMO foods are made using recombinant deoxyribonucleic acid (rDNA) technology. The agency commonly refers to them as “bioengineered foods,” or foods that have undergone genetic modification, meaning they’ve been engineered and altered at the genetic level “using any technique, new or traditional.”
Human studies show how genetically modified (GM) food can leave material behind inside us, possibly causing long-term problems. Genes that are incorporated into GM soy, for example, can transfer into the DNA of bacteria living inside us, and that the toxic insecticide produced by GM corn was found in the blood of pregnant women and their unborn fetuses.
Numerous health problems increased after GMOs were introduced in 1996. The percentage of Americans with three or more chronic illnesses jumped from 7% to 13% from 1996 to 2005; food allergies increased dramatically, and disorders such as autism, reproductive disorders, digestive problems, and others are on the rise. Although there is not sufficient research to confirm that GMOs are a contributing factor, doctors groups such as the AAEM (American Public Health Association and American Nurses Association) tell us not to wait before we start protecting ourselves, and especially our children who are most at risk.
The American Public Health Association and American Nurses Association are among many medical groups that denounce the use of GM bovine growth hormone, because the milk from treated cows has more of the hormone IGF-1 (insulin-like growth factor 1)―which is linked to cancer.
Many years ago, Alberto started reading studies about GMOs, and he discovered that most of the outcomes of the studies favored whoever was financing the research, which in most cases was the agrochemical companies. A few years later, he came across a book called The World According to Monsanto, by Marie-Monique Robin, and it was true eye-opener for him. Then, he read The Wheel of Life, by Debbie Barker from The Center for Food Safety, and Alberto recommends this paper to anyone who wants a deeper understanding of the interrelatedness between food, climate, human rights, and economy.
Now Alberto Gonzalez does everything he can, at home and at his restaurant, to avoid GMOs. It’s not easy to do, since more than 80 percent of processed foods contain GMOs. Buying certified-organic food is the only way you can truly stay away from GMOs right now, since GMO foods are not labeled. But, honestly, the likelihood that GMO crops will cross-pollinate with organics gets higher every year as more and more GMOs are planted.
Here are reasons for avoiding GMO foods :
GMOs are grown with toxic chemicals and resulting pesticide residues are known to be harmful to human health.
Research has shown that laboratory mammals fed GMOs suffer adverse effects that include damage to kidneys, liver, adrenal glands, spleen, and heart. Additionally, their immune systems were compromised and in some cases brain size was reduced.
GMO crops require huge amounts of chemicals that are harmful to soil, water, the atmosphere, and creatures. Although they are promoted as a technology to reduce pesticide usage, GM crops in the U.S. used greater than 26 percent more pesticides per acre in 2008 than non-GMO crops, based on U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) data.
GMOs are actually increasing the need for stronger and more poisonous pesticides. For example, one agrochemical company is awaiting USDA approval of corn and soybeans resistant to 2, 4-D, a chemical related to Agent Orange.
GMOs are causing a growing epidemic of “superweeds.” These massive weeds have evolved a resistance to glyphosate, a chemical used on GM crops. Stronger toxic chemicals and soil-eroding tillage operations are required in order to eliminate superweeds.
GMOs contribute to global warming: GM crops require synthetic nitrogen fertilizers, which are responsible for approximately 60 percent of total emissions of nitrous oxide (a greenhouse gas nearly 300 times more potent than CO2). GM crops use high amounts of fossil fuels through the production of synthetic nitrogen fertilizers.
GMO practices contaminate our organic and local food systems. A report titled, Gone to Seed, found that 50 percent or more of non-GMO corn, canola, and soybean seed have been contaminated with GM genes.
Beneficial insects can be harmed. A Cornell University study showed that monarch butterflies suffered higher mortality rates when consuming milkweed leaves dusted with the Bt toxin associated with GM crops. And recently, pesticides called neonicotinoids have been blamed for the collapsing bee populations.
Most GM crops are engineered to be “herbicide tolerant”―they deadly weed killer. Monsanto, for example, sells Roundup Ready crops, designed to survive applications of their Roundup herbicide.
Between 1996 and 2008, US farmers sprayed an extra 383 million pounds of herbicide on GMOs. Overuse of Roundup results in “superweeds,” resistant to the herbicide. This is causing farmers to use even more toxic herbicides every year. Not only does this create environmental harm, GM foods contain higher residues of toxic herbicides. Roundup, for example, is linked with sterility, hormone disruption, birth defects, and cancer.
GMOs cross pollinate and their seeds can travel. It is impossible to fully clean up our contaminated gene pool. Self-propagating GMO pollution will outlast the effects of global warming and nuclear waste. The potential impact is huge, threatening the health of future generations. GMO contamination has also caused economic losses for organic and non-GMO farmers who often struggle to keep their crops pure.
Harms to social and human rights.
Independent research and reporting is attacked and suppressed.
Scientists who discover problems with GMOs have been attacked, gagged, fired, threatened, and denied funding. The journal Nature acknowledged that a “large block of scientists . . . denigrate research by other legitimate scientists in a knee-jerk, partisan, emotional way that is not helpful in advancing knowledge.” Attempts by media to expose problems are also often censored.
GMOs are suggested as way to feed the world and diminish hunger; however, numerous studies shown that the
GM crops do not produce higher yields as claimed. As one example, a USDA publication reports that “GM crops do not increase the yield potential.”
GMOs shown the way to corporate control over seed and food: Today only one company controls about 95 percent of GM seeds. This limits access to seeds, which are the center of food and life.
These large agri-corporations do not let farmers save seeds, a fundamental practice that has continued for centuries to guarantee food security.
Biotech companies like Monsanto told us that Agent Orange, PCBs, and DDT were safe. They are now using the same type of superficial, rigged research to try and convince us that GMOs are safe. Independent scientists, however, have caught the spin-masters red-handed, demonstrating without doubt how industry-funded research is designed to avoid finding problems, and how adverse findings are distorted or denied.
GMO agriculture is an extension of current industrial-farming practices that have resulted in the loss of family farms and farmer livelihoods around the globe.
For all of these reasons, and more that I’m just not thinking of right now, we at GustOrganics choose another path. We believe organic agriculture is the only way to go. Organic agriculture has equal or higher yields than factory farming. Organics don’t contain any synthetic hormones, antibiotics, chemicals or GMOs. And independent studies prove that organic food has more vitamins, nutrients and antioxidants than conventional food (which, at this point, is just another way of saying GMO food).