As we were riding our bikes past the farm fields near our house this weekend, my husband commented, “Look! Round Up resistant corn growing in the Round Up resistant soybeans!” Sure enough, there were corn stalks here and there within the neat rows of soybeans. No weeds, but occasional corn stalks. Round Up resistant seeds are GMO seeds engineered to survive applications of Round Up. That way, the farmer can spray his fields with Round Up and kill everything but the seeds which just soak it in. Pretty neat, huh? 91% of soybeans, 85% of corn and 88% of cotton in the US are grown from GMO seeds according to the USDA Economic Research Service. Must work great as it’s so popular.
It does work great, but at what cost? I’ve been reading Maria Rodale’s book Organic Manifesto and learning enough to become alarmed at our government’s complicity, the ignorance in the general population (I’m one of those ignorami), and the rock and hard place that farmers are caught between. Here’s the thing with Round Up – it’s not just ON the plants, it’s IN the plants. So when you eat that soy product (and believe me you do eat soy products since soy is added to nearly everything, just ask someone who’s allergic to it!), you’re eating some lovely Round Up altered cells. You can’t just wash off the pesticide because it’s now part of the genetic make up of the plant. Dr. Warren Porter, a zoology and environmental toxicology professor at the University of Wisconsin points out, Round Up is “in the plant, not just on the plant. Fat soluble chemicals in Round Up have the master entry key into the plant and into our bodies, because every cell in our body is a fatty membrane. So anything that is fat soluble can cross the blood-brain barrier and also the placental barrier.”
I must confess that there is Round Up in my garage. My husband, like all of us, has been convinced that Round Up is safe for home use. Monsanto (imagine me invoking this name with a very cynical and disgusted voice as I believe their ethics are right on par with Enron management), the maker of Round Up, has a powerful marketing department and even more powerful government lobbyists. Before Roundup Ready soybeans were on the market, the acceptable ppm (parts per million) was 3, but the new Round Up Ready soybeans had something in the neighborhood of 20ppm. Somehow that year the EPA decided that 20ppm was a more appropriate limit. Hmmmm. Makes you scratch your head, doesn’t it? It’s a bit of a bait and switch – we’re all worried about run-off from the fields and the toxins in the air from the Round Up as it is sprayed and here what we really need to be worried about is the Round Up in the food we eat. As Maria Rodale points out, we may not just be exterminating weeds and pests, we may just be exterminating ourselves.
So what’s so bad about Roundup Ready Seeds and GMOs anyway? I mean, the government allows its use, so it must be safe. Tell that to the European Union where GMO seeds are currently banned. The American Academy of Environmental Medicine has called for an immediate “moratorium on genetically modified food.” The reason? “Several animal studies indicate serious health risks associated with GM food consumption including infertility, immune dysregulation, accelerated aging, dysregulation of genes associated with cholesterol synthesis, insulin regulation, cell signaling, and protein formation, and changes in the liver, kidney, spleen and gastrointestinal system.” But I’m not sure we really need a doctor to tell us this if the food we’re eating got to our table because it’s toxic to weeds and pests. It is only logical that it is toxic to us also.
So how do we avoid GMO foods?
Check out the sticker on the produce you buy, if it’s organic it will have a five digit number that starts with 9, but if it has five digits and the number begins with 8, put it back in the bin because it is a GM product. Conventionally grown (non-organic) produce has four digit numbers.
Most processed food contains GMO ingredients, no way around that and because our government hasn’t done the research to determine if GMO food is safe, you’re taking the risk yourself. I know I always come back to this, but make it yourself – avoid processed food. Know what you’re putting in your body.
If you insist (or can’t avoid) eating processed foods, read the label carefully, if any of the following ingredients are found and aren’t specifically labeled as organic, you are most likely holding a food that contains GMO ingredients:
Soybeans (including oil, flour, protein, and concentrates), corn (including oil, syrup, starch, flour), canola oil, dairy products, and meat products.
I highly, highly, highly recommend the book Organic Manifesto by Maria Rodale as important reading for all of us. She is sounding an alarm and her carefully researched and thoughtfully expressed opinions could shape our futures – if we let them. It’s a short book, she keeps to the point and it’s a fascinating read – I promise you’ll have trouble putting it down. I can’t promise it will help you sleep at night.