June 1st, 2012 by Digestive Detective
I'm a big proponent of being aware of what you put in your body. I encourage clients to read labels, talk to grocers and chat with farmer's at markets to gain an understanding of what is in each of the items they'll eventually put into their bodies. But what happens when there's no way to know? What if the food you purchase doesn't come with a convenient label? What if the grower/manufacturer isn't available to answer your questions. It seems like a logical step to have labels for consumers to educate themselves in their pursuit of making intelligent and informed decisions; unfortunately this isn't the case with genetically modified organisms (GMOs).
Let me rephrase that: this isn't the case with genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in the United States. Many countries all across the globe have standards and requirements for the identification and labeling of GMOs. Here in the U.S.; however, GMO foods are not required to be identified. Why? A combination of politics, policy and influence from huge corporations such as multinational agricultural biotechnology corporation Monsanto.
Some of this policy was initially created in 1992 with the assertion that engineered crops are "substantially equivalent" to regular crops and thus do not need to be labeled or safety tested. The concept faced criticism with many experts and even the FDA stating that companies should notify the government at least 120 days before commercializing a transgenic plant variety and provide data on each separate genetic transformation event (ie - indication that there is a difference between genetic engineering and traditional plant breeding). Unfortunately this policy fell by the wayside in part due to influence by then deputy commissioner of policy (and former Monsanto lawyer) Michael Taylor (can you say conflict of interest?).
So why no change all these years later? Continued policy (or lack thereof) regarding GMOs and continued conflict of interest (the Obama administration appointed Michael Taylor as the deputy commissioner of foods in 2009). There is growing public pressure with a number of states carrying petition to ballots, California is a major one, for a vote on mandatory labeling of GMOs.
It's a matter of freedom of information; it's also a matter of health freedom. The dangers of GMOs are unknown, but several studies have begun to exhibit the potential damaging effects to organ and system health that GMO consumption may pose. A 2009 study published in the International Journal of Biological Sciences found signs of hepatorenal (liver and kidney) toxicity in rats fed three main commercialized genetically modified (GM) maize. The study also found that "in addition, some effects on heart, adrenal, spleen and blood cells were also frequently noted." Researchers also concluded that "unintended direct or indirect metabolic consequences of the genetic modification cannot be excluded."
Jeffery Smith, author of Seeds of Deception: Exposing Industry and Government Lies About the Safety of the Genetically Engineered Foods You're Eating, has written in depth about the deleterious health implications of genetically engineered crops, including a study by The Institute of Ecology and Evolution of the Russian Academy of Sciences and the National Association for Gene Security where hamsters fed GMO soybeans displayed everything from growth and reproduction issues (sterility) to bundles of hair growing in pouches inside their mouths! (for more details, check out Smith's article here)
It's up to us as consumers to use our voice to vote both with our voice and with our dollars to insist that GMO food be at the very least labeled as such. For more information regarding GMOs and how to support labeling efforts, visit LabelGMOs.org - unless you'd rather just invest in a mouth razor.