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Watch Danny DeVito, Dave Matthews & Other Celebs on Our Right to Know About Genetically Engineered Foods
In the absence of any federal labeling law, California is trying to become the first state to label genetically engineered ingredients in foods. This could impact the county, as they represent the largest state economy in the US and the 8th largest in the world.
How could this affect all of us? When legislation was proposed in California for Coke and Pepsi to label a caramel color in their sodas as potentially carcinogenic, rather than do so, the soda giants reformulated their products....across the country.
If this legislation (Proposition 37) passes in California, as Jillian Michaels, Danny DeVito, Dave Matthews and others are urging in this public service announcement, the food industry might very well decide to reformulate their products here in the US for all of us, in order to avoid the liability that these labels might carry, removing GMOs from their products and replacing them with alternatives, much like what they have done in over 40 countries around the world, like all European countries, the UK, China, Australia, Japan and India, where GMOs are already labeled.
If you have friends or family in California, please share this important message, as we all have the right to know what we are eating, and what happens in California has the potential to impact all of us.
To learn more about this proposition and its ability to impact all of us, please visit California's Right to Know
In a world in which we are constantly worried about the health of our families, the stability of our jobs, paying the mortgage and all of life's responsibilities, the simple act of trying to eat healthy often becomes a challenge.
Not to mention that if your family is anything like mine, then you've most likely got some picky eaters, limited time and a limited budget with which to pull all of this off in a world of soaring food prices.
All of this concern, on top of the recent announcement by Nestle that genetically engineered foods, crops that have been engineered using biotechnology to withstand increasing doses of chemicals sold by the chemical industry, may not be "the answer" that the food industry needs to feeding the world.
So what's an eater to do? Especially those worried about allergies, cancer or diabetes here in the United States, one of the few developed country that never labeled these genetically engineered ingredients hardwired for chemicals in the first place? Thankfully, there is a lot. And these tips are for everyone, not just words for the "well-nourished who can afford to shop at Whole Foods," because clean and safe food should not be a function of zip code or socioeconomic status, it is a fundamental human right.
Access to food, labeled to disclose allergens, additives, genetically engineered ingredients & chemicals used on them, is a human right that should be afforded all Americans as it is to eaters in other countries, especially in light of cancer statistics that suggest 41% of Americans are expected to get cancer in our lifetimes.
- Go Orgo-Generic. Major grocery store chains like Safeway and Kroger, and big box food retailers like Costco and even Wal-Mart, now carry their own organic foods. And all foods labeled "USDA organic" are created equal, no matter where you find them. No need to upscale your grocery store when Wal-Mart gets it done.
- Buy Frozen. Frozen foods (like strawberries and fish) are cheaper than those that are delivered fresh. So if the prices on fresh produce are eye-popping, cruise on over to the frozen food aisle for a discount.
- Eat with the Season. Retrain your taste buds to think like your grandmother did. She didn't eat strawberries in the middle of winter. Locally grown foods are usually cheaper than those flown in from another hemisphere so if you eat with the season, you'll be eating more affordably.
- Skip the Box, Embrace the Bulk. Food that comes in boxes costs more because of the packaging costs associated with designing those pretty pictures! When you buy in bulk, you're not paying for all of the packaging, you're paying for the food which is what you want anyway. So slide on over to that bulk food aisle in Safeway and look for noodles, cereals, rice and beans in your local grocery store.
- Support the US economy and Buy Local. You can save money by becoming a member of a local farm (just like you became a member at Safeway or Costco!). How do you find a local farm, you ask? Well, thankfully, the USDA now has a list of online sites to help you find the closest farm near you.
- Comparison Shop. You wouldn't buy a car without comparison shopping, so before you even head out the door you can compare the prices of organic foods at different retailers from the safety of your own computer.
- Coupons, coupons, coupons: Organic bargains are everywhere so click on About.com's Frugal Living page where you will find All Organic Links.
- Grow One Thing. If you're as busy as we are, there's not a chance in creation that you are going to be able to feed your family off of your home-grown harvest, but you will find that growing a tomato plant can be incredibly inspiring. And it's not as intimidating as it seems. So pick one thing to grow -- you can do it (we all grew lima beans in cups as kids, right?).
- Find a Friend.It is way more fun when you share this adventure with someone else, so be sure to find a friend, share this link and get back to us with your success stories (and if you have a tip that you want to add, please post it in the comment section below!).
Good luck! And keep us posted on your success stories, because as a national family sitting down to our national dinner table, together, we can inspire, create and restore the health of our country.
So when it comes to Subway sandwiches, you'd think you were pretty safe, right? I mean, if you had to trade up from a fast food burger and fries, that's where you might go.
But a recent article by a woman who calls herself "Food Babe" will stop you in your tracks.
In her efforts to eat "real food", she decided to ditch the processed stuff. It was an interesting journey, to say the least, but nothing could have prepared her for what she found in her local Subway shop.
"Eat Fresh" At least, that's what she thought she was getting.
And while she goes into remarkable details about the chemicals that have been added to the ingredients used in those sandwiches to preserve their shelf life in the store, the details she gives about one of the ingredients in the bread are jaw-dropping.
Like many of us, we've eaten there, multiple times, and probably like "Food Babe" had absolutely no idea that this is what we were getting:
"The 9 grain wheat bread might look and smell freshly baked but it contains close to 50 ingredients including refined flours, dough conditioners, hidden MSG, refined sugars, etc.
Could bread this processed ever be real food?
Certainly not, when it includes a chemical ingredient called azodicarbonamide, which is banned as a food additive in the U.K., Europe, and Australia, and if you get caught using it in Singapore you can get up to 15 years in prison and can be fined $450,000. Azodicarbonamide is more commonly used in the production of foamed plastics, however, it is allowed in the United States as a food additive, a flour bleaching agent, and a dough conditioner that improves elasticity of bread.
The U.K. has recognized this ingredient as a potential cause of asthma if inhaled, and advises against its use in people who have sensitivity to food dye allergies and other common allergies in food, because azodicarbonamide can exacerbate the symptoms."
It certainly makes you stop and think about what we have done to the U.S. food supply for the sake of profit margins. And what we need to do to dig ourselves out of this chemical-heavy kitchen. Researchers increasingly refer to certain chemicals that can promote weight gain as "obesogens." Our grandmothers certainly didn't have that term, but now that we have it, books have been written about it, and increasing amounts of science are highlighting their effects.
To learn more about the chemicals going into our food supply and what you can do to protect the health of your loved ones, please visit the Center for Science in the Public Interest.
The landscape of food has changed. Not only is it available 24/7 and marketed to us using mobile apps and Internet games, but it is also full of lots of ingredients that just didn't exist when we were kids. So while our food may look the same, it now contains artificial, engineered and genetically altered ingredients that are so new that patents have been filed on them in the United States Patent and Trademark Office.
Not something any busy eater wants to hear. Especially a busy parent who is doing his or her best to simply get the kids to eat.
But we are quickly learning that the ingredients in our foods - the good ones that include vitamins and minerals and the ones that have the potential to cause harm - have a lot to do with the health of our families.
And if you are just getting started on trying to eat a little cleaner or reduce your families exposure to artificial ingredients, you may be hearing about something called "genetically engineered foods." If you haven't heard about them, you're not alone. While countries around the world labeled these ingredients when they were introduced in the 1990s, we didn't here.
So a lot has changed in our food in the last decade, and given the juggling act that most of us perform on a daily basis, coupled with the fact that these new ingredients were never labeled, it's no surprise that we are only just beginning to have this dialogue around the labeling of these ingredients here in the United States. States like California, North Carolina and other have taken a lead on it. But the dialogue is now being held at the national level, with millions of citizens calling on the FDA to do the same. So we put together a short Q&A, working with researchers who have not accepted funding from or developed patents for the corporations developing these new products, to pull together this information for you.
FACT SHEET: GENETICALLY ENGINEERED FOODS
Questions and Health Concerns
What are genetically engineered (GE) foods?
These are foods created from the insertion of a gene, bacteria or virus from one species into a different species to produce a desired effect, usually resistance to herbicides or insects. The terms genetically modified (GM) and genetically modified organisms (GMO’s) are typically used interchangeably with GE.
Are they the same as foods from traditional breeding?
No. Traditional breeding between the same or similar species, such as crossing two types of corn or apples, has been done for thousands of years. GE foods, only developed in the past few decades, are created in a lab and are between different species.
What kinds of food are genetically engineered?
There are currently six major foods sold in the U.S. that are typically genetically engineered. These are listed below with the percent that are genetically engineered according to the United States Department of Agriculture:
- Corn 88%
- Soybeans 94%
- Cotton (Cottonseed oil) 90%
- Canola 90%
- Sugar beets 95%
Because most of these are used widely, about two-thirds of processed food contains a GE ingredient. Conversely, the vast majority of raw fruits and vegetables are not GE. Organic foods, by definition, can’t be GE.
Does genetic engineering improve the nutritional quality of foods?
No. There are no GE foods on the market in which nutritional quality is enhanced beyond a non-GE food counterpart.
Is the act of genetic engineering precise?
No. The entire foundation of GE is that the introduction of one foreign gene, bacteria or virus into a plant will activate one protein, producing one desired effect and nothing more. But this ignores basic science - the chances of harmful unintended consequences with GE are substantially increased:[i]
One gene often creates multiple proteins
- The location of the gene often varies, which can affect whether it produces the desired protein or not
- The insertion of the gene can disrupt the genetic blueprint of the plant
- The new gene can either silence other genes that were normally active or activate other genes that were silent
- A promoter (typically a virus) is usually added that helps the gene activate a desired protein. However, it may also activate other proteins that were silent, which could lead to harmful effects on humans.
What evidence of harmful effects are there?
The deadliest incident occurred in the food supplement l-tryptophan, which had been used safely by millions of people as a sleep aid for decades. However, when a Japanese company produced a GE version in the late 1980’s, thousands of people contracted an extremely painful, serious disease, EMS, that killed at least 37 and left thousands with disabilities, including paralysis.[ii] The FDA subsequently removed virtually all l-tryptophan off the market, although only the GE version was linked to EMS.
It’s more difficult to detect harmful conditions such as cancer, birth defects, toxins or allergies, since they have other causes and/or can take longer to develop than EMS. Moreover, the FDA doesn’t require GE foods to be labeled, so most people don’t know they’re consuming them. This makes it virtually impossible to isolate and track them.
However, numerous credible animal studies all over the world have shown disturbing results. For example:
- In Scotland, GE potatoes fed to rats showed lowered nutritional content and suffered damaged immune systems, smaller brains, livers and testicles and enlarged intestines[iii]
- In Australia, a harmless gene in a bean engineered into a pea produced immune reactions in mice, indicating allergic reactions and/or toxins[iv]
- In Austria, a government study showed that mice fed GE corn had fewer litters and fewer total offspring[v]
- In France, a study found that GE corn previously thought harmless revealed hormone-dependent diseases and early signs of toxicity in rats[vi]
Harm to animals doesn’t necessarily prove harm to humans. However, it is a definite indication that more studies should be done. This hasn’t happened.
How is safety testing done in the U.S.? Is it adequate?
The FDA is responsible for food safety. However, it doesn’t do any testing on GE food and doesn’t require any independent tests. The only studies done are by the same companies developing the foods and they’re not required to give all their data to the FDA. They only need to declare their studies are adequate and that the GE food is safe. By and large, GE food safety is self-regulated.
The bottom line
Plants can be genetically engineered to be resistant to pests or herbicides. But in the process, there is evidence they may be causing harm to human health as an unintended consequence.
To learn more, please visit Just Label It
[i] Commoner, Barry, Unraveling the DNA Myth: The Spurious Foundation of Genetic Engineering, Harper’s, Feb. 2002.
[ii] Crist, William, Toxic L-tryptophan: Shedding Light on a Mysterious Epidemic, 2005, available athttp://www.seedsofdeception.com/Public/L-tryptophan/1Introduction/index.cfm.
[iii] Ewen, SW, Pusztai, A, Effect of diets containing genetically modified potatoes expressing Galanthus nivalis lectin on rat small intestine, Lancet, Oct. 16, 1999, 354(9187): 1353-4.
[iv] Prescott, V et al, Transgenic Expression of Bean α-Amylase Inhibitor in Peas Results in Altered Structure and Immunogenicity, Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, 2005, 53:9023-9030.
[v] For the full study in English, seehttp://bmgfj.cms.apa.at/cms/site/attachments/3/2/9/CH0810/CMS1226492832306/forschungsbericht_3-2008_letzfassung.pdf
[vi] Seralini, G-E et al, How Subchronic and Chronic Health Effects can be Neglected for GMO’s, Pesticides or Chemicals; International Journal of Biological Sciences, 2009, 5(5): 438-443.
This Fact Sheet is provided by: Oregon Physicians for Social Responsibility, www.oregonpsr.org.