What the problem with GMOs?

We hear so much about “GMO’s” nowadays, and some of us don’t even know what it stands for, let alone what it is and the “dangers” of them, and if this is even an issue.  So I would like to explain it in English, not the technical jargon that gets thrown around.  I also would like to present a slightly balanced picture, if that is possible.

What IS a GMO?

GMO stands for genetically modified organism; which means what?  Basically, the large agricultural companies take seeds, and make genetic changes to them to give them certain properties.  A bit more technical, it involves injecting a gene from one species into a completely different species, which yields unexpected and often unpredictable results.   This is very different than growing one kind of apple tree on another apple  tree root, or hybridization, which is selecting plants with specific qualities to reproduce.  Genetic modification is done in a laboratory.

What do GMO’s do?

One of the modifications is to intentionally make the seeds sterile, so that once you grow those crops, any seed that comes from those plants will not reproduce.   This requires the farmer to buy new seed each year;  as opposed to saving some of his seed to plant the following year, at very little cost.  A little note here;  it is hypothesized that this sterility gene can be transferred by human consumption of the grain; which leads scientists to speculate about the increased problem with infertility; but it has not been proven.

Another property which is very important to the farmer is to add a gene to the seed to allow the seed to withstand being sprayed with herbicides, specifically Roundup; made by Monsanto.  Roundup is a systemic toxin (poison) that does several things to a plant that is sprayed with it; it prevents it from being able to use its minerals, and it prevents it from using it’s water.  So the plant (hopefully a weed) shrivels up and dies.  If the crop that the farmer wants to grow is “Roundup Ready” (genetically modified), the crop grows and the weeds die.

So what is the problem?pesticides1

Well, let me say a couple things that should make you think.  The FDA approved the chemicals sprayed onto crops that are genetically modified;  but over the past decades, at least seven high-ranking employees in the FDA have an employment history with the Monsanto Company.

There is a lot of speculation as to whether any conflicts of interest exist within this revolving door between the big food companies and the department charged with regulating them.  Is this the fox guarding the henhouse?

What does the research show?

Here is another interesting problem;  all of the studies done to support the use of glyphosate, the main ingredient in Roundup, were funded by Monsanto.  Again with the fox and the henhouse?

Studies done by researchers  NOT funded by Monsanto have come up with some interesting findings.  One is that a chemical used in Roundup, called glyphosate, is found in the blood of most of the population, including infants.  Is this a problem?  Ummm, it’s a poison; it kills weeds, and it prevents the host from using its minerals.

What is the problem with glyphosate?

Gyphosate is the active ingredient in Roundup and  was patented by Monsanto as an antibiotic.  Aside from having too many antibiotics in our food supply, these antibiotics also kill the bacteria in the soil.  Why is that a problem? I have been told that these bacteria are what are supposed to break down the chemicals in our soil, but if they are killed by the chemicals, how can they do that?   Additionally,  bacteria in the soil helps plants uptake nutrients.  In fact, they do the same thing in our gut.  In our digestive system, the beneficial bacteria  keep the harmful bacteria in check.  If we kill them both, guess which ones come back first?  Just like the weeds in your yard, you clear an area to plant for grass, but before you get the seeds down, the weeds come back with more room to grow.

Should these chemicals be banned?

Some would think so.  However, I do want to add some points of caution.  I am not saying ban all chemicals.  In fact, after trying to garden in Illinois, I totally understand why farmers would want to spray those darned weeds and kill those darned bugs!  Trying to garden organically is doggone hard here.  Would I use it to kill poison ivy in my driveway or walkway?  I have actually gently swabbed it onto a poison ivy plant, but I did not spray it.   My husband does spray it on the driveway and sidewalk, but  you aren’t going to eat anything growing out of your driveway or walkway.  If you are, then good for you, (I will talk about eating weeds in another post sometime) but you may not want to spray Roundup on them.

So what do I do about GMO’s?

Keep in mind, I have only talked about two common genetic modifications.  There are many more; these are just the “hot topics” I would like you to be aware of.  However, this is enough information to inspire me to look for non-GMO labels and organic produce.  In addition, it isn’t just Monsanto pushing this technology, the other major chemical companies,  Dow, Syngenta, Dupont, BASF, and Bayer, are also very intrenched in this arena.  Plus it’s not just grains that are genetically modified now; beets and papayas are two crops that are also being modified.  The problem is, we do not have GMO labeling in this country, so you can never honestly know if something has been tampered with genetically or not.  Europe has mandatory labeling laws for GMO’s and many countries have banned GMO crops.    (Just food for thought for those of you who believe this is just an unscientific fad.)  Keep in mind that a majority of soy, cotton, sugar beet,  and corn crops are GMO, so if you want to avoid exposure to the abundant herbicides sprayed on those crops, when you buy something with those ingredients, look for a non-GMO label .