Is it Hype or Hope?
We’ve seen and heard all the media hype about organically grown foods, as well as the associated costs and health benefits that come from eating them. I’ve seen the following headlines recently:
- Organic eating is pricey, but is it really that healthy?
- Are Organic Foods Healthier?
- Does Organic Food Live Up to the Hype?
- Is Organic Food a Scam?
- Organic Food, Health or Hype?
The thing that stays with me as I read all of these articles relating to eating a diet rich in organically grown foods is that so many people are writing about eating organics. Its a topic of conversation for millions of people every week so there has to be something to it, right? I looked a little deeper.
The Logic of Eating Organically Grown Foods
Logic should govern what we think about any subject and should be employed whenever we have to form an opinion. The same is true concerning organically grown foods.
Before WWII the whole world ate nothing but organic foods, grown from heirloom seeds. There was no alternative and there were fewer processed foods available. After WWII people began to implement industrial techniques to produce greater quantities of food from the same acreage of farm land they had used before. They began to use tractors to prepare more acreage, and they began to use synthetic plant nutrients to refresh those lost from the soil with each harvest. That meant they could plant the same crop on the same land year after year, as long as they could replace the nutrients that were lost from the soil with each harvested crop. That also meant that the gain was the result of adding synthetic chemicals to the soil.
No longer would they have to rotate 20 acres of tomatoes, 20 acres of corn, 20 acres of wheat, 20 acres of barley, and 20 acres of potatoes. Using industrial farming techniques they could plant 100 acres of corn and only have to worry about the problems associated with corn. Then the next farmer could focus on tomatoes, and the next one on wheat, and so on. By applying chemicals to the soil farmers could replenish soil nutrients, kill pests and weeds, all while enjoying a larger harvest than before. It must have seemed like a dream come true.
GMOs became the norm
Then GMOs entered the scene. GMOs are seeds that have been genetically modified to include plant bacteria that are lethal to plant pests. Some GMOs have been altered to make the growing plant unattractive to insects so the bugs won’t even bite the plant. Some GMOs are engineered to kill insects after they bite.
It seems logical that if a plant has been genetically modified to cause an insect to forgo biting it, or to die if it does bite, maybe humans shouldn’t bite it either. That was one of the biggest concerns when GMOs hit the market in the 1980s.
People want to know that our nation’s food supply is safe to eat, and that it will provide the nutrition our bodies need for our health.
For many years the debate has raged on. Today 70% – 90% of all the food crops grown in the USA sprout from GMO seeds, grown with synthetic fertilizers, protected by synthetic pesticides and herbicides, and are harvested with industrial equipment. But bigger might not always be better.
A Bit of History
1935 – DNA Discovered
Russian scientist Andrei Nikolaevitch Belozersky isolates pure DNA.
1973 – Recombinant DNA Created
The idea for man-made DNA, or rDNA, comes from a grad student at Stanford University Medical School. Professor Herbert Boyer and a few of his biologist colleagues run with it.
1975 – Asilomar Conference
A group of biologists get together with a few lawyers and doctors to create guidelines for the safe use of genetically engineered DNA.
1980 – First GMO Patent Issued
A 1980 court case between a genetics engineer at General Electric and the U.S. Patent Office is settled by a 5-to-4 Supreme Court ruling, allowing for the first patent on a living organism. The GMO in question is a bacterium with an appetite for crude oil, ready to gobble up spills.
1982 – FDA Approves First GMO
Humulin, insulin produced by genetically engineered E. coli bacteria, appears on the market.
1994 – GMO Hits Grocery Stores
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approves the Flavr Savr tomato for sale on grocery store shelves. The delayed-ripening tomato has a longer shelf life than conventional tomatoes.
1996 – GMO-Resistant Weeds
Weeds resistant to glyphosate, the herbicide used with many GMO crops, are detected in Australia. Research shows that the super weeds are seven to 11 times more resistant to glyphosate than the standard susceptible population.
1997 – Mandatory Labels
The European Union rules in favor of mandatory labeling on all GMO food products, including animal feed.
1999 – GMO Food Crops Dominate
Over 100 million acres worldwide are planted with genetically engineered seeds. The marketplace begins embracing GMO technology at an alarming rate.
2003 – GMO-Resistant Pests
In 2003, a Bt-toxin-resistant caterpillar-cum-moth, Helicoverpa zea, is found feasting on GMO Bt cotton crops in the southern United States. In less than a decade, the bugs have adapted to the genetically engineered toxin produced by the modified plants.
2011 – Bt Toxin in Humans
Research in eastern Quebec finds Bt toxins in the blood of pregnant women and shows evidence that the toxin is passed to fetuses.
2012 – Farmer Wins Court Battle
French farmer Paul Francois sues Monsanto for chemical poisoning he claims was caused by its pesticide Lasso, part of the Roundup Ready line of products. Francois wins and sets a new precedent for future cases.
2014 – GMO Patent Expires
Monsanto’s patent on the Roundup Ready line of genetically engineered seeds will end in two years. In 2009, Monsanto introduced Roundup 2 with a new patent set to make the first-generation seed obsolete.
© Copyright RosebudMag.com, 2012 (citation)
Yes, you read that right. The DNA genetic sequence was isolated in 1935. It hasn’t even been 100 years yet. Scientists have already synthesized DNA (rDNA) and created varieties of microbes to soak up oil spills. Of course there are some very good things that have come out of our scientific advancements, like Humulin, the synthetic insulin. Before its invention, diabetics had to manage their blood sugar with insulin from sheep, pigs and cows.
Since the patent was granted in 1980, 100 million acres of farmland have been planted with GMO seeds, that is, seeds that have been modified, having the natural plant DNA mingled with engineered E. coli bacteria, with the intention of growing vegetation that will not attract insects. However, if you will note the topic from 2003 above, it didn’t take long for nature to find a way around the efforts of mankind.
Less than 10 years later, doctors are finding Bt Toxins in the blood of pregnant women, and acknowledge that it is being passed along to the fetus. We do not yet have complete information concerning the effects of consuming GMO foods from birth to adulthood. There is some science to suggest that children are more susceptible to the negative aspects of ingesting Bt Toxins like Round Up. It has been confirmed that you can find, at least some traces, of synthetic chemical herbicides, pesticides, and fertilizers in every bowl of Cheerio’s in America.
We are what we eat
The trend towards eating more organically grown foods is not just about the genetic modification of the seeds used for planting. Studies have shown there is more cause for alarm concerning the chemical soup residue that stays on the skins of fruits and vegetables when they leave the field and travel to the grocery store or the processing plant. Many fruits and vegetables are only lightly washed prior to being stocked in a market’s produce section, or being loaded into a processing machine at a factory.
Consumer advocacy groups have discovered traces of the chemicals used in industrial farming in processed foods found on grocery store shelves.
Glyphosate (the active ingredient in Round Up herbicide) levels were detected in numerous products in a 29 product test performed by The Detox Group, and arm of the Food Democracy Now! advocacy group. The tests, which included Cheerios, Special K, Ritz Crackers and even the private label 356 Crackers from Whole Foods, detected glyphosate presence in these products.
The EPA sets recommended limits on glyphosates, and these tests did not determine the actual levels of glyphosates found in these products, but they did determine that when crops in the field are treated with chemical herbicides, those substances are still present in the food products after processing.
Eating Organically Grown Foods
While there is no guarantee that the processed foods we eat have a high or unhealthy level of synthetic chemicals in them, it is logical to assume that food crops grown organically, without the use of unnatural chemicals, would be better for your digestive system and overall health than those grown with the use of them.
Some studies have shown that these chemicals can be present in foods that are supposed to be ‘certified organic’ if the organic grow field is close by an industrial farming operation. The wind can carry airborne particles of pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers to other farms that don’t use them, contaminating the crops there. This problem has grown to the point that now, the risks posed to our health from ingesting these synthetics have not been fully determined, though the majority of our food supply contains GMOs.
The jury is still out on whether or not a bit of glyphosate in the breakfast cereal is enough to cause learning or developmental issues in children. But one thing is certain, organically grown foods are readily available in America, and we are at liberty to choose them. The hype about organics gives us hope.