I hate to say I told you so, but the truth of the matter is that our food supply is more dangerous today than ever before. It isn’t that food poisoning events are being emphasized more frequently. The news is, more of us are at risk than ever before. The globalization of our food supply, combined with a less educated labor force, means we are being subjected to the extremely low standards of some countries in foods exported for consumption here.
Despite sweeping reform of food safety laws intended to make what we eat less dangerous, the number of Americans falling ill or dying from contaminated food has increased 44 percent since last year, according to a report released Wednesday.
Tainted cantaloupe, unsafe mangoes, meat and the recent peanut butter recall — which recently has infected 25 people, mostly children, in 19 states — has left us struggling to keep up with the dizzying list of ever-changing toxic edibles.
Approximately 48 million people get sick from eating tainted food each year, according to the U.S. Public Interest Research Group, arguing more must be done to protect Americans from unsafe food. They say there were 718 illnesses directly linked to food recalls in 2011. There were 1,035 illnesses from January to September 2012 — an increase of 44 percent.
The focus in this column is something we are hearing more and more about, yet understanding les and less: Genetically Modified (GM) foods.
Genetically modified food has quietly become second nature in the U.S., and it may surprise you just how many foods you are eating that you never knew contained a genetically modified ingredient.
Experts say 60 to 70 percent of processed foods on U.S. grocery shelves have genetically modified ingredients. The most common genetically modified foods are soybeans, maize (corn) and rapeseed oil. That means many foods made in the U.S. containing field corn or high-fructose corn syrup, such as many breakfast cereals, snack foods and the last soda you drank; foods made with soybeans (including some baby foods); and foods made with cottonseed and canola oils could likely have genetically modified ingredients. These ingredients appear frequently in animal feed as well.
Risks of GM foods include:
Introducing allergens and toxins to food
Accidental contamination between genetically modified and non-genetically modified foods
Adversely changing the nutrient content of a crop
Creation of “super” weeds and other environmental risks
Increased pest and disease resistance
As the information surrounding GM (genetically modified) food rose to the mainstream media, the people began to be angry. They were looking for someone to blame for allowing this atrocity to occur, and they had to look no farther than Monsanto.
The Monsanto Corp. is a multinational, agricultural biotechnology corporation. It is responsible for producing and selling a majority of the genetically engineered seeds in the world.
These are the seeds that yield genetically modified crops. Monsanto has such a grip on the industry that it produces 90 percent of the United States’ genetically engineered seeds. This is the same company responsible for the development of bovine growth hormone (BGH), which incited mass controversy over its effects. It was determined by many health experts to be extremely dangerous, with many linking it to cancer and other life-threatening conditions.
Numerous studies have proven genetically modified foods to be an extreme health hazard, but one must only look at how it is created to realize how unsafe GM food really is.
The bioengineering process itself is quite ridiculous. Billions are spent each year to genetically modify the food supply, tainting it with genetically modified “frankenfood.” Genetically modifying foods requires one to tamper with the very genetic coding of the crop and/or seed. The process entails the transfer of genes from one organism to another, such as taking particular genes from a pig and transferring them to a tomato. Not only does this defile nature, it leads to a host of health problems.
Due to the complexity of a living organism’s genetic structure, it is impossible to track the long-term results of consuming genetically modified food. Introducing new genes into even the most simple bacterium may cause an array of issues, highlighting the complexity of even the simplest organisms. Introducing new genes to highly complex organisms such as animals or crops is even riskier.
While it may or may not technically be a disease (depending on how you look at it), genetic modification is having a very serious affect on crops around the globe.
In the United States, a different problem is developing. The complete and total reliance of so many U.S. farmers on Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide has resulted in several varieties of glyphosate-resistant “superweeds” developing in many areas of the United States.
The most feared of these “superweeds,” pigweed, can grow to be seven feet tall and it can literally wreck a combine. Pigweed has been known to produce up to 10,000 seeds at a time, it is resistant to drought and it has very diverse genetics.
Superweeds were first spotted in Georgia in 2004, and since then they have spread to South Carolina, North Carolina, Arkansas, Tennessee, Kentucky and Missouri.
In some areas, superweeds have become so bad that literally tens of thousands of acres of U.S. farmland have actually been abandoned.
But that is what we get for trying to “play God.”
We think we can just do whatever we want with nature without any consequences. It has been said many times that genetic engineering is similar to “performing heart surgery with a shovel.”
The truth is that we just do not know enough about how our ecosystems work to be messing around with them so dramatically.
Perhaps even more frightening is that once these genetically engineered monstrosities have been released into our environment, it is absolutely impossible to recall them. They essentially become a permanent part of our ecosystem.
But can we afford to make any serious mistakes at this point?
The truth is that we already live in a world that is not able to feed itself.
Tonight, approximately 1 billion people across the globe will go to bed hungry. Every 3.6 seconds someone in the world starves to death, and three-fourths of those who starve to death are children under the age of five.
It is currently being projected that global demand for food will more than double over the next 50 years. So what is going to happen if we start seeing widespread crop failures in the coming years?
The global food supply is not nearly as stable as most people believe. At some point, it is going to be tested severely.
Take good care of yourself and live the best life possible!
The information included in this column is for educational purposes only. It is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. The reader should always consult his or her healthcare provider to determine the appropriateness of the information for their own situation or if they have any questions regarding a medical condition or treatment plan.
Glenn Ellis is a health advocacy communications specialist. He is the author of “Which Doctor?” and “Information is the Best Medicine.” A health columnist and radio commentator who lectures nationally and internationally on health related topics, Ellis is an active media contributor on health equity and medical ethics.
For more good health information, visit: www.glennellis.com.