Take 5: Five Reasons for a GMO-Free Thanksgiving

by Debra Daniels-Zeller

I’m having a GMO-free Thanksgiving this year. Since Genetically Modified Organisms aren’t allowed under U.S. National Organic Standards, that means my menu will be all organic. No problem!

Genetically-modified means a gene has been extracted from a plant, animal, bacteria, or virus and forcibly inserted into the DNA of another plant. The genetic material may offer the plant herbicide-, insecticide-, disease-, or drought-resistance, or it might extend shelf-life. The first genetically-altered tomato, the Flavr Savr® by Calgene, was created in 1993 by splicing cauliflower mosaic virus into tomatoes to delay their ripening to accommodate shipping.

Here are five reasons to avoid GMOs:

1. We have a right to know what’s in the food we purchase.
Polls indicate 90% of Americans favor listing GMOs on food labels. So far, 20 states have attempted to legislate labeling of GMOs, but all have failed due to massive opposition campaigns led by corporate interests with deep pockets. Opponents of California’s Proposition 37 (due for a vote this month) include Monsanto, DuPont, Kellogg, Smuckers, Nestle, Pepsico and Conagra. They claim labeling will increase bureaucracy and create frivolous lawsuits and, of course, limit sales of their products.

2. Human health studies haven’t been completed.
The long-term health consequences of GMO foods are largely unknown. Monsanto claims  long-term studies aren’t feasible, and the FDA claims all foods are created equal, but research indicates otherwise. Plants containing antibiotic-resistant genes may already have created problems for people treated with antibiotics or allergic to them. Another study reported that soybeans altered with Brazil nut genes affected people with Brazil nut allergies. And another study in Quebec revealed glyphosate-resistant GM corn left traces of that insecticide in pregnant women and their unborn children. If you have a food allergy that isn’t a “commonly known” allergen, keep your epinephrine injection ready. Those foods you’re eating with genetically altered DNA may not be disclosed. And without tracking or documentation, it’s impossible to determine health problems that result from GM foods.

3. Environmental problems may increase.
GM crops can’t be controlled. Up to 85% of corn, 91% of soybeans, and 88% of cottonseed in the United States is genetically altered for glyphosate tolerance. Glyphosate, which has been linked to birth defects in mice and rabbits, may translate to other wildlife and pollinators. GM  cottonseed oil is widely used as an ingredient in processed foods.

Wind is another problem. Although Switzerland has a ban on GM crops, reports last spring revealed Monsanto’s Round-Up Ready® canola seed had blown into the countryside from GM fields and is now growing wild. Chemical-resistant superweeds from genetically-engineered crops have also sprung up, creating a need for newer, stronger herbicides. And if GE salmon escape into rivers, numerous unintended problems in wild fish populations could result.

4. Organic farms are at risk.
Alfalfa, canola, and corn are just a few organic crops at risk from contamination by GM counterparts. In Oregon, GM sugar beet production threatens organic row crops of table beets. Rice, flax and wheat also cross-pollinate and organic farms are at risk for cross-contamination. In Australia, one organic canola farmer discovered that 70% of his organic crops had been infected with Round-Up Ready® canola.

5. Export problems increase for U.S. farmers.
U.S. farmers are losing foreign markets when it comes to GMO crops and exports. In Japan, consumer organizations, housewives and co-ops demonstrated in the streets to stop the import of GM foods. Other countries that ban or restrict the import of GM crops include: the European Union (Norway, Austria, the UK, Spain, Italy, Greece, France, Germany), Egypt, Algeria, Thailand, China, Sri Lanka, Saudi Arabia, Brazil and Paraguay.

Clear labeling is the answer. Until then, enjoy an organic feast this Thanksgiving and be thankful for organic resources like Marlene’s!

For a delicious twist on the traditional cranberry side-dish, see Debra’s Cranberry-Apple Whip recipe here.

Vegetarian food writer Debra Daniels-Zeller lives in Edmonds, Washington.  In addition to writing regularly for Sound Outlook for several years, Debra shares stories, food tips, recipes and reviews on her blog at http://foodconnections.blogspot.com and recently published her second cookbook, The Northwest Vegetarian Cookbook: 200 Recipes that Celebrate the Flavors of Oregon and Washington. An avid basset hound owner, Debra invites readers to “like” her official food taster’s page on Facebook by searching for The-Dog-Picker.

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