Genetically Modified Food

Posted on April 29, 2007 by Sarmaad

The genetic modifications of plants and animals is one of the biggest and most difficult environmental challenges of the 21st century. Did you know that GMOs are found extensively in many food products on the supermarket shelves and the chances are you have already eaten GMOs!!!

What is a genetically modified organism?

The general principal behind GMO is to insert DNA that has been taken from another organism and modified through genetic engineering techniques into an organism's genome to create both new and enhanced traits and phenotypes. By being able to take genetic material from one organism and insert it into the permanent genetic code of another, biotechnologists have engineered numerous creations, such as pigs with human growth genes, fish with cattle genes and so on.

What were the first crops?

The first commercially grown genetically modified food crop was the Flavr Savr tomato which was made more resistant to rotting. It was released into the market for sale in 1994. This tomato was found to cause damage to the stomachs of rats and was later taken off the market. This was followed by insect protected cotton and herbicide tolerant soybeans, which both were commercially released in 1996. Today the soybean is by far the world's most cultivated GM plant, followed by corn, cotton and canola.

The world leaders in GM crops

The United States accounts for nearly two thirds of all biotechnology crops planted globally. The GM food crops grown by US farmers include corn, cotton, soybeans, canola, squash and papaya. Other major producers of GM crops are Argentina, which plants primary biotech soybean; Canada, whose principal biotech crop is canola; Brazil, which has recently legalized the planting of GM soybean; China, where the acreage of GM cotton continues to increase; and South Africa, where cotton is also the principal biotech crop. Worldwide, about 672 million acres of land are under cultivation of which 25% or 167.2 million acres - an area twice the size of the UK- consists of GM crops.

Why GM crops?

Crops can destroyed by many different factors including insects, weeds and disease. GMO's are used to make crops herbicide tolerant and pesticide resistant, to increase their nutritional content, to make them taste better and to reduce their growing time and increase their tolerance to fluctuating temperatures.

Foods that have been genetically modified

GM foods have been available to the public since the1990s, so the invasion of GMOs will continue in our grocery stores and in our kitchen pantries. The most common crops which have been modified and to watch for include:

  • Maize.Soybean (Soy flour, soy oil, lecithin, soy protein isolates and concentrates).
  • Oilseed rape - canola (Oil, fabric).
  • Squash.
  • Potato (Right now the only potato that has been genetically engineered is the Burbank Russet, but you still have to look out for potato starch and flour).
  • Corn (flour, corn starch, corn oil, corn sweeteners, syrups).
  • Cotton
  • Dairy Products (Milk, cheese, butter, buttermilk, sour cream, yogurt, whey).
  • Animal Products (Because animal feed often contains genetically engineered organisms, all animal products, or by-products may be affected).
Affects to human health and the environment

The GMO foods currently on the market have not undergone adequate testing to ensure their safety for human consumption and also to quantify what impact they have on the environment. Genetically engineered food can have a serious effect on human health, on wildlife and the environment. Human risks can include;
  • Allergic/ toxic reactions (to hidden genes and combination)
  • Antibiotic resistance
  • Immune - suppression
  • Increased cancer risk
  • Unsuspected side effects
Environmental impacts can include;
  • Uncontrolled biological pollution
  • Threatening numerous microbial, plant and animal species with extinction.
  • Potential contamination of non-genetically engineered life forms with novel and possibly hazardous genetic material.
  • Increased use of and dependence on toxic herbicides.
  • Harm to farming (deformed crops, increased pest resistance, increased farmer costs and debt).
  • Crop failures.
  • Biodiversity (implications for biodiversity, the balance of wildlife and the environment).
  • Creation of GM "Superweeds" and "Superpests".
  • Damage to food quality and nutrition.
  • Ethical Issues
How to avoid GMO
  • The only guaranteed way to avoid eating GMOs is to buy fresh certified organic produce.
  • Read labels - When buying a product check the ingredients on the label. GM soybean and corn make up the largest portion of GE crops. If they are listed then there is a good chance it is GM. Remember the label does not have to declare that it contains GM ingredients.
  • Avoid processed foods - 70% of processed foods contain GM ingredients.
Australia and GMO

Australia is already commercially producing GE cotton. This cotton is known as BT cotton as it produces a genetically engineered toxin called Bacillus Thuringensis (BT). Bt cotton produces this toxin in every part of the plant so that the cotton plant itself becomes a pesticide factory. Bt cotton is not only used for cloth and cotton products but the cottonseed is crushed for oil used in food.

Australia is also commercially growing GE canola, carrying on trials of GE wheat and growing GE blue carnation flowers.

The major problem remains that genetic engineering is highly unpredictable and that the "jury is still out" as to what impact GMO crops will have on human beings and on the environment!

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Why Choose Certified Organic Milk?

Posted on December 7, 2006 by Sarmaad

When you choose organic milk in preference to conventional alternatives, not only are you drinking the most nutritious milk available, but you are also supporting an entire farming process which places emphasis on treating animals humanely and with respect; minimizes environmental impact and also reduces the presence of synthetic chemicals in milk and other foods.

What are the benefits of organic milk?
Did you known that drinking about 500mL (1/2 litre) of organic milk a day provides 17.5% of the required intake of vitamin E for women and 14% for men, and as much beta carotene as a portion of some vegetables?

Research has found that organic milk -

  • Contains 50% more vitamin E ( protects against damage caused by free radicals which cause ageing);
  • 75% more beta carotene (which is converted into Vitamin A in the body. A powerful antioxidant which may reduce the risk of cancer);
  • Has a better ratio of Omega 3 to Omega 6;
  • 71% more Omega 3 essential fatty acids (Omega 3 fatty acids plays an important role in lowering inflammatory health conditions, such as heart disease, joint pain and arthritis). They are also very important for supple and flexible joints, healthy growth and strong bones and teeth and also foetal brain development. Omega 3 fatty acids cannot be made from the body and must be obtained from our food source;
  • Contains no pesticides, hormones or antibiotic residues;
  • Contains higher levels of conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) 2 which helps boost the immune system;
  • Two to three times higher levels of antioxidant lutein and zeaxanthine.
Conventional farms are usually large and are often extremely overcrowded. They aim to harvest the milk in the most cost effective way and they tend to feed and manage the cows in such a way that they push them into production levels beyond their natural capacity. These unnatural and intensive methods can cause stress to the animals and can also cause health breakdowns.

Organic farming however, follows standards that focus on protecting animals, human health and the environment around us. Cows have access to fresh air and green pastures, they eat a natural diet grown without the use of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides, there is a higher use of fresh grass, clover pasture and grass clover silage and there is no use of artificial hormones.

Pesticides and Organics
  • Certified organic farms do not use any artificial pesticides (insecticides, fungicides or herbicides) on pastures where cows graze.
  • In 2001 a government report in the UK revealed that a toxic pesticide called Lindane was found in 8% of non-organic milk. Lindane is a hormone disrupter linked to birth-defects, sexual abnormalities, reproductive failure and breast cancer.
  • The same report revealed that earlier samples of conventional butter had contained traces of the chemical DDT, which can affect the nervous system and is possibly a cause of cancer in humans. No pesticide residue traces were found in any of the organic dairy samples tested.
  • Many believe that the rise in incidents of allergies is due to over exposure to chemicals including pesticides.
  • Fertility problems may also be linked to pesticides as the residue is suspected to be a chemical linked to hormone disruption.
  • Did you know that our bodies contain traces of at least 300-500 potentially harmful chemicals absorbed from the foods we eat?
Antibiotics and Organics
  •  Antibiotics are only used on organic farms when it is completely necessary and only after all natural alternatives have been exhausted. The cow is then quarantined for three months before she is allowed to rejoin the herd. If the cow is not responding to treatment she is removed from the herd.
  • Conventional farms routinely treat cows with antibiotics as a preventative measure, whether they are sick or not! Could this be a cause for the increased antibiotic resistance in humans?
GMO and Organics
  • The feed for organic dairy cows is free from GMOs and solvent extracts and urea.
BSE and Organics
  • Organic cows are never given any animal-derivatives in their feed which was thought to be the source of BSE. No case of BSE has ever been found in an organically born and raised dairy cow.
Remember what goes into the cows mouth gets processed into milk. Organic milk may be more expensive but think about the long term health benefits. As soon as these findings are further substantiated, the price of milk will go down because the demand will go up!

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