Genetically Modified Food Crops vs Organic Foods

Is Industrial Food Dangerous? If there was a story told in which a person had developed rashes along with intensely itchy sores with strange fibers protruding from underneath their skin, what would be the suspected disease or sickness? Is it something new and rare? Is it something curable?

Morgellon’s Disease is the name of this sickness, and while there are only 1,200 people registered to be suffering from this disease, many more people out there are suffering from this same thing and have no idea what it is (Laibow, 2008). This disease is the result of industrialized food that has been genetically modified, or altered, that these people have consumed.

Industrialized foods are a problem because of genetic engineering and pesticides, and can be solved by choosing to consume organic food because of its nutritional value, and the methods that are used to grow it.

Morgellon’s Disease origin has yet to be determined and little is actually known about it, outside of the reported symptoms that sufferers have been experiencing. People have been describing to feel something crawling underneath their skin, lesions of the skin, hair-like fibers protruding from the skin that are strong enough to pierce a finger nail, changes in vision, fatigue short-term memory loss and even joint pain. Doctors previously believed it to be a result of hypochondria and more extreme – psychosis. A study is being conducted in California to interview and test 150-500 people who are suffering from Morgellon’s Disease (Minton, 2008).

When someone talks about industrialized foods, they usually mean McDonald’s or the processed meats they bought at the grocery store. Industrialized foods are more than that; it’s the corn that is served with those mashed potatoes and steak. It’s also the strawberries and bananas that are mixed together to make that perfect shake, or smoothie (Group, 2012). Most people don’t know that the majority of their food supply are industrialized foods in which have been genetically modified. Now, what does that mean that foods are genetically modified? According to the Medical Dictionary (2007), a genetically modified organism is “An organism whose genetic characteristics have been altered by the insertion of a modified gene or a gene from another organism using the techniques of genetic engineering.”

What exactly makes these foods so dangerous? There are several reasons why genetically modified foods are dangerous; too many, actually. Some of the effects associated with eating genetically modified foods are fertility issues, smaller offspring, severe rashes, and even antibiotic resistance, along with a long list of other side effects (Geib, 2012). The most alarming of the effects listed is the fact that some of these foods are able to resist antibiotics, even destroy them altogether. Information from the Union of Concerned Scientists (2002), states that if antibiotics are taken with genetically modified foods, they could reduce the effectiveness of the antibiotics. They can even destroy the antibiotics in the stomach when the antibiotics are consumed with a genetically modified food. If people are mixing genetically modified foods with their antibiotics, they won’t know why their antibiotics stopped working or even why their bodies aren’t responding to it.

Genetically modified food genes have been proven to spread from its original location, to new animals and even possibly humans. Bees that were released into crops of genetically modified rapeseed plants were evaluated and found quite astonishing information. The bees stomach/gut bacteria were analyzed and found that the modified gene from rapeseed had been taken up in the bees own genetic makeup (Lean, Angres, & Jury, 2000). Since the genes can swap to “normal” plants from genetically modified ones, they can become hard(er) to control. If a plant swaps genes with a weed, the weed can become hardier and become more difficult to get rid of, this ultimately will destroy the plants (Brown, 2002).

Animals are also being given artificial growth hormones to make them grow and mature faster than they normally will, which would result in higher profits. Beef, for example, has been found to have six different hormones – three are naturally occurring, and three that are synthetic. The natural occurring hormones are progesterone, testosterone, and estradiol. The three synthetic hormones are Zeranol, Trenbolone, and Melengestrol (2012). Zeranol is an estrogenic hormone that is used to fatten livestock. Zeranol-treated cattle have been shown to cause early puberty in boys and girls. Trenbolone is a steroid to increase muscle growth and increase appetite, and has been used by athletes and body builders to increase their body mass. Melengestrol is a food additive in cattle to promote growth (2007).

Certain foods have been approved for irradiation such as “on fruits, vegetables, spices, raw poultry, and red meats”, according to the United States Department of Agriculture (2012). Food irradiation is supposed to eliminate bacteria and germs that cause foodborne diseases. Irradiating food won’t remove contamination like urine, feces etc. that are found in slaughterhouses (2012). Irradiation doesn’t kill all the bacteria on the food, and whatever is left over is considered to be radiation-resistant. Studies with animals consuming irradiated food showed increased tumors, reproductive failures and kidney damage. Studies on humans who’ve eaten irradiated foods have only lasted a maximum of 15 weeks, so no long-term health effects have been evaluated before allowing human consumption of these foods. They also aren’t completely labeled as irradiated foods, so no epidemiologist will ever be able to determine any health effects on humans who’ve eaten irradiated foods, since there’s no way to avoid them (2001).

Another reason why industrialized foods are so dangerous is because they’re constantly being sprayed with tons of different pesticides. Just like the long list of effects from eating genetically modified foods, the exposure of pesticides into human bodies has an extensive list of its own. Some of the neurological health effects are “memory loss, loss of coordination, reduced speed of response to stimuli, reduced visual ability, altered or uncontrollable mood and general behavior, and reduced motor skills” (Lah, 2011). Other possible side effects listed are hormone disruption, cancer, hypersensitivity, asthma etc.

The most noteworthy pesticide that is used is Organophosphates. According to the Illinois Department of Public Health’s Emergency Preparedness (2012), Organophosphates are classified as an insecticide that kills insects by disrupting their brains and nervous systems. It is said to be harmful to the brains and nervous systems of humans and animals as well. A person can come into contact and be poisoned by an organophosphate in every way: eating or drinking something with an organophosphate in it, breathing air that has the insecticide in it, as well as having it come into contact with a person’s skin and absorbing it into the body. This insecticide is incredibly dangerous, and it is one of the pesticides that people are consuming on a daily basis through eating the foods that are constantly being sprayed with it.

Pesticides also leak into the water supply, and is then consumed each time a person drinks a glass of water. A person is constantly absorbing dozens, even hundreds of doses of pesticides each time they eat fruits and vegetables and wash it all down with a glass of water to quench their thirst. Pesticides have been shown to lower not only their sperm count, but also the quality of it as well. There has also been a link between babies with low birth weight and herbicide-contaminated drinking water, in southern Iowa (Glaser, 2006). Pesticides also damage soil, where the plants were being grown, which then results in irreversible soil loss.

The only way to avoid genetically modified foods, and all the pesticides that come with them, is to switch from the industrialized foods to consuming organic foods. So what does “organic food” mean? The United States Department of Agriculture says that for foods to be considered “organic”, the food “is produced without using most conventional pesticides; fertilizers made with synthetic ingredients or sewage sludge; bioengineering; or ionizing radiation” (Gold, 2007). The benefits of eating organic foods are why eating organic foods has become such a hot topic recently.

One amazing benefit of eating organic foods is the amount of antioxidants and rich nutrients that people receive from eating organically. According to the Organic Trade Association (2011), several studies have been conducted and have found that organic foods have significantly higher levels of antioxidants and nutrients. For example, it states that a study was done with Theo Clark and some undergraduate students from Truman State University in Missouri, in which they found that “organically grown oranges contained thirty percent, more Vitamin C than those that were conventionally grown”. While industrialized oranges look bigger and are thought to have higher levels of Vitamin C because of this, they actually contain less amounts of Vitamin C than their organic counterparts.

One method of farming that Organic Farmers use is crop rotation– alternating where crops are grown each year. By using this method of farming, it minimizes the pests around the plants. When pests lay their eggs, by the time the eggs hatch the food supply has already been moved somewhere else – thus cutting off their food supply. Crop rotation helps to keep the soil useable. If plants are being grown in the exact same soil every single year, the amount of nutrients available for the plants to eat from greatly decreases each time another plant is placed in the soil. There are a few different ways in which farmers can utilize this method of crop rotation, so which one a farmer chooses is completely up to them.

An important item that Organic Farmers use is green manures. These are plants that are planted specifically to help the soil. While it is said that any plant can be used as green manures, some plants are better suited than others. Green manures improve and keep soil fertility, protect soil structure, keep weeds down, help control pests, stimulate soil biological activity, loosen the soil, and protect the soil life (2012).

Organic food is actually shown to have incredibly less amounts of pesticide residues than industrial-grown foods. Simply because most, if not all, organic farmers use alternative means of protecting their crops from being harmed by pests. It also doesn’t disturb the natural order of the food chain either. When pesticides are used to kill one pest, an over-abundance of other pests occurs which is still harmful to the crops that farmers are growing. By using alternative means of protecting their crops, they aren’t disturbing the food chain and creating an over-abundance of certain pests. Nature is the ultimate protector of food. When one pest arrives to destroy a farmer’s crops, there is a predator close by waiting to eat the pest. By doing this, the balance is maintained and the food is intact and delicious.

The best thing about eating organic food is that none of it is genetically modified, or contains any genetically modified organisms, there’s no irradiation to alter the molecular structure of the food, there’s certainly no pesticides being ingested and definitely no growth hormones. Livestock live in better conditions and are “free-roaming”. Animals are allowed to live happy lives regardless of the length of time they’re alive. They’re homes are spacious and allow plenty of movement so there isn’t any over-crowding. While the animals, like chickens, still live in their pens, they aren’t nearly as crowded as animals that are raised on farms using industrialized methods.

Organic food also doesn’t have to be expensive if someone doesn’t want to spend hefty amounts of money to eat organically. For someone who may be on a budget, like most people these days, trying to eat what’s healthy can sometimes be a little trickier than it really should be. In the end it may be better to spend that extra money on food for the many health benefits they bring, for the people who can afford it. When people talk about shopping for organic food, the Wholefoods Store is usually what comes to mind immediately. While they’re prices for the average person are a little “up there”, people tend to forget that there are other places in which they can get organic food.

Wholefoods is a great store to get organic food, but for people on a tighter budget they can shop at a Trader Joe’s, if there’s one in their neighborhood, and even going to farmer’s markets. A person can buy large amounts of fruits and vegetables and keep them frozen until the buyer is ready to cook and eat what was bought. Food which is bought at farmer’s markets is not only cheaper to buy, but it also helps to support local farmers which allow them to continue growing their crops for organic-eaters to keep consuming. Tons of farmer’s markets are available for people who choose to eat organically at a more cost-efficient price; it’s just a matter of doing the search necessary to determine which market is closest to the buyer.

While most people don’t believe that everyone can be fed organically, it can become possible if people begin to plant their own gardens and eat from what they grow in their own backyard. Not only do people become aware of where their food comes, but they know what is in their food: nutrients and minerals. People shouldn’t have to guess what’s in their food when they go to buy it; they should already know. The fact that people are beginning to realize what’s in their food, or really what isn’t in their food, and are beginning to make the switch to what’s actually healthy is a very good sign. Maybe one day we won’t need industrialized foods to feed everyone. The world won’t be able to rely on fossil fuels forever. If people don’t start making a change, regardless of how small it is, food-related sickness will increase, food prices will skyrocket, and resources will begin to diminish. What is known is that if people slowly plant one seed at a time in their own backyards, we won’t need to worry about the industrialized foods and genetically modified foods we consume each day.

*Guest Article Submitted by Heather P.*


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