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Organics v. GMOs

The Green blogosphere continues to blow up about the USDA’s recent decisions to 1) totally deregulate GM (genetically modified) alfalfa, and 2) allow planting of GM sugar beets this spring as well as 3) a type of corn used to make ethanol. Next up: fast-growing salmon! I just lost my lunch…

I think you know my position on this issue: ORGANICS AND GMOS CANNOT CO-EXIST. I’ll explain why. But first, let’s backtrack. What is a GMO? I answer this question in EcoRico Ep. 002 and I’ll answer again here.

A genetically modified organism (GMO) is created in a lab. DNA genes of one species, which may come from bacteria, viruses, insects, or animals, are artificially inserted into genes of an unrelated plant or animal. GMOs do not occur in nature. Studies show that GMOs can be very bad for our health. Perhaps that is why the European Union strictly regulates their production, unlike the USA, and requires that GM foods be LABELED, again unlike the USA.

In 2009, the American Academy of Environmental Medicine (AAEM) stated: “…several animal studies indicate serious health risks associated with GM food consumption including infertility, immune dysregulation, accelerated aging, dysregulation of genes associated with cholesterol synthesis, insulin regulation, cell signaling, and protein formation, and changes in the liver, kidney, spleen and gastrointestinal system.” This article is not for the faint of heart.

But let’s get back to alfalfa. “Alfalfa is the fourth largest crop in the US, grown on 22 million acres. It is used primarily as a high protein source to feed dairy cattle and other ruminant animals. At present, weeds are not a big deal for alfalfa. Only 7% of alfalfa acreage is ever sprayed with an herbicide of any kind. If Roundup Ready alfalfa is approved, however, herbicide use would jump to unprecedented levels, and the weed killer of choice would of course be [Monsanto’s] Roundup.”

What’s worse, the nutritional quality of Roundup Ready alfalfa is reduced due to its lesser concentration of mineral content, which reduces further after multi-year application of Roundup. And most frighteningly, “studies confirm that genes do transfer from GM crops into soil and soil organisms, and can jump into fungus through cuts on the surface of GM plants.”

Why is this a problem for organics? Not only does seed purity go bye-bye, but cows eat alfalfa hay. Organic dairy products come from organically raised cows fed organic hay. If that hay is tainted, so is the cow, so is the dairy, so is the product. That organic farmer loses his or her organic certification (and livelihood) and consumers lose the choice to purchase that organic product. ALL BAD.

The USDA knows all this and yet keeps it from consumers by not labeling GM foods.

Bottom line: consumers are not guinea pigs. If the USDA wants to allow GM foods in the marketplace, then LABEL them. Why not? Isn’t transparency what Obama’s all about?

I’ll give Dr. Don Huber, renowned plant pathologist at Purdue University the last word: “Why would you even consider jeopardizing the productivity and nutrient quality of the third most valuable crop in the US? … [E]specially since we have no way of removing the gene once it is spread throughout the alfalfa gene pool.”

Tell Congress to Label Genetically Modified Foods. Please sign this petition!

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