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How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the GMO

January 21, 2010

Here is your happy thought of the day: Maybe the thing that will do us in will not be the bomb or global climate change, but rather some other disaster of our making.

I only say that because there is new evidence to suggest that genetically modified corn causes organ failure in some mammals.

It’s not like genetically modified corn is in everything.
It’s easy enough to avoid corn.

Except it’s not.  Corn is in everything.
From our meat to our sweets.
It’s even in our milk.

Really the killer is that the American consumer does not know what products have genetically modified organisms in them.  Our government does not require labeling for the little piece of information that says, “made with a plant that can survive being sprayed with chemicals that kill every single other living thing” or something like that.

I had put a lot of hope in the human body.
Our bodies are great at doing a lot of amazing things.
Getting rid of the bad stuff we put in them is high up on that list.

Which is why this news is so disheartening.

Now maybe I’m making a mountain out of a molehill.  Perhaps somebody with a bit more of a science or medical background can take a look at the full text of the study and let me know.

I can be a bit of a reactionary.  And I saw that very clearly as I went shopping for groceries last night.

It would never occur to me to buy organic ketchup.  Tomatoes are after all, on the lower end of the pesticide load spectrum.  But there is corn syrup in ketchup.  And vinegar can be made from distilled GMO corn too.  It turns out organic ketchup could put my mind at ease for a mere 100% premium over the regular stuff.  So I bought it.

And if the study suggests GMO corn is bad, what about the other big GMO crops: soybeans and canola?

Well, we needed more cereal.  If you eliminate conventional soy in addition to corn from your consideration set, it’s organic-only cereal for you, buster.  My favorite Kashi cereals did not pass muster under the new cruelty of the day.

Mrs. Fussy is not going to be happy with what came home.  But at least her liver and kidneys will be safe.

Taking a big deep breath in now.
Holding it.
Slowly letting it out.

This news and my reaction do raise an interesting issue.  How do we as consumers live our lives and make food choices for our families? Which food news do we choose to believe? And which issues of the day are just too overwhelming to deal with?

Food news is easy to dismiss, especially as it has led to almost comical missteps in the past.  Just look at the case of butter.  The current trans fat bans can be traced back to the attempt at reducing dietary cholesterol in the food supply.  Turns out the solution was worse than the problem.

At this point I don’t know how legitimate this study is.  Yet regardless it is having a significant effect on me. Perhaps the problem is that I was already a bit leery of GMOs before the news.

But if these scientifically altered plants are not as safe as was originally purported, the damage is likely already done.  They exist.  Their pollen is in the air.  And what we choose to eat may not be able to change these organisms’ place in the food chain.

Still, if I can help it I am going to try and keep conventionally raised corn, soybeans and canola out of the house for a while.  I’ll use up what’s on hand.  But I’m going to vote with my wallet.  [Note from Mrs. Fussy: yeah…vote with a lot of your wallet!]

Please just tell me I’m crazy, and we can move on to cocktail Friday (where I promise not to talk about buying organic spirits).

8 Comments leave one →
  1. January 21, 2010 10:45 am

    It’s true, how are we supposed to know what to eat these days? Even so-called healthy foods are bad for us! Is it worth the worry? Oh…but it is!

  2. Tonia permalink
    January 21, 2010 11:50 am

    You are not crazy. I just try to cook everything myself these days…. i.e. cookies, snacks. It’s so disheartening to read the labels. Additionally, buying the organic stuff is soooo expensive. I was in Hannaford yesterday and their healthfood section is outrageously priced. Then, you are forced to go to Walmart because the health foods they carry are about half the price of the smaller stores, which defeats my whole purpose of buying from locally owned businesses, etc. God what is a person to do? I live in constant food guilt.

    If you think that’s bad start looking at the products you put on your body, laundry detergent, soaps, lotions… it’s all chemical and dye. AND, all of them have SLS in them. How can something you wash your laundry and dishes with be good on your skin and hair and vice versa. I try to buy all plant-based, non-animal tested products. No wonder we have so many diseases.

  3. Anthony Notaro permalink
    January 21, 2010 12:03 pm

    You are approaching this problem in the wrong way Dan. We do not need less genetically modified food, we need more genetically modified humans that are engineered to be more resistant to eating genetically modified food. If our organs fail because we choose to eat something that nature never intended to exist, then it is our weak organs themselves that are the problem. This is merely the next stage of human directed natural selection. Adapt or perish! Perhaps it would behoove you to look into implanting some sort of nanobots into your digestive system.

  4. James permalink
    January 21, 2010 12:12 pm

    I don’t think that this GM maize is going to get us all before we blow each other up. The study used 2 essentially different modified strains, both of which showed appreciable effects only when 33% of the animal’s diet was composed of the GM maize. It is also important to note that the Roundup tolerant corn admittedly contains the pesticide itself and that is most likely the cause of toxicity. If you are worried about eating a little Roundup, then you are probably someone who already buys all organic.

    “But what about the corn syrup and vinegar?” you may ask. The processes used in the production of cornstarch (the precursor to corn syrup) include multiple boiling and washing steps which will get rid of that pesky Roundup and denature those toxic proteins in the GMO. Since white vinegar is made by diluting distilled acetic acid, there is no possible way those harmful molecules are making it out of the still. Finally, if any of the bad stuff does make it to your mouth, you’ve got a host of digestive enzymes to chew it up and a liver designed to get rid of the bad stuff.

  5. January 21, 2010 1:33 pm

    My problem with GMO foods is not what it directly does to the human body.

    My problem with GMO foods is that it’s part of a larger system that has changed agribusiness. Monsanto literally owns a part of life because of its patent on Roundup and Roundup-ready seeds. It’s no secret that they are incredibly litigious against farmers for seed-saving. Seed-saving, which is an integral part of farming. And, if you try to grow conventional crops and your neighbor is growing Roundup-ready crops, cross-pollination can cause your batch of seeds to carry the Roundup-ready gene and then Monsanto’s lawyers come suing. Even if they don’t win the case, their point is to bankrupt the farmer with legal fees and send a message.

    My problem with corn and the corn lobby in particular is that it causes corn to be in EVERYTHING. And if you follow the chain from corn to high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) to processed foods and the American diet, it is the link to increased numbers obesity and Type 2 diabetes. And if you follow the chain from corn to HFCS to the cattle feed lot, you realize that corn is causing ulcers in the guts of the cow (who is not meant to eat the stuff), causing infections, causing the factory to inject the cow with antibiotics which eventually creates stronger bugs which eventually poison us because the giant feed lots poison the water table where spinach is grown and you have thousands of kids dying of E.Coli o157H7.

    But I know you’ve seen Food, Inc. so you know all this.

  6. Mr. Sunshine permalink
    January 21, 2010 2:59 pm

    Corn and soy are both heavily subsidized crops that basically buttress our entire industrial food system. Simply stopping subsidies would help a lot. Avoid all corn and soy products unless certified organic. (it is ironic that vegans and vegetarians consume tons of soy, as bad as corn, in addition to stimulating too much estrogen in the body). One additional point: technically, corn syrup can be organic.

  7. Ellen Whitby permalink
    January 22, 2010 12:17 am

    We eat lots of organic cereal (but only if we are able to stock up when it’s on sale). I’m very aware of how much corn is in what most folks consider non-corn foods, which is nearly everything. I try to limit the amount of processed foods we eat but it’s hard to get away from corn and soy.

    Since we’re not going to solve this before tomorrow anyway, I’m just going to look forward to Cocktail Friday. Cheers!

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