We know that GE crops are contaminating conventional and organic crops. We know GE products are making their way, directly or indirectly, onto our plates. So, until regulations catch up to the reality (and if it’s not too late to save our food supply by then), there are two main things we, as consumers, can do. First, we must speak out to our representatives and make our voices heard so that businesses do not flourish at the expense of human welfare and irreparable damage to our food supply and environment. Second, we must educate ourselves on the health issues related to GE products, so that we can each make our own best decisions about what we purchase and eat, and by extension, which companies we support through our consumerism.
To that end, I spoke recently with molecular biologist, Dr. Kevin Nash, and asked him what, if any concerns he had about the health impact of eating GE products. According to Dr. Nash, “We eat DNA all the time in any plant, animal or fungi material. We cannot incorporate, only digest, genetic material from other sources. The product of that gene manipulation can cause a problem [for example, in the case of] modified plants to restrict bugs and disease. This may be the production of a natural pesticide; and pesticides are not necessarily good for us in large doses.” So, while human DNA is arguably safe from ingesting the GE products themselves, the main concern with GE crops becomes exposure to chemicals such as pesticides, herbicides, and fungicides, the ingestion of which does pose a significant health risk and can endanger human DNA according to Dr. Nash.
Of course, herbicides and pesticides are nothing new in crop production. What is new is the growth of herbicide-resistant weeds, which have cropped up as a result of the unchecked growth (and spreading) of GE alfalfa among other GE crops. In particular, according to a recent report, “The spread of pollen and seed from Monsanto-made, genetically engineered (GE) RoundUp Ready alfalfa into non-GE commercial and organic alfalfa crops might eliminate the U.S. supply of organic alfalfa and lead to overuse of potentially toxic glyphosate-based herbicides, said organic interest groups such as the Center for Food Safety, the Northeast Organic Farming Association and the National Organic Coalition.”
The end result is that glyphosate-tolerant (GT) weeds have appeared as a by-product of the GE alfalfa contaminating simple weeds. This means that, in order to rid their fields of those weeds, farmers now have to use more chemicals, and more dangerous chemicals, to fight these so-called “superweeds.” Ultimately, that means more chemicals in our soil, our air, our foods, and our bodies. And, of course, when fields have been contaminated with these weeds and with GE alfalfa, farmers cannot sell their alfalfa as “organic” because it no longer meets the criteria, thus losing money when they sell this product as a conventional, rather than organic, crop.
When part of the reason many of us choose to eat organics is to avoid pesticides and other chemicals, the idea that organic farmers are unprotected in their efforts to keep their land clear of GE and GT seeds, and are bearing the cost themselves when their crops do become infected, is odious to say the least. And of course, ultimately, those of us choosing organics will pay the price in our health and our wallets. As organic farmers struggle against the pollution of their land by nearby GE farming, making their once-organic seeds grow into crops that don’t meet the “organic” guidelines, the prices of organics will continue to go up, and fewer people will be able to afford to eat organic.
This ultimately means we will be exposed to GE crops or the chemicals needed to keep them at bay. And none of it has to be labeled, so we truly won’t even know what we’re eating. So it is time for us to speak out, write our representatives, and be sure to keep buying organics and support organic farmers by buying non-food products from companies using organic materials whenever possible.