Healthy Living
The Harmful Effects of Genetically Modified Foods      
Insightful viewers, welcome to this week’s Healthy Living program, where we’ll examine the harmful effects of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in our food supply. GMOs are produced by transferring genes from one species into the genetic code of another. GM foods have not been scientifically proven safe.

Aware of the dangers, some countries have already banned all GMO crops, most notably Switzerland and Bulgaria. Across Europe there is widespread consumer opposition to GMO products. In Japan, genetically modified foods are not grown commercially. In India, the national government prohibited the planting of GM eggplant in 2010 after the environment minister concluded there was insufficient data showing that the crop is safe for human consumption or the environment.

To find out more about the inherently hazardous process of producing GMOs, let’s first hear from Jeffrey M. Smith, an expert on the subject and also founder of the US-based Institute for Responsible Technology which informs policy makers and the public about the perils of genetically modified foods.

You take a gene; let’s say you want to create a corn plant that produces its own pesticide. So you take the gene from a soil bacterium Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) and you make millions of copies of the gene and you put it into a gun and you shoot that gun into a plate of millions of cells, hoping that some of the genes make it into the DNA of some of those cells. Then you clone those cells into a plant.

Now the process of insertion plus cloning causes massive collateral damage in the DNA of the plant. Two to four percent is different; there can be hundreds or thousands of mutations. And there’s also a holistic effect. When you insert a single gene, up to five percent of the natural genes in the plant can change their levels of expression and then produce too much or too little protein.

So, what this does, when you change that much in the DNA, is that the RNAs can change, the proteins can change, and the byproducts of metabolism can change. So you could have increased levels of allergens, increased levels of toxins or carcinogens or completely new allergens and toxins and carcinogens that have never been in the plant before. Now these are not evaluated.

The American Academy of Environmental Medicine has issued a warning urging the public to avoid GM foods and adding, “There is more than a casual association between GM foods and adverse health effects. There is causation.” A growing body of evidence points to disastrous health outcomes from GMOs, such as premature aging, immune dysfunction, cancer, multiple organ damage and reproductive disorders. The respected non-profit environmental group Greenpeace International strongly opposes the cultivation of genetically modified crops as well.

I think, first, it’s wrong to play God. But of course, somebody pointed out all of science is a little bit like that. We appreciate that, we are not anti-science. But in agriculture, the playing of God goes one step further, because you’re releasing those organisms into the environment. They’re not in a laboratory; they’re going to the environment.

They interact with other species. They interact with the ecosystem. So there are potentially irreversible effects. There’re also health effects from consuming genetically modified crops. We don’t need it. There’s enough organic techniques and technologies available to produce food to feed the world.

In 2009, Dr. Don Lotter, who has a doctorate in agroecology, wrote an article published in the International Journal of Sociology of Agriculture and Food entitled “The Genetic Engineering of Food and the Failure of Science.” The paper discusses the hazards, lack of safety testing and deficient consumer protection with respect to GMOs. The author states that the principles underlying research by the GM industry are flawed, giving the example of the cauliflower-mosaic-virus promoter (CaMV 35S), which is used to activate foreign genes inserted into GM plants.

This virus is dangerous because it is not neutralized when it enters the human digestive system, but instead promotes the transfer of genes from the GMO to bacteria in the digestive system that are responsible for 80% of our immune system function. Jeffrey M. Smith is deeply concerned that GMOs will seriously injure human health through the transfer of genetic information from modified foods to intestinal bacteria.

The fact that genes transfer to our gut bacteria gets worse when you think of what can transfer. The corn and cotton that are genetically engineered, there’s varieties that produce their own pesticide, so if the gene that produces the pesticide transfers, it might turn our intestinal bacteria into living pesticide factories.

The pesticide produced in GM corn and cotton, called Bt toxin, has already had damaging effects on those exposed to the spray version of the bacteria as well as those farming Bt-generating GM crops.

When it was used in its natural form as a spray in the Pacific Northwest (USA), hundreds of people got allergic reactions or flu-like symptoms; some had to go to the hospital. So it obviously affects humans and mammals.

Now if you look at the symptoms of the people who were sprayed in Washington State (USA) and you look at the symptoms of he farm workers in India who are picking the cotton that’s genetically engineered to produce the Bt toxin, they’re the same symptoms. They’re getting rashes, upper respiratory reactions, fever; some had to go to the hospital.

Now the BT toxin that’s in the crop, however, is thousands of times more concentrated than the natural spray. It’s designed to be more toxic, and it has properties of a known allergen. And it also cannot be washed off the plant, because it’s produced by little spray bottles in every cell of the plant, in every bite.

So many people believe that the Bt toxin that’s produced by the genetically modified corn and cotton is extremely dangerous. And the idea that we have living pesticide (Yes) factories inside us is totally high in the “yuck” factor I’ll tell you that.

A study of a group of pregnant and non-pregnant women in Canada found that 93% of the pregnant women had Bt toxin in their blood and 80% had it in their umbilical cord blood, while the toxin was detected in 69% of the non-pregnant women’s blood. The scientists believe the source of the Bt toxin was meat, eggs, and milk eaten by study participants that came from livestock who consumed GM corn.

The researchers stated in a paper published in the journal “Reproductive Toxicology,” “This is the first study to highlight the presence of pesticides associated with genetically modified foods in maternal, fetal and non-pregnant women’s blood.”

Bt toxin is a toxin. A Bt toxin crop is not a higher yielding crop. It’s a toxin-producing crop. Herbicide-resistant crops are resistant to herbicides, therefore you can spray them with higher doses of glyphosate. That’s more toxins in our farms, not more food. To date, there is not a single GMO (genetically modified organism) that has produced more food than comparative crops.

During the 1980’s 37 people in the United States died and 5,000 were sickened after taking a dietary supplement that contained GM bacteria. In another case illustrative of why it’s unwise to tamper with nature is that people who were allergic to Brazil nuts were found to have reactions after consuming GM soy which had a Brazil nut gene in it.

Genetic engineering is very crude and very violent technology. One of the biggest lies being told all over the place, especially in the context of the food crisis, is that GMOs can solve the problem of hunger. They cannot because the technology is not designed to increase production. The technology is designed to put more toxics into the crop.

Genetically engineered seeds are not solving hunger. They are not bringing prosperity to our farmers. They are killing our farmers. And agriculture without GMOs is a peaceful agriculture. GMO-free agriculture is a prosperous agriculture. GMO-free agriculture is the only way humanity should move into the future.

The solution of course is sustainable agriculture. Sustainable agriculture in the form, which sustains the land, the livelihoods that depend on it. Millions, literally hundreds of millions of (Indian) people depend on agriculture for their daily living. So an agricultural system that takes care of the land, takes care of the people, does not use chemicals, and is therefore good for the consumers, that’s sustainable agriculture.

So this is the kind of thing that Greenpeace would campaign on. So that’s what we will do for sustainable agriculture.

Supreme Master Ching Hai has spoken on various occasions regarding the harmful effects of GMOs.

Nowadays, many people try to do this so-called genetically modified food, so sometimes we eat vegetarian food and we don’t even know that there are animal substances in it. Scientifically speaking, meat is being linked to diseases of all kind – with cholesterol, obesity, heart disease and strokes. So, if we put meat or animal substance into vegetables, then we will also have similar effects, more or less. I think we should not mess up with nature and play God. Whatever nature has already offered to us, that is good enough.

There might be more incurable diseases that come from GMO that we don’t even know will happen yet. Right now, even if we just eat the normal meat and we have so many incurable diseases already, if we mix it with vegetables, maybe we will have more incurable diseases and more strange diseases that we don’t even know how to deal with in the future. So, it’s better to have organic vegan farming method.

We as consumers can stop the GMO industry from further ruining our health and planet. First, we can refuse to purchase GM products. When shopping, we can choose to buy organic, locally produced vegetables and fruit instead. Second, we can write to our government officials to voice our opposition to GMOs. Third, we can spread the word about the high risks of genetically modified crops to our friends and family. These steps, along with organic vegan farming, will help ensure we have a GMO-free future for our children.

For more information on the dangers of GMO foods, please visit the following websites:
Institute for Responsible Technology
Greenpeace International

Benevolent viewers, thank you for your presence on this edition of Healthy Living. May paradise soon be realized on our Earth through the organic plant-based diet.

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