This week, I will start writing for another blog called Eco-Child’s Play. This blog was started by Jennifer Lance, a dedicated green mama who lives in low impact home powered by a micro hydro turbine, and is raising her kids as naturally as possible. She and several other writers share recipes, parenting information, product reviews and tips on raising children to care for the environment, and to have as little impact on the planet as possible. I am thrilled to be joining their team. I’ll be posting over there at least once a week, but will of course keep writing articles here at Non-Toxic Kids.
A few years ago, I first started thinking heavily about genetically modified foods when reading a book by one of my favorite authors, Bill McKibben. Enough, Staying Human in an Engineered Age is about all the potential environmental and ethical problems of genetically engineering food, animals, and humans. Then time went on, and I kept trying to shop for food with an eye on economics, environment, and health. Not an easy task, as you readers well know!
I’ve been a vegetarian for a long, long time. And I’ve eaten more than my fair share of soy. Veggie burgers, soy sausage, veggie pepperoni, and taco meat, you name it. I love most of it. What I don’t love is that most of the soy we eat has been genetically modified. How much? According to CBC news report, at least half of the soy grown in North America is genetically modified. Half. And many processed foods contain soy. Just turn over your soup can, that jar of sauce, or frozen pizza. Soy is almost always in the list.
What does genetically modified mean? The CBC says, “The term “genetically modified” refers to the alteration of genetic material. Specifically, it means the genes of one organism have been “cut out” and then “pasted” into another organism. This is done to protect plants from pests, and to combine particular characteristics, such as growing quickly, certain flavors, or nutritional content.
Sound a bit like Frankenstein, doesn’t it?
So what is the problem with eating genetically modified food? Most Americans are eating it in vast quantities. There are no long term studies about the safety of eating GM foods, so we really have no idea what the effects are in humans. We are living in another great big science experiment. And it’s on our bodies, with chemicals and genetically altered food.
Not to mention the extensive environmental problems with genetically engineered foods. According to Greenpeace, genetically altering crops causes a loss of biodiversity, a creation of superpests that require more pesticide use, harm to beneficial and native organisms, and the cross contamination of conventional and organic crops.
Genetically modified soy has also been linked to increased allergies, and the development of antibiotic resistant bacteria.
It is also very difficult to find out what food contains genetically modified ingredients and what doesn’t, because there are no labeling laws in the U.S. Food manufacturers do not have to state if their ingredients have been genetically modified or not. Unless you live in Europe. In another stroke of brilliance, The European Parliament in 2004 required GM foods to be labeled as such. Other countries are better off as well. Australia, New Zealand, China or Japan have mandatory GM labeling laws, as well as 40 countries worldwide. That’s 3 billion people who get to decide whether or not to buy genetically modified foods, according to Greenpeace. While us in the U.S. are blindly part of another grand science experiment.
On Wednesday, I will post an article about How to Avoid Genetically Modified Foods at Eco-Child’s Play. There was way too much information for one post, so please visit there if you are interested in learning more about ways to avoid GM foods for your family. I hope this background information about soy and the problems with genetically modified food, both health and environmental, has been helpful.