A listener from the United Arab Emirates asked Martin to do a whole show on Genetically Modified Foods or Organisms (GMOs).
GMO does not mean grafting or cross pollination – staying within a species – that happens in nature.
GMO takes place in a laboratory. They go inside cells to create something new that appears to be the “same”. One example took a soybean and injected it with brazilnut genes, to increase the protein content. It worked, but people that were allergic to brazilnuts were reacting to the soy!
See the list of companies spending money to block GMO labeling initiatives.
Life Enthusiast podcast 130 – Genetically Modified Organisms
Scott: Hey everybody, welcome back you are listening to the Life Enthusiast online radio network and we are restoring vitality to you and to the planet and after today’s episode to the plants that surround us and feed us. I am Scott Paton your co-host, hey Martin how are you doing today?
Martin: Hi, I’m Martin Pytela your other co-host and I am doing well and still genetically intact as a human.
Scott: Okay so we haven’t put any frogs DNA in you yet?
Martin: Nope, no gills.
Scott: You can’t hop around or croak at night?
Martin: No but I can do all that.
Scott: Well the last few podcasts we have been talking about how to get sick because we felt that we have spent the last few years talking about how to get well and we thought we needed to be politically correct and go over to the other side and talk about that and one of our listeners, was it from Dubai?
Martin: United Arab Emirates, yep.
Scott: Emailed us and contacted us and said I have some concerns about genetically modified foods and of course that is on our list but it is a little further down the list so we decided to bump it up and talk about that today. In fact we think we will be lucky if we can get just that into today’s episode, it might take a couple episodes to talk about all these wonderful genetically modified foods and I think where we need to start Martin is what we mean by genetically modified foods because I think my dad used to take a branch from the red delicious tree and he would stick it onto the golden delicious tree and that sort of stuff so you know but that is not what we are talking about right.
Martin: No that is grafting and that is essentially staying within one species, that is hybridization or you could actually take pollen from one apple tree and pollinate the other flowering apples on another apple tree until it creates the apples and then graft that onto another apple tree and that is within the same species.
Scott: And that is actually a natural type of thing that happens. I know that in the Okanagan in BC there was an orchard and this guy found this tree growing I guess outside of the line of the trees and he was going to pull it down and noticed that it was a bit different than the other trees so he left it and the apples that the tree gave was a unique new apple and it tasted really good so I guess it was pollination from the other trees around it and all of a sudden this tree grew well I am not sure if it just grew or what all the details were but he was very excited about this new delicious apple so he had to be very careful with the tree because it was the only one in the world and he grew more tree and more trees or whatever he did so he got a nice little crop going and I guess he just sold it out of his little market and people said oh this is really good I want more and more and other farmers are like what is this apple and now four or five years later now and it is quite a popular little apple that we see in the grocery stores. So what we are talking about is that he didn’t genetically modify that tree to make that apple it was part of nature’s way of creation.
Martin: That’s right yes and the difference is the old traditional way of selective breeding where we take the best specimens that we have of a particular species and we select and the extreme of it is what humans have done to dogs you know they have bread similar dogs to one another until they have created these bizarre things where you can have something between a Chihuahua and a great Dane and all were related to the wolf and coyote and fox I suppose but it is not natural for a wolf to mate with a coyote although you could mate a wolf with dog similarly you can mate a horse with a donkey but the next generation is sterile they cannot have offspring.
Scott: So what we are really talking about when it comes to hybrids is what would have happened on the farm a hundred years ago where Grandma would have said wow there is a really good tomato plant and there is another really good tomato plant and I am going to make sure I keep those seeds and when they grow up next year I make sure they pollinate amongst themselves so I get more and there is a really bad looking tomato plant so I am going to get rid of it so it is out of the gene pool and out of my little area.
Martin: Exactly that is precisely what is called as selective breeding that is not genetic modification. Genetic modification is when you take it into a laboratory and you go after the genes in the inside of individual cells and you try to replicate that and you try to make a seed out of that. Essentially you are bombarding the nucleus of the cell with something else. A great example was this soy bean it was injected with Brazil nut genes so as to increase the protein content.
Scott: In the soy.
Martin: Yes in the soy, yes there was this one idea that this one particular amino acid that was desirable and they wanted to increase its content and so they raised it using this particular gene and sure enough they got more protein in this corn. There was a downside to it, people were getting allergic reactions to it and so only those who are allergic to Brazil nuts for some strange reason that gene transferred too much of the nut into it. Unpredictable right, unintended consequences, that is always an issue here with genetic modification.
Scott: So if there was say something with the peanut because some people have very severe reactions to peanuts these days and you say okay we are going to take this gene from the peanut and mix it with the gene from the cow one and we are going to have this better milk and all of a sudden all these people are drinking milk and getting a peanut reaction to it.
Martin: Yeah that would be exactly the scheme and there is a really nice word for it: pleotropic, unintended or uncontrolled consequence and interestingly enough here is a statement from a study, Pleotropic effects occur in genetically modified plants in frequencies of thirty percent.
Scott: Oh so there is some, like we think that it is going to do this and it may do this but it may be doing a whole bunch more in addition to that.
Martin: Yes the example is for instance genetically modified corn versus traditional corn in Mexico. I watched a whole documentary showing local corn growers are being pushed out of the way and business by corporations buying up fields and growing genetically modified corn on it and it is cheaper of course. The logical thing to think is that it is cheaper corn so people are buying cheaper corn so we can eat tortillas for a lower price but what they do not understand is that they are increasing their chances of nutritional problems or even worse. Who knows what is going to happen down the line. So anyway the issues were the corn stalks growing funny like you would see deformities. Anyway I don`t have all the details of what all is going on but you could see that the genetically modified corn was showing a lot more trouble than ancient corn as far as it was growing and now the problem that was happening was this: corn is pollinated by the wind meaning corn pollen just flies in the wind and just pollinates. Well if you plant a hundred acre plot of GMO corn and the wind blows east one day and south the next day and north the next day then everything in your neighborhood becomes pollinated with your genetically modified corn.
Scott: And then it becomes genetically modified.
Martin: Yeah it is just polluting the pool.
Scott: What we are talking about here is Pandora’s Box, once you open it up and it is spreading and spreading and the next thing you know you are hooped. I know one of the things that it is like is a biologist and we will go for a walk or whatever and she is constantly pointing out what she calls invasive species.
Martin: Not Native.
Scott: Yeah not Native and they are taking over and one is broom and it is hard to kill and it comes from Scotland and It has this yellow flower which people from Scotland thought was very pretty in Scotland and so when they came over here and when they came over here they wanted to bring some of their home with them some blood seeds I assume or perhaps plants and they planted them and of course the plants would just spread and grow and this was a great place for it and now it’s all over the place.
Martin: Yeah no natural predator or animal that would it eat or something that would limit its growth so it just grows and grows.
Scott: That’s right and the sad thing is I didn’t know that and you know I am not a biologist or anything else but in one generation everyone will be saying that is just a native plant not realizing that there were a whole bunch of other beautiful plants that we no longer see because they have been pushed out by the broom.
Martin: Yeah crowded out.
Scott: Yeah so I can see that happening and of course this is not genetically modified or anything but when you look at genetically modified foods and it is able to spread on its own kind of like a virus and now all of a sudden you can’t put it back. Along the Rio Grande river along the Santa Fe there is another invasive species and this species of this very small tree consumes about 200 gallons of water w week or a day or something so the Rio Grande which is dessert right but it had a lot of water and someone planted this along the water thinking it was very pretty and beautiful and everything else and then it went up river and down river and went everywhere else and it doesn’t matter what you do if just one piece is left in the soil it will grow back. They cannot kill it.
Martin: Sort of like bamboo once it gets going there is just no way to get rid of it.
Scott: So this huge massive river is just a trickle most of the time because it is being drunk by these very thirsty trees that they can’t get rid of and they can’t control and everything else. Water as we have talked about before is a major problem so this is taking something that is naturally the way it is from one environment and sticking it into another environment and having massive negative consequences.
Martin: Here is a good example of that, in 1886 a pair of Starlings was brought to New York from Europe and was released in Central Park New York until that time North America was starling free.
Scott: And now we have them all over the place.
Martin: I don’t know if you know North West Canada or South West Canada which is North West to everyone else is growing a lot of berries you know like blueberries and cherry farmers and all of that. I don’t know if you remember what happens during the harvest season when the berries and fruits come nearly ripe and these black clouds of starlings start flying in and the farmers blowing their propane guns and playing their distress tapes and trying all sorts of things to have the birds not land in their fields and all the netting that they try to put on and everything else.
Scott: Well we should just genetically modify the berries so that when the birds eat them they become sterile and then they don’t have kids and that gets rid of all the starlings.
Martin: Yes and here comes the famous word Pleotropic.
Scott: And what impact that has on humans.
Martin: Right and maybe it could be a gene that makes birds sterile even if we found it right so we eat it and then the third generation will make your children blind not in the second but in the third so you won’t notice it for a good while until it is all over the place.
Scott: And all of a sudden everyone is blind and no one knew.
Martin: Yeah something like that, I am not saying that is exactly what would happen but it is unintended consequences.
Scott: This is like a story like every time someone did something to fix things and make it better the result was that it got worse and we are in kind of that area right now because we have companies spending billions of dollars. One of the companies in the example you were talking about was I believe it was a Japanese company and they had a whole bunch of problems with the changes that they did, there was about 150 people that died no 37 people died because this thing was released without safety tests.
Martin: You must be thinking of the Tryptophan disaster.
Scott: Yeah that’s right the Tryptophan, fifteen hundred people were disabled and the manufacturer paid two billion dollars, it was Japan’s second largest chemical company and they destroyed evidence preventing anymore investigations and it was like how bad is it that you destroy all the evidence so people can’t really see what you have done. It just boggles my mind that you would create something and then knowingly put it out there with the understanding that it is going to cause death and destruction.
Martin: People do strange things when threatened with economic disasters. It reminds me of drowning you know, when people drown they don’t make rational choices anymore anyway I am not even going to go there, Tryptophan is an interesting concept because it was banned in the United States at one point because it caused one death and fourteen serious injuries or something like that and the reason it was banned was that this Japanese manufacturer that was making the Tryptophan was using genetically modified bacteria to grow this amino acid so there is nothing wrong with Tryptophan itself it was just that this company that was making it was using genetically modified bacteria was making faulty Tryptophan that was killing people. So subsequently Tryptophan was taken off of the banned list anyway it was an ugly story and it caused a lot of trouble in the health industry.
Scott: Well for sure.
Martin: So I want to stay on this unintended consequence, I think that when we are playing God I would say something like this, if I tried to compare a pharmacist or a geneticist or a food biological engineer with God I think God wins and so we don’t really have the luxury of allowing natural selection to play here because if we allow that it might mean the wipe out of humans or some other species just in the process of sorting all of this out. normally this works slower over many generations as opposed to quickly the way engineers can do it and so there is no chance of adjusting to it and there is a chance of it getting out into the food chain and it gets out worldwide within fifteen years. It is the same generation of people that is going to have to deal with it. It is not gradual; there is no getting adjusted to it. It could just wipe out millions or billions.
Scott: It is almost like putting a nuclear bomb in the hands of terrorists all over the world.
Martin: Yeah I would say that is a reasonable suggestion.
Scott: It may sound a little alarmist but when you think about it like one of my concerns is the bee population, bees go around and they help us out by pollinating plants and flowers and now there is this business of bee hive owners just taking their hives from farm to farm and letting them go pollinate in those areas because there is no natural bees left and one of the things they say and I don’t think they have proven what it is but the genetically modified foods, one of the reason they do it is to make them resistant to pest and insects and everything else and what will happen is when the insect bites into the plant the cells that have been genetically modified and have a very toxic pesticide in them that just destroys the pest and keeps the plant healthy or keeps the plant from being eaten by the pest and normally this amount for humans and everyone else is insignificant but when you look at the impact that it has on the like all of a sudden it gets into the bees or the pollen and then it gets into the hive and all of a sudden the bees all die because they have this highly concentrated poison now in their hive and then they die and nobody knows where the bees are going or what is happening with them or anything else and I have just told you one theory that I have read but they are talking about in three or four or five years that there will be no food or the biggest job that we will have will be people going around with something and pollinating plants because there are no bees.
Martin: Yeah imagine going around with a tiny little paint brush and a bucket and pollinating each of your cherry trees in your orchard one blossom at a time.
Scott: So that is going to be an incredibly cheap way to make food you know it is just absolutely insane there is no other way to put it.
Martin: Well I will just raise another example there is this product called round-up ready I think it was round-up made for tomato was it but the point is round-up ready means this the plant is resistant to round up which is a herbicide and herbicide is a universal plant killer. You would normally use herbicide on things like your dandelions or other things that you would want to kill off in your lawn selectively. When you put it on the leaves of the plant it gets absorbed into the tissue and gets taken to the root and the whole plant dies. So if you have a roundup ready plant that plant will survive the roundup while its neighbors will not so you plant your stuff wait for it to start growing and spray your whole field with roundup so the next step is all the not ready for roundup plants die off and your roundup ready plants in your field will survive and start growing, isn’t that glorious, so far so good.
Scott: Don’t tell me let me guess there is an unintended consequence.
Martin: There probably is, we don’t know what it is yet or what it will do or where it is going to take it I don’t know if it will be some insect that is going to pollinate the roundup ready plant and take it somewhere and cross pollinate something else I don’t know maybe that same insect that has pollinated your tomato plant is going to go next and pollinate some sunflowers and the next thing you know you are experiencing roundup ready sunflowers. I don’t know if that is a good thing I doubt that it is. How about this one, this one is my favorite this one is thankfully only restricted to North America. Europeans have stood steadfast against doing this it is called RBGH which is genetically modified growth hormone for bovines. That’s injected into dairy cows and that actually enhances their milk production you know IGF1 is what comes out that is a hormone and it helps the cows to give more milk so that makes the milk cheaper in the long run because the cows give more milk and so on.
Scott: Increased production.
Martin: Increased production and lower costs and all of that. The problem we have is that if you get IGF1 into humans it increases two to four fold your chances of getting cancer so it could be that the higher cancer rates in North Americans could be them drinking RBGH treated cow’s milk and the studies have been done and they show that this is the case and the Europeans are resisting it saying no there will be no RBGH in our cattle and the Americans are taking it to the World Trade Organization saying you are putting up unfair trade barriers and you should allow our beef to come into your market and they are saying no this is a legitimate concern so it’s not a pretty picture.
Scott: So I think we are going to have to do another show on this Martin.
Martin: I don’t know it makes me feel so miserable I don’t know if I want to you know there are so many issues that are pointing at this: number one there is just no way that we can test for all the side effects and unintended consequences that this thing can do. If it deals with the plants it is through the world of insects and the world of seeds and if it is through the world of animals it is through whatever we eat or whatever they produce you know I mean what happens when an RBGH injected cow eats some genetically modified soy beans and then that poop from that cow goes into the field as manure to fertilize the next generation of alfalfa. Is that alfalfa going to be unaffected by the genetically modified soy that is processed by an injected cows. I just don’t know.
Scott: It is hard to imagine that it isn’t and what if it runs off in the rain and runs off into the creek and then into the river and then into the ocean and gets drunk or exposed to fish that are going by and then that fish gets caught and you eat it and now all of a sudden what.?
Martin: Yeah all of a sudden you are having an allergic reaction to soy oil.
Scott: Yeah soy oil and you are not eating soy oil you are eating fish.
Martin: I don’t know that that is truly possible but the frightful thing is the scientists have no way of knowing and it is just wrong to be doing this sort of manipulation.
Scott: Particularly when it is not necessary.
Martin: Absolutely not necessary.
Scott: I mean we can manage, I mean there is a dollar figure and that’s what they say is driving it we want to make it cheaper, we want to make more, we want to do this and we want to do that but the fact of the matter is that part of the problem is that for the last hundred years we have been dumping fertilizers onto our bread basket states and provinces and everything else in order to get crop yields up and we haven’t been managing the soil properly and so we are in this downward spiral and if we were taking all of the food that we were throwing out and composting it and putting it back into the land to grow our food I think we would be way better off.
Martin: Yeah right biodynamic soil management would certainly improve both the quality and the health of the produce that we grow. My concern is with the genetically modified food is this, the benefit is driven by the ability to patent or to control the outcome because when you have a genetically modified species you can actually own it like you can patent a particular sheep or patent a particular seed and you can hold it as unique and charge premium for it and that’s what is driving this because it is causing the ordinary farmer to be wanting to do business with the higher yield or the advertised crop.
Scott: It is also putting a lot of pressure on the farmers because there was a legal case in Canada saying you are growing and saving the seeds and we can prove that you got your crop from our seed and that’s against the licensing agreement or whatever like you are not allowed to save the seeds and use them over and over again which is kind of weird but they can do that because it is our seed right.
Martin: And the funny thing was that the court actually sided with the corporation saying that the farmer actually did transgress and was using their seed against the wishes of the corporation and the funniest thing is he actually took them to court for contaminating his field.
Scott: Right because he said it was blown across from neighboring fields so this is not something that you can keep separate.
Martin: But what is interesting is that he actually won a court case against them and now they are obligated to remove all of their plants from his field if they should ever be found but anyway it is a complicated situation.
Scott: Yeah and it gets in the way of farmers farming which is another problem. You know you are spending so much time trying to do this magical hocus pocus with stuff that you don’t know what will happen with it instead of making the best food that you can make.
Martin: Yeah just to mention the famous soy bean, you know we have been trying to find a non GMO soy. well first we could find some non GMO soy in North America and then it became completely contaminated so it is no longer available. So then in South America we were able to get it from Argentina and that has now become contaminated so now all South America has genetically modified soy and now what we can do we can order a product called “species specific” meaning that they test it and make sure that it is the original soy genes, not the GMO soy genes. That is about what we are able to do but no farmer can claim that they are GMO free because it just blows on the wind and is everywhere.
Scott: So if GMO was not kosher there would be a huge problem with that part of our population.
Martin: Yeah you may as well declare that because it is ungodly work I don’t know any rabbi who is going to certify genetically modified as kosher.
Scott: Right and if it is genetically modified just because it got contaminated you know how long before nothing is the way it was originally.
Martin: So what do we tell people then?
Scott: Well what I was going to say is here are some companies that are GMO producing or distributing and if you have shares in them then do a share holder protest and if you don’t have shares in them consider not buying their food and here is the list, Safeway, Frito-Lay, Kellogg, Nestle, Heinz, Healthy Choice, Kraft, Hershey’s, Coca-Cola, Nabisco, Quakers, Starbucks, McDonalds, General Mills, Proctor and Gamble. if that doesn’t sound like the top echelon of food distribution in America I don’t know what does.
Martin: Well I remember my daughter did a project in high school and what she did was can we know if there is GMO grain in my cereal so she called all the major ones, the Nabisco, Kraft, General Mills and not one of them had a policy which would allow us to know whether the source was or was not genetically modified so the only choice that we could make was simply boycott all their products because the only option you have is to buy organic.
Scott: That’s right, and if you don’t, you are playing with dice, you are really gambling aren’t you.
Martin: That’s right you are playing Russian roulette with your children because if you haven’t had your children yet the seed, the seed that comes out of you is already going to be processed with this special nutrition that you are ingesting and it is going to be affected by that. Interestingly the fertility rates are falling.
Scott: Yeah it is going to be solved one way or another right.
Martin: Yeah this is not a pretty picture so number one is find out if your pension plan is invested in the particular companies that make this stuff. Ask your pension plan manager to take your pension money out of those companies because you don’t want to support them, number two, don’t buy their products and starve them.
Scott: Well it just blew my mind to see Starbucks on there, and some of the other ones I was surprised.
Martin: Because they don’t care right, I mean it is a simple thing it is a cost driven issue like Starbucks will use something like SoyNice, the soy milk substitute and that is how they get on this list right.
Scott: Yeah and if enough people called them up and complained they would start doing something about it, I know. they would because here is the thing from a marketing perspective they are always looking for causes and if they jump on the non GMO cause I could see a lot of the upper poobahs arguing and going back and forth but it wasn’t that many years ago that having five or six beer at the bar and driving home was not an issue right and then finally enough moms got mad because their kids were getting run over by drunk drivers that now it is considered really not good and it has happened over and over again where people have stood up and we have got to to be counted here and this is your chance. Call them. and in fact they all have one eight hundred numbers and on the blog post or the podcast post I will make sure they are all there, Safeway, Frito-Lay, Coca-cola, Nabisco, McDonalds and Starbucks so just call them up and say I want to know if there is GMO in the food and what about your private label stuff is there GMO food in there that I should know about.
Martin: Yeah the cows that you grind up are they RBGH free because I don’t want to get cancer from your RGBH loaded beef you know.
Scott: And then they go what are you talking about just tell them to go and listen to the Life Enthusiast podcast online radio network radio shows and they will understand. Alright Martin if someone wanted to discuss health issues or GMO issues or what they should be eating issues how could they get a hold of you?
Martin: Come and read at www.life-enthusiast.com or call us at 1-866-543-3388 we are here from 8 am to 8 pm pacific time. This is Life Enthusiast co-op and we restore vitality to you and to the planet, thank you for listening.