Tag Archives: GMO labeling

Are We Genetically Modifying Ourselves?

genetically modifying ourselves titel

I remember way back in elementary school science class when the teacher handed out magnifying glasses and told us to look at the ends of our fingers to study our fingerprints. I remember the teacher had us draw the patterns we saw whether straight lines or wavy, circles or whorls. Then we took our magnifying glasses and looked at our neighbor’s fingers, and we looked at their pictures – I was so surprised to see that everyone was different.

As adults we understand no two people have the same fingerprints, it’s one of the many characteristics that makes us each unique. But now we have learned there is something else remarkable, something else about humans that is also unique to each individual – our microbiome.

The Microbiome

 

Did you know that within the digestive tract of each human being there is a little ecological community? Within each adult are three to four pounds of a highly organized micro-world of bacteria, yeasts and viruses that are so important and so vital to our health and well-being that if they were sterilized away we would probably die.  This micro-world is populated by three categories of creatures. The Essential or beneficial flora, the Opportunistic flora, and the Transitional flora. The Transitional flora come into our bodies every day riding on our food, in our beverages or on our hands and fingers, and usually they go right on through to exit without any trouble. The Essential/beneficial flora are the ones that live permanently within us.  We are born into this world as a blank slate and within the first 20 days of life we receive our first and most important colony of Essentials coming initially from the birth process and from breastfeeding. As we grow into adulthood this colony grows and changes depending on what happens to us, how we eat, stress, the places we live, go to school, work, and play. The third category, the Opportunistic flora – about 500 different species strong – just hang out waiting for an opportunity to stage a coup; they want to take over, but a healthy population of the Essentials keeps them under control…unless something happens.

What does a healthy microbiome do?

When we have a healthy microbiome we are naturally protected from all kinds of threats from the outside world. The healthy microbiome, like a burly offensive guard, can physically block invaders such as undigested food or toxins or even parasites from getting through to the rest of the body. The healthy microbiome, like a living pharmacy, can also make their own antibiotics, antifungals, antivirals and other specialized chemicals to aide the immune system. It can also neutralize toxins, chelate heavy metals and inactivate carcinogens. A healthy microbiome can even protect us from cancer.

What about an unhealthy microbiome?

If the Essentials grow weak or get damaged, the Opportunistic flora seizes the chance to take over. Candida, c. diff, salmonella and e. coli are all Opportunistic flora able to severely damage our bodies and even kill us when left uncontrolled. If we accidentally ingest something toxic the weak Essentials can’t do their job neutralizing it and we get poisoned. And then, if undigested food gets past and into the body we develop allergies and inflammation leading to serious disease. Without a healthy balanced and flourishing community of Essential flora the whole structure of our gut changes and we get sicker and sicker.

Gene Transfer and GMOs

Genes in our DNA are like computer programs for our cells, telling them what pattern to follow in order to replicate or make repairs.   In the 1950s scientists discovered that single-cell organisms like bacteria were able to share their genetic information (DNA) to other bacteria even when they weren’t related. This is called gene transfer.  Sharing genes with each other is how bacteria can quickly become resistant to anti-biotics. Scientists are now discovering that gene transfer can occur with organisms more complex than single-cell bacteria.

Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) are organisms that have artificially shared their genes via a laboratory process of Genetic Engineering. Read more about GMOs here. But since we know about gene transfer occurring in nature, we need to question the wisdom of Genetic Engineering. Tinkering with the genes of a corn plant doesn’t stop with the corn, it is altering a whole lot more in ways that biotech companies didn’t forsee.

A 2004 study showed that when humans ate genetically modified (GMO) foods the artificially created genes transferred into the Essential/beneficial bacteria of the gut and altered the character of the flora so that it couldn’t function normally.

GMOs and Superweeds

In a similar fashion we are now seeing gene transfer from genetically engineered crops like corn, soy, cotton and canola infecting the native plants surrounding the crop fields giving rise to superweeds that are highly resistant to chemical herbicides. Whether or not the biotech companies took these possibilities into consideration when they chose to release their creations into nature, we are now experiencing the consequences of their actions. The artificially engineered genes are now spreading among us and altering us on an intimate level as well as altering our environment.

How to Protect Your Microbiome

  • Avoiding GMO foods is one way to protect your microbiome from GMO gene transfer. You can learn more at the Institute for Responsible Technology’s site and get their shopping
    GMO verification

    look for this logo

    guide.

  • Eat plenty of fermented foods and beverages, especially if you have to take antibiotics. For some delicious fermented food recipes check here or here, or follow our Pinterest board on ferments.
  • Use filters for your water that remove chlorine.
  • Reduce your stress
  • Reduce your intake of sugar.

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Inspiration to Make a Difference

Tallahassee meeting welcome to Florida

Last week I took my kids to Tallahassee for the annual FPEA (Florida Parent Educators Association) Day at the Capitol.  We’ve been learning about America’s government and the Constitution, and I thought this would make a great field trip – to see our state government in action. Although FPEA had some events scheduled they encouraged everyone to make time to see Representatives and Senators from their local districts just to say “Hi” and maybe talk about some of the issues about which we’re concerned. So a week or so before the trip I sent some emails, made a few phone calls and managed to get a few appointments with some lawmakers I knew were working to make laws near and dear to my heart. Yep, the battle to label GMOs is coming to Florida!

Tallahassee meeting with Michelle Rehwinkel Vasilinda

meeting with Representative Michelle Rehwinkel Vasilinda about GMO labeling

Thanks to the super-nice Teri Cariota we were able to squeeze in a meeting with Representative Michelle Rehwinkel Vasilinda (D – Leon County) who is the sponsor of HB1, the House bill to label GMOs.  Representative Rehwinkel Vasilinda is a petite mother of two who has been in the Florida House for about six years. She has done her homework on genetic engineering and feels it is important that we all have open access to what goes into our food. Her bill calls for mandatory labeling of raw ingredients and processed foods that are made with genetically engineered items. The bill has been filed and has now gone to the Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee where it sits until it gets put on the committee agenda.  It must be heard in committee before anything else can happen, and so far it hasn’t made it onto the agenda. The committee Chairman is Matt Caldwell (R – Lehigh Acres).  He was the next person we went to talk to.

When we found Representative Caldwell’s office he was not there. We had 5 teenagers and 5 parents in our group and I think we surprised the office staff, but his assistant, Charlotte Gammie, took down our message along with my contact info. She was probably the least responsive person we came in contact with all day. I have not heard back from Representative Caldwell yet. I hope he got our message that we’d really like his committee to discuss HB1 sometime soon.

Tallahassee meeting the Rep Michelle and group

Five teens and five parents and one lawmaker concerned about GMOs

Next we had an appointment over on the Senate side of the Capitol.  We were hoping to see Senator Jeremy Ring (D – Broward County), the sponsor of the GMO legislation in the Senate, SB558. Unfortunately we did not see him either, in spite of our appointment the Senator was delayed after his last meeting. But we did talk to his aide who took us into the Senator’s office, sat us all down (all 10 of us), listened to what we had to say and took notes. According to what the aide told us, the Senate bill is in much the same situation as the House bill. It is filed and gone to the Senate Agriculture Committee waiting to be put on the agenda. It looks like the committee is a bit apprehensive about putting this bill up for discussion which is understandable since this is a hot topic all over the U.S.  But to me this is all the more reason we need to tackle the issue, not let it languish under red tape, because it’s not going away. Too many people care about this now, and we are reaching a tipping point in this country. Senator Ring’s aide encouraged us to drop by the committee chair’s office. So that’s where we went next.

The Senate Chair for the Agriculture Committee is Senator Bill Montford (D – Apalachicola). Once again we found the Senator absent but his office aides present. These aides were friendly and attentive. They found us an empty conference room and sat us all down around the conference table. We spoke to Marcia Mathis, Legislative Assistant, who had great people skills and seemed impressed with the fact that we had teenagers who were listening, interested and engaged with what was going on. At this point just about everyone in our group knew where we wanted the conversation to go and they all chimed in with why GMO labeling was important to them. Ms. Mathis gave us at least 20 minutes of her time that afternoon and I hope she left the meeting more informed about why GMO labeling is so controversial and how the residents of Florida will benefit from SB558.

We ended that day feeling like we’d made some kind of a difference in our home state. And now it’s your turn to keep this conversation moving.  We need everyone to contact the committee chairs for the House and the Senate and urge them to put the GMO labeling bills onto the committees’ agendas. I’ve given links to the websites where you can find their email addresses to the names of each person above. It only takes a minute to fill out the form and send your thoughts. We also need to contact Florida’s Commissioner of Agriculture, Mr. Adam Putnam, who also sits on Florida’s Cabinet. Commissioner Putnam needs to know how we feel, and he also needs to hear from small family farmers who stand to lose the most if GMO labeling fails.

Floridians have the right to know what’s in their food – and so does the rest of the United States. Florida can lead the way by passing HB1 and SB558.

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