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Genetically Modified Foods and Pesticides. Are they as safe as we are told? Where do our Presidential candidates stand?

Organic Consumers Association Logo

Organic Consumers Association[1]

On March 23, 2015, the World Health Organization declared glyphosate to be linked to development of cancer in both animals and human. Glyphosate is the principal ingredient in Monsanto’s RoundUp®, present in high concentrations in the fruits and vegetables we most commonly eat. For a current listing of those foods, download the Environmental Working Group’s list from their website. There is even an app for your SmartPhone.

Each of us will need to make up our own mind about what to believe.

For my part, I became completely convinced about the benefit of avoiding glyphosate when I stopped drinking conventional coffee and started drinking only organic coffee. I had wondered for years why I had a little edema (swelling) in the ankles, despite eating a very healthy diet, and even switching to organic foods from the above-mentioned “Dirty Dozen” list – apples, peaches, nectarines, strawberries, grapes, celery, spinach, Bell peppers, cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, snap peas, potatoes. I had even moved to purchasing only organic greens, for good measure. And I still had swollen ankles. As soon as I switched to organic coffee, the ankles went down and stayed down. Only when I drink conventional coffee do they swell now. And my ankles have been a little swollen for years.

So… you don’t have to convince me that a pesticide which tears holes in the gut of the insects which eat it can do the same thing to my gut. You don’t have to convince me to stay away from those pesticides.

And that means staying away from all foods which either incorporate the pesticides, or which are sprayed with them. Wheat, corn, soy, cottonseed – all our major foods and oils, present in almost any manufactured food on the grocery shelves – they are all part of the problem.

And the solution is easy – don’t eat them.

Of course, that also means don’t eat the animals who consume those ingredients in their feed.

Don’t eat the eggs produced by the chickens who consume those ingredients.

It’s an interesting way of life – different food choices, different aisles in the supermarkets, a different way of thinking.

It would be much easier if those genetically modified ingredients were listed clearly on the product label. Perhaps our next President might be inclined to weigh in on the issue of GMO foods.

An Organization called We Add Up has posted on their website their best understanding of the current Presidential candidates’ positions on GMO crops. It seems pretty well balanced, factual reporting without a lot of emotionally charged adjectives in the body of the text. I recommend reading the article. 2016 Presidential Election Candidates: Where do they stand on GMOs?

Hillary Clinton –

According to Jeffrey Smith, in an article posted on his website:

Hillary Clinton told a town hall meeting in Fairfield, Iowa on Tuesday, December 22 [2014] that consumers have the right to know if they are eating GMOs and that more independent scientific evaluation of them is needed. She also referred to the previous week’s massive lobbying effort by GMO manufacturers and the Grocery Manufacturers Association, and the US Senate’s failure to vote on the labeling preemption law in 2015 by saying, “Very powerful agriculture forces were trying to pass a law, get it into the Omnibus, to prohibit states from passing laws requiring labeling.” When she acknowledged that the preemption didn’t get into the bill, the crowd erupted in applause.”

He continues:

In 2014 Clinton was the paid keynote speaker for the world’s largest GMO trade association, the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO)[9]. Her support for GMOs was evident throughout, and she even schooled the companies on doing better public relations. She famously expressed her distaste for the words “genetically modified” saying, “’Genetically modified’ sounds Frankenstein-ish. ‘Drought-resistant’ sounds like something you’d want.” She advised her GMO industry audience to “be more careful so you don’t raise that red flag immediately.”

Bernie Sanders – Representing Vermont, the first state in the nation to pass a “right to know” GMO labelling law, supports GMP labelling

Ben Carson – In an interview with RFD-TV (undated), he said:

I actually like for people to know what they're buying. I like for people to know what they're eating. And I think it's only fair for them to be able to see that, because people have different impressions about what they want to eat. Some people like to go to Whole Foods Market, and pay, you know, a lot of money, just so that they can make sure that, you know, it doesn't have this in it, or wasn't grown in this particular way, and that's their privilege. But they ought to have the right to do that. As far as GMOs are concerned, you know, there are a lot of GMOs. Like broccoli. Broccoli is a GMO. It's a hybrid between two different vegetables. So, you know, there's a whole spectrum of what is a GMO, and there's a lot of hype, quite frankly, and propaganda surrounding GMOs. The fact of the matter is, as science progresses, and you know, we learn how to, you know, inject a gene for instance that will make a plant very unpalatable for certain pests, we'll probably use that technology. That technically is going to be a GMO. And there's going to be a lot of things. So what we really have to do is be logical about it, and not be hysterical about it, and recognize that we do make progress. The foods that we eat today are actually different than a lot of the foods that people ate 100 years ago, because of the modifications that have occurred naturally, through farmers learning different ways to do things. So I am very respectful of people who say, "No. I don't want anything to do with this food, or that food, and that food." And I am very sympathetic with the argument that they should be able to determine which kind of food that they're eating.

Donald Trump – In October 2015, Quartz, a digital business news publication owned by Atlantic Media Co, reports:

A spokeswoman for the Trump campaign tells Quartz that Trump’s position on GMOs is “nothing we’re discussing today, but happy to consider … in the future,” with a policy paper due out in the next couple of months. “Mr. Trump loves the people of Iowa and looks forward to being back in Sioux City on Tuesday,” she says.

There was a Tweet posted – and rapidly retracted – “Too much Monsanto in the corn creates issues in the brain?” Interesting that it was so rapidly retracted.

The fact that a billionaire like Donald Trump backed off from a confrontation with Monsanto might give us all pause to consider the implications.

In the end, each of us will have to make up our own minds. I know that I feel better NOT eating any GMO foods. Maybe it’s the genetic modification, maybe it’s the pesticides. It is difficult to separate the two issues, since GMO foods were developed so as to be resistant to heavy doses of pesticide spraying.

We have the choice. There is power in the purse.

- Martha M Grout, MD, MD(H)