When a person eats food, one doesn’t really care about what is in the food that one eats. Specifically, in the western countries. But should one? Is our food good? Or is the food the very source of disease that is affecting the health of people in the developed world – and also probably in the developing world. Interestingly, living and eating in the US is probably a curse. A curse that one doesn’t even realize until one comes face to face with the dangers of what the food and the food supply brings forth.
It was just this discovery that hit the world of Robyn O’Brien one day at her breakfast table. And her life changed. Armed with that experience, she set out to change the lives of others. The story she has to tell is remarkable in its content and chilling in its warning.
Basically she covers many topics:
- Genetically Engineered Foods
- Collision – Active and Passive – between Corporates and the Government
- Lack of Options for the consumers
- Impact of Food Supply on Competitiveness of the American Companies
Let us try and go through some of these topics and also the Plastics and their impact on our lives.
Genetically Engineered Food, Monsanto, Farmers, and the Consumers
The food is being engineered and the companies – specifically Monsanto is infiltrating into the world’s food supply surreptitiously and blatantly at that – to the detriment of the farmers and consumers. Even the courts in US and Canada seem to have favored Monsanto’s expansionist agenda against the farmers. Sadly environmentalists and health advocates have been decrying the Monsanto/ADM and American food corporations’ nefarious activities in 3rd world countries where GM seeds are marketed heavily and even supported by the government. And when farmers there commit suicide when their GM crop fails (it is insect resistant but not drought resistant), people heap scorn on the NGOs that oppose US corporations, saying these environmentalists/traditionalists are anti-progress. Only when the devil comes home to roost in the American food chain, is there is a recognition of what the poor 3rd world farmer is up against.
Throughout 2004 and 2005, Monsanto filed lawsuits against many farmers in Canada and the U.S. on the grounds of patent infringement, specifically the farmers’ sale of seed containing Monsanto’s patented genes. In some cases, farmers claimed the seed was unknowingly sown by wind carrying the seeds from neighboring crops, a claim rejected in Monsanto Canada Inc. v. Schmeiser. These instances began in the mid to late 1990s, with one of the most significant cases being decided in Monsanto’s favor by the Canadian Supreme Court. By a 5-4 vote in late May 2004, that court ruled that “by cultivating a plant containing the patented gene and composed of the patented cells without license, the appellants (canola farmer Percy Schmeiser) deprived the respondents of the full enjoyment of the patent.” With this ruling, the Canadian courts followed the U.S. Supreme Court in its decision on patent issues involving plants and genes.
Not only the seeds, Monsanto even has claimed ownership of breeding techniques, which is going to hurt the farming community even further:
As of February 2005, Monsanto has patent claims on breeding techniques for pigs which would grant them ownership of any pigs born of such techniques and their related herds.
Described as Gestapo and Mafia by the farmers, Monsanto has filed 112 lawsuits against farmers for claims of seed patent violation. To know more about the issues with respect to the impact of Monsanto on the food supply one must watch the movie Food Inc.
The movie Food Inc, has shown how Monsanto impacts the farmers.
One will notice that its food these days is not coming from farms, but factories. And worse, its not about what is being given to the consumer, that this fight is about, but about what can be SAID about what the consumer is getting in the first place!
Anyone who’s seen the documentary Food Inc. knows that Monsanto comes across as a thug. Its bioengineered soybeans, designed to be unaffected by Monsanto weedkiller Roundup, command 93% of the U.S. crop, yet there’s Monsanto in the 2008 movie, heartlessly hauling farmers into court to jack up its market share even further.
There has been a growing movement of parents who were sick and tired of the Monsanto’s of the world trying to make profit from GM foods. Finally in 2008 Walmart gave in and started to sell rBGH-free food in their own ‘GreatValue’ brands. Starbucks did it in 2006. So suggestion #1: Buy your milk from Walmart (GreatValue brand).
The engineered soy problem is also a major concern because a lot of people switch to soy to avoid milk. If you buy soy products like Tofu (I do regularly because I am vegetarian), then you must only buy ones labeled ‘Organic’. Ditto for Soy-milk.
High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) and its Effects
Then there’s corn that Robyn talked about. This one is tough to fight since corn is pervasive in products that have nothing to do with Corn. for example go to your fridge and pick up the bread. You will see ‘High Fructose Corn Syrup’ (HFCS) in it. Ditto for most cereals, cookies and confectionery. If it comes in a wrapped cover or box and can be eaten, chances are good it has HFCS. So, please read labels on everything and avoid it if it has HFCS; buy bread that does not have HFCS in it (and preferable is stone ground).
What is HFCS – HFCS comprises any of a group of corn syrups that has undergone enzymatic processing to convert some of its glucose into fructose to produce a desired sweetness. This HFCS is usually added as a sweetner in the US for packaged foods. Over the years, sucrose has been replaced by HFCS as the main sweetner in the food industry. The reasons include:
- governmental production quotas of domestic sugar,
- subsidies of U.S. corn,
- import tariff on foreign sugar
Its almost as if the replacement was sponsored and “underwritten” by the US Government. In fact, since the mid 1990s, the United States federal government has subsidized corn growers by $40 billion.
Some unscrupulous food companies even use HFCS to “stretch Honey” as the Fructore/Glucose ratio of Honey and HFCS are very similar.
According to a survey done by Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, HFCS was started as an addition to animal feed. This was done to lower operational costs and increase sales because the animal would continue to eat the food beyond what they would normally. A trait that has followed to the humans as well. Obesity in US, is therefore, not an accident, but an epidemic sponsored and orchestrated by the Government and its agencies.
Over 50 million Americans have a condition of metabolic syndrome which is characterised by high blood pressure, abdominal fat, high blood triglyceride levels, high uric acid levels, insulin resistance and a state of chronic inflammation. This condition has manifested in recent years in the US. Many link the syndrome and the use of HFCS together.
Plastics and the harmful effects
In 2008, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s investigative reporting team exposed how the connivance – passive or active – between the Government Agencies, Researchers and the Chemical Companies – was successful in thwarting any ban of Bisphenol A (BPA), which is an endocrine disrupter. It is used in clear hard plastics of the bottles and the lining of the aluminium bottles. This should be regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Congress passed a law to screen chemicals which were supposed to be harmful (15000 chemicals). Butu even after more than a decade not one of those chemicals had been screened. Interestingly, the EPA had already spent $80 million on the Endocrine Disruptor program. In 2008, EPA planned to screen 73 of the chemicals – even that wouldn’t be done by 2010. [Please see this program video from PBS: Bill Moyers Expose]
Remember, about 8 billion pounds of BPA are used by manufacturers annually in the US. It is primarily used in baby and water bottles, sports equipment, medical and dental devices, dental fillings and sealants, eyeglass lenses, CDs and DVDs, and household electronics. BPA is a preferred color developer in carbonless copy paper and thermal paper, and is also used in the thermal point of sale receipt paper.
Those who say its not harmful is “proved” only by old and out-dated Government studies or studies which were heavily funded by the companies making them.
American Chemistry Council – the industry group for the Chemical gets funding from the companies and dishes out “studies” and floods the EPA with these financed studies. EPA on its side cannot make a decision to ban, because it has “studies” which are directing one way.
The health effects of BPA include:
Obesity: Studies in 2009 and several others later have shown that exposure to BPA is strongly linked to Obesity and associated diseases.
Neurological disorders including disruption dopaminergic system: Studies have shown that “BPA mimics estrogenic activity and impacts various dopaminergic processes to enhance mesolimbic dopamine activity resulting in hyperactivity, attention deficits, and a heightened sensitivity to drugs of abuse”. (Study from Emory University).
Thyroid effects: BPA has adverse effects on the thyroid hormone action.
Cancers – including link to Breast cancer, growth of Neuroblastoma cells, Prostrate cancer and suppresses DNA methylation – Interestingly, both Environmental Protection Agency or the International Agency for Research on Cancer have ever evaluated BPA for any linkage to carcinogenic effects. Tufts University Medical School study in 2010 showed a link to increase in cancer risk.
Reproductive system disorder : One of the most stunning effects shown in the mice was that because of exposure during the early stages of egg production in the ovaries of the mouse fetuses, the “next generation may suffer genetic defects in such biological processes as mitosis and DNA replication”
There are 7 types of plastics and none seem to be safe at all:
- Code 1: PET or PETE (polyethylene terephthalate). You’ll most commonly see this in the thin, clear plastic of bottled water (or bottled cooking oil, peanut butter, soda, etc.). It’s appears safe for single use, but these bottles should not be reused, refilled, or heated. This plastic can be recycled once into new secondary products, such as textiles, parking lot bumpers, or plastic lumber.
- Code 2: HDPE (high-density polyethylene). This is the thicker, milkier or opaque plastic found in milk and water jugs, juice bottles, detergent, shampoo, and motor oil containers, and toys. Unlike #1, these are safe to refill and reuse, even though they may not look as snazzy as #1 or #7. Recyclable once into products similar to those for # 1 plastics.
- Code 3: PVC (polyvinyl chloride). Found in bibs, mattress covers, squeeze bottles, cling wrap, some peanut butter jars, and a few other food and detergent containers. The manufacture of PVC releases dioxin into the environment, a potent carcinogen that accumulates in animals and in us. It may also contain phthalates, chemicals used, among other things, to soften plastics. Some phthalates are hormone disruptors that have been linked to possible reproductive problems and birth defects, and even to smaller penis size in boys. PVC workers have higher cancer rates. May be discarded at the recycling plant. AVOID #3!
- Code 4: LDPE (low-density polyethylene). Found in soft, flexible plastics such as those used in grocery story bags, plastic wrap, dry cleaning bags, shopping bags, and garbage bags. One of the safer plastics – but recycle, don’t throw away. Many of these bags could be better replaced with reusable bags, especially when shopping.
- Code 5: PP (polypropylene). Found in hard but flexible plastics, such as those used for ice cream and yogurt containers, drinking straws, syrup bottles, salad bar containers, and diapers. One of the safer plastics – but recycle, don’t throw away.
- Code 6: PS (polystyrene).Found in rigid plastics such as opaque plastic spoons and forks, and in Styrofoam, such as those found in coffee cups and meat trays. These plastics can leach styrene, a known neurotoxin with other negative health effects. AVOID #6.
- Code 7: Other (including polycarbonate, nylon, and acrylic). This is a grab bag symbol. It includes polycarbonate, an important source of the endocrine disruptor BPA, found in many baby bottles. Polycarbonate is also common in 5-gallon water bottles, sports bottles, clear plastic cutlery, and in the lining of food and formula cans.
Suggestion: When you buy packaged foods learn what kind of plastic it comes in which should be a signal to you whether or not to buy it. This goes for water bottles and plastics like zip-loc bags too. Do not keep hot food (and do not microwave food) in any plastic container. If you can, avoid putting your/kids lunches in plastic containers at all (prefer glass), or line them with paper.
If you are a non-vegetarian, you have even greater need to seek organic non-veg food (or reduce non-veg foods in diet) because there are high chances that you are consuming animal-cells that have accumulated injected hormones and antibiotics and similar stuff mixed into animal feed – they tends to accumulate more in animal-cells rather than leave their bodies via secretions like milk. And fish-eaters need to be watchful of fish grown in fisheries where mercury concentrations abound. So, if you think that eating fish will keep you healthy, then it might be important to know carefully look at the threat of mercury contamination. Restaurants tend to buy the cheapest fish, eggs and meat so if you are eating out, you are really ‘on your own’.
And, do not buy non-organic eggs.
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