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FOR A TASTE OF CLEAN FOOD PART II Genetically modified foods or not?

Published:Thursday | June 18, 2015 | 6:00 AMPaul H. Williams
PHOTO BY PAUL WILLIAMS United States organic food expert, James A. Riddle of Organic Independents, one of the world’s leading anti-GMO advocates.

A GENETICALLY modified organism (GMO), also known as a transgenic organism, is any organism whose genetic material has been altered using genetic engineering techniques and synthetic chemicals. The process is considered unnatural.

The GMOs have been given genetic traits to provide protection from pests, tolerance to pesticides, or improve their quality and size. GMOs are the source of genetically modified foods (GMF), and are also widely used in scientific research and to produce goods other than food.

Examples of field crops that are genetically modified are potatoes, corn, sweet corn, soybean, canola, cotton, sugar beet, squash, Hawaiian papaya.

But in the United States and other parts of the world, there is a big campaign to ban and/or to stop the production of GMFs. It is strongly argued that GMOs are affecting the health of plants, animals, insects, and humans adversely. The campaign is a serious political one playing out in the US Congress, and many state counties have banned the production of GMFs, likewise many countries.

The arguments for and against banning GMFs are powerful, for many things are at stake, including people's lives and investments. But the cons, it seems, are more convincing than the pros. They are saying GMFs could be killing us and they are telling us why.

possible damage to the body

The debate/campaign has extended to the fields and mouths of Jamaica, and in April, United States organic food expert, James A. Riddle of Organic Independents, one of the world's leading anti-GMO advocates, was here giving lectures about the dangers of GMFs and the benefits of organic foods.

In a wide-ranging presentation, Riddle looked at the possible damage that GMFs may cause to the human body and the environment. Using example after example, Riddle explained what is happening in the United States and other parts of the world when GMOs are used in foods. Of particular interest is Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt).

Bt is a naturally occurring soil bacterium that is used to produce an insecticide in crops such as corn. But Bt crops are said to be causing problems. For instance, "Researchers at Indiana University have found that genetically engineered Bt corn harms aquatic insects and disrupts stream ecosystems."

Another area of great concern is the use of the weed killer called Roundup, whose main ingredient is glyphosate, one of the most widely used herbicides with applications in agriculture, forestry, industrial weed control, lawn, garden, and aquatic environments. Some plants have been genetically engineered to be resistant to glyphosate. Glyphosate-tolerant soybeans, corn, cotton, and canola are examples of such plants.

Riddle is saying Roundup is creating problems for man and the environment. He cited the following example: "Genetically modified soy from Iowa contains a high residue of glyphosate'; "Argentinian physicians have reported significant increases in birth defects, miscarriages, and child cancer in towns surrounded by GMO soy fields sprayed with glyphosate".

Also, "A 2012 study published in Current Microbiology shows that glyphosate is toxic to beneficial gut bacteria in poultry. Disease-causing bacteria such as salmonella and clostridium are resistant to glyphosate." And there were more thought-provoking, graphic results of empirical research on the use of glyphosate.

On Sunday, France banned the sale of Roundup from garden centres.

In a Gleaner online story published on Monday, it was reported that "the Agriculture Ministry says it will continue to support the use of the weed killer Roundup."