Which Foods Are Best for the Brain?

Diet is inextricably linked to conditions such as heart disease, obesity, and diabetes. However, what we consume also seems to have significant implications for the brain: Unhealthy diets may increase risk for psychiatric and neurologic conditions, such as depression and dementia, whereas healthy diets may be protective.

Make for Malta in Depression, Stroke, and Dementia

A 2009 study published in Archives of General Psychiatry found that people who follow Mediterranean dietary patterns — that is, a diet high in fruits, vegetables, nuts, whole grains, fish, and unsaturated fat (common in olive and other plant oils) — are up to 30% less likely to develop depression than those who typically consume meatier, dairy-heavy fare.[1] The olive oil-inclined also show a lower risk for ischemic stroke[2,3] and are less likely to develop mild cognitive impairment and Alzheimer disease, particularly when they engage in higher levels of physical activity.[4,5] Continue reading

Surprisingly Healthy Foods

Although the best diets contain a large amount of vegetarian, raw foods, several commonly eaten foods have remarkably robust health benefits. Even if your busy life makes it hard to eat right, simply adding chocolate, coffee and orange juice to your menus can offer a distinct boost to your well-being.

Chocolaty Health

I’ve heard and laughed at the health claims for chocolate over the years. The chocolate you buy and eat has been processed and formulated with refined sugar. However, even though many of the potent antioxidant flavonoids in raw cacao (the original source of chocolate) are depleted, the processed chocolate you buy still shows clear health benefits.

The August 2011 British Medical Journal includes a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials and observational studies with a total of 114,009 participants that demonstrated a 37 percent reduction in cardiovascular disease and a 29 percent reduction in stroke for people who consumed the highest levels of chocolate compared to those who consumed the least.1 Continue reading

The Top 10 Feel-good Foods

The definitive list of healing foods that will leave you feeling great mentally and physically. Not only are these foods chock full of essential nutrients, but they also act like alternative cures for all sorts of conditions from heart disease to diabetes. So here goes — the top 10 list!

1. Blueberries are so full of antioxidants; they’re the ideal candidates for fighting off illness. They’ve got lots of vitamin C, vitamin K, and manganese, too — not to mention fiber! They’re great for your heart, your eyes and your brain and they may help control blood sugar.

2. Oysters are the best source around for zinc. Zinc is important for healthy hormone levels, cardiovascular health, and energy production.

3. Red wine is a great source of antioxidants — Continue reading

Improving Your Genetic Health

The genes you inherit from your parents strongly affect your health and longevity. But you can influence your genes in a healthy fashion using the proper herbs, nutrition and lifestyle choices. Research shows that the natural chemicals in particular foods and botanicals send signals to DNA, optimizing cellular function and keeping illness at bay. Even positive emotions can help DNA yield better health.

Redrawn Blueprints

We are all born with a certain genetic makeup, and scientists once believed that this blueprint was permanent and unchangeable — essentially that our DNA dictated our destiny. However, an exciting new field of genetic science is emerging which demonstrates that our gene expression can be influenced and altered for better or worse, based on internal and external triggers. These influences on our genes can change how we age, how our bodies react to lifestyle and environmental factors, how we resist illness and even how we gain weight.

Epigenetics is the study of how various factors affect our genes. Advances in this field are showing how environment, diet, lifestyle and even thoughts and emotions can have just as powerful an impact on gene function as biological lineage. Small changes in the expression of one master regulator gene, originating in a number of potential influences, Continue reading

Calcium Plus Protein Equals Healthy Weight Loss

A major concern of dieting individuals is getting adequate nutrients while cutting back on calorie intake. Researchers at McMaster University report that a healthy weight-loss eating plan should include protein- and calcium-rich foods.

Authors of the study observed a group of overweight or obese premenopausal women who were on diets consisting of high, medium or low intake of dairy products, and differing amounts of protein and carbohydrates.

The team reported that volunteers on high-dairy and high-protein diets lost about the same amount of weight as the other participants, but improved their markers of bone density and had less abdominal fat than their counterparts on different eating plans.

The scientists said Continue reading

Foods for Cancer Protection, Heart Health, Anti-Aging and Immunity

Eating high-quality fermented foods can provide extraordinary health benefits ranging from heart health to cancer protection, immunity and even anti-aging?

People have been consuming fermented foods for hundreds of years.  In the West, the most commonly known fermented foods include yogurt, sauerkraut, pickles and sourdough bread, and some of the lesser-known ones are tempeh and the fermented beverage kombucha tea.  Around the world, the list is much longer, including items such as balao-balao, magou, lutefisk, nham, kefir, natto, and kimchi, among many others.

Fermented foods contain the beneficial flora Lactobacillus acidophilus—or “good bacteria.”  These bacteria produce several byproducts, including lactic acid.  Lactic acid actually preserves food and boosts health by inhibiting other “bad” bacteria. Continue reading

Five Top Foods for Healthy, Youthful Skin

Everyone likes the look of healthy skin. A beautiful complexion is not only attractive, but it’s also a sign that the rest of your body is pretty healthy, too. When your skin is supple and free from blemishes, you look younger and feel younger, too. With that in mind, this health e-letter is going to offer some health advice about the five foods you should include in your weekly diet to help protect your skin from aging.

Number five on the list is oysters. Don’t like oysters? You might want to rethink your position. Oysters are very high in zinc. Zinc is a mineral that is needed for the production of new skin cells and for getting rid of old, dead skin. The two actions together help, to give your skin that healthy glow.

Food number four is grapefruit. Grapefruit — and other citrus fruits — are high in vitamin C. Continue reading

Remaining Healthy in a Toxic World

Life in a toxic world has grown complex: Our cosmetics, food, water and air are all filled with contaminants that inflame our immune systems and cause serious health issues. Limiting your exposure to these chemicals and cleansing them from your body is essential for better health.

Scientists have come up with various, complicated names for the distasteful pollutants that threaten our health. Xenobiotics are what they call one class of unnatural chemicals that enter the body through the skin, lungs and digestion and set off troublesome immune reactions. These substances include prescription medications, dioxins, PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls), insecticides, herbicides, fungicides and many other synthetic molecules Continue reading

Try these Natural Foods for a Better Night Sleep

Sleep restores us. And not getting enough of it can put us at greater risk of heart disease and cancer. Sleep even makes us smarter. Yet researchers are finding that more than 10 percent of the population is chronically sleep deprived. If you’re having trouble slipping into—and remaining in—Dreamland, don’t dart straight to prescription sleep drugs, which can be habit-forming, harmful if you live with certain conditions, and even downright bizarre! (Some people develop sleep-eating and sleep-driving habits when using prescription sleeping pills.) The good news is, science has found that many foods, drinks, herbs, and other natural sleep aids can help put you to sleep… naturally. In fact, just this summer, researchers made the connection between tart cherry juice and getting adequate shut-eye. Here are some natural food- and drink-based sleep aids. Continue reading

Treatments for Nuclear Contamination

It is too early to call everyone in North America to prepare for a radiation cloud streaming down radioactive particles from the accident in Japan. According to the media and government, America is not at risk due to radioactive fallout from the recent Japanese nuclear accidents in several reactors but that could change in a heartbeat as authorities race to combat the threat of multiple nuclear reactor meltdowns. Nuclear plant operators are working frantically to try to keep temperatures down in several reactors crippled by the earthquake and tsunami, wrecking at least two by dumping sea water into them in last-ditch efforts to avoid meltdowns.

Now, just hours after writing this above paragraph we get a report in the New York Times indicating that even best case scenarios include radioactive releases of steam from the crippled plants could go on for weeks, months or even years.  Continue reading

Myths Related to Spring Allergies

WASHINGTON – Not satisfied with the kind of information available pertaining to spring allergies and need something reliable? Well, here’s what you need to read. The American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI) and its allergist members, who are experts at diagnosing and treating allergies and asthma, have offered the following myth-busting advice: myth: over-the-counter (OTC, or nonprescription) oral antihistamines are just as effective as prescription medicines in controlling your stuffy nose. Act: TC antihistamines can help control some allergy symptoms but they have little effect on relieving a stuffy nose or the inflammation that often occurs with allergies. They also can make you drowsy. If your OTC medicine is not helping your stuffy nose or is causing side effects, your best bet is to see an allergist.

“We can prescribe more effective anti-inflammatory medications. But more importantly than that, also we can find the source of your suffering rather than just treating the symptoms,” said allergist Myron Zitt, of ACAAI.yth: TC decongestant nasal sprays are addictive act: TC decongestant nasal sprays are not technically addictive. However, if you overuse them, it may seem as though they are because you may need to use more and more to get relief from the congestion. To combat this, don’t use an OTC decongestant nasal spray more than three days in a row, and talk to your allergist about prescription nasal sprays containing steroids.yth:

Eating local honey will combat spring allergies.

Fact:

Local honey is made from the pollen of local flowers, so it might seem logical that eating it would increase your allergy tolerance. However, the pollens that cause spring allergies are produced by trees, grasses and weeds, not the showy flowers that bees buzz around. In fact, eating honey can be risky for some people, who could have an allergic reaction.

Myth:

Pollen allergy won’t lead to food allergy.

Fact:

Actually, about one third of people with pollen allergies also may react to certain foods. The reaction – called oral allergy syndrome or pollen-food allergy – is usually mild, including an itchy, tingling mouth, throat or lips. It has to do with similar proteins in the pollens.

Myth:

Allergy shots require too much time and are more expensive than taking medicine to relieve symptoms.

Fact:

Depending on how bothersome your allergies are, immunotherapy (allergy shots) may actually save you money and improve your quality of life. In fact, a recent study showed that immunotherapy reduced total health care costs in children with allergic rhinitis (hay fever) by one-third, and prescription costs by 16 percent.

Myth:

A blood test is the best test to diagnose allergies.

Fact:

Actually skin tests are more sensitive than blood tests. In skin testing, the skin on the inside of the arms or the back is pricked with a tiny bit of an allergen. If you’re allergic, the site will become red and swollen. Skin testing is very safe when performed by an allergist, even in infants and young children. But no single test alone provides the entire picture.

Foods That Fight Sickness

Nobody plans to get sick. On the contrary, your efforts to avoid it sometimes seem borderline OCD: Don’t sneeze into your hands, always cook your chicken to exactly 170 degrees, and hose down every germ-carrying preschooler in sight with soap and water. And yet, no matter how many times you gargle with salt before bedtime or coat yourself in antibacterial hand cleanser, now and again the inevitable rumble in your tummy or tickle in your throat hits. Hard. Suddenly, you’re down for the count and up to date on the daytime soaps. What are you doing wrong? Probably nothing. But you can do a few more things right. Certain foods and drinks have a natural immunity boost; to tap their benefits, just open up and say, “Ahh.”

Tea Off Against Colds
Not just any hot tea, though. Chamomile, according to researchers from London’s Imperial College, is the one that’ll help prevent sickness. In a recent study, they found people who drank five cups of the brew a day for 2 weeks had increased blood levels of plant-based compounds called polyphenols, some of which have been associated with increased antibacterial activity. Levels remained high for 2 weeks after subjects stopped drinking the tea, says lead researcher Elaine Holmes, Ph.D. (Bonus: chamomile tea also raised levels of glycine, a mild nerve relaxant and sedative.)

Knock ’em Dead
There’s a killer living in all of us. Known as a macrophage and produced deep in your bone marrow, it’s a white blood cell that roams the body, picking fights with bacteria, viruses, or any other intruders. But it only works if you help it. These killer cells are activated by beta-glucans, a component of fiber foods. The best source? Oats, says David Grotto, R.D., director of nutrition education at the Block Center for Integrative Cancer Care in Evanston, Illinois. So eat your oatmeal. The steel-cut oats, like McCann’s Irish Oatmeal, have double the amount found in the rolled, quick-cooking kind.

Dressing for Success
Eating a salad for lunch is smart. Drowning it in fat-free dressing isn’t. A recent study from Iowa State University found that without dietary fat, your body doesn’t absorb some of the disease-fighting nutrients in vegetables. Researchers fed seven people salad for 12 weeks and tested their blood after each meal. Those who topped their salads with fat-free dressing consistently failed to absorb carotenoids, antioxidants that have been linked to improved immunity. Fat is necessary for the carotenoids to reach the absorptive intestinal cells, says lead researcher Wendy White, Ph.D. Choose dressings with healthy fats from olive or nut oils, such as Many Seeds of Change (available at Whole Foods or in the crunchy section of your neighborhood market) and many Annie’s Naturals dressings. If you’re feeling adventuresome, try making your own. For an Italianate, try 2 or 3 parts extra virgin olive oil to 1 part balsamic vinegar; for something with an Asian influence, go 3 parts sesame oil to 1 part rice wine vinegar.

Fight Bugs this Whey
A shot of whiskey might be one way to feel better, but whey protein is a much more effective immune-boosting cocktail. Whey is rich in an amino acid called cysteine, which converts to glutathione in the body. Glutathione is a potent antioxidant that fortifies cells against bacterial or viral infection. For the highest concentration of protein, try something called powdered whey protein isolate, which is more pure—and more expensive—than concentrate. Fortify your morning smoothie with whey protein powder or try another source: yogurt. The clear liquid that forms on top of most cartons of yogurt is pure whey protein—so don’t drain it off, just stir it back into the yogurt.

Tomato Trumps Chicken
To beat back a cold, you slurp chicken noodle soup. To avoid getting sick in the first place, ladle out some tomato. In a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 10 subjects ate a tomato-rich diet for 3 weeks, followed by a tomato-free diet for 3 more weeks. While subjects were on the tomato diet, their infection-fighting white blood cells sustained 38 percent less damage from free radicals—atoms in the body that damage and destabilize cells—than when they ate no tomato products. Researchers speculate that the lycopene in tomatoes acts as an antioxidant, helping white blood cells resist the damaging effects of free radicals.

Give Ma Nature a Taste of Her Own Medicine
Butterbur may sound like something that makes you sneeze. But the herbal supplement actually helps you fight allergies. Scottish researchers found that patients with grass and pollen allergies who popped 50 mg of the plant extract twice daily had 13 percent better nasal airflow than those who took a placebo. Another study published in the British Medical Journal reported that butterbur treated seasonal allergies nearly as well as the prescription medication Zyrtec. It’s effective against all symptoms of allergic rhinitis, including sneezing, itching, and conjunctivitis, says Andreas Schapowal, M.D., Ph.D., the author of the study. Butterbur is believed to block leukotriene, a chemical that causes allergic reactions, while at the same time controlling eosinophils, the white blood cells that accumulate when allergic reactions take place, says Dr. Schapowal. What’s more, there’s no drowsy effect with butterbur. You can buy the supplement ($25 for 60 capsules) at most health food stores or at iherb.com.

Down a Sports Drink
Not only will guzzling Gatorade help your body recover from a tough workout, but it may also protect you from the latest strain of the flu. According to a study published in the International Journal of Sport Nutrition, when 10 triathletes drank more than 1 cup of sports drink every 15 minutes during intense exercise, they had significantly better immune response than they did when they drank a placebo.

Wine, then Dine
Drinking wine with your meal, in addition to being good for your heart, may help ward off food poisoning before it happens. Scientists at Oregon State University recently found that wine can put the kibosh on three common food pathogens: E. coli, listeria, and salmonella. In lab studies, the wine’s combination of ethanol, organic acids, and low pH appeared to scramble the bugs’ genetic material. All wines have some effect, say researchers, but reds are the most potent.

Feel the Burn
Several animal and laboratory studies have shown that capsaicin—the compound that gives chili peppers their fire—can help stop sickness before it starts. Mice in one study were given a daily dose of capsaicin and had nearly three times more antibody-producing cells after 3 weeks than those given no capsaicin. More antibodies mean fewer colds and infections. Results of other studies suggest that eating food containing hot components such as capsaicin may improve immune status, says Rina Yu, Ph.D., of the University of Ulsan in South Korea, the lead researcher. The point is, it can’t hurt. At the very least, a dash or two of hot sauce might help flush out some toxins.

Change Your Numbers Game
Losing a little extra baggage will not only reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes, but also will help shape up your immune system. Researchers at Tufts University asked a group of slightly overweight people to cut 100 to 200 calories from their daily food intake. The result, in addition to weight loss and a drop in cholesterol counts? Participants boosted their immune system response to disease-causing microorganisms. Researchers aren’t exactly sure why, but speculate that the benefit comes from a combination of effects. One thing is certain: Cutting 200 calories out of your daily diet is easy. At your next restaurant meal, ditch the baked potato with sour cream and order steamed vegetables instead.

A Primer on Genetically Modified Foods

A GMO (genetically modified organism) is the result of a laboratory process of taking genes from one species and inserting them into another in an attempt to obtain a desired trait or characteristic, hence they are also known as transgenic organisms. This process may be called either Genetic Engineering (GE) or Genetic Modification (GM); they are one and the same.

But haven�t growers been grafting trees, breeding animals, and hybridizing seeds for years?

Genetic engineering is completely different from traditional breeding and carries unique risks.

In traditional breeding it is possible to mate a pig with another pig to get a new variety, but is not possible to mate a pig with a potato or a mouse. Even when species that may seem to be closely related do succeed in breeding, the offspring are usually infertile�a horse, for example, can mate with a donkey, but the offspring (a mule) is sterile.

With genetic engineering, scientists can breach species barriers set up by nature. For example, they have spliced fish genes into tomatoes. The results are plants (or animals) with traits that would be virtually impossible to obtain with natural processes, such as crossbreeding or grafting.

What combinations have been tried?

It is now possible for plants to be engineered with genes taken from bacteria, viruses, insects, animals or even humans. Scientists have worked on some interesting combinations:

  • Spider genes were inserted into goat DNA, in hopes that the goat milk would contain spider web protein for use in bulletproof vests.
  • Cow genes turned pigskins into cowhides.
  • Jellyfish genes lit up pigs� noses in the dark.
  • Artic fish genes gave tomatoes and strawberries tolerance to frost.
  • Potatoes that glowed in the dark when they needed watering.
  • Human genes were inserted into corn to produce spermicide.

Current field trials include:

  • Corn engineered with human genes (Dow)
  • Sugarcane engineered with human genes (Hawaii Agriculture Research Center)
  • Corn engineered with jellyfish genes (Stanford University)
  • Tobacco engineered with lettuce genes (University of Hawaii)
  • Rice engineered with human genes (Applied Phytologics)
  • Corn engineered with hepatitis virus genes (Prodigene)

What is a gene?

Every plant and animal is made of cells, each of which has a center called a nucleus. Inside every nucleus there are strings of DNA, half of which is normally inherited from the mother and half from the father. Short sequences of DNA are called genes. These genes operate in complex networks that are finely regulated to enable the processes of living organisms to happen in the right place and at the right time.

How is genetic engineering done?

Because living organisms have natural barriers to protect themselves against the introduction of DNA from a different species, genetic engineers have to find ways to force the DNA from one organism into another. These methods include:

  • Using viruses or bacteria to “infect” animal or plant cells with the new DNA.
  • Coating DNA onto tiny metal pellets, and firing it with a special gun into the cells.
  • Injecting the new DNA into fertilized eggs with a very fine needle.
  • Using electric shocks to create holes in the membrane covering sperm, and then forcing the new DNA into the sperm through these holes.

Is genetic engineering precise?

The technology of genetic engineering is currently very crude. It is not possible to insert a new gene with any accuracy, and the transfer of new genes can disrupt the finely controlled network of DNA in an organism.

Current understanding of the way in which DNA works is extremely limited, and any change to the DNA of an organism at any point can have side effects that are impossible to predict or control. The new gene could, for example, alter chemical reactions within the cell or disturb cell functions. This could lead to instability, the creation of new toxins or allergens, and changes in nutritional value.

Does the biotech industry hold any promise?

Genetic modification of plants is not the only biotechnology. The study of DNA does hold promise for many potential applications, including medicine. However, the current technology of GM foods is based on obsolete information and theory, and is prone to dangerous side effects. Economic interests have pushed it onto the market too soon.

Moreover, molecular marker technologies – so called Marker Assisted Selection (MAS) used with conventional breeding shows much promise for developing improved crop varieties, without the potentially dangerous side effects of direct genetic modification.

GMOs in Foods:

What kinds of traits have been added to food crops?

Although there are attempts to increase nutritional benefits or productivity, the two main traits that have been added to date are herbicide tolerance and the ability of the plant to produce its own pesticide.  These results have no health benefit, only economic benefit.

Herbicide tolerance lets the farmer spray weed-killer directly on the crop without killing it.

Crops such as Bt cotton produce pesticides inside the plant.  This kills or deters insects, saving the farmer from having to spray pesticides.  The plants themselves are toxic, and not just to insects.  Farmers in India, who let their sheep graze on Bt cotton plants after the harvest, saw thousands of sheep die!

Why do genetically engineered foods have antibiotic resistant genes in them?

The techniques used to transfer genes have a very low success rate, so the genetic engineers attach “marker genes” that are resistant to antibiotics to help them to find out which cells have taken up the new DNA. These marker genes are resistant to antibiotics that are commonly used in human and veterinary medicine. Some scientists believe that eating GE food containing these marker genes could encourage gut bacteria to develop antibiotic resistance.

What are the problems created through genetic engineering of food and crops?

Genetic engineers continually encounter unintended side effects � GM plants create toxins, react to weather differently, contain too much or too little nutrients, become diseased or malfunction and die.  When foreign genes are inserted, dormant genes may be activated or the functioning of genes altered, creating new or unknown proteins, or increasing or decreasing the output of existing proteins inside the plant.  The effects of consuming these new combinations of proteins are unknown.

What foods are GM?

Currently commercialized GM crops in the U.S. include soy (89%), cotton (83%), canola (80%), corn (61%), Hawaiian papaya (more than 50%), zucchini and yellow squash (small amount), and tobacco (Quest� brand). There are currently plans to grow GM sugar beets in 2008.

What are other sources of GMOs?

Products derived from the above, including oils from all four, soy protein, soy lecithin, cornstarch, corn syrup and high fructose corn syrup among others. Also:

  • meat, eggs, and dairy products from animals that have eaten GM feed (and the majority of the GM corn and soy is used for feed);
  • dairy products from cows injected with rbGH (a GM hormone);
  • food additives, enzymes, flavorings, and processing agents, including the sweetener aspartame (NutraSweet�) and rennet used to make hard cheeses; and
  • honey and bee pollen that may have GM sources of pollen.

The Health Dangers:

What are the potential dangers of eating GM foods?

There are a number of dangers that broadly fall into the categories of potential toxins, allergens, carcinogens, new diseases, antibiotic resistant diseases, and nutritional problems.

Hasn�t research shown GM foods to be safe?

No. The only feeding study done with humans showed that GMOs survived inside the stomach of the people eating GMO food.  No follow-up studies were done.

Various feeding studies in animals have resulted in potentially pre-cancerous cell growth, damaged immune systems, smaller brains, livers, and testicles, partial atrophy or increased density of the liver, odd shaped cell nuclei and other unexplained anomalies, false pregnancies and higher death rates.

But aren�t the plants chemically the same, whether or not they are GM?

Most tests can�t determine the differences at the level of the DNA. And, even if they appear to be the same, eyewitness reports from all over North American describe how several types of animals, including cows, pigs, geese, elk, deer, squirrels, and rats, when given a choice, avoid eating GM foods.

Haven�t people been eating GM foods without any ill effect?

The biotech industry says that millions have been eating GM foods without ill effect. This is misleading. No one monitors human health impacts of GM foods. If the foods were creating health problems in the US population, it might take years or decades before we identified the cause.

What indications are there that GM foods are causing problems?

Soon after GM soy was introduced to the UK, soy allergies skyrocketed by 50 percent.

In March 2001, the Center for Disease Control reported that food is responsible for twice the number of illnesses in the U.S. compared to estimates just seven years earlier. This increase roughly corresponds to the period when Americans have been eating GM food.

Without follow-up tests, which neither the industry or government are doing, we can�t be absolutely sure if genetic engineering was the cause.

What about GM hormones in milk?

Milk from rBGH-treated cows contains an increased amount of the hormone IGF-1, which is one of the highest risk factors associated with breast and prostate cancer, but no one is tracking this in relation to cancer rates.

Why do genetically engineered foods have antibiotic resistant genes in them?

A. The techniques used to transfer genes have a very low success rate, so the genetic engineers attach “marker genes” that are resistant to antibiotics to help them to find out which cells have taken up the new DNA. That way scientist can then douse the experimental GMO in antibiotics and if it lives, they have successful altered the genes. The marker genes are resistant to antibiotics that are commonly used in human and veterinary medicine. Some scientists believe that eating GE food containing these marker genes could encourage gut bacteria to develop antibiotic resistance.

But is there any documented instance of adverse effects of GMOs on people?

One epidemic was rare, serious, and fast acting, and therefore more easily discovered. Called EMS, it was traced to a GM brand of the food supplement L-tryptophan. In the 1980’s, the contaminated brand killed about 100 Americans and caused sickness or disability in about 5,000-10,000 others.

Why are children particularly susceptible to the effects of GM foods?

Children face the greatest risk from the potential dangers of GM foods for the same reasons that they also face the greatest risk from other hazards like pesticides and radiation, these include:

  • Young, fast-developing bodies are influenced most.
  • Children are more susceptible to allergies.
  • Children are more susceptible to problems with milk.
  • Children are more susceptible to nutritional problems.
  • Children are in danger from antibiotic resistant diseases.

How dangerous, or potentially dangerous, are GM foods relative to other food dangers, e.g., pesticides, irradiation, additives, preservatives?

Since so little research has been done on the safety of GM foods, it is not possible to rank its risks. Unlike the others, GM crops persist in the environment, and may continue to pose risks to health for centuries.

In addition, transfer of transgenes to gut bacteria may present long-term chronic exposure, since the foreign protein may continued to be produced inside of us after we no longer consume the GM food.

Dangers to the environment and traditional agriculture:

What is the effect of growing GM crops on the environment?

Studies have shown that pesticide-producing crops contaminate nearby streams, possibly affecting aquatic life. They may harm beneficial insects too.

As weeds adapt to herbicides, they develop resistance and what are recalled �super weeds� can evolve. When that happens, herbicide use increases and the benefits of herbicide resistant crops are diminished, if not lost.

Can the growing of GM crops effect nearby crops?

Pollen from GM crops can contaminate nearby crops of the same type, except for soy, which does not cross-pollinate.  In fact, virtually all heritage varieties of corn in Mexico (the origin of all corn) have been found to have some contamination. Canola and cotton also cross-pollinate.

Why is there an effort to create GM-free agricultural zones?

Using identity preservation (IP), farmers keep crop varieties separate from others to meet purity requirements of their buyers. Contamination is a key challenge to IP growers. Unwanted varieties may cross-pollinate or get mixed up in the seed, harvest equipment, or during storage and transport.

Some farm regions create entire zones that exclude unwanted varieties, where all the farms, and if possible all collection and distribution points, only handle approved grain.

Have any local efforts in the US been successful?

There are local efforts throughout the U.S. that are raising public awareness, changing laws, and creating commitments to non-GM ingredients. Most notably, voters in Mendocino and Marin Counties in California passed ballot initiative to ban GM crops.

Officials in Trinity County and Arcada California have passed ordinances banning the outdoor cultivation of GM crops as well. But since then, a California law was passed prohibiting this type of local initiatives.

In March 2008, voters at the Montville, Maine, annual town meeting overwhelmingly passed a binding ordinance banning the cultivation of  GM crops in their community.

Is it possible that organically grown crops can be infected by GM genes?

Yes. Organic standards do not allow the use of GM seeds and therefore steps are taken to try to prevent contamination. Tests are not required, although some vigilant organic companies require them. According to the organic standards, contamination by cross-pollination is not disallowed, but some companies reject contaminated product above some small amount such as 0.1%.

Organic canola farmers in Canada sued biotech companies, since cross-pollination has made it impossible for them to grow organic, non-GM canola.

Is the Natural Foods Industry doing something to insure the purity of its products?

Right now there are efforts underway for an industry wide clean up of foods labeled organic and non-GMO. A handful of noble companies took it upon themselves to ensure that consumers could rest assured that their organic and non-GMO foods are truly free of modified genes. They established The Non-GMO Project, which has created an industry-wide consensus-based set of standards and a third-party verification process with testing for GMO content.

Companies began to enroll their products in the spring of 2008 and the first �non-GMO� seals for companies who fully comply with the protocols will be issued in 2009.

Government Regulation:

Q. Hasn�t the FDA said that GM foods are safe?

The biotech industry claims that the FDA has thoroughly evaluated GM foods and found them safe. This is untrue. The FDA does not require safety studies. Instead, if the makers of the GM foods claim that they are safe, the agency has no further questions.

Q. Didn�t the scientists at the FDA study GM foods themselves?

No.  The FDA relies solely on information supplied by the biotech companies.

Q. What kind of information did the companies provide?

Calgene, the makers of the first GM crop, the FlavrSavr tomato, was the only company to submit detailed raw data from animal feeding studies to the FDA.  The rest provide only summaries and conclusions. Industry research can be rigged; data often is omitted or distorted.

In the FlavrSavr tests, lab rats refused to eat the tomatoes and had to be force-fed. Several developed stomach lesions, and seven of forty died within two weeks. Still, the tomato was approved, but has since been taken off the market.

Q. Based on the information that was supplied, did the FDA scientist have concerns?

Agency scientists did warn that GM foods might create toxins, allergies, nutritional problems, and new diseases that might be difficult to identify. Internal FDA memos reveal that the scientists urged their superiors to require long-term safety testing to catch these hard-to-detect side effects.

Q. What did the FDA do about these concerns?

Nothing was done that would protect consumers.  In fact, in the case of genetically modified bovine growth hormone, some FDA scientists who expressed concerns were harassed, stripped of responsibilities, or fired. The remaining whistleblowers had to write an anonymous letter to Congress complaining of fraud and conflict of interest at the agency

Q. How could the government approve dangerous foods?

A close examination reveals that industry manipulation and political collusion � not sound science � was the driving force.

The FDA official in charge ignored all warnings of the FDA staff scientists. The official, a former outside attorney for Monsanto, was a political appointee specifically to a new FDA post on GM policy, and left shortly after to become vice president at Monsanto.

Q. Why aren�t foods with GMOs at least labeled here?

The same political influence and money that got them past the FDA has prevented any labeling laws from being passed.  However, the Democratic Presidential candidate has pledged to support labeling laws if elected.

Q. So do the biotech companies always get everything they want?

No. The biotech companies have fallen far short of their goals due to consumer resistance. The GM potatoes and tomatoes were taken off the market, and other GM crops, although approved, were never commercialized.

Concerned consumers in Europe were able to get major companies to commit to eliminate GMOs within one week.  This was done with only a small percentage of the overall population.  Businesses do not want to lose even a portion of their customer base.  Everyone can vote with his or her pocketbook!

In 1998 the industry tried to get the USDA to let GM products pass as organic. During the public comment period, the Department received over 275,000 irate letters of protest from citizens, a public response unprecedented in the USDA’s history. Thanks to this public protest, GM products cannot be labeled organic in the USA.

Around the World

Q. What about in neighboring countries?

In Canada, government scientists also complained that they were being pressured to approve the GM hormone, which is injected into cows to increase milk supply. They were concerned about human health impacts. They testified that the drugs maker, Monsanto, offered them a bribe of $1-2 million to approve it. They also reported that documents were stolen from a locked file cabinet in a government office.

Mexico has resisted GMOs, but contamination has still occurred.

Other stories of pressure, bribes, and threatened whistleblowers are reported through the history of GM foods and their approval, research, and promotion around the world.

Q. What is happening with GM foods in the rest of the world?

A. All over the world, regions and even nations are demanding an end to GM crop cultivation. Twenty-two countries in Europe have regions wanting to be GM-free. States in Australia, regions in New Zealand and Brazil, the countries of Venezuela, Zambia, Sudan, Angola, and others, all want to be GM-free. Thus, world markets are shrinking.

In 2007 over three million Italians signed a petition, declaring their opposition to GM crops in their country.  France, Hungary, Italy, Greece, Austria, Poland and Romania have all banned Monsanto’s Mon 810 GM corn because of its documented hazards to biodiversity and human health. In Europe over 175 regions and over 4,500 municipalities have declared themselves GM-free zones. In Spain alone this includes over 50 municipalities and regions like Asturias, the Canary Islands and the Basque country.

Europe has greater rejection of GMOs due to a more balanced reporting by their press on the health and environmental dangers. In Europe, at least 174 regions, more than 4,500 councils and local governments have declared themselves GM free.

Q. Have any GM foods been banned?

The rules of the World Trade Organization (which the US and other 150 countries are members of) explicitly prohibit countries from banning GM products. Therefore, countries that ban them do so at great risk. If this weren’t the case, no doubt many countries would already have done so.

Some countries have banned GM crops entirely or not approved certain GM crops that are approved elsewhere.

In the US, GM wheat was not approved when wheat farmers banned together because they were concerned that contamination would seriously hurt exports.  So the reason was economic, not safety.