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Monday, September 26, 2011

Genetically modified food crops are safe??!?

The announcement has been made. The pillars of medicine have decreed it ya gotta believe it!

These two rates are littermates, both 19 days old, the larger one fed standard rat chow, the smaller one also fed genetically modified soy. H'mm - GM foods are safe?

We now have an epidemic of chronic non-communicable diseases in the world. This includes diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular disease among others. As a medical doctor with a keen interest in nutrition it strikes me as quite a coincidence that this is occurring and escalating rapidly just a few decades after we began introducing, and widely distributing genetically modified foods into the diet of the world's people.

Years ago when I first learned about the genetic modification of food I wondered (a) if it would work and (b) why it was needed and I even wondered (c) whether it would be a risk to life and health on the planet. I understood Mendelian genetics and with the hybridization of plants by cross-pollination I felt that agricultural science probably already knew the best ways to increase crop productivity and increase plant resistance to pests.

Plants have been genetically modified in order to increase crop yields and decrease susceptibility to pests. By far the most common genetic modification to these plants is the addition of a gene that codes for a pesticide. Pesticides kill microbes and insects by inhibiting their living enzymes. Apparently our government believes that pesticides won't affect our enzymes or that we can wash off the pesticides from the plant foods that contain them. When it comes to genetic modification, this is one thing that cannot be washed off because the insecticides are already inside the cells of the plants.

     The majority of the soybean plants grown in North America contain genetic modifications. For corn it's the same thing - even now with sweet corn.These two are the most successful genetically modified crops. Among other noteworthy GMOs were the frost tolerant tomato plants which were not successful, because they didn't taste so great with a salmon gene spliced into them. Genetically modifying or splicing of genes is done through a DNA virus which can insert the desired gene into the target plant or organism.

Though there is no hard evidence it has anything to do with genetic modifications, along a similar line comes the issue of soy formula and the dramatic increase in type I diabetes among children who were fed soy based infant formula. The world medical community is well aware of this. I agree wholeheartedly with European Pediatricians who now strongly discourage the feeding of soy formula to infants. Because of the coincidental timing of the epidemic of chronic diseases and the mass introduction of GMO foods, I strongly encourage the agriculture and food industry researchers to explore this coincidence to find any link that may exist.

What can we do in the meantime? We can vote with our pocketbooks, and simply refuse to buy any foods which have been grown from genetically modified crops. Check out our website, Food 101, for more information on genetically modified foods. 

Jonathan B Murphy, MD

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Bugs resistant to Monsanto Bug-resistant Corn? This cannot be!

An article in the Wall Street Journal on Monday August 29th affirms that “Monsanto Corn Plant Losing Bug Resistance”. 

Corn genetically modified to be resistant to insects which feed on it is no longer resistant. The insects are apparently more clever than the scientists, and have evolved a way of still being able to eat their preferred food, despite our best efforts to thwart them. What I found most interesting in the whole series of articles I downloaded from the Illinois University Bulletin is the recommendation to go back to crop rotation – which farmers have been doing for millennia – to avoid creating a breeding ground for resistant insects. That way, the insects get some, but the population does not get out of control, and the people get some, and the farmers are not forced to spend excessive amounts of money on “insect-resistant” seeds which are, as it works out, not insect resistant at all. Everybody wins except the producer of the genetically modified seeds. 

And this fall farmers will have the opportunity to purchase a genetically modified sweet corn, according to an article I just downloaded from the Monstanto website. So I hope everyone had all the sweet corn they could eat this summer, because our protection from GM corn has just disappeared.

We do appear to be breeding insects that can survive in extremely harsh climates – climates which are actually intended to kill them. One can only hope that we human beings can evolve the same resistance to chemicals which our insect brothers are developing, since we are all being exposed to the same lethal mixtures in the food we are consuming. So far, with the prediction for a cancer diagnosis in 1 of every 2 men and 1 of every 3 women within the next decade, I’m afraid that the chemicals are winning.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Who is in charge of our health?

An advertisement in Bloomberg Businessweek (Sept 1 edition) starts out: “Ready to engage – with a proactive approach to care management, Aetna focuses on your body and mind, not just your condition.” The text goes on to state: “… what if waiting for something to go wrong, you had a partner who knew you were at risk for a serious health event before you did, informed you and your physician [emphasis is mine] of that fact, and helped you take the appropriate measures?

How in the world did we ever allow ourselves to get into the position of having our health “managed” by our sickness insurance company? Their job is to pay those whom they disparagingly call “providers”, who are in reality professionals who actually have the training to deal with health issues.

My insurance company is certainly not in charge of my health. Medicare will not cover chelation therapy which removes toxic metals from my system. Medicare will not cover nutritional supplements and herbs which can help my immune system to become stronger. Medicare will not even cover routine blood work as often as I need to have it done, when I am entering in to an intensive program of nutritional and supplement management for my developing diabetes – which they will also not cover. Why in the world would I trust an insurance company to care about my health?

Other so-called “health” insurance companies take their lead from Medicare, which seems to set the bar for pricing and for what the insurance companies consider to be “medically necessary” tests. When and where did an insurance company gain the expertise to determine what is medically necessary to promote health?

Unless the insurance companies have radically altered their business model in the past week, it has been clear that their job is to make money, to look out for their investors, and to make sure that Wall Street is happy. It has taken governmental intervention to ensure that someone does not become uninsurable because they have a “pre-existing condition” like diabetes.

I think that we must all bear a part of the responsibility.

Physicians for allowing themselves to be led by the dictates of the companies who pay their bills – the insurance companies.

Patients for allowing themselves to think that health care is something that only needs to happen when you get sick.

Insurance companies for caring more about the bottom line than about their stated goals – to provide insurance against catastrophic illness.

It is time to take charge of our own health. If we don’t care about ourselves, why should anyone else care? We cannot assume that the easy way is the best way. If I put my health under the charge of someone else – the government, the food industry, the pharmaceutical industry, the “health” insurance industry – then I must be content with the results.

One in two men and one is three women are expected to get a diagnosis of cancer within the next two years. Over 50% of our population is headed for diabetes, and all the downstream complications of diabetes – high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, amputation of limbs, blindness, cancer…

If I love myself enough to learn how to cook real food for my family, to avoid chemical contamination put into “food” by the food industry, to exercise on a regular basis, I can pretty much live a healthy life so that I can take good care of my family.

So why would I give up that control? Is it really so much easier to allow someone else to take charge of my life? Of course, if I take charge, then I bear the responsibility for the outcome… If someone else takes charge, I can always be the victim.

It is time to choose – victim or player? We all have that option. We just need to learn how to exercise that skill. Start with supper tonight…