The road to disease is paved with GM food

In every major developed country, health services are buckling under the strain of spiralling chronic disease in the population and the huge cost of our modern high-tech approach to dealing with it.

Hippocrates taught “Let thy food by thy medicine”. Food is, and always has been, the guardian of our health.

Yet, our “orthodox” physicians have scant training in nutrition beyond the symptoms of deficiencies for which the treatment is a pill of synthetic supplements. Doctors of the developed world have become errand-boys for the pharmaceutical industry and mechanics whose job is to apply high-tech patches to failing bodies.

Our ‘health’ practitioners are now little more than managers of disease. And the diseases modern doctors are trying to manage are degeneration caused by long-standing debasement of our food.

In the early part of the 20th century, degenerative diseases were rarely seen. Since then, the incidence of cardiovascular disease, hypertension, inflammatory bowel disease, Type II diabetes, asthma and most cancers have been rising decade by decade to epidemic proportions. Several careful studies have documented the excellent levels of health in peoples who have retained their native diets of fresh, seasonal, local produce prepared in their own traditional way (see NOTE below). A decline of health on exposure to modern foodstuffs has been universally observed. In the developed world, degenerative diseases are emerging in younger and younger sectors of the population.

The GM connection ...

Against this backdrop of chronic ill-health, increases in disease caused by deficiencies in GM food quality will never be revealed by the surveillance of the population which is currently the sole safety precaution specified by our regulators.

Any ill-effects of GM food quality will be magnified when super-imposed on top of our existing, weakened state of health.

How have we got into this mess?

First of all, whole-grains became unfashionable. We started eating grains from which most of nutritional value could, and had, been removed (white flour, white rice, fancy instant breakfast cereals etc.). Added to this was the use of chemicals and high-tech processing to enable us to eat very old food which had been transported very long distances.

Then, our food didn’t look or taste or feel very nice anymore and the micro-nutrients had somehow disappeared, so we started pouring in chemicals: synthetic micro-nutrient “replacements”, synthetic taste and colour and texture, a few others to disguise the taste of the processing, and a few to make us want to eat more.

Food and its preparation have changed beyond all recognition. Fresh, locally produced ingredients carefully chosen and combined in the kitchen have given way to instant meals constructed in a factory. The main ingredient is commonly water to which some thickeners and bulking agents have been added in case dining on a plate of water doesn’t appeal.

The GM connection ...

The major GM food crops, maize and soya, provide most of the raw materials for the burgeoning industry in processing-aids, additives and man-made sweeteners (such as high-fructose syrup) which have become ubiquitous and indispensable in pre-prepared packaged foods.

Felicity Lawrence summed up our whole situation nicely:
“Our industrialized diet is now known to be a major contributor to disease. We are being fed junk and it is making us sick.”
GM foods are designed to add to the junk.

Modern agriculture has had a devastating effect on the quality of our food. Crop varieties are now commonly subject to mutation by chemicals or radiation and then intensively selected for ‘useful’ characteristics: heavy cropping, fast growth, early ripening, disease resistance, pesticide resistance, ease of handling, uniformity, long shelf-life, response to chemical fertilizers, and a host of other non-traditional commercial benefits. But not for their nutritional value. Quality food has been sidelined in the race for productivity. Unfortunately, the higher the yield the greater the water content and the lower the protein content. Over the last 50 years, the levels of trace minerals such as copper, magnesium, calcium and iron have fallen significantly.

Phytonutrients, and their importance to health, are a more recent discovery and so their changes with time have not been studied. However, recent evidence provides the worrying indication that phytonutrient levels are 10-50% higher in organic compared to conventional produce.

Livestock production has suffered a similar fate. Animals which naturally graze or forage are now pumped full of growth promoters and artificial grain-based feed. The result is that the fat content in beef has increased from 9% to 28% and in chicken has increased by 1000%. The nature of the fat in all produce from grain-fed animals has changed from a healthy balance of polyunsaturated fat to an unhealthy predominance of saturated fat, and from a healthy ratio of omega-3:omega-6 fats to an unhealthy predominance of omega-6 fats.

Agriculture is, of course, subservient to the customer. The supermarket (and EU) definition of food “quality” stops short at appearance: size, shape, colour, and lack of outer blemishes. To achieve these standards, farmers find themselves limited to the very few varieties of crop which are suitable, and are forced to use chemical fertilizers and pesticides. Strains of fruit and vegetables known for their high nutrient value have been sacrificed to uniformity.

The GM connection ...

GM crops are designed to increase ALL the commercial benefits which are already damaging our health. They are not designed for any nutritional value. The next generation of GM crops planned may have individual trace nutrients added in. These biologically active substances, being out of their natural context, will be little better for us than our current futile attempts to‘add’ quality back into old, processed food, and could be much worse if metabolic side-effects in the genetically transformed plant produce harmful substances.

The purpose of all major GM food crops so far (soya, maize and oilseed rape) is to feed intensively reared livestock, and enable us to get that daily dose of fats to speed on that first heart-attack.

In view of the progressive debasement of our food from field to plate, why is nothing being done?
Our current concept of food is very simple: it is a “mixture” of broad chemical categories (protein, carbohydrates and fats, plus a few trace essentials) which our bodies subject to a mechanically efficient digestive process followed by a sieve-like absorption. The concept is badly out of date. As we learn more about digestibility, bio-availability and the interactions between individual foods, plus the extent to which individual nutritional needs differ, and the role of some 10,000 highly active phytonutrients, the dangers of our simplistic view of what constitutes ‘healthy’ food are inescapable.

It is becoming increasingly obvious that we haven’t even devised an adequate and practical definition of what our foods’ ‘nutritional value’ really is, far less devised any meaningful ways to measure it. Nothing can be done until we make this first step.

The GM connection ...

Genetic transformation may represent the ultimate threat to food safety. Distortions of genome stability and function caused by the insertion of artificial DNA will impact on the synthesis of ALL nutrients in the plant, not only to change their quantity but also to change their quality. These changes may be harmful to health, especially after long-term consumption. The introduction of GM foods makes it even more urgent that long-overdue tests for human and animal physiological reactions to food quality are developed.

The current regulatory ideology in the U's Food Standards Agency sees food nutritional safety in terms of an excess (not presence) of salt, sugar and fat added to make up for its poor quality, while GM is not a safety issue but one of consumer choice. The excuse for demanding less-bad quality food, instead of good quality food, is that people need cheap food.

Since the poorest in the population must spend a much greater proportion of their income on food, regulators are fixated on a mis-placed obligation to ensure that food prices be kept down, despite any other costs attached. Felicity Laurence has a two fold answer to their dilemma:
“First, it is precisely those on low incomes that the current ‘cheap food’ policy hits hardest: it is the low-paid who lose their jobs when global ‘just-in-time’ sourcing finds cheaper labour elsewhere; it the poorest who suffer the most from diet-related diseases; it is the least affluent who have least access to good shops; it is the recipients of gangmasters’ semi-slave wages who are most marginalized and go hungry; and it is the smaller farmers who are struggling most to earn a living. Secondly, if what we are really saying is that people on low incomes cannot afford good food, the answer is not that food needs to be cheaper, but that political action is necessary to make sure they can afford it.”

The GM connection ...

The “cheapness” of GM food is the usual trump-card played to ward off opposition. The real issue is that GM foods are designed to bolster everything which is wrong with our food and which is causing ill-health. The real issue is that the cost of ill-health will cripple us.

NOTE: Reports on health in primitive communities
Weston A. Price, Nutrition and Physical Degeneration, 1939
Sir Robert McCarrison, Studies in Deficiency Diseases, 1921
Nutrition and national health, Journal of the Royal Society of Arts, 1936
Viljhalmur Stefansson, The Fat of the Land, 1956
Food and food habits in Alaska and Northern Canada, Human Nutrition, Historic
and Scientific, 1958

  • Professor Henry Becker writing in Science in Society 23 Autumn 2004
  • Not on the Label, 2004, Felicity Lawrence, ISBN 0-141-0577-7
  • Fast Food Nation, Eric Schlosser, ISBN 0-06-093845-5
  • Soil Association Report, Organic farming, food quality and human health, a review of the evidence to 2001
  • Food Magazine, 40 February 1998, 42 July/September 1998, 66 July/September 2004
  • on grass-fed animal products and Dr. Weston Price
  • Metro 25.08.04