The GMO Skinny: What You Need to Know about GMO: Genetically Modified Foods

8 04 2014

Labels on bags of snack foods indicate they are non-GMOYou’re already eating them and most people don’t know it. Some of the food on your table has been altered to produce toxins— toxins that are entering your body. It’s not on the label and it may not be safe.

GM or GMO foods (Genetically Modified Organisms) are now making their way to grocery shelves, in restaurants and into your home. The biggest concern for consumers should be the results of studies showing the adverse affects of GM foods on the digestive system, liver, kidneys, and reproductive organs of the animals tested. They have also been linked to premature aging. The studies  show the consumption of certain GM foods have caused allergic reactions to other normally non-allergenic foods that didn’t previously exist.

What are GMOs?

To put it in the simplest terms, GMOs are plants and animals that are genetically altered by inserting or splicing the genes of different species with the goal of a specific result. For example, combining the genes of a fish and a potato. Scientists are crossing species barriers set up by nature. They are creating hybrids that would be impossible to occur naturally. It’s also known as Genetic Engineering.

Why GMOs?

The official reasoning behind genetic modification is to produce crops that offer improved yields, enhanced nutritional value, tastes better, have a longer shelf life, and are resistance to drought, frost, or insect pests.

Unfortunately, to date, there is no proof of any increases in the quality of GM foods either in yields, taste or nutritional values over Non-GMO foods. Modified GMO crops that have increased primary pest tolerance, start to be attack more readily by secondary pests, requiring further engineering  and genetic modification. Herbicide tolerance in GMOs, allows and encourages the higher usage of chemical herbicides on food crops to kill weeds, increasing their overall toxicity. The most common used herbicide is Monsanto’s Round Up.

The genetic engineering of plants often requires the alteration of more than one single trait, when that trait fails to completely fulfill its intended purpose or when multiple results are desired. Stacked traits in one particular GM corn hybrid has eight GM traits to alter insect resistance and herbicide tolerance.

gmo-foods-smallGMOs are rapidly changing the natural balance of our ecosystem, causing a chain-reaction effect that cannot be reversed. The environmental effects of these changes may not be felt immediately but will take years to accurately measure and understand. Geneti modification cannot be undone. To better understand this, look at the serious long term affects the Japanese Beetle and West Nile virus are creating after being artificially introduced into other parts of the world other than their origin. They affect all elements of the environment (i.e. plants, animals, humans) directly, as well as the effects caused by the use of new chemicals introduced into the ecosystem in an attempt to combat them.

The genetic engineering of plants often requires the alteration of more than one single trait, if that trait fails to completely fulfill its intended purpose or when multiple results are desired. Stacked traits in one particular GM corn hybrid has eight GM traits to alter insect resistance and herbicide tolerance.

 “Most studies with GM foods indicate that they may cause hepatic, pancreatic, renal, and reproductive effects and may alter haematological [blood], biochemical, and immunologic parameters, the significance of which remains to be solved with chronic toxicity studies.” – Dona A, Arvanitoyannis IS. Health risks of genetically modified foods. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 2009; 49: 164–1751

“Most studies with GM foods indicate that they may cause hepatic, pancreatic, renal, and reproductive effects and may alter haematological [blood], biochemical, and immunologic parameters, the significance of which remains to be solved with chronic toxicity studies.” – See more at: http://earthopensource.org/index.php/3-health-hazards-of-gm-foods/3-1-myth-gm-foods-are-safe-to-eat#sthash.Du1Kv9fg.dpuf
“Most studies with GM foods indicate that they may cause hepatic, pancreatic, renal, and reproductive effects and may alter haematological [blood], biochemical, and immunologic parameters, the significance of which remains to be solved with chronic toxicity studies.”
– Dona A, Arvanitoyannis IS. Health risks of genetically modified foods. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 2009; 49: 164–1751 – See more at: http://earthopensource.org/index.php/3-health-hazards-of-gm-foods/3-1-myth-gm-foods-are-safe-to-eat#sthash.Du1Kv9fg.dpuf
“Most studies with GM foods indicate that they may cause hepatic, pancreatic, renal, and reproductive effects and may alter haematological [blood], biochemical, and immunologic parameters, the significance of which remains to be solved with chronic toxicity studies.”
– Dona A, Arvanitoyannis IS. Health risks of genetically modified foods. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 2009; 49: 164–1751 – See more at: http://earthopensource.org/index.php/3-health-hazards-of-gm-foods/3-1-myth-gm-foods-are-safe-to-eat#sthash.Du1Kv9fg.dpuf
“Most studies with GM foods indicate that they may cause hepatic, pancreatic, renal, and reproductive effects and may alter haematological [blood], biochemical, and immunologic parameters, the significance of which remains to be solved with chronic toxicity studies.”
– Dona A, Arvanitoyannis IS. Health risks of genetically modified foods. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 2009; 49: 164–1751 – See more at: http://earthopensource.org/index.php/3-health-hazards-of-gm-foods/3-1-myth-gm-foods-are-safe-to-eat#sthash.Du1Kv9fg.dpuf

GMO labeling is not regulated or required in the United States. Legislation to require labeling is being fought by the major corporations that use GM ingredients in their products. Currently, 60 countries around the world, including the European Union, have very strict laws regarding GMOs, if not completely banned altogether. You can see a list of countries and what is banned: here.

The genetic modification of animals foods is best explained by the wide usage of antibiotics, growth hormones and outright genetic engineering; in addition to GMO feed used in animal production.

Currently, the largest commercialized GM crops in the U.S. include: soy (94%), cotton (90%), canola (90%), sugar beets (95%), and corn (88%). This has resulted in GM ingredients invading 80% of our prepared foods.

gmo

The production and human consumption of GM foods is still in its infancy. Very few studies have been done to even begin measuring the effects it  has on people and the environment. The limited studies performed on animals show potentially dangerous and life-threatening consequences.

For More Information:

I highly recommend you download the full GMO Myths and Truths PDF file and read it carefully.

Here’s a detailed list of GMO Health Risks.

Here’s another link: Former Pro-GMO Scientist Speaks Out On The Real Dangers of Genetically Engineered Food.

You can find and download a list of vertified Non GMO Product here.

 





So Is It Organic Or Not? And Does It Really Matter?

6 04 2014

Is it really organic?

How can you tell if it’s organic?

What is organic, anyway?usda-guts-organic-standards

The word organic doesn’t mean the same thing to me as it did back in the 1970′s when my aunt started organic gardening in her backyard. She had a small garden, so using manure and compost to fertilize, constantly aerating the soil and hand-picking insects from the plants instead of using pesticides, was time consuming but manageable.

Imagine trying to do that on a large scale farm.

Organic refers, not to the quality of food produced, it refers to how it is produced. Organic fruits and vegetables are supposed to be grown in clean, uncontaminated soil using only clean, organic fertilizers (non-chemical) and without the use of any pesticides. They also cannot be treated with preservatives. Organic animal products can’t be raised using medications, antibiotics or growth hormones. Also, organic foods cannot be genetically modified (GM or GMO). Producing foods organically is also considered much better for the environment.

Sounds pretty healthy, doesn’t it?

The way the use of the word organic is used and regulated, leaves most of us confused and often misled.

The USDA uses four different categories in organic food labeling: 100% Organic; 95% Organic- labeled Certified Organic; 70-95% Organic– labeled, Made With Organic Ingredients; and 70% Organic– labeled, Contains Organic Ingredients. You should be suspicious of any products labeled or displayed in stores with any form of the word organic, that is not accompanied by the USDA seal.

We have to ask ourselves, if it’s not 100% organic, is it still worth the increased cost?

Common sense tells us that foods without pesticides; and animal products that were produced without antibiotics and hormones should be healthier for us, right?

Unfortunately, studies show that pesticide residue, though lower in organic products, still exist in them, To date, there is no proof that any of the pesticide residue found in organic or conventionally farmed foods affect our health. There is also no proof that antibiotics used on animal products interfere with the affects of human antibiotic effectiveness.

It is important to know that there are no claims by the USDA, or any evidence that supports the existence of any increased nutritional value or quality in organic foods. All studies indicate that they are comparatively the same.

I’m frustrated to know that there have been very few attempts to even study and compare the health of people eating only organic foods versus conventionally grown foods. The data just doesn’t exist.

It’s also important to note that people frequently become confused by the terms: organic, fresh, natural, sustainable and locally grown. Each word or phrase can mean a totally differently thing. Though the use of any of these descriptions are intended to suggest a healthier and more nutritious  product– that proof doesn’t exist.

So is it worth it?

All currently available research shows no measurable health benefits to consuming organic foods over conventionally grown foods. So is it really worth paying the average additional 40% to 120% increase in cost?

Without clear data supporting it, it really just becomes a personal preference. Many people can’t afford to spend the extra money on a chance that organic is better for you.

Some people claim that organic foods taste better than conventionally grown foods. Yet in my own personal research, I have not found any noticeable differences.

Organic produce isn’t always ‘as pretty‘ as conventionally grown produce and may contain natural imperfections that end up equaling waste. This might also be a deciding factor in the value, particularly when purchasing produce by the pound as opposed to individual item-pricing.

One last thing to consider is that organic foods are not supposed to be treated with any preservatives, leading them to spoil much quicker. This can be problematic for individuals that find it difficult to make frequent trips to the market.

Whether you  decide to buy organic or not, Americans as a whole, do not eat enough fruits and vegetables.

Whichever you buy, the Mayo Clinic website highly recommends washing all produce thoroughly because all of it can contain dirt and bacteria, not to mention possible contamination from handling, no matter how it was produced.

The decision is yours.





A Healthy Lifestyle: What You Eat Is Probably Killing You

4 04 2014

Bye-tombstoneThe food you eat on a daily basis is probably killing you. I’m not saying this simply for shock value, I’m saying it because it’s true. You may fool yourself into thinking you’re eating healthy because you only eat organic, are vegetarian, follow a low fat or high protein diet but the bottom line is… our food supply holds many dangers we need to know about.

I hope you’ll read this before you rush to judgement and click away to another page. I’m not a doctor or a scientist– I’m just a consumer that has the same struggles and concerns regarding health and living a good long life, just like you. What I hope to do in writing this, is to encourage you to look beyond the commonly accepted perceptions regarding the food you eat (and other products you are exposed to) and to stay healthy.

The three most important things I have to say are:

1) Educate yourself;

2) Don’t trust the packaging; and

3) Listen to your body.

 

It’s really that simple.

Educate Yourself

Last month another of those infamous reports came out damning high protein consumption and equating it to smoking a pack of cigarettes a day. (Seriously? Is that really a logical comparison?) A few days ago another report came out saying salt wasn’t as bad for you as previously stated.

So who can you trust? I think most people realize that the results of many of the studies released to the public are funded by companies that stand to gain financially if the results are in their favor. Universities and medical institutions are funded, at least in part, by corporations. So my advice is: Don’t just accept a single report you hear in the news– Do your own research!

Do you know what GMO stands for? You should. (I‘ll be discussing that in the near future.)

Hot Dogs cause Cancer. At least, that’s what we’ve been told. Have you stopped eating them? Do you know what it is about them that was supposedly linked to Cancer? Are you putting you and your family at risk eating them? Do the research.

Don’t Trust the Packaging

Do you pay more for poultry and eggs that are free range? Are you aware that ‘free range‘ is not a term that is closely or specifically regulated? Have you purchased eggs because the package has a picture of a happy chicken in a field running free on the carton? Misleading packaging is not a crime.

I’ll repeat this: Misleading packaging is not a crime.

The way I understand it, it is perfectly legal for companies to use misleading pictures or words like some uses of words like: organic, all-natural, fresh, etc. — In their company name, brand and description because there is no law against it. It only becomes a crime when it can be proved in court that it was misleading and caused documented damages. (Example– all spring water doesn’t come from springs and all cows don’t happily munch on grass under apple trees.) There are regulations regarding the use of certain wording in a product name, or list of ingredients— and this can indicate whether the product is certified, which is where it can really get confusing and misleading.

So are you over-paying for the organic celery over the plain celery,  or purchasing the low-salt or low-fat products because you think it’s healthier for you? Read the label. (I’ll go into more detail about organic foods in my next post.) You could be wasting your money. You should know and need to know that anytime manufacturers takes something out of a product— they have to put something else in just to make it taste good. What they put in– could be worse for you than what they’ve removed!

Listen to your body

Are you gaining weight? Are you dieting but can’t lose weight? Do you frequently feel sick after you eat? Do you take medications to allow you to eat certain foods? Are you always tired or always hungry?

Listen to your body.

It isn’t just about over consumption or specific food allergies. There could be a variety of factors that could be affecting you physically or mentally, based on: what you eat, the amount, or combination of foods you eat… and how your body reacts.

Listen to your body.

I love chocolate. Too much of it makes me sick, as does too many chocolate-covered strawberries or too much chocolate & peanut butter. It doesn’t mean I’m allergic to it— but too much causes a negative chemical reaction in my body so I have to know when enough is enough.

We are all different. As a result, foods are going to affect us all differently, as well. Sure, there are known factors that can affect most of us– but there are also different reactions for different people. This is why I believe the food pyramid and popular diets aren’t helpful to all people. You can use them as a guide but you have to modify any healthy eating regiment based on what your body is telling you.

It’s Up To You

Obviously, we have to eat to survive. I’m only trying to encourage you to make educated decisions when you purchase your foods and not rely on the marketing or trust that every food sold is good for you. Food is a business. Businesses have to make money. Sometimes, the bottom line outweighs the nutritional value of the foods that are sold. You have to make a conscience effort to not be fooled.

 

(In the near future I’ll be writing posts about organic foods, GMO, chemicals in processed foods, contamination of our food supply and more nutritional concerns that affect us all. Feel free to comment or contact me if their is a topic you’d like me to explore.)





The Blue Balloon

2 04 2014

IMG_6040Monday was the first nice day this year, where it was actually warm enough to sit out on the front porch and enjoy a cup of coffee without shivering between sips. I can’t recall, specifically, what I was daydreaming about— but my thoughts were suddenly interrupted when out of the corner of my eye, the sight of a light blue balloon drifting across the front yard came into view.

It was hovering for the most part, about a foot or two above the ground, dragging its fresh and clean, matching blue ribbon behind it. It would pause momentarily, the ribbon appearing to latch on to anything in its path— but then the balloon would tug at the ribbon and it would resume its journey.

When it reached the sidewalk that runs from the porch to the front gate, it suddenly lifted up, dancing its way through the branches of the lilacs that border the path, about ten feet in the air. By this point, I was thoroughly mesmerized and couldn’t help wondering where it was going and where it had been.

Did it escape from some unlucky child’s birthday party? A child, sheepishly letting go of the ribbon under the disapproving glare of their parents— Who, minutes before had told them not to let go?

Was it tied to a sign, alerting passersby of some impending open house or sale? Bored by the inactivity, did it tear itself free with the first convenient gust of wind that came to its rescue?

Had it drifted down, sorrowfully, from someone’s memorial balloon release? After climbing high in the sky, helping some poor mourning soul release some of their pent-up grief— it drifted far out of sight and had started its own descent in search of a final resting place?

IMG_6042Whatever had been its original, intended purpose, it had suddenly assumed a life of its own and become a part of mine.

As I followed it, I found myself getting very philosophical. My head filled with metaphors… all because of this silly blue balloon.

There are things happening all around us that often go unnoticed. Life is happening all around us. Sometimes it’s refreshing to let go of our all important tasks, open our eyes, and see things with a new, undetermined clarity.

Like this balloon, people drift in and out of our lives. Some stay for a while, becoming friends or co-workers, while other simply pass through hardly noticed. This is not to say that there is not always some impact, great or small.

Some of us find ourselves wandering, searching, exploring life– propelled by the winds of change, adapting to our surrounding, then moving on until we find the place we belong.

After a while, the balloon ended up being trapped between the front shrubs and our fences. The wind was picking up and the temperature was starting to drop. The balloon started to deflate and was forced to roll about, back and forth, trapped in the narrow path between the shrubs and fence. The ribbon continued to wrap around rocks and twigs, holding on as long as it could, until the wind would once again give the balloon the momentum to break free.

IMG_6048I went back to my tasks, for a time— but then later, went back out to check on the blue balloon. It had somehow freed itself from its spot and was all the way across the yard to the west. I’m not sure how it got there but it was now dirtied and shriveled, appearing to finally be at the end of its journey.

It got dark, I forgot about the blue balloon and life went on.

When the sun came up Tuesday morning, I thought to look for it again. I went to where I last saw it, looked all around, but it was gone. I had thought its life was over— I was wrong. It journeyed on.

I’ll let you fill in the metaphors here.

Happy travels.





My Technology Challenge: Storing Media

1 03 2014

pilecdsI love music. All kinds. The problem is I have so much of it!  If it’s not already loaded on my computer, I can’t usually find what I want, when I want to listen to it. Why isn’t it all loaded on iTunes, you may ask? Well, I did have 22,000 songs loaded (no, that’s not a typo) but I didn’t have enough space on my computer to load any more. In fact, for the past year I’ve been fighting to get by with about 50 GB of free space on my 500 GB hard drive. Needless to say, my computer was running slow and any time I downloaded something new, it usually required deleting something else.

I’d tried storing media on an external drive– years ago– but the communication between the two drives was just too slow. I’ve been wanting to do some video editing and the only way was to clear some space. I got a 2 TB My Passport external drive and have now begun the process of moving files and ripping all my music, pictures and video. After moving all my iTunes media from my computer to the drive, I got back nearly half of my hard drive’s storage and I immediately noticed a difference in my computer’s overall operating speed.

Now I find myself surrounded by CDs, in the middle of uploading six bankers boxes to my drive. Then finally, I’ll have immediate access to all my music in one place. (I’ll back it all up, of course.) That is— as long as iTunes doesn’t mysteriously start deleting songs again.

What’s that, you say? Have you ever gone to listen to an album you’ve loaded and found songs missing? This is a regular occurrence for me. I’d say probably 2/3rds of the albums I’ve ripped from CD are missing an average of two songs. This has even happened with mp3s I’ve purchased through Amazon.

For example, I went to listen to Michael Jackson’s Thriller album and all the song tracks were there– except one… Thriller. How is that even possible!?!

The only albums that appear to be safe are… digital albums purchased from iTunes. Coincidence?

It might not entirely be an issue with the iTunes app but the files are no where to be found on my computer. It could also be partially due to the cataloging of the Gracenotes Media Database and the constant updates that occur between the two. But that doesn’t explain how the files disappear from the computer.  I can listen to an album one week and all the tracks are there– the next time I go to listen… two or three songs are missing– and the disappearing songs aren’t consecutive in the playlist (album) making it more of a mystery.

Sometimes an album gets split into multiple locations, or playlists making it frustrating when you want to listen to a complete recording. The only way to do that, when this happens, is to manually create a new playlist with the song files. Sound complicated? It shouldn’t be this hard. Understandably, these issues occur, caused by human or computer database error. In the long run, this technology is still relatively new and will continue to improve over time.

digital-musicAs I add more CDs to my digital collection, I have noticed more frequent communication with the Gracenotes Database, hopefully, cleaning up the files. I still have a huge stack of discs that aren’t recognized in the database. This will required, should I decide to add them all, that I enter the titles of each album, song, artist for each individual song track. After that, iTunes gives you the option to share/send the information to the main database for better recognition. It’s a lot of work for the ability to access music but the future convenience of it will make it worthwhile.

End Note: Since I started this process, I’ve gone from just over 2,000 albums in my digital collection, to over 4,000– and so far, no more songs have been lost.

Yet.





Little Gifts of Love: Celebrating Relationships

14 02 2014

loveIt’s Valentine’s Day and millions of people will be rushing around today, purchasing cards, flowers and chocolate to celebrate a commercial holiday. Few people will actually stop and recognize what they should really be celebrating– the little everyday acts of love, mostly given without thought by the person who loves them.

Love is that fresh cup of coffee you wake up to in the morning, the umbrella waiting for you by the door and the freshly shoveled driveway when you come home to the hot meal waiting for you on the table. It’s working a boring, mundane job, day after day, that keeps a roof over your head and it’s picking up the slack when times get tight.  Too often we come to expect these things and forget the expression of love behind them.

No matter how you choose to celebrate today, take a moment to remember the things that are truly important.

In the Stephen Sondheim musical, Passion, the character Fosca describes her love as, “Loving you is not a choice, It’s who I am.

Expressions of love are all around us everyday.

We just need to remember to take the time to notice.





The Long Road Home

8 01 2014
Roxie as a puppy. 2003.

Roxie as a puppy. 2003.

When I saw her– I knew it was time.

I told her it was okay.

She looked at me and took her last breath

and she was gone.

I covered her with a blanket, up to her chin and I laid on the floor with her, waiting for Michael to come home to say his goodbyes. Cash sat beside me. Then laid down resting his head on Roxie’s paws. It was breaking my heart. His sister is gone and I’m not sure if he understands that. They’ve spent nearly every moment of their lives at each others sides, other than vet visits. What must he be thinking now?

Collins, our cat was back and forth, through the house meowing. Though I didn’t see him pay any particular attention to Roxie, it was clear he knew something was different.

The morning started out like any other. I woke up early, made coffee and was working on another blog post. Michael got up at the usual time, let the dogs out, gave Roxie her pills and fed them breakfast. Michael told me later, that when he got up and was getting dressed, he told Roxie how exceptionally pretty she looked this morning- sitting up, posed on the bed.

When Michael left for work, I opened and closed the gate for him. Soon, after I went inside, the babies wanted to go out again.

Our normal routine.

As I was putting on my shoes and coat, dogs underfoot, I noticed Roxie’s legs kind of buckle (and immediately thought she was having a stroke), I grabbed her– but she steadied herself and she seemed to quickly recover– dancing around again, wanting to go out… not to potty… but to eat snow.

We came in, I gave them a treat and they settled down for their first nap of the day. Because I was up and down between the first floor and the basement, they settled on the landing, between floors– so they would be close and not miss anything. Everything seemed pretty normal– until I went to see if they wanted to go out again and Cash came but Roxie didn’t get up.

In October, Roxie was diagnosed with diabetes insipidus causing non-stop drinking and urination. Luckily, I was able to be home with her, drive her to Aurora to be properly diagnosed and begin the process of finding the right dose of medication to counteract her chemical imbalance. Those actions gave us three more months of life… three more months of love… and three more months of utter joy.

We don’t have pets… they are our children. We love and care for them like human children. I’ve found as I get older, the deeper and more intense that love is. I think if you’ve ever raised and lost a furry child, then decided to have another– you love them even more. You truly appreciate each moment with them more. Those precious moments are little heavenly gifts.

Even when you think you’re prepared– when the time comes, the grief is still devastating.

On our way home from the Vet, Michael said he just wanted to eat something and take a nap. Both of our heads hurt– we were probably dehydrated from all the tears. So we got burgers and an extra fry for Cash.

I don’t think either one of us really slept. Drifted in and out maybe. It’s hard to escape the emptiness. I couldn’t get comfortable because I didn’t have Roxie pressed up against me. There was a hole in the bed. A hole only dwarfed by the one in my heart.

Roxie,

I’m not sure how I’m going to sleep tonight. Nap time and bed time were always your two favorite times of day.

Tonight there will be no endless face-licking… no digging in the blankets… no big, fuzzy, teddy bear butt in my face. No big sigh letting us know you’re finally ready to fall asleep.

Tonight there will just be silence… and big empty spot in the bed that I’ll try to fill with memories of all the warmth and love and companionship you’ve given us for almost eleven years.

You’ll always be our princess.

Goodnight Sweet Baby Girl.

Roxielipbest

Roxie. Spring 2013.








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