Last week I mentioned a new documentary about effects already being seen from people who eat genetically modified organisms, "GMOs."
The 85-minute video, "Genetic Roulette: The Gamble of Our Lives," was created by leading GMO author Jeffrey M. Smith and the Institute for Responsible Technology. It presents the clearest explanation I've seen about what GMOs are and why we in the U.S. - especially our children - are becoming unwitting experimental subjects in this untested and minimally controlled technology.
It also explains some of the negative health effects some doctors and researchers believe they are seeing as a result of people eating GMOs.
To begin with, GMOs are "transgenic." They are not created by, say, combining DNA from one kind of corn to another kind of corn. Instead, they are created by splicing genes from one species to the genes of a different species.
That's usually done to try to enhance a characteristic of a species. An example: The movie cites attempts to combine spider genes with goat genes, with the goal of producing goat milk containing spider web proteins to make bulletproof vests.
Problems arise because the new DNA, which never existed in nature, is now in every cell of the goats' bodies, including the goats' milk. That new DNA will be ingested by any person, animal or insect that consumes part of the goat or her milk. Because those genes never existed before, no one knows what mutations or effects might result.
Smith explains there are basically two types of modifications made to food crops.
One type is to make herbicide-resistant crops, such as plants not killed by Monsanto's RoundUp herbicide.
The second type of modification is pesticide-producing plants, in which genes of a plant are combined with genes of something else to produce a toxin in the plant that kills insects that otherwise would eat it.
Another example from the movie is the genetic modification of corn with Bt, or Bacillus thuringiensis. When Bt genes are added to corn genes, the toxin is produced when the corn is eaten. Some doctors believe that instead of rupturing the entire stomach, as it does in insects, Bt corn might cause tiny ruptures in human digestive tracts, resulting in "leaky gut syndrome."
In someone with leaky gut, says Dr. Andrew Weil, "Some bacteria and their toxins, incompletely digested proteins and fats, and waste not normally absorbed may 'leak' out of the intestines into the bloodstream. This triggers an autoimmune reaction, which can lead to gastrointestinal problems such as abdominal bloating, excessive gas and cramps, fatigue, food sensitivities, joint pain, skin rashes and autoimmunity."
In the movie, doctors said eating Bt corn might explain why people are increasingly developing sensitivities to foods not normally considered allergenic, such as parsley. People can develop sensitivity to whatever they eat frequently as the body reacts to undigested pieces in the bloodstream.
There's more. Doctors and parents have reported dramatic changes quickly in the behavior of autistic children when GMO foods are removed from their diets.
Farmers also report major health and behavior changes in livestock that are fed GMO corn. Cattle are reported to be healthier and less aggressive when GMO feed is eliminated, with results often noticeable within a few days. Also, cattle deaths have been reported as a result of GMO feed.
The movie details much more, but I'm sure you're getting the idea. So what can you do to protect yourself and your family?
1. Foods containing GMOs can be labeled so we can choose whether to eat them. An initiative to require GMO labeling in Washington will be on the November 2013 ballot, unless the Legislature passes it first. Read the text of I-522 and learn more at labelitwa.org. Then write to your lawmakers.
2. Eat locally grown foods and know your farmers personally. For instance, not all corn feed contains GMOs. If your eggs are laid by non-GMO chickens that eat organic feed, you should be safe.
To be classified "organic," livestock feed cannot contain GMO ingredients. When you buy from local farmers, ask them if GMOs are involved in the food they sell.
3. If you buy fresh produce in a grocery store, avoid any with a five-digit sticker number (PLU) starting with an "8." PLU numbers starting with 8 indicate GMO foods. Instead, choose numbers that start with "9," indicating certified organic produce. In general, organic produce may not include GMOs.
4. Avoid nonorganic processed foods that contain corn or soy byproducts.
"Genetic Roulette" was available for free viewing via the Internet last week, but the filmmakers now request a $2.99 donation for seven days of access. Go to geneticroulettemovie.com.
1 clove garlic, finely minced (Boxx Berry Farm, Ferndale)
1 egg yolk (Red Barn Lavender, Ferndale)
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar (BelleWood Acres, Lynden)
1/2 cup hazelnut oil (Holmquist Hazelnut Orchards, Lynden)
1 teaspoon boiling water
With a whisk in a small bowl, whip together the egg yolk, minced garlic and apple cider vinegar until the yolk begins to thicken (a minute or two).
While stirring constantly, slowly begin to add the oil, a few drops at a time. The mixture will gradually begin to emulsify, developing a creamy texture, and you can begin to add the oil a teaspoon or so at a time, continuing to stir constantly. (Julia Childs recommended 2 stirs per second, not too fast.) When half of the oil has been added, you can add a tablespoon at a time.
Once all of the oil is added, keep beating until the mayonnaise is the consistency you like. Add 1 teaspoon boiling water at the end, and mix well.
Makes a little more than 1/2 cup of mayonnaise.
You'll find Whatcom County foods at these stores and farms. Many outlets have seasonal hours. We recommend you call or check websites for current hours.
Acme Farms + Kitchen
Appel Farms Cheese Shoppe, 6605 Northwest Road, Ferndale; 360-384-4996; appel-farms.com
Artisan Wine Gallery, 2072 Granger Way, Lummi Island; 360-758-2959; artisanwineclub.com
Bellingham Farmers Market, Railroad at Chestnut; 360-647-2060; bellinghamfarmers.org
Boxx Berry Farm Store and u-pick, 6211 Northwest Road, Ferndale; 360-380-2699; boxxberryfarm.com
Cloud Mountain Farm Nursery, 6906 Goodwin Road, Everson; 360-966-5859; cloudmountainfarm.com
Community Food Cooperative, 1220 N. Forest St. and 315 Westerly Road, Bellingham; 360-734-8158; communityfood.coop
Everybody's Store, 5465 Potter Road, Deming; 360-592-2297; everybodys.com
Ferndale Public Market, Centennial Riverwalk, Ferndale; 360-410-7747; ferndalepublicmarket.org
Grace Harbor Farms, 2347 Birch Bay Lynden Road, Custer; 360-366-4151; graceharborfarms.com
Green Barn, 8858 Guide Meridian, Lynden; 360-354-1008
Hopewell Farm, 3072 Massey Road, Everson; 360-927-8433
Lynden Farmers Market, 514 Liberty St., Lynden, fiveloavesfarm.blogspot.com
Pleasant Valley Dairy, 6804 Kickerville Road, Ferndale; 360-366-5398; facebook.com/pages/Pleasant-Valley-Dairy/161872142667
Red Barn Lavender Farm (egg CSA), 3106 Thornton Road, Ferndale; 360-393-7057
Small's Gardens, 6451 Northwest Road, Ferndale; 360-384-4637
The Islander, 2106 S. Nugent Road, Lummi Island; 360-758-2190; islandergrocery.com
The Markets LLC, 3125 Old Fairhaven Parkway and 1030 Lakeway, Bellingham; 8135 Birch Bay Square St., Blaine; 360-714-9797; themarketsllc.com
Terra Organica, 1530 Cornwall Ave., Bellingham; 360-715-8020; terra-organica.com
Bellingham Country Gardens (u-pick vegetables), 2838 East Kelly Road, Bellingham; bellinghamcountrygardens.com
Reach Whatcom Locavore columnist Nancy Ging at 360-758-2529 or email@example.com. To follow her day- to-day locavore activities, go to Whatcom Locavore on Facebook or @whatcomlocavore on Twitter. For locavore menus, recipes and more resources, go to whatcomlocavore.com.