American Foods Banned In Other Countries

banned

A comprehensive and well-researched article from EatLocalGrown outlines some foods to avoid–if you live in the United States. These 10 foods are banned in other countries:

  • Genetically engineered papaya banned in the European Union
  • Ractopamine-tained meat banned in Europe, Russia, and China
  • Arsenic-laced chicken banned in Europe
  • Bread made with poisonous potassium bromide banned in Europe, China, and Canada
  • Fat imitation Olestra/Olean banned in the UK and Canada
  • Preservatives BHA and BHT banned in Europe and Japan
  • Milk made with rBGH banned in Europe, Australia, New Zealand, Israel, and Canada

This list offers 10 more reasons to buy organic, buy wild, buy local, read ingredients, and ignore package claims (and do your own research to take charge of your health!) Learn more about the Wellness and Equality health model here.

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Vote Yes on Prop 37: The California Right To Know Genetically Engineered Food Act

A few facts about GMOs:

  • A genetically modified organism (GMO) is an organism whose genetic material has been altered to include a new gene or set of genes.  An example is a transgenic organism, an organism that has received DNA from a different species (one example: cows that have been engineered to produce human breast milk.)  Transgenic animals have been used in medical experiments, but they were not approved for human consumption until recently.
  • Many countries around the world have already banned GMOs due to lack of testing and long term studies of human health.
  • Most studies of GMOs suggest that the ill effects are more pronounced in the second and third generations of GMO-consumers, meaning we simply haven’t had time to conduct thorough studies yet on humans.
  • Currently, American food manufacturers are not required to disclose to the public when they use GMOs — which means there is no way to know whether you are eating genetically-modified plants or animals.

If you’re not familiar with genetically modified food, take a look at this corn or this salmon, and read this.

GMOs are a relatively new part of the human diet so the evidence against them is still mounting. Despite evidence that GMOs could be harmful to humans, the Food and Drug Administration and the FDA went ahead and approved GMOs — without labeling — for human consumption. Do you think the lobbyists at Monsanto (producer of most of the world’s genetically modified crops) had anything to do with it?

Until now, food giants like Monsanto have managed to crush all initiatives to label GMOs so that they never made it to the ballot.  But Americans finally have a chance to vote for labeling.

Want to take action without spending a penny?  

On November 6, 2012, if you are a California resident, you have the power to change the course of the obesity epidemic.  Support the California Right To Know Genetically Engineered Food Act.  Vote for the right to know what you eat. Vote Yes on Prop 37.  

Wellness and Equality supports Prop 37.  You can watch this short video to learn about some of the implications that reach far beyond your plate:

Here is a video from the group behind the ballot initiative:

Does Your Body Know You’re Eating Genetically-Modified Foods?

Yes, according to a new study that could have enormous impact on studies of cross-species communication, predator-prey relationships, and co-evolution.

First, let’s take a trip down memory lane for a brief refresher in high school biology.  Since 1958, molecular biologists have relied upon the Central Dogma to outline the rules of transfer of biological sequential information.  As you may remember from high school biology, DNA makes RNA makes protein.   In special cases, RNA makes DNA, RNA makes RNA, and DNA makes protein.  But protein doesn’t make protein, protein doesn’t make RNA, and protein doesn’t make DNA, or so says the Central Dogma.

Parsing complex studies and understanding the pathways of human DNA is an incredibly complex task.  Even if you are able to do so, it’s extremely difficult to write about such science at a level that laypeople (like myself) can understand.  Today in The Atlantic, Ari Levaux manages to do exactly that in his story, “The Very Real Danger of Genetically Modified Food.”  As a lover of analogies, I admire the way Levaux compares our current understanding of genetics to ordering pizza:

The Central Dogma resembles the process of ordering a pizza. The DNA knows what kind of pizza it wants, and orders it. The RNA is the order slip, which communicates the specifics of the pizza to the cook. The finished and delivered pizza is analogous to the protein that DNA codes for.

We’ve known for years that the Central Dogma, though basically correct, is overly simplistic. For example: Pieces of microRNA that don’t code for anything, pizza or otherwise, can travel among cells and influence their activities in many other ways. So while the DNA is ordering pizza, it’s also bombarding the pizzeria with unrelated RNA messages that can cancel a cheese delivery, pay the dishwasher nine million dollars, or email the secret sauce recipe to WikiLeaks.

One of the primary arguments in favor of the safety of genetically-modified food — the argument that “gene transfer” moves in one direction — has relied on the Central Dogma.  In simple terms, the FDA has trusted the basic idea that when you eat a piece of fruit, that fruit’s genetic material is not able to effect your genetic material.

But the new findings turn this argument on its head.  Lead by  Chen-Yu Zhang of Nanjing University, the Chinese researchers identified microRNA belonging to genetically-engineered plants (such as rice and cabbage) in human blood and tissue.  MicroRNA are fragments of RNA (the messenger between DNA and proteins) that typically silence or repress certain proteins by binding to and destroying the RNA that would have created that protein.  Indeed, the plant microRNA was found to inhibit a protein in human blood, “suggesting that microRNAs can influence gene expression across kingdoms,” writes Cristina Luiggi in her article, “Plant RNAs Found In Mammals,” published by The Scientist: Magazine of the Life Sciences.

Take a moment to note that ‘kingdom’ is the broadest of the seven major divisions of taxonomy.  We’re not talking about species or genus or family or order or class or phylum; we’re talking about genetic transfer across kingdoms — from vegetable to animal.  This is big news in the science world.

If the results of this study are verified, gene transfer is more complicated than humans ever imagined.  When you eat a piece of fruit, the genetic matter of that fruit (microRNA) is, in fact, communicating with — and influencing — your body’s genetic make-up (via protein inhibition).

Are genetically-modified foods unsafe?  The truth is, we don’t know.  We won’t know for several generations, since animal studies suggest that the full effects of consuming genetically-modified foods are not realized until the third generation of consumers.

But while we wait for science to catch up, age-old wisdom tells us, “You are what you eat.”  Today, Americans eat the same food that has been designed to make our cows gain as much weight as quickly as possibly: genetically-modified corn and soy.  And it has: cows that eat GMO corn and soy feed gain more weight faster than cows ever have in agricultural history.  We humans eat this same GMO corn and soy, and some of us even eat the cows raised on a diet of GMO corn and soy.  Doesn’t it stand to reason that this would make us fat, too?  And it has: American obesity has reached an all-time high.

In the meantime, the European Union, Japan, Malaysia, Australia, and other countries require genetically-modified foods to be labeled.  Labeling works on multiple levels, because it also means that special care must be taken to ensure that GMO foods do not contaminate non-GMOs.  With no real need to separate the two, the United States’ regulations on GMO-contamination are inevitably less strict.  In fact, because of this, in 2007, Europe rejected shipments of U.S. rice after discovering that the U.S. rice contained strains of engineered genes that had never been approved for human consumption — neither by the E.U. nor by the U.S.

UPDATE 1/18: Both Slate and the blog at Scientific American have published rebuttals to Levaux’s piece. 

My personal view is that, as American consumers, we should be informed about the contents of our food — that is, whether we are spending our money on genetically-modified food or not — so that we can make the decision for ourselves.

What about you?  Take the poll below to share your thoughts:

Photo Credit: I love the Tim Burton-esque photo accompanying Levaux’s Atlantic article (Dirk Ercken for Shutterstock).