Originally published November 22, 2014
I’m no Siskel or Ebert but I recently saw a film that I’d have to give “two-thumbs up” to. GMO OMG by Jeremy Seifert was released in July 2014 and features one man’s search for answers about genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and how they affect our children, the health of our planet, and our freedom of choice as consumers.
It struck me that, while perhaps not directly related to Parkinson’s, there may be some common chords between the issues of PD and GMO. For people with Parkinson’s, a chronic neurological disease of mostly unclear origin, an increasing number of studies and papers have been reflecting on toxic chemicals used in our environment as possibly giving rise to PD and other neurological conditions.
There is speculation that everything from exposure to chemicals such as Roundup, and the use of “super corn” seeds that completely wipe out all their enemies, will have serious implications for the environment. Further, there are no long term research results to ensure the safety of the people and the earth concerning such products.
Now, I don’t pretend to be a scientist (does a social scientist still count?!?) so, in Canada, I turned to David Suzucki Foundation* to help further my understanding. GMO’s — or genetically modified organisms — refer to the plants or animals created through merging DNA from different species. The first GMO crop (the Flavr Savr tomato) was approved by the FDA in 1994 and, since then, a variety of corn, soya, sugar beets and canola have become common local crops in Canada. Others, such as cottonseed oil, papaya, squash and milk products are imported from the USA into Canada. In a mere 20 years, GMO ingredients have made their way into most of the processed foods available on Canadian grocery shelves. Apples, potatoes and wheat are all in the lineup for approval.
GMO crops, when first introduced, were touted as the answer to world hunger. The argument was that by developing pesticide and herbicide resistant crops, farmer’s would be able to increase their yields and decrease their costs. This has not proven to be the case. Instead, bugs and weeds have become increasingly resistant to the widespread applications of these chemicals, leading to increased use of both. More spraying means more costs for the farmers, more damage to the environment and more health concerns.
It also means more product purchased from the seed producer. The companies that develop and patent GMO seeds are the same companies that develop and patent the pesticides and herbicides to which the unique seeds are resistant. Monsanto is the largest seed company in the world and owns about 86% of GMO seeds sown globally. It is also the parent of Roundup.
The safety of GMO foods is unproven and a growing body of research connects these foods with health concerns and environmental damage. The American Academy of Environmental Medicine suggests there is more than a casual association between GM foods and adverse health effects and that GM foods pose a serious health risk in the areas of toxicology, allergy and immune function, reproductive health, and metabolic, physiologic and genetic health.**
In light of these growing concerns, most developed nations have at the very least, adopted policies requiring mandatory labelling of GMO foods and some have issued bans on GMO food production and imports. In Canada we have neither. As consumers, we are largely unaware that the foods we choose contains GMO ingredients. It is this basic right to choice that is behind the growing movement to have GMO foods labeled. While environmental and food advocates lobby for labeling, other groups, like The Non-GMO Project, have created voluntary non-GMO certification to facilitate consumer information.
GMO OMG is an informative and alarming call to action for those concerned with our health and environment. It is produced in a very accessible format and the story unfolds in an engaging manner. Good soundtrack too! It’s not likely to show up in your local cinema complex but try your local library or order on-line.
* (Understanding GMOs) http://www.david suzucki.org.