I love getting great information! Even better when it’s from an expert. And, better yet, when it’s free. This is from the last David Suzuki newsletter and it’s about GMOs. Why do we not learn from our past mistakes of the dangers in technology used wrongly and in messing with Mother Nature without sufficiently considering its consequences?
By David Suzuki with Faisal Moola
In gearing up for the 2010 release of its super-genetically modified corn called “SmartStax”, agricultural-biotechnology giant Monsanto is using an advertising slogan that asks, “Wouldn’t it be better?”. But can we do better than nature, which has taken millennia to develop the plants we use for food?
We don’t really know. And that in itself is a problem. The corn, developed by Monsanto with Dow AgroSciences, “stacks” eight genetically engineered traits, six that allow it to ward off insects and two to make it resistant to weed-killing chemicals, many of which are also trademarked by Monsanto. It’s the first time a genetically engineered (GE) product has been marketed with more than three traits.
Canada approved the corn without assessing it for human health or environmental risk, claiming that the eight traits have already been cleared in other crop seeds – even though international food-safety guidelines that Canada helped develop state that stacked traits should be subject to a full safety assessment as they can lead to unintended consequences.
One problem is that we don’t know the unintended consequences of genetically engineered or genetically modified (GM) foods. Scientists may share consensus about issues like human-caused global warming, but they don’t have the same level of certainty about the effects of genetically modified organisms on environmental and human health!
A review of the science conducted under the International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development in 2008 concluded that “there are a limited number of properly designed and independently peer-reviewed studies on human health” and that this and other observations “create concern about the adequacy of testing methodologies for commercial GM plants.”
Some have argued that we’ve been eating GM foods for years with few observable negative consequences, but as we’ve seen with things like trans fats, if often takes a while for us to recognize the health impacts. With GM foods, concerns have been raised about possible effects on stomach bacteria and resistance to antibiotics, as well as their role in allergic reactions. We also need to understand more about their impact on other plants and animals.
Of course, these aren’t the only issues with GM crops. Allowing agro-chemical companies to create GM seeds with few restrictions means these companies could soon have a monopoly over agricultural production. And by introducing SmartStax, we are giving agro-chemical companies the green light not just to sell and expand the use of their “super crops” but also to sell and expand the use of the pesticides these crops are designed to resist.
A continued reliance on these crops could also reduce the variety of foods available, as well as the nutritive value of the foods themselves.
There’s also a reason nature produces a variety of any kind of plant species. It ensures that if disease or insects attack a plant, other plant varieties will survive and evolve in its place. This is called biodiversity.
Because we aren’t certain about the effects of GMOs, we must consider one of the guiding principles in science, the precautionary principle. Under this principle, if a policy or action could harm human health or the environment, we must not proceed until we know for sure what the impact will be. And it is up to those proposing the action or policy to prove that it is not harmful.
That’s not to say that research into altering the genes in plants that we use for food should be banned or that GM foods might not someday be part of the solution to our food needs. We live in an age when our technologies allow us to “bypass” the many steps taken by nature over millennia to create food crops to now produce “super crops” that are meant to keep up with an ever-changing human-centred environment.
A rapidly growing human population and deteriorating health of our planet because of climate change and a rising number of natural catastrophes, among other threats, are driving the way we target our efforts and funding in plant, agricultural, and food sciences, often resulting in new GM foods.
But we need more thorough scientific study on the impacts of such crops on our environment and our health, through proper peer-reviewing and unbiased processes. We must also demand that our governments become more transparent when it comes to monitoring new GM crops that will eventually find their ways in our bellies through the food chain.
Written by an MD, this newsletter that I have just subscribed to puts conventional medicine in perspective. This is a cut and paste of the last e-newsletter I received. You can check it out yourself by googling his name and signing up for it yourself. Of course, I’ll probably post more from him if it keeps of interest to me.
Changing our Disease care system to a Health care system
Although we call our system a health care system, it is actually a disease care system. Doctors are trained to treat disease, not to keep people healthy. Our two primary tools as Doctors of Modern Western Medicine are drugs and surgery. We have no tools to keep people healthy.
We are not trained in nutrition or other lifestyle modalities that keep people healthy, nor other medical systems that have been helping other cultures for centuries. At medical schools, we doctors are taught to treat the symptoms of disease, rather than how to create health and prevent people from getting sick. For example, in our entire training as doctors, we receive very few lectures on nutrition, even though diet is fundamental to good health.
I am not saying there is no place for this disease care model in the new model of medicine I am proposing. I am the first to acknowledge that Modern Western Medicine and science have made phenomenal advances and alleviate much pain and suffering. Surgery is often lifesaving and many new surgical techniques are quite remarkable. Trauma treatment, burn treatment, emergency room management and the management of acute medical and surgical emergencies are incredible. And certain drugs when used appropriately are life saving. We are blessed to have all this as part of our arsenal and we need Modern Western Medicine for all this. I would not encourage someone to see a herbalist or Acupuncturist for any of the above.
But this medical model is not adequately addressing almost 75% of the problems that most people go to their Doctor for, including most chronic problems. It has failed miserably to address the majority of problems people have today and because of this, many people suffer unnecessarily.
Apart from antibiotics where the drug can kill the bug causing the problem, most drugs treat symptoms, not the cause. Similarly with surgery, it usually addresses the symptoms, not the cause. For instance, bypass surgery, (which can be lifesaving!!!), does not address the underlying reason why your arteries are getting blocked in the first place.
And with both drugs and surgery, there are often side effects, which are then addressed with more drugs. Many patients end up on multiple drugs and often it is only the first 1 or 2 which were given for the original problem. The other 5-10 are dealing with the side effects of the original 2 drugs or the interactions of the other drugs.
The tragedy is that for many of these problems, changing lifestyle, behavior, diet and taking some supplements can often deal with the underlying processes causing the problems and no drugs (and therefore side effects) would be necessary. Unfortunately, it does not suit the drug industry to have patients take a drug which cures or eliminates the problem. It is much more lucrative for them if the drug can manage the symptoms, so you have to stay on them for life (eg statins, anti- hypertensives etc)
Modern Western Medicine is a disease care system, it is not preventive nor does it teach patients how to stay well. In fact what we call Preventive Medicine in Modern Western Medicine…Pap Smears, Breast exams, certain blood tests etc are really early detection medicine. They are not teaching patients how to stay healthy.
So the best medicine is using Modern Western Medicine for what it is good at….crisis care medicine, acute medical and surgical emergencies, when you break a bone, when you are acutely ill etc, and using diet, supplements, exercise, stress management and other benign modalities for prevention and initially for most non acute problems.
In this new model of medicine I am talking about or in a true health care system, we look for the underlying imbalances or dysfunctions and the root causes of the problem (to be discussed in a future “pearl”). We are not content with waiting for disease to occur nor with just suppressing symptoms.
Betcha Bugs Bunny didn’t get sick often. Carrots are one of the richest sources of beta-carotene. Beta-carotene converts in the body into vitamin A, a powerful antioxidant that helps strengthen cells against viruses.
Beta-carotene also assists in fighting cancer, preventing heart disease, and helping vision. The vitamin K in it is important for healthy blood clotting and the healing of wounds. The chromium in it helps stabilize blood sugar levels. And, the fibre aids digestion and helps lower bad cholesterol.
Since raw carrots can be hard to digest, you can help your body out by grating them or chopping them finely. Juicing is also a wonderful option. Mix carrots with apples and ginger in a juicer for a healthy, easy, and super-nutritious beverage/snack.
Thought I’d post a couple more notes on the HST.
Do you remember when the GST was being implemented, i.e. forced on us? In 1991, Prime Minister Brian Mulroney promised an improvement in the Canadian economy as a hidden Manufacturers’ Sales Tax (MST) would be replaced with an upfront Goods and Services Tax. With this, he said, we would be more competitive to export our goods and it would benefit all Canadians as prices would eventually drop for us as it would be a lower tax than the 13.5% MST. Prices did not drop at all in some cases or enough, in other cases, to make up for the new tax.
We’re Canadians. We’re used to being taxed. We complain about it and then forget about it and pay the higher rates like good Canadians. The government had already tried once before to implement the joint tax with the “Blended Sales Tax” with Prime Minister Jean Chretien. It was nicknamed the “B.S. Tax” and it didn’t go through.
Now we’re being told that the HST will start in July 2010 and that it too will improve our economy. We’re being told that manufacturers will drop their prices and save us money in the long run. We’re being told that more jobs will make life for all Canadians better. We’re being told that it is not a way for the government to raise money as they are calling it revenue-neutral (same as they told us for the GST). The fact is that it is estimated that it will cost an extra $2000 per year for each family or an extra $1250 per year for each elderly couple.
Maybe I’m wrong, but I’m working on getting informed and I think it important that all Canadians know what is happening with this too because it will affect each and every one of us.
Some sites (both sides) for information:
Fight the HST – Bill Vanderzalm’s very informative site http://fighthst.com/
Yes, this is about the GST, but check out the parallels to the HST http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Goods_and_Services_Tax_(Canada)
A smarter way to implement the HST as Atlantic Canada did http://www2.canada.com/victoriatimescolonist/news/comment/story.html?id=9f7101af-f05c-40bf-a95e-3fb267fc0667
Check out the comments! 441 of them and the commenting was closed off. People are angry! http://www.cbc.ca/money/story/2009/07/23/bc-hst-pst-gst.html
Job losses in the restaurant industry. And, did you know even funerals will be hit by this tax? http://www.cbc.ca/canada/british-columbia/story/2009/08/05/bc-hst-restaurant-owners-survey.html
BCBusiness Magazine http://www.bcbusinessonline.ca/bcb/bc-blogs/insider/2009/07/29/hst-high-handed-and-selfish-tax
I could only find one positive site about the HST, and that’s the government one http://www.gov.bc.ca/hst/
Why are we not figuring out the cause of the swine flu so that we don’t repeat it? Mad cow disease, avian flu, swine flu. What causes these animal diseases to cross over to humans? We cause it. How? Poor management of our animals. Actually, more truthfully, cruel and disgusting management of the animals we raise for food. An interesting article on pig farming. It started in Mexico, but check out its possible American corporation connection.
And, if you’ve got time for a longer read, learn more about the pig industry.
If you do eat meat, don’t you think it’s worth the change to more humane, clean, and healthy meat?
It’s an American article, but the statements could also be applied to Canadian, especially since we have a public healthcare system. Perhaps we should be using medicine more wisely, rather than more invasively. Hmmmm…
I would like to add 8th and 9th options.
8. Start recommending less invasive and more holistic health options more regularly. Rather than fight disease, let’s start promoting wellness.
9. Teach people to be responsible for their own health and give them incentives to eat right, exercise regularly, and make healthy lifestyle choices. Or, and people are going to hate this, tax or charge people more for poor lifestyle choices. Why is junk food so cheap and good food more expensive? Tax junk food at a higher rate and give that money to subsidize real, whole foods and exercise programs.
This is the response sent by email to my letter:
From: “Office of the Premier, Premier@gov.bc.ca”
“Thank you for your email regarding the harmonized sales tax. I
appreciate receiving your concerns.
Since 2001, the government has taken significant steps to improve the
B.C. tax system. We have worked hard to reduce taxes for individuals and
to improve the competitiveness of B.C. business through the reductions
in personal and corporate income taxes and the elimination of corporate
The HST is the single biggest thing we can do to improve B.C.’s economy.
I believe it is an essential step to make our businesses more
competitive, encourage billions of dollars in new investment, lower
costs on productivity and reduce administrative costs to B.C. taxpayers
and businesses. Most importantly, this will create jobs and generate
long-term economic growth that will in turn generate more revenue to
sustain and improve crucial public services like health care, education
and social services.
With a single HST tax rate, one substantially harmonized tax base, and
one set of administrative rules instead of the duplication that
currently exists with the PST, compliance costs for British Columbia
businesses are expected to fall by about $150 million annually. When
fully phased-in, British Columbia will also save about $30 million
annually in administrative costs due to the fact that the federal
government will administer the HST at no cost to the province. British
Columbia will also receive one-time funding of $1.6 billion from the
federal government which will help maintain vital public services such
as healthcare and education.
We strongly believe that switching to the HST is the most important
change we can make to ensure a strong and growing economy. Although
there will be adjustments required by British Columbians in the short
term, it is a decision which will pay dividends to all British
Columbians over the long term.
If you are interested in more details related to the announcement, you
can find more information at:
tm .. or http://www.gov.bc.ca/hst/ — on the left side and bottom of
that page, there are separate sections relating to specific groups such
as businesses, individuals, highlighting the benefits of the HST.
If you are interested in knowing more about the Budget that was
presented in the Legislature today, you can find that information at the
following site: http://www.bcbudget.gov.bc.ca/ The Minister’s speech
outlines some of the many benefits of the HST as well.
We do appreciate your taking the time to write.”
My thoughts in response to that:
I actually did read through most of the HST promo
webpages. All it did was serve to enforce my opinion.
I appreciate that it will save big industry and
government and that that savings is meant to filtre
down to the masses, but I simply don't see that
happening. I don't see this resulting in price
drops that will save the average Canadian.
And, I have already heard from many that they are
planning to cut their spending in areas that will
be increasing in cost by 7%. Just barely out of a
recession, cut spending risks putting us right
back into a bad economic state.