A couple of weeks ago Alexis Baden Mayer, the Political Director of Organic Consumers Association came on my Stirring the Pot radio show to talk GMOs—one of my favorite topics. Our conversation on air was only the tip of the iceberg. A few days post show I received an email from Alexis and it went something like this:
I recently figured out that I and other members of my family are wheat-sensitive and may even have Celiac Sprue. Mutagenesis, a process of exposing seeds to chemicals or radiation in order to generate mutants with desirable traits (prior to breeding with other plants), has been used on wheat for decades. So one theory regarding the higher incidence of Celiac Disease is that mutant wheat has “created significant changes in the amino acids in wheat’s gluten proteins, a potential cause for the 400 percent increase in celiac disease over the past 40 years.”
Finding this out is throwing me for a loop. Basically mutagenesis in not unlike genetic engineering in that it may produce unknown allergens and toxins in our food. And from what I understand it is now being mutated for herbicide tolerance.
Quite sadly, all the work I'm doing to address genetic engineering isn't going to touch this enormous issue. Have I, and many others in our movement, been blinded to one of the most serious problems with modern food production?
I'd love to hear your thoughts.
Instead of writing Alexis back, I called her. An email just couldn’t do this massive topic justice as mutant wheat and GMOs are only part of the picture. If some of the leaders in our global food fight are stymied by what they are uncovering daily, imagine the learning curve for those who don’t study every nuance of our food supply? Bottom line, what we eat is seriously tainted on many levels from genetic manipulation to all sorts of chemicals in anything edible (whether plants or animals). In addition, sadly food regulations do a sub-par job of keeping our food safe. So of course problems will ensue including, you guessed it—food allergies, a damaging immune response by the body to a substance. Hey, you are what you eat!
According to Food Allergy Research and Education, an organization whose mission is to find a cure for food allergies and to keep individuals with them safe, an estimated 15 million Americans suffer from food allergies including 1 in every 13 children (under the age of 18) and for children alone, the cost is nearly $25 billion per year. That is staggering. In 2013, a study released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention stated that food allergies among children increased approximately 50% between 1997 and 2011. And folks, these are only food allergy statistics (meaning those people that have a near death or truly deadly reaction to a food). In other words, this does not include those with food intolerances or sensitivities. FYI, the top food allergens are: milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts (i.e. almonds, cashews, pecans, walnuts), soy, wheat and shellfish.
What can you do? From birth until death, eat as cleanly as possible meaning avoiding or greatly limiting:
- Wheat (the altered sort)
- GMO foods like soy, corn, sugar from sugar beets, canola and cottonseed oil
- Food from animals given hormones and antibiotics
- Plants with too many chemicals
- Processed foods laced with all sorts of curious ingredients
Also, know where your food comes from and have some insight into how it is processed. My book, What the Fork are You Eating: An Action Plan for Your Pantry and Plate (Tarcher/Penguin Random House), set for release later this year, will give you the knowledge and skills you need to navigate this food system gone awry. You’ll learn about some of the top “toxic” contenders—what they are, why they are bad and the better for you alternatives. And you will gain some real tools to make a difference in your everyday choices!