Sunday, March 24, 2013

The False Promise of GM Crops Never Realized

Most genetically modified crops have helped only farmers, making it easier for them to control weeds and insects. The promise of healthier, tastier foods, such as cancer-fighting tomatoes and rot-resistant fruits, has yet to materialize.

Technical Difficulties and Opposition

Creating products which are not allergenic has proven to be a tricky task. And resistance to the use of bioengineered food has caused many projects to be shelved. Companies hope that the coming "second generation" of GM foods will win greater public acceptance.

Patent Rights

On top of technical difficulty and opposition, many small companies and academic researchers run afoul of patent rights held by larger companies.

Opponents of genetic engineering argue that conventional breeding has been more successful at producing crops with beneficial traits than genetic manipulation.

Perhaps, consumers are more concerned about the blight of genetically modified (GM) crops than I thought, based on the reactions of experts questioned in this excellent piece New York Times article.

Despite the best efforts of manufacturers to develop Frankenstein-like crop concoctions, many large corporations have been slow to warm to GM products, thanks to the opposition of consumer groups, along with business, technical and legal obstacles.

For example, a group of U.S. Department of Agriculture scientists created a "non-allergenic" soybean four years ago that was eventually shelved because baby food companies wouldn't use it to manufacture their own (already harmful) soy formula.

Those setbacks haven't stopped companies like Monsanto and DuPont from developing new products, however, including Vistive, a soybean oil now being used by Kellogg to remove trans fats from some of their products.

Even though the launch of new GM crops, foods and products may be slowing somewhat, don't forget roughly 75 percent of all the processed foods you see at your corner store contain some GM ingredients.

With that in mind, I urge you to read a detailed list of tips I posted last summer to protect your health and steer clear of GM products for good:

    Reduce or Eliminate Processed Foods. There are many reasons why processed foods are not optimal for your health -- for instance they often contain trans fat, acrylamide and little nutritional value -- so avoiding them will not only help you to cut back on the amount of GM foods you are consuming, but will also boost your health.

    Read produce and food labels. GM soybeans and corn make up the largest portion of genetically modified crops. When looking at a product label, if any ingredients such as corn flour and meal, dextrin, starch, soy sauce, margarine, and tofu (to name a few) are listed, there's a good chance it has come from GM corn or soy, unless it's listed as organic.

    Buy organic produce. Buying organic is currently the best way to ensure that your food has not been genetically modified. By definition, food that is certified organic must be free from all GM organisms, produced without artificial pesticides and fertilizers and from an animal reared without the routine use of antibiotics, growth promoters or other drugs.

    Look at Produce Stickers. Those little stickers on fruit and vegetables contain different PLU codes depending on whether the fruit was conventionally grown, organically grown or genetically modified. The PLU code for conventionally grown fruit consists of four numbers, organically grown fruit has five numbers prefaced by the number nine, and GM fruit has five numbers prefaced by the number eight.

Thank You Dr. Mercola's 


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Avastin, a drug currently used to treat colon cancer, could be an important new treatment for breast and lung cancer, as well.

But its manufacturer, Genentech, intends to charge roughly $100,000 a year for the treatment, a price usually only found on obscure drugs that treat rare diseases.

Patients Priced Out of the Market

Even with insurance coverage, co-payments for the drug could easily run as high as $20,000 a year, making the drug essentially unavailable to many cancer patients.

Usually, drug makers justify high prices by pointing to the costs of research. But Genentech is instead arguing that life-saving drugs are inherently valuable, and should therefore be appropriately costly.

Minimal Additional Cost, Vastly Higher Price

Avastin needs to be administered at higher doses to treat lung and breast cancer than it does for its current use as a colon cancer treatment. But Genentech plans to keep the unit price the same, even though the cost of producing the drug at a higher dose is minimal, resulting in the proposed hefty price tag.

Genentech sold more than $6 billion worth of drugs in 2005. If Avastin is approved for expanded use on breast and lung cancer, their sales are expected to reach $18 billion a year.

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