Beware! 5 Depressing Stories About Food in the News This Past Week
This article was produced in partnership with GlobalPossibilities.org.
As we continue to manipulate nature in detrimental ways to ensure our comforts, we put one of our great needs at risk: food. From creating polluted environmental conditions that both contaminate and deplete food, to putting weird chemicals in our food that just do not belong, we continue to take everything natural out of nature; and it’s biting us in the you-know-what.
Here are five stories about food in the news this week that you should be concerned about:
1. GM Foods May Cause Tumor Growth, Premature Death
Genetically modified foods — foods developed by altering an animal or plant’s DNA via genetic engineering — most likely make their way onto your dinner plate in the form of corn, tomatoes, potatoes or soybeans. And now, a new controversial study states that these GM foods are linked to tumor growth and premature death.
In a new study led by Gilles-Eric Séralini at the University of Caen in France, Séralini used 200 lab rats (rude) to test the effects of GM corn as well as an herbicide called Roundup — both of which are used by industrial agriculture giant Monsanto. Séralini said that what made his study different was the amount of time he spent conducting it — two years, which is much longer than the 90-day period standard for feeding studies. In this time frame, he found that rats fed GM corn or given water containing Roundup were much more likely to develop tumors or die before they would have from normal age.
While many scientists have called Séralini’s methods into question, supporters of a ballot measure that would require GM foods to be labeled have used the study as support for their cause. The Californian measure, called Proposition 37 (or The California Right to Know Genetically Engineered Food Act) aims to “help consumers make informed choices about the food they eat.”
Nutrition scientist Marion Nestle wrote that she had concerns about Séralini’s “weirdly complicated” study, but that the contentious science behind GM foods shouldn’t derail Proposition 37 and its labeling campaign.
The California Prop. 37 proponents (and I’m totally with them) already have a strong “right to know” argument. They don’t need to be distracted by the kinds of scientific arguments that are already raging about this study.
2. Arsenic in Your Rice
Consumer Reports recently released new research that found high levels of arsenic in rice as well as other rice products such as rice breakfast cereals, rice baby cereal and rice pasta. According to the International Agency for Research on Cancer, arsenic is a Group 1 carcinogen known to cause bladder, lung and skin cancer. Consumer Reports tested more than 200 samples of rice products — traditional and organic, notable brands and store bands — and found significant levels of arsenic levels in all of them.
Popular brands tested in the study included Goya, Uncle Ben’s, Gerber, General Mills, Kellogg’s and Quaker. The study found that consuming a single serving of rice could contain one and a half times more arsenic than drinking a day’s worth of water containing arsenic at 5 parts per billion — the Environmental Protection Agency’s originally proposed limit for arsenic in drinking water.
So how does arsenic get in rice? While the USA Rice Foundation is claiming arsenic is a “a naturally occurring element in soil and water,” Consumer Reports stated that humans are mainly to blame. U.S. agricultural and industrial producers have used about 1.6 million tons of arsenic since 1910, making the United States the world’s leading arsenic user. We use arsenic for a variety of purposes, such as to treat lumber and to manufacture glass. Also, the practices we use to make more food faster and cheaper cause arsenic to contaminate rice. For example, arsenical pesticides and fertilizers linger in the soil, while animals are fed food-containing arsenic to make them plumper.