What are allergies and how do they develop?
The body’s immune system reacts to what it considers to be unwanted foreign invader particulate matter called allergens which by a series of cascade mechanisms it eventually destroys.
– All very well when dealing with potentially harmful foreign invaders. However, not so good when as in the case of allergies the immune system is hypersensitive and reacts unnecessarily by wrongfully identifying harmless substances as harmful and attacking them ferociously.
This ferocious attack produces allergic reactions leading to a whole catalogue of problems ranging from sneezing, a hacky cough, sore throat, runny nose and itchy eyes… or even death such as a severe asthma attack.
Examples of substances that produce allergic reactions are:
Pollen which is a common activator as many allergy sufferers know. Besides pollen other airborne particulate matter exists in the form of dust, dust mites, and mould spores. Allergens also include insect stings, latex, chemicals from cleaning products like for example triclosan and bisphenol-A (BPA)…
Then there’s those common food allergies such as peanuts, other nuts, soy, sesame seeds, eggs, milk, wheat, seafood (shellfish in particular) and mustard…
Allergies and genetically engineered foods
Now to make matters worse evidence suggests that genetically modified (GM) foods have contributed to a rise in allergies. It has been said that the safety standards are not adequate enough to neither protect us from the dangers of GM foods nor identify many of the risks.
A good place to start for evidence of this is the book entitled “Genetic Roulette: The Documented Health Risks of Genetically Engineered Foods” by JM Smith documenting many adverse findings related to allergies. From numerous studies on people and animals it challenges the incorrect assumptions that have been made that GM foods are safe.
Have GM soy beans, corn and canola plants caused a rise in allergies?
Through studies the evidence suggests that the rise in allergies in the USA for example is linked to GM foods. In the mid-nineteen nineties as part of the GM process bacteria and viruses besides other genes were inserted artificially into the DNA’s of soy, corn and canola plants. The evidence suggests that these unlabelled GM foods found their way into American people’s diets and have been responsible for triggering life-threatening allergies and have contributed to increasing allergic reactions.
Taking soy as an example, when a food has been genetically modified it gives rise to producing a new protein. It is thought that this new protein is responsible for the allergy. Besides soy, this also happened in the mid-nineties when a brazil nut was modified and consumed. It produced human allergic reactions as confirmed by blood tests. Fortunately this one never went onto the market.
A database was compiled making up the proteins with their amino acid sequences from GM foods. This database has been used to look for which of these GM proteins caused allergies. If it was identified in a GM food then it was taken off the market. However, some allergy causing GM foods with their new proteins managed to go onto the market undetected because the database (WHO standards) had not yet been compiled. This was the case of GM soy beans which had not been tested.
… and it doesn’t end there.
To make matters worse the gene that had been inserted into the soy after consumption was then able to find its way into the DNA of human gut bacteria by a phenomenon called horizontal gene transfer (HGT). This has allowed the gut bacteria to produce the allergenic protein even though the soy product was taken of the market. The potentially allergenic protein indeed lives on within the intestines…
Don’t kid yourself either that the insertion of new genes into GM crops is completely safe and without possible glitches. The GM insertion process could obliterate or alter the DNA causing significant changes to the plant’s natural functioning by altering its protein expression. This could lead to a new protein or more of the same one causing an allergy. It has been said that this has happened to soy and other crops.
Since 2004 farmers have increased their herbicide on GM crops by a massive 86% as in the case of soy fields. Unlike non-GMO the higher glycophosate herbicide levels have been linked to rises in allergies. With it comes a whole list of illnesses: fatigue, digestive problems, skin irritation and skin complaints such as acne… all this because of eating GM soy.
Soy and peanut allergy
Consumption of soy through its GM protein may bring on peanut allergy. This is caused by the soy protein cross-reacting with the peanut. Those already allergic to peanuts will be more likely to have the allergy switched on.
– Could this explain the doubling of peanut allergies from 1997-2002?
GM foods: Playing Russian roulette with our health
The biotech corporations have got away with meeting public disapproval by not labelling their GM foods. Safety regulations have been lax leaving vulnerabilities in the long-term with ill-health which has now been actualized, as in the case of allergies.
However, many people are now shopping for non-GM foods, such as those certified organic. Campaigns have been going on for a while now, effectively providing consumers with accurate information on non-GMO, reaching food stores nationwide. An example of this is the ‘Organic Consumers Fund.’ Another solution is to avoid foods that are known to have been genetically modified. Besides soy, russian store corn and canola this also includes: Papaya, cottonseed and crook neck squash…
When you appreciate how important food is to your health, the next logical step is to grow your own food. The advantages of this are numerous, not only to the health of you and yours, but to the health of the planet, too!
When you grow your own food, the logical advantages are economic – the food is free, or virtually so. But the unsung advantages are far more extensive.
Eating freshly picked food is far more nutritious and far more delicious! Eating freshly-picked, mature and ripe produce is the time when the nutrients are at their maximum. As soon as produce is picked, the nutrients start to dwindle. Storage and traveling depletes nutrients badly. Store bought food is always picked too early, which depletes the taste as well as the nutrients.
Home produce is always seasonal. Seasonal food is always the healthiest. For example, citrus is a cooling fruit, so shouldn’t be eaten in winter. Coconut is too. Coconut is a tropical fruit. Citrus, before being cultivated, only grew in summer. Nature is wise!
Contact with the earth connects you to nature. In itself, this activity, done regularly has been proven to extend and improve quality of life. We need to connect to nature to survive in this crazy, fast-track world of ours. This vital aspect is often ignored.
Connecting with the earth also grounds us, or earths us. In effect, this helps de-stress us. Walking barefoot on grass or soft earth is good for this, but handling the earth is also appropriate.
The exercise of gardening means you are using a lot of your body. You are bending, lifting, turning, and weight bearing – that all important exercise to ensure your bones stay strong and healthy.
Gardeners also tend to thrive in gardening communities. They help each other out, they swap goodies, they share and support each other – all vital aspects for a healthy soul!
Gardening sustainably and productively is wonderful hands-on education for children. Teaching children how to garden can mean your are teaching them how to live. After all, if you know how to grow your own food, you know how to live. Anywhere. Isn’t that the most precious gift of all?
OK, so you may be familiar with all those benefits, but why is growing your own food so good for the planet?
Market gardeners grow mono-cultures. Everyone is familiar with the disasters of mono-cultures. Disease is rampant, so insecticides are widely used, leading to soil depletion, organism and wildlife destruction and unhealthy, chemically laden food for us.
Some market gardeners only grow a limited variety of plants, using the same soil for the same harvest over and over. This depletes the soil of natural fertility, so chemical fertilisers are used. This has the same impact as do the insecticides. An excesses of both wash into our rivers and then the sea, polluting these and those who inhabit them.
Gardeners inherently have a diversity of plants. When you learn how to garden sustainably, you learn which plants support the health of other plants. For example, cucumber growing up corn can work really well. A synergy is created between the two plants which is greater than the sum of the individuals.
Permaculture is a system of gardening that works this way. The plants do most of the hard work.
An excellent example of how well backyard gardening helps the planet is Russia. For decades urban Russians have enjoyed small, family, gardening plots, dachas, which provide a family with most of their food.
The figures are staggering. In 1999, 71% of the population of Russia produced 87% of the country’s fruit requirements, 77% of its vegetable requirements, 92% of its potato requirements, 50% of its milk requirements and 60% of its meat requirements.