Skip to content

'We now eat food grown by unnatural processes which make use of a host of chemical substances: hormones, antibiotics, insecticides, herbicides, fungicides - of which residues are to be found in nearly all the food commercially available today.' Edward Goldsmith, The Ecologist, Vol 30 No 7, October 2000

Although toxicologists are able to investigate single substances quite efficiently, they have no basic methods for analyzing complex mixtures of toxic substances and the 'cocktail' effect of the mixture of several hundred synthetic chemicals that each one of us carries in our body.

According to the EWG's Body Burden website, there are 80,000 chemicals in commerce. The site states, "No one is ever exposed to a single chemical, but to a chemical soup, the ingredients of which may interact to cause unpredictable health effects."

There are only a few studies that evaluate the combined effects of food additives. One 2006 study published in Toxicology Science concludes that the combination of several common additives appears to have a neurotoxic effect. "Although the use of single food additives at their regulated concentrations is believed to be relatively safe in terms of neuronal development, their combined effects remain unclear." Of the four additives examined, only one is banned in the US, while the rest remain in the foods on our grocery store shelves. A 2000 study, looked at the combination of four major food additives or a mixture of six typical artificial food colours and found indications of toxicity in both.

Perhaps the most alarming study comes from a 1976 Journal of Food Science. Young rats were fed a low-fiber diet along with sodium cyclamate, FD&C Red No. 2, and polyoxyethylene (20) sorbitan monostearate individually and in combination. While the study found that any one of the three food additives given individually had little negative effect, the combination of all three additives resulted in weight loss and the death of all test animals within 14 days. Sodium cyclamate is an artificial sweetener banned in the U.S., but FD&C Red No. 2, a food dye, and polyoxyethylene (20) sorbitan monostearate, an emulsifier, are still in regular use in the food supply, according to the FDA's website.

And it's not just food. A number of additional toxins also enter our systems from other industrial sources often in the form of phthalate plasticizers and parabens -- both of which are used in personal care products, some medications, and even foods and food preservation. The vast majority of us use some form of shampoo, soap, lotion, and antiperspirant every day, and these toxins are absorbed through the skin.

Chemicals used in all of these industrial products are big business and food corporations are once again some of the biggest offenders. Many own shares in some of the largest personal care companies in the world. For example, Nestlé owns 30 percent of the world's largest cosmetic and beauty company L'Oreal. They use cheap, industrial ingredients to maintain their enormous profit margins.

Our governments are not being proactive. Using the precautionary approach when purchasing food and personal care products is the only solution currently available. Read the label - your body will thank you.

In the first study to measure the delayed effects of exposure to Roundup on sperm in mammals, the molecular biology department at the University of Caen, France, found that rats exposed to the glyphosate based pesticide Roundup altered testicular function after only 8 days of exposure at a concentration of only 0.5%. This concentration is similar to levels found in water after agricultural spraying.

Dr Séralini's team found that Roundup changed gene expression in sperm cells, which could alter the balance of the sex hormones androgen and estrogen. A negative impact on sperm quality was confirmed, raising questions about impaired sperm efficiency. The authors suggested that repeated exposures to Roundup at doses lower than those used in agriculture could damage mammalian reproduction over the long term.

The study’s findings should raise alarm in farm workers, as well as people who spray Roundup for municipal authorities and even home gardeners. People exposed to lower doses repeated over the long term, including consumers who eat food produced with Roundup and people who happen to be exposed to others’ spraying activities, should also be concerned.

The City of Berkeley, the Environmental Working Group and the Pesticide Action Network along with eight other activist groups, sued the California Department of Food and Agriculture over the agency’s approval of a statewide “pest management” plan that allows pesticide spraying on schools, organic farms and residential yards, including aerial spraying over homes in rural areas. Regulators approved the program despite receiving over 30,000 public comment letters calling for a less toxic approach that would protect the vitality and resilience of the state’s food system and the economic interests of organic farmers.

The plan, approved Dec. 24 as part of the Statewide Plant Pest Prevention and Management Environmental Impact Report, allows dangerous chemicals to be used anywhere in the state, any time into an indefinite future, without an option for affected communities to stop the spray. The state can also approve new pesticide treatments and treatment sites behind closed doors without public scrutiny or notice.

The program allows the state to use a range of 79 pesticides, many of which are carcinogenic or linked to birth defects, reproductive harm and are toxic to honey bees, butterflies, fish and birds. The list of pesticides include: chlorpyrifos, which is banned in Europe and has recently been linked to Autism. It presents hazards to workers and drinking water; the neonicotinoid imidacloprid, which is toxic to honeybees; the deadly, ozone-depleting fumigant methyl bromide, which is being phased out because of an international treaty; and chloropicrin, which causes genetic damage. The pesticide plan was passed despite the California Department of Pesticide Regulation announcement that strict new standards for chloropicrin were necessary because of the threat it poses to public health.

The lawsuit, filed in Alameda Superior Court, outlines numerous ways the spray plan violates state environmental laws, including failure to notify the public of future pesticide spraying and failure to analyze the impacts of the pesticides on human and environmental health, including harm to infants and contamination of drinking water.

The line between genetically engineered fodder and natural food is once again being blurred thanks to the Canadian government. Health Canada and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency rammed through approval of genetically modified salmon without public consultation or assessment of the potential effects of GM fish escaping into the wild. And, once the transgenic fish are in our grocery stores, no labelling will be required. Why? Advocates of GMO fodder know consumers won’t buy it. Polls show that the vast majority of Canadians (88%) want mandatory labeling of all genetically modified foods and 45% say they won’t eat GMO salmon.

Health Canada, just like its counterpart the FDA in the U.S., caved to pressure from a powerful international biotech lobby, instead of listening to the concerns of independent science making the announcement on May 19, that after "thorough and rigorous scientific reviews” of AquaAdvantage's genetically modified salmon, the transgenic fish is “as safe and nutritious for humans and livestock as conventional salmon.”

Aside from the insult of lumping humans and livestock into one category, the sound bite rings hallow when examined closely. Wild salmon are high in essential Omega-3 fatty acids, while avoiding environmental toxins. Not so with GE fish. Eric Hoffman, Friends of the Earth, U.S., noted that the insertion of ocean-pout DNA into Chinook salmon causes the production of growth hormone year-around. To date, no long-term safety tests were conducted to determine if there would be potential negative consequences on public health or on heritage salmon should this genetic aberration escape into the wild.

Further, both the FDA and Health Canada ignored warnings from Canadian government research scientists (Department of Fisheries and Oceans, Office of Aquatic Biotechnology, Draft Risk Review, 2013). These scientists found significant problems with the GE fish, including greater susceptibility to disease (which may require the use of potent antibiotics), and widely inconsistent growth rates. It was also noted that the genetically engineered fish may produce a hormone that can increase cancer risk in humans if they consume the transgenic fish.

According to AquaBounty, the Massachusetts-based biotech firm behind AquaAdvantage, the genetically modified fish will be in stores in about a year joining the GMO sweet corn which is already in the fresh produce aisle and the GMO potato which is slated for commercial release in the Fall of 2016. None of these transgenic foods require labelling.

But resistance is growing. The US Food and Drug Administration promised to bring in labelling guidelines after its approval of GM fish triggered a wave of public reaction in the fall. Ecology Action Centre and Living Oceans are fighting approval of the commercial production of GM fish eggs in court, both in Canada and the US, arguing Health Canada and CFIA failed to meet the requirements of the Canadian Environmental Protection Act.

So far, about 60 US-based grocers and retailers, including Costco, Whole Foods and Red Lobster, have pledged not to sell the fish in their stores. But it’s up to Canadian consumers to build on the momentum. Email the Minister of Health today and contact your Member of Parliament to ask for mandatory labelling of all genetically engineered foods using your postal code at www.parl.gc.ca.