By Dr. Mercola
Last December, the U.S. National Organic Standards Board, an expert panel that advise the USDA Secretary on organic matters, narrowly approved Martek Biosciences Corporation's petition to allow the use of their genetically modified soil fungus and algae as nutritional supplements in organic food.
The product is an omega-3/omega-6 oil (DHA/ARA) synthesized from fermented algae and soil fungus.
The oil is extracted from this biomass using hexane, a neurotoxic byproduct of gasoline refinement that is specifically banned in organics.
The Cornucopia Institute investigated Martek's patent and safety filings at the FDA, and discovered that the product also contains synthetic chemicals, stabilizers, carriers, and some of the ingredients are also genetically modified.
(As it turns out, some of their products were developed by Monsanto before Martek bought the technical rights.)
Martek's formulated oils are added to "organic" milk, infant formula, and a number of different foods. After a formal legal complaint, the USDA announced in 2010 that it had "inappropriately" allowed Martek oils to be included in organic foods.
But enforcement of their removal was delayed for 18 months in an apparent effort to permit corporate lobbyists to petition for review and legal inclusion in organic food. According to the Conucopia Institute:
"Although Martek told the board that they would discontinue the use of the controversial neurotoxic solvent n-hexane for DHA/ARA processing, they did not disclose what other synthetic solvents would be substituted. Federal organic standards prohibit the use of all synthetic/petrochemical solvents."
How Did Unapproved Ingredients Make it into Baby Food?
It is distressing to see that chemical additives have skirted USDA approval and made their way into infant formulas – some of which even bear the USDA Organic Seal! This confirms that even organic certification is NOT watertight, and you, the consumer, will need to stay on your toes.
Martek's DHA and ARA products are synthetic attempts at omega-3 fats that have been in the U.S. marketplace since 2002, and in organic products since 2006. They are chemically extracted from certain types of algae and fungi that have never before been part of the human diet, and have never been approved by the USDA. Yet they have made their way into your baby's bottle.
In fact, it is unlikely that the production process of these agents has been examined at all – and for good reason. The Cornucopia Institute has uncovered an entire list of questions regarding the source, processing, and other ingredients used in the manufacturing of Martek's DHA and ARA, any one of which could result in a ban from their use in certified organic products.
GMOs, Lies, and Petrochemicals
For starters, Martek's synthetic oils are extracted using a toxic petrochemical solvent called hexane – a process that's just about as NON-organic as you can get. Hexane extraction is widely used in the production of oils, such as fatty acids and vegetable oils, but is banned in organic produce because it's a non-organic material.
So what's their loophole?
Martek Biosciences was able to dodge the ban on hexane-extraction by claiming USDA does not consider omega-3 and omega-6 fats to be "agricultural ingredients." Therefore, they argue, the ban against hexane extraction does not apply. The USDA helped them out by classifying those oils as "necessary vitamins and minerals," which are exempt from the hexane ban. But hexane-extraction is just the tip of the iceberg. Other questionable manufacturing practices and misleading statements by Martek include:1
- Undisclosed synthetic ingredients, prohibited for use in organics (including the sugar alcohol mannitol, modified starch, glucose syrup solids, and "other" undisclosed ingredients)
- Microencapsulation of the powder and nanotechnology, which are prohibited under organic laws
- Use of volatile synthetic solvents, besides hexane (such as isopropyl alcohol)
- Recombinant DNA techniques and other forms of genetic modification of organisms; mutagenesis; use of GMO corn as a fermentation medium
- Heavily processed ingredients that are far from "natural"
Your Body Knows These "Nutrients" are Fake
Although DHA and ARA from real foods are indeed important nutrients, the synthetic versions are not even remotely the same. They are foreign to your body, and to your infant's body, which is why many babies are having terrible adverse reactions. Naturally derived omega-3 fats have important benefits to your baby's eyes and brain. Martek has manipulated this fact into a clever marketing ploy that convinces mothers that this artificial concoction is as good for their babies as breast milk.
But there is no scientific evidence to substantiate Martek's health claims. Martek claims that their formula is "proven in independent clinical studies to enhance mental development." According to the Cornucopia Institute, this claim is based on one single study involving just 19 infants. Martek neglects to mention the numerous other clinical studies that fail to show any advantage in brain development.
The Perfect Formula for Diarrhea, Vomiting and Gastrointestinal Pain
The Cornucopia Institute has compiled a summary2 of hundreds of adverse reports submitted to the FDA about possible intolerance to DHA/ARA-supplemented infant formula. Of those reports, 98 are said to be "confidently linked" to intolerance to the DHA/ARA oils. Many hundreds more are highly suspect. The reported gastrointestinal symptoms include:
- Severe gas
- Diarrhea and vomiting
- Gastric reflux
- Constipation and bowel obstruction
- Agitation, fussiness, crying, and severe distress
The adverse reaction reports filed with the FDA represent only the tip of the iceberg, as most parents are unaware that Martek's additives may be the cause of their infants' problems. Some parents and their babies have endured these symptoms for weeks or months before identifying the cause, believing it was simply colic or unexplained fussiness.
A few companies have made a conscious decision to not use Martek's additives in their baby food products, in order to protect the organic integrity of their foods. Cornucopia has published a list of "USDA Organic" products containing Martek's additives.3 Shockingly, ALL organic infant formulas with the exception of ONE (Baby's Only Organic) contain Martek's DHA! Some baby foods also contain it, so it's a good idea to get in the habit of reading ALL of your labels.
Beware of Other Known Contaminants in Infant Formula
Your child is perhaps never more vulnerable than in the first few months of life, when his or her fragile body is still rapidly developing. Pound for pound, infants experience greater exposure to chemicals than adults, and have immature and porous blood-brain barriers, which allow greater chemical exposures to reach their developing brains.
It is best to avoid infant formulas whenever possible. Breastfeeding is best. Infant formulas have been found to be contaminated with a variety of problematic chemicals, including:
- Perchlorates (a component of rocket fuel)
- Advanced glycoprotein end products (AGEs)
Please avoid feeding your baby soy based formula due to dangerously high concentrations of manganese and estrogenic compounds, among other problems. Most infant formulas also contain far too much sugar. The most recent contaminant found in infant formula (as well as food and commercial juices) is arsenic. This is particularly worrisome for babies because they are especially vulnerable to arsenic's toxic effects.
Is there Arsenic in Your Baby Formula?
Researchers at Dartmouth College warned that there is an "urgent need" for regulatory limits on arsenic in food products after levels in two infant formulas were found to be up to six times the U.S. federal limit for drinking water.4 There are currently NO regulations for arsenic levels in foods or juices.
The arsenic in infant formulas is thought to come from the brown rice syrup used to sweeten some formulas. Rice is a plant that is very efficient at taking up arsenic from the soil, regardless of whether or not it's grown organically.
You Can Avoid All of These Problems by Breastfeeding
Breastfeeding offers a list of life-long health benefits for both mom and baby, making it the best food you can give to your baby by far.
Many are aware that breast milk contains antibodies, or immune molecules, that are transferred to the baby, giving her immunities to illnesses that the mother is immune to. The converse is also true -- if your newborn is exposed to a germ, she will transfer it back to the mother while nursing. The mother's body will then make antibodies to that particular germ and transfer them back to the baby at the next feeding.
So it's not just a matter of vitamins, minerals, proteins and fats that makes breast milk far superior to formula. In fact, breast milk also contains substances that may significantly enhance your baby's gut and support the healthy development of her entire nervous system.
If you are unable to breastfeed, you may want to consider the option of purchasing human breast milk, which is becoming a hot commodity online. Nursing women are now earning up to $1,200 a month from selling their extra milk to other families, many of whom are pairing up online via Craigslist and other classified sites. This trend harkens back to ancient times when wet nurses (women who breastfeed babies other than their own) were used for a variety of purposes. For more about this option and some cautions, please refer to this article on the sale of breast milk.
Is the U.S. Becoming a "Dumping Ground" for Substandard Products?
Food in the European Union (EU) seems to be getting safer,5 while American food may be becoming more dangerous. The EU has been progressively tightening their standards, while the U.S. has been loosening theirs. Consider herbicides, for example.
Glyphosate is the most widely used herbicide in the U.S. and is the primary ingredient in Monsanto's broad-spectrum herbicide Roundup, which is causing incredible damage to our environment. As a result of Monsanto's lobbying, a U.S. regulation passed in 2011 increased the tolerance for residues of the herbicide glyphosate on corn. The tolerance is even higher than the one allowed by international standards. The Codex Alimentarius Commission6 has established a maximum residue level for glyphosate on corn at 5 parts per million, but the U.S. regulation now allows 13 parts per million.7
The EU herbicide/pesticide legislation is probably the strictest in the world, a testament to their commitment to consumer protection. Besides limiting these chemicals, they ban genetically engineered foods and the hormone rBGH, whereas the U.S. continues to allow them. Many more such examples can be found.
As the European Union and other nations have begun to tighten their environmental standards, manufacturers have begun to use America as a dumping ground for consumer goods that fail to meet other nations' standards for toxic chemical content. Manufacturers ship wood, toys, electronics, pesticides and cosmetics to the U.S. containing substances that are banned or restricted elsewhere, because they raise the risk of cancer or cause reproductive or neurological damage.
Think about all of the dangerous and poor quality products we're importing from China that make the news now on a regular basis. Unlike the European Union, which uses a "precautionary principle" that prescribes protective steps whenever there is scientific evidence of risks to public health or the environment, the U.S. EPA relies on voluntary steps from the industries themselves. This model of consumer protection has unfortunately been swallowed up by corporate corruption. If the government is unable to provide the oversight needed to ensure public safety, then it's up to YOU, the consumer, to protect yourself.
What You Can Do
The Cornucopia Institute has posted an Action Alert in the form of a proxy letter you can sign and mail off today. They will hand-carry your letters to the USDA spring meeting to protect organic products from synthetic additives. You can print out this proxy letter here.
Signed proxy letters should be mailed to:
The Cornucopia Institute
PO Box 126
Cornucopia, Wisconsin 54827
Also consider including a donation check with your letter, to support the invaluable work the Cornucopia Institute performs to protect your and your family's right to clean, wholesome, truly organic food. As of right now, there does not appear to be any additional benefit to contacting your congressman, but if the need arises, Cornucopia will notify all their members and subscribers with the information.
I can't encourage you enough to participate in this process. It's important to recognize that you CAN make a difference! Always remember that collectively, we have the most effective power in the marketplace that can exceed the power of these multibillion dollar, multinational corporations. We can vote with our pocket books. But we also need to make our voices heard; we have to let these agencies know that we are watching, we're paying attention, and we're not going to allow this immoral, if not downright illegal, industrial favoritism to continue.
Until American consumers are willing to vote LOUDLY and CLEARLY with their checkbooks by refusing to purchase cheap products created under poor standards of safety, we will continue to be suckers for substandard and even dangerous products that can compromise our health, along with the health of future generations.
So think carefully before you purchase your products! The real cost of "cheap products" comes in the price you pay for your long-term health.