By Dr. Mercola
"Consumed" is a fictional action thriller about genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and genetically engineered (GE) foods. The lead character is a single mother who is desperately trying to get to the bottom of her young son's mysterious health problems.
Her struggle to learn the truth intersects with other storylines, including that of an organic farmer, the CEO of a biotechnology company, two scientists and a former police officer caught in the middle of the unfolding drama.
Daryl Wein, who wrote, produced and directed the film, managed to enlist a long line of well-known actors for this film, including Danny Glover, Anthony Edwards, Victor Garber, Taylor Kinney and Kunal Nayyar. In the words of Erin Brockovich:1
"Entertaining, relatable, suspenseful and informative, and a real eye opener to what is going on. This film has re-inspired and educated me. BRAVO!"
Uncommon Ailments Becoming More Common — Do GMOs Have Something to Do With It?
The lead character reminds me a bit of Robyn O'Brien, a typical American mom with four kids and a limited food budget who, virtually overnight, became a real food activist when her youngest child suffered an acute allergic reaction following a typical breakfast of Eggo waffles, blue-colored yogurt and scrambled eggs.
O'Brien — featured in the TED Talk below — threw herself into researching food allergies, and was shocked by what she found. She'd assumed that if something was sold as food, it was obviously safe and probably, for the most part, healthy. The reality of the situation was a rude awakening.
The notion that something is wrong with our food becomes obvious when you look at disease statistics and consider the fact that food is foundational for health.
Allergies are a good place to start, as allergic reactions to food occur when your body reacts to a food protein as a foreign invader. This in turn triggers an inflammatory response.
Our Food Supply Has Been Radically Altered Since the Mid-'90s
Between 1997 and 2002 the number of peanut allergies doubled, and the number of hospitalizations related to allergic reactions to food increased by 265 percent.2
Between 1997 and 2011, food allergies (of all types) among children rose by 50 percent.3 Today, an estimated 15 million Americans and 17 million Europeans have some form of food allergy. Incidence of celiac disease and other forms of food intolerance have also become more common.
So is there something "foreign" in our food today that wasn't there before? Absolutely. There's a whole host of ingredients that could cause problems, including food dyes, artificial flavors, preservatives, various additives and, of course, GMOs.
Ever since the mid-1990s, new food proteins have been engineered and steadily introduced into our food supply, yet many are still unaware that a major shift has occurred. One of the first foods to undergo this change was milk, which incidentally is also the No. 1 food allergen in the U.S.
A Global Experiment Gone Awry
No long-term human trials have ever been done to evaluate the health effects of GE ingredients, and no one knows what the effects of a lifetime's worth of GMO consumption might be.
But food is foundational for health, so when people suddenly suffer ill health in great numbers, it makes sense to look at the basics, starting with food.
The problem with GMOs is not restricted to novel proteins. GE foods also introduce greater amounts of pesticides into your diet, and such chemicals have also been linked to a long list of health problems, including infertility, birth defects, endocrine disruption, neurological disorders and cancer. More generally:
- Insecticides primarily produce neurological symptoms
- Fungicides tend to produce skin-related symptoms
- Herbicides are associated with digestive and skin problems, including nutritional deficiencies, systemic toxicity and gut dysbiosis
What a Difference 20 Years Can Make
It's quite astounding how rapidly our food has changed. The first GE food, the Flavr Savr tomato, was approved for sale by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 1994.4 The following year, the first pesticide-producing crop was approved by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) — the Bt potato.
Modified canola, Bt maize, herbicide-resistant cotton, Bt cotton and glyphosate-resistant soybeans followed in rapid succession.5 In 1997, the European Union (EU) took action to protect the public from what was clearly a mass experiment by requiring mandatory labeling on all GE food products.
By 1999, GE food crops equipped with herbicide-resistant genes were already starting to dominate the global market, and today, the vast majority of all soy, corn and cotton grown in the U.S. are GE varieties.6,7
GMOs Were Fraudulently Presumed GRAS
Last year, I interviewed Steven Druker, author of the book "Altered Genes, Twisted Truth: How the Venture to Genetically Engineer Our Food Has Subverted Science, Corrupted Government, and Systematically Deceived the Public," in which he reveals how GMOs managed to infiltrate our food system without appropriate safety testing.
In the late 1990s, Druker, who is an attorney, filed a landmark lawsuit challenging the FDA's presumption that GMOs are Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS), which allows them to circumvent safety testing requirements. The evidence clearly reveals the GRAS presumption was fraudulent when first announced in 1992, and remains so to this day.
There's actually a 1958 law requiring that novel food additives must be demonstrated safe. They cannot be presumed safe ahead of time. Each and every one should, by law, undergo stringent safety testing. The FDA broke this law, pretending as if it did not even exist, when it claimed that GE foods are GRAS and don't need to be tested.
This dishonest and illegal maneuvering is what allowed inadequately tested GE foods to permeate the American market in the first place. Druker's book also details the irresponsible behavior of eminent scientists and scientific institutions in the earlier decades of the genetic engineering revolution, long before Monsanto's lackey Michael Taylor and the hordes of revolving door cronies came into the picture.
The Origins of the GMO Safety Myth
Genetic engineering first became a reality back in the early 1970s. At the time, molecular scientists were in charge of these advancements, and it was a breakthrough of truly epic proportions. Even the scientists who were doing it were mindful of how radical it was and how important it was to be careful. Initially, the scientists themselves said there may be dangers associated with this new technology, hence, they had to proceed with extreme prudence.
Alas, once they realized that negative feedback from the public could jeopardize the entire field of genetic engineering, potentially blocking its emergence altogether, they quickly changed their tune. Presenting a united front, the molecular biology establishment in favor of pushing genetic engineering forward lobbied for as few regulations as possible.
To that end, they also launched a campaign to convince everyone that this technology, while novel, was inherently safe and within their full control, hence stringent regulations were an unnecessary burden. Lax regulations on genetic engineering ultimately set up the framework for the FDA's 1992 GRAS ruling. Had safety regulations for the industry been stricter from the start, it's unlikely the FDA would have been able to pull that off. As noted by Druker:
"The biotechnology industry — as irresponsible as they have been by and large — the main guilt lays at the feet of the mainstream molecular biology establishment; the scientists who were doing the research, getting the grants, and wanting to develop this technology. Most of them had altruistic goals. They thought this was going to be used to cure so many ills in the field of medicine ... I think they eventually developed an 'end justifies the means' psychology...
[T]he burden of proof that was placed on new technologies and new products, which ordinarily requires the developer to substantiate the safety of the new technology and its products, got shifted. It got shifted because of the subterfuge and the fraud … There were many good scientists who had concerns, but they were all of a sudden put into the position of, 'You've got to prove they're dangerous,' and the burden of proving safety was removed."
With GMOs, We Also Got More Pesticides
Another book well worth reading is Claire Robinson's "GMO Myths and Truths." It's concise and to-the-point, and provides solid counter arguments to the most commonly reiterated GMO propaganda. The fact of the matter is; genetic engineering is inherently unsafe for a number of reasons.
For starters, it has been and still is quite imprecise. This lack of precision carries the risk of producing countless unpredictable side effects, such as the creation of novel and allergenic proteins in a normally non-allergenic food.
Secondly, the human understanding of the complexity of life, be it the life of a plant, animal or the human body, is still very limited. We're discovering things we never knew before all the time. Hence the scientists tinkering with plants are incapable of predicting exactly how a modification will affect the plant, let alone those who eat it. And the fact that "they don't know what they don't know" will remain, even if the precision of the technology itself were to be perfected.
What we do know is that the creation of foreign proteins is commonplace in genetic engineering of plants — proteins that have toxic or allergenic potential, since they've never been present in the human food supply before. Moreover, most GE plants are engineered to either be herbicide-resistant or to express an internal insecticide. Both scenarios result in more pesticides being present in the food, and many of today's disease epidemics can be traced back to excessive pesticide exposure as well.
'Consumed' — Where Fact and Fiction Merge
I hope you enjoy this special limited-time viewing of "Consumed." Also remember to share it with your friends and family on your social networks. Education is key, and while the film may be fictional, the underlying story is all too real. Our food has changed, and dramatically so. The ramifications of these changes can be severe.
One take-home message is to really consider whether your, or your children's, ailments may be rooted in the food you eat. Don't just assume or accept that your health problems are inherited, or "in your head" (as suggested by one pediatrician in the film), or caused by some "inevitable" natural factor in your environment. Your problems may well be caused by unnatural foods, in which case there's light at the end of the tunnel. Change your diet; change your health.
If you live in the U.S., the following organizations can help you locate farm-fresh, real foods. If cost makes you hesitant to seek out organic foods, consider the fact that what little you save on conventional and processed foods today, you'll ultimately have to spend on healthcare. And then some. Non-toxic, healthy nutritious food is really the best health insurance you can buy.
EatWild.com provides lists of farmers known to produce wholesome raw dairy products as well as grass-fed beef and other farm-fresh produce (although not all are certified organic). Here you can also find information about local farmers markets, as well as local stores and restaurants that sell grass-fed products.
Weston A Price has local chapters in most states, and many of them are connected with buying clubs in which you can easily purchase organic foods, including grass fed raw dairy products like milk and butter.
The Grassfed Exchange has a listing of producers selling organic and grass-fed meats across the U.S.
This website will help you find farmers markets, family farms, and other sources of sustainably grown food in your area where you can buy produce, grass-fed meats, and many other goodies.
A national listing of farmers markets.
The Eat Well Guide is a free online directory of sustainably raised meat, poultry, dairy, and eggs from farms, stores, restaurants, inns, and hotels, and online outlets in the United States and Canada.
CISA is dedicated to sustaining agriculture and promoting the products of small farms.
The FoodRoutes "Find Good Food" map can help you connect with local farmers to find the freshest, tastiest food possible. On their interactive map, you can find a listing for local farmers, CSAs, and markets near you.
The Cornucopia Institute maintains web-based tools rating all certified organic brands of eggs, dairy products, and other commodities, based on their ethical sourcing and authentic farming practices separating CAFO "organic" production from authentic organic practices.
If you're still unsure of where to find raw milk, check out Raw-Milk-Facts.com and RealMilk.com. They can tell you what the status is for legality in your state, and provide a listing of raw dairy farms in your area.
The Farm to Consumer Legal Defense Fund8 also provides a state-by-state review of raw milk laws.9 California residents can also find raw milk retailers using the store locator available at www.OrganicPastures.com.
About the Director
I believe in bringing quality to my readers, which is why I wanted to share some information about the director, Daryl Wein, from "Consumed." We sat down with Daryl to know a little more about what goes in to making these films. Thank you to Mr. Wein for sharing with us.
What was your inspiration for making this film?
Seven years ago, my writing partner and I stumbled onto a subject we knew nothing about: genetically modified organisms (GMOs). It was an engrossing topic, vast in scope, yet undeniably personal. We began the process of trying to understand the true nature of GMOs ourselves; their ramifications on our agriculture, our environment, and potentially our health.
From farmers battling BioTech Corporations, to everyday Americans eating new and novel foods unknowingly, we realized there was a deeply interesting and complex web of intriguing subject matter just waiting to be explored in a narrative film. The elements felt part noir, part thriller, and had us on the edge of our seats.
Harkening back to some of the great political thrillers of the 1970s, I wanted to revisit a time when filmmakers weren't afraid to blend real world politics with story structure and character development.
As a filmmaker, my biggest objective was to make an entertaining film; a film that created a world of characters who were both relatable and emotionally complex, against the iconic backdrop of the American heartland. Whether or not you know anything about the issues, my intention is for the film to stand alone, and to take its audience on a thrilling ride.
I saw an opportunity to raise questions around a subject that was impacting us all, but that too few were discussing. I realized only a few documentaries had explored the topic, but there hadn't yet been a narrative film to truly tackle the subject in all its complexities.
Rather than the often faceless debate that surrounds the topic of GMOs, we wanted to create a story that explored how real people confront these issues. What it means for the average mother, who doesn't necessarily have access to information, let alone healthy food.
We wanted to explore the difficulty of raising a child in this confounding era. In so doing, we honed in on one woman's struggle as the anchor of our story to comprehend this extremely complex subject, in the face of her son's devastating illness.
What was your favorite part of making this film?
Working with such a great cast of actors, from Danny Glover to Anthony Edwards to Beth Grant, they were such a lovely bunch!
Where do the proceeds to your film go?
If you buy the film through our website www.consumedthemovie.com, the proceeds go directly to the film and supporting it.