Zen Honeycutt & GMO food in New Zealand

Zen HoneycuttWay before I heard Zen Honeycutt was coming to New Zealand (Auckland, Hamilton, Tauranga) I had read about her. She’s one chick that has really put it out there. Speaking up takes courage. You risk criticism, derision, and today in the world of social media – horrible internet trolls. And Zen is, well, incomparable. She has held rallies, walked into Monsanto shareholder meetings, met up with the US EPA, tested food and even breastmilk for pesticides and safety – all while bringing up 3 boys and staying married. I reckon she’s awesome. She’s done it with a team of other mums, who have also experienced the same stuff – sick kids that get better, they’ve posted testimonials, slowly and at times explosively built up a formidable information source www.momsacrossamerica.com.

What happened to Zen to change her life? Sick kids. Simple as that. Here’s an extract from Zen’s story:

‘It was Thanksgiving and my five year old son sat across from me at the festive table. Though surrounded by eighteen cousins and jovial family members, he looked completely miserable. With a mouthful of savory stuffing, he should have been happy. Instead, within seconds his entire body was puffed up like a raspberry; red, and inflamed. His eyes glazed over and he drooped like a rag doll. We discovered that there were pecans in the stuffing. My son was on the verge of death. I scrambled to find the Epi Pen and my husband jabbed it into my son’s leg. I yanked it out and blood spurted from his leg. We rushed him to the hospital, both of us crying as my son moaned in the back seat. As he was hooked up to steroids and monitors, we prayed to God for his life.

I did not lose my son that day, but this happened more than once over the past five years, and happens thousands of times a year to American families. Our children could die from food. We did not have allergies like this when we were children. Something has changed and it’s not genetics. Neither my husband or I had food allergies.

My son went on to develop more allergies, including one to Carageenan, a seaweed food thickener, which can cause a slow growth of ulcers and stomach cancer. This was the last straw for me. No longer would I “put up” with allergies to food. When my son wished that his allergies would “go away”, instead of being resigned and doubtful, I wondered, “What if they could? What can we do about this?”

Just this week my son accidentally ate a walnut in some granola. Instead of puffing up, being stabbed with an EpiPen and nearly dying, he said “Mom, my tongue itches.” His stomach felt a little queasy. I called the doctor, gave him Benadryl and some Chinese herbs and he went to school two hours later. His allergy had been reduced from life threatening to mild. In addition, his allergic reactions to Carageenan are completely gone. What made the difference?

We found out about GMOs. We ate organic for the past year. He chose to drink an organic green drink every morning to heal his stomach. His gut and therefore his immune system, is growing stronger and his allergies are disappearing. His walnut allergy has gone from a 19 down to a .2. This is not a scientific study, this is our family’s reality. His healing is a triumph over toxic food and resignation. It is a triumph of the human spirit.’ (Original here.)

This is just one family’s story, but it becomes compelling when you hear the testimonials posted by mums that have other kids with different illnesses.

However, Like Pandora’s Box, this led Zen to inquiry into other stuff. Intimately tied to the 99% of GMOs authorised for human food (US and NZ) are the associated pesticides used with them (more on that below). Therefore, it is the overall toxicity of these products that concerns mothers like Zen.

What’s this got to do with New Zealand? We don’t have GMOs in our food here?

Think about contents of processed food and how much you see the words ‘corn’ or ‘soy.’ You might see the word ‘soy isolate.’ Then think about whether it is GM or not. If you are in a supermarket you will rarely find the words ‘contains genetically modified product.’ Does that mean we don’t have GMOs in our Kiwi food? We simply don’t know.

In New Zealand, food doesn’t have to be labelled genetically modified if
1. The GMO content is less than 1% or
2. The GMO DNA is stripped out of it
3. If there are no novel proteins. – so GMOs can’t harm us because the ‘bad’ stuff is gone. Right?

This means the food should be so processed that there is no GMO DNA in it. But no-one ever tests. Ever. Furthermore 99% of GMOs are higher in pesticides, as over 80% are ‘Roundup Ready’ and a Roundup application before harvest is the norm. But nowhere in the New Zealand government or EPA do they test for Roundup levels. Ever.

Let me repeat: There is simply no government testing of food in NZ to identify whether there is GM content in it or not. At all. It appears to be ‘self regulated’ by industry. An outlet only has to require labelling of products if it knows it has GM in it. If you don’t ask, don’t test, you don’t know. Perhaps there is no monitoring because if they find levels over 1% they will have to label. And that’s not good for PR. Nowhere in the world have people demanded, or wanted, GM product in their diet.

This is the three monkeys approach to regulatory safety of GMOs in New Zealand. Hear/speak/see no GMOs. And of course, unknown GMOs cannot be legally present at any level in our food. But there is never any testing for ‘unknown’ GMOs, whatever they may be…..

Why might we think New Zealand may have GM in its food? Increased incidence in inflammatory/immune related health are following US patterns

inflammatory pathogenesisWe know that New Zealand is seeing similar illness spikes in (now common) illnesses to the USA – that commonly begin with gut dysbiosis, or a permeable gut (where the gut wall has broken down). These illness levels have increased beyond traditional genetic tendency (consider how frequently our grandparents had allergies or celiac disease, for example).

Illness levels are increasing because because of external factors, known as environmental triggers.

Intestinal permeability &/or gut dysbiosis are correlated with (now) common disorders such as irritable bowel syndrome and leaky gut, Crohn’s disease and coeliac disease. But there are many more non-communicable illnesses with a co-factor of a ‘sick gut’ that aren’t commonly realised: allergies (including hay fever), bronchial asthma, autism spectrum, ADD/ADHD, type 1 diabetes, obesity rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, multiple sclerosis, CFS & ME, atopic eczema, dermatitis and psoriasis, some cancers, metabolic and cardiovascular disturbances. It’s kind of, well, massive.

To clarify – for the above listed illnesses (not a complete list) you need three things:
1. Genetic predisposition
2. Environmental triggers (external factors like toxins)
3. Then the gut wall to break down – intestinal permeability

Zen started her research and work on GMOs. She didn’t know before this journey about intestinal permeability. She didn’t know about glyphosate’s effect on the digestive system. Or how GMOs could be harmful to the gut wall. She certainly didn’t dream Roundup would be in breastmilk. She just knew her kids got better toxin free and that GMOs were a part of it.

Zen’s kids health were her bottom line. Call that unscientific if you will. But it’s my bottom line too.

Question: Are GMOs safe?
Answer: No-one agrees (except people with industry connections)- but most people on the cautionary side believe there is absolutely not enough safe, transparent, publicly available long term research. (This is where, as a parent, logic and common sense may tempt you to agree).

Moms Across America (MAA) was established and started campaigning for labelling of GMOs. Testimonials were posted. Data was collected.

The big problems worldwide are conflicts of interest in the regulatory bodies, lack of transparency and funding for independent trials. But of course, Zen didn’t know this when she started her work. She was just thinking ‘sick kids get better on organic’. The labelling GMO debate has been a hugely controversial in the USA. This was where Zen and MAA initially focussed a significant proportion of their work. Unless you’ve been asleep for the past five years, the US has had attempt after attempt of citizens to implement labelling of GMO’s in various states. It’s been huge. The spend by the grocery manufacturers union, industry, and FMCG producers to stop labelling has been huge. $$Millions$$. Because somehow all those corporations have decided that the cost of labelling foods as ‘contains GMOs’ would be too expensive for the average American. Europe seems to have done it easily.

But it’s more than GMOs. Consider that wheat today is routinely sprayed with insecticides, fungicides and herbicides. Then consider that not one single regulatory agency in the world tests the full formulation of these products. Scientists have found that just the fungicide formulation along can be 1000x more toxic than the weaker active ingredient, the only part of the ‘mix’ they test. Then consider that the full formulation of all pesticides worldwide are never tested for toxicity, including Roundup. And then think of your kids gut (BTW they never make allowances for smaller kids size and vulnerability when they assess safety of pesticides). It’s not just the gluten, folks. It’s corruption.

Zen Honeycutt and the mothers of MAA are mothers who have watched the health of their children improve when purchasing organic food. This may seem too simple, and too good to be true (which is why you have to come and listen to her speak in person). But for these mums, the evidence is in front of them. Food matters.

Why is organic food is making a difference to family health?:
1. Reduced toxin levels – primary toxins in our children’s food today are GMOs and synthetic pesticides. There are also food colourings, preservatives, flavour enhancers and so on. These products are rarely in organic produced foods.
2. Organic food also has a scientifically proven higher nutritional content. These children are eating food that is similar to what their grandparents ate. It’s as simple as that.

Is organic food expensive? Not when you start visiting the doctor and pharmacy less, and start sleeping through the night. It’s a different set of costs. Many of these mothers don’t eat a 100% organic diet – many find an 80% diet works.

These mothers are reducing 2 of the 3 factors that scientists are starting to understand are needed to cause so many of these illnesses. They are taking out the environmental trigger, and they are restoring their children’s gut wall with healthy nutritional food that enables the gut wall to rebuild itself.

You can give a formal term to what Zen and Moms Across America are doing – they are providing in-field, epidemiological evidence. They’re compensating for the fact that after 14 years+ no diagnostic tools for any health professional to find out if GMO content in diet has a relationship to their illness. So we are kind of stuck – the only way we can ensure safety is by elimination.

GMO’s – Further Reading: It’s not just altered genes we need to be worried about – it’s gut-harming toxin/pesticide residue levels

Roundup is routinely sprayed on over 80% of GMOs. So most GM products will have higher levels of Roundup. If you are a practical Kiwi you will tell me, ‘Roundup is fine, you can drink it.’ What you may be interested in, if you are thinking of your kids health, is of how mainstream media is ignoring the barrage of publicly released science that is saying Roundup is unsafe. But don’t worry, the NZ EPA only uses science that the pesticide industry provides to prove safety of Roundup. And our EPA hasn’t looked at any new science since 2009 to understand the overwhelming picture that scientists (who are not paid by the pesticide industry) are pulling together of the toxic effects Roundup produces in our endocrine, gastroeintestinal and neurological systems. Massive data gaps.

Unfortunately, it’s not just GMO’s that can have Roundup sprayed on it. Therefore reading about Roundup will only be of interest to you if you eat wheat, oats, vegetable oil, potatoes, sugar, lupins and drink beer (barley). All these foods are approved to have Roundup sprayed on them up to 7 days before harvesting in to human food. Oh, also if you eat pork and chicken as these animals are primarily fed GM protein meal, of which the significant proportion is sprayed with Roundup. Our food is fundamentally different in its toxin load than the food our grandparents ate.

And those GMOs that don’t have Roundup sprayed on them? (Excepting the 1% of other stuff.) They contain a ‘Bt’ insecticide bacteria toxin. Naysayers will say the organic industry uses this in it’s pest management systems so it is totally fine. What the naysayers don’t mention is that a spray on our food is totally different from a bacterium injected into our food. That explodes insects guts. Nice. Today many GMOs have the Bt toxin inside them and also have Roundup sprayed on them. GMO’s have been crossed, or stacked. So today a GMO corn for example, is approved to go in New Zealand food and feed that can have Roundup and 2,4-D sprayed on it. What is pretty insane, is that our approval authority FSANZ approved this corn before they even knew the levels of 2,4-D that were going to be sprayed on it (2,4-D is neurotoxic amongst other things). FSANZ approved of 2,4-D tolerant corn years before America approved of it. We have varieties of potatoes, sugar beet, corn, cotton, rice canola and soybean that are approved to go in our food in New Zealand.

You can find all the GMO approvals for New Zealand here.

Another problem. Confrontingly, when new releases come through of a new GM product, they are released based on ‘available science’ – science is not specific to that product at time its approved. Scientists can wait years to determine whether decisions are correct. Meanwhile the product has been approved for release in that time. Furthermore the studies accompanying these new releases are almost always provided by the product developer rather than an independent third party. The product is under the developers proprietary control and unavailable for independent testing. So, in all likelihood there are zero scientific studies provided in the literature that is provided for assessment.

Another problem. There is also a new generation of GMOs moving through the system. Known as GM2.0, industry is busy attempting to make them resolutely ‘non-GMO’ so that they can avoid all that pesky regulation that has been such a nuisance for industry for the first generation. (And believe me, by declaring GMO’s as GRAS and as ‘substantially equivalent’ and avoiding having to submit any publicly released transparent long term feeding trials, industry actually did avoid a lot of hassle with the current crop. Non-industry scientist have spent the last 2 decades trying to unravel that nasty mess, and internationally there is still no consensus that GMOs are even safe, no matter what industry funded blogs tell you).

What do mums want? They want the same quality of food – high in nutrition – low in toxins – for their children that their grandparents ate.

Zen, we can’t wait to hear your story, and to hear how you are working with other mums to make American food safety agencies more transparent, helping people understand this story, and how you are making your own world and the people around you – healthier.

We have a new generation of activists that are campaigning for healthy kids. And they come from the most conservative backgrounds you can imagine.

How outrageous.

About Jodie

It is only by questioning and discussing and attempting to view the world our childrens children will live in, that we start to understand that life isn't a linear process - it is a room of dominoes falling. Our world has a lot of special interests and stakeholders that by default, keep science undone, and economics hooked in the 1920's - resulting in governments that don't address the complexity that is challenging our world. From pollution to mental health (and the cost of food) to the health of our freshwater - it's complex and dynamic. What equilibrium do we want to reach - a healthy vital one or a suffering one?
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One Response to Zen Honeycutt & GMO food in New Zealand

  1. Jodie,
    Thank you for this article.  Having had the pleasure of being with Zen, Dr Michelle and Dr Michael (the other speakers) for the last 2 weeks – and listened to what they collectively have to say – we can recommend the talks.
    We hope your reader base get the chance to experience the collective knowledge and certainly be moved by Zen's passion.
    Jillian and Alan

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