By Nikki Ross and Shelby Gardiner | firstname.lastname@example.org
Imagine getting a hangover. From pizza. This is what Devin Mooneyhan, a farmer in Starke, Florida, experienced before he became diagnosed with a gluten allergy.
“The doctors I’ve been talking to think it has a direct correlation to the Roundup that I’ve been exposed to out here for so long,” said Mooneyhan.
According to Mooneyhan, eating GMO free has helped him to avoid his allergy and feel better about himself.
GMOs are genetically modified organisms made in a laboratory and create unstable combinations of plant, animal, bacteria and viral genes. Critics say they are also connected to health problems and environmental damage, according to the Non GMO project. The Non GMO project is a non-profit organization aimed at educating consumers and building the non-GMO food supply. The groups goal is to ensure non-GMO foods across the globe.
GMOs are banned in more than 60 countries. Australia, Japan and all of Eastern Europe have banned or put restrictions on GMOs. These countries know they are causing a problem, so their governments put a stop to it. According to Right to Know – GMO, a site dedicated to raising support for labeling GMO food, the U.S. has no laws requiring GMO foods to be labeled. Certain states, however, are working toward making labels required. GMOs are in about 80 percent of the food we consume. Corn, wheat, potatoes and soy are foods that Americans eat every day.
Tara Willis, a Florida native, has switched her family to the side where the grass is greener. She is literally on the greener side. Her kids eat mostly GMO-free food. According to Willis, 250 million tons of Roundup is sprayed on crops a year. Most genetically modified food is corn and soy sprayed with Roundup.
“We avoid corn in any form the most. The California EPA just declared roundup as a known carcinogen,” she said. Carcinogen is associated with another c word that no one wants to hear in his or her lifetime. Cancer. Roundup is being sprayed on the food you are putting in your body every time you are eat.
“We are all so blind to what we put in our mouth. I mean, 99.9 percent of the time we have no idea where it’s been, where it came from and it’s pretty scary,” said Devin Mooneyhan, a farmer in Starke, Florida.
According to Mooneyhan, consumers should be buying foods that are grown closer to home and to know where the food is coming from.
“I don’t think we know enough about the chemicals that we’re spraying on all the stuff right now. People are just taking everyone’s word for it, but you know the government just tells us what’s OK and what’s not. I think they are years and years behind with what’s actually going on with all of this,” said Mooneyhan.
According to the Organic Consumers Association, a group that campaigns for health, Roundup is one of the most toxic herbicides and is one of the most commonly reported causes of illness related to pesticide in agriculture workers.
“Recently I have been diagnosed with a gluten allergy which I didn’t have as a kid,” said Mooneyhan.
Mooneyhan’s doctors believe that his allergy was caused by the amount of Roundup he’s been exposed too throughout his life on the farm.
Since being diagnosed with the allergy, Devin does his best to avoid spraying Roundup. His family uses it to kill weeds around their pecan trees, however they don’t spray it on anything that they sell. Since he is exposed to a much higher amount of Roundup then the average consumer, his gluten allergy is much more severe.
“Beer was a huge problem. My hangovers got really really bad and so that was the first thing that caught my attention and then I would eat pizza and I would get a pizza hangover where I would just feel like garbage,” said Mooneyhan.
Changing his diet has given Mooneyhan a new outlook on the things he puts into his body.
“It’s pretty impossible to stay away from GMO wheats. If I eat organic and things like that my mood is better and I just physically feel better but it’s really impossible to do that all the time I think,” said Mooneyhan.
According to GMO-Compass.org, a site dedicated to providing information on GMO, the first GMO was introduced in 1994 when tomatoes were genetically modified by taking out the enzyme that softens the fruit. The purpose was for the tomatoes to have a longer shelf life. Tomatoes are the first commercially produced GMO. The tomatoes were discontinued in 1998 because they were not holding up as expected.
“People are getting sick, I mean, I’m an example of that and a lot of other people are. I mean, a lot of people are developing allergies really late in life and that’s not something that used to happen. I think a lot of that is linked to food and I think we’re learning the hard way and I think labeling will help,” Mooneyhan said
“We didn’t eat like this years ago. Our parents didn’t eat like this. Things have changed a lot in the past 20, 30 years,” he said.
He and his family do not package their own crops. They are just the supplier. Someone comes to his farm in a dump truck. They collect all the pecans from the farm. Then they take the pecans to a packaging plant and, Mooneyhan said, it’s impossible to know how they’ll be handled there. It’s not up to the farmer to add labels. Packaging companies do that. People do not realize that even when a product says organic, that does not always mean it is organic. According to Non-profit GMO, there are no laws regulating packaging, however, there are petitions to require labeling laws in several states.
The Mooneyhan family does not feed their cows grains or anything that contains toxins such as GMOs. All of the cows on the farm are grass fed. They are not given any steroids to grow faster. “They are the happiest cows,” said Mooneyhan.
Like the cows on the Mooneyhan farm, Devin explained that he eats healthy and feels better after a meal. When he would eat fast food, he would be sick to his stomach. “I think that it builds up in your organs and your body treats it as a poison,” said Monneyhan when asked about fast food.
Without laws regulating packaging and the use of Roundup on many foods, he said, people have to be careful what they eat.
“You have to eat healthy. You have to know what you are putting in your body and if the wheat and the corn that you have been eating has been directly sprayed with something that is known to directly be a poison then that has caused cancer and cysts and other craziness then, yeah, you need to be aware and do what you can to educate yourself and maybe become a little bit closer to where you get your food from because that makes all the difference in the world,” he said.
Mooneyhan is not the only person to be diagnosed with a gluten allergy after consuming GMO-filled foods. Tara Willis was also diagnosed with a gluten allergy. “I am also gluten sensitive now. I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia in 2010. Since going gluten free I rarely have any problems with it. When I do eat foods containing gluten I swell really bad in my face and eyes, bloating, stomach/digestive issues and fibro pain like I’ve been hit by a bus,” she said in an email interview.
Willis explained that she does not eat healthy so she can live forever, but because she feels the effects of poor eating almost immediately. She says every once and a while she will give in. Who could resist eating a nice warm slice of cheese pizza?
When asked about her daily intake of different food groups, she explained wheat is not genetically modified.
“Wheat is not genetically modified, but it is heavily sprayed with Roundup. That is probably the biggest contributor to illness and disease. They spray the wheat with it to kill it for an easier harvest, and it cannot be washed off. It is associated with cancer, food allergies, autoimmune diseases, Alzheimer’s, MS, etc. In my family of five, in the last five years both my mother and I have been diagnosed with Hypothyroid, my Dad diabetes (he is not over weight), my brother MS, and my sister has many digestive issues. She also lost her husband at 45 to a sudden massive heart attack. He was a Jacksonville Sherriff’s Office motorman and was physically fit and did not drink or smoke,” said Willis.
Joe Parker, a potato farmer in Hastings, Florida, says that the potatoes that are grown and sold at his family farm are genetically modified, “but just by crossing varieties,” said Parker.
According to the Organic Potato Project, potato seeds result from pollination of ovules, the “eggs” of plants, and are harvested from potato fruits. People often refer to them as “True Potato Seed” (TPS) to differentiate them from “seed potatoes” which are genetically identical clones of the parent plant.
When Roundup is exposed to potatoes, it slows the rate at which the potatoes grow which is why farmers like Parker don’t use Roundup on their crops.
“I don’t use Roundup since there is no potato plant that has a tolerance to it,” said Parker.
Cara Bevilacqua, 20, switched to a non GMO diet after doctors told her brother that such a diet would help him cope with a gastrointestinal disease.
Her brother’s experiences inspired Bevilacqua to research GMOs.
“I got really interested in it and watched a bunch of documentaries about GMOs and what they are and how they affect us and it really scared me to see how much food is genetically modified,” she said.
Since moving away to college, Bevilacqua finds it harder to eat completely GMO free.
“Now that I live on my own I give in a lot and buy junk food but I definitely feel better when I eat GMO free. I think it puts me in a good mood too because I know I’m being good to my body,” she said.