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25 Aug, 2010 20:23

Fat in America, Part 1

Americans are among the fattest people in the world. According to the World Health Organization, over 60 percent of the general population of the US is obese.

What's even more disturbing, the US is the only country in the developed world to label obesity as a prime national security health risk.

It’s all part of a growing epidemic. Why are Americans so fat? And what brought the fast-food nation to rely heavily on foods most developed countries banned decades ago.

"There is a lot of innovation going on in America at all levels, whether it be organic or at a genetically engineered activity," said David Snively, the general counsel for agro-giant Monsanto.

Monsanto is the former manufacturer of the killer herbicide, Agent Orange, which was sprayed through the jungles of Vietnam during its war with the US in the 1960's and 1970's. Exposure to Agent Orange resulted in illness and birth defects that were only recognized decades later. But Monsanto is now responsible for more than half of the US's food and produce supply.

The United States also holds the record for the largest production of genetically modified products in the world. 95 per cent of American corn and 85 per cent of soybeans are genetically modified. All processed foods contain GM ingredients, which means that 70 to 75 per cent of the food we eat every day is genetically engineered.

"I believe that food is medicine and genetically modifying the food that we eat is going to have a great health impact on us," said Caroline Alexander, a doctor and principal at Healthy Muse.

Jeffrey Smith, the author of “Seeds of Deception” and a medical expert specializing in the effects genetically modified foods have on the human body said, "This is one of the most dangerous massive experiments we have ever conducted on our planet."

In the mid 1990’s, the FDA and the USDA allowed genetically modified food products and ingredients to flourish through the American food supply and farming industry. Suddenly, processed foods filled with chemically altered ingredients like high fructose corn syrup, canola oil and modified soybeans hit the shelves of America’s supermarkets.

"When GMOs were introduced in 1996, 7 per cent of Americans had three or more chronic illnesses. Within nine years, that went up to 13 per cent, food allergies doubled in less time, food related illnesses doubled between 1994 and 2001. Autism is up, obesity is up, and diabetes is up. No one is checking to see if the most radical change in the human food supply, the introduction of genetically modified foods, is contributing to these dangerous statistics," said Smith.

According to a separate report by the Trust for America's Health, minority communities such as the African-American, Hispanic and Native American communities have four times more cases of obesity than white Americans.

Dr. Caroline Alexander suggests that the alarming numbers plaguing minority communities are directly linked to the genetically modified foods.

"I believe that these are certainly the root cause, especially in low income communities because they don't have access to real food," said Alexander.

"We're feeding the products of an infant science to the entire population," said Smith.

So if the food is slowly killing us, making us unhealthy and fat, why is it on our supermarket shelves? And more importantly, why aren't genetically modified products labeled?

Coming up in part two of fat in America, we'll delve into those questions and more.