Another Halloween has come and gone. After hopping from house to house in a celebratory frenzy, our little Ninja Claire came home, plopped on the living room rug and began the ritual carried out for generations: the sorting of candy. I remember doing it myself as a kid, with great excitement, wondering if I had more Sugar Babies this year than last. For Claire, it’s Nerds, Dots and Laffy Taffy that top her list. Twizzlers, too. Watching her sort with joy and precision, I pushed down the sadness and confusion I felt, knowing how happy she is to have all this candy. Knowing it’s all made with genetically modified corn syrup.
I don’t want to dampen her sunny spirits with my concerns or deprive her of confections that give her such happiness. I don’t want her not participating in this sweet indulgence that all her friends partake of. She knows to an extent what genetically modified food is, that it’s not good for her. She knows that it’s in candy. And together we’ve decided that moderation is the key, so she’s fine with one piece a day. I’m proud of her restraint.
So one piece a day it is for a short while, but this doesn’t sit easily with me, because I don’t trust GMOs. Because the FDA does not test for the safety of GMOs, instead relying on the biotech companies that create them to determine if they are safe. Because I know that the dose is not the poison and that children are much more vulnerable. Because studies show it may be affecting her immune systems in ways that may be irreversible.
As of right now about 85 percent of the corn grown in the United States is genetically engineered to either produce an insecticide or to survive the application of herbicide. GM corn is equipped with a gene from soil bacteria called Bt or Bacillus thuringiensis. This produces the Bt-toxin in the corn, an insecticide that breaks open the stomach of certain insects and kills them.
If this stuff is engineered to get into the gut of bugs and kill them, what is it doing to children who ingest it? Companies like Monsanto say nothing at all. Yet, in a recent study in Canada, the Bt-toxin showed up in 93 percent of maternal blood samples, 80 percent of fetal blood samples and 69 percent of non-pregnant women blood samples. Some discredit this study and other studies that raise concerns about the effects of GMOs. Some say we need to be paying serious attention to them. I tend toward paying attention to them.
Yet I stuck a Laffy Taffy in her lunch today as requested, along with a prayer that I am not doing her harm. What kind of mother am I? I feel so conflicted, dancing between GMO knowledge and a kid’s right to enjoy candy. It’s really the only GMO food she eats. I’m an organic mom for the most part when it comes to the food I feed Claire, but I trip over the candy. I can’t face telling her that it’s poison when it’s candy, something so fundamental to childhood. Maybe the little she has won’t have an effect on her.
I should be like the moms who say no to GMOs all the way. But I can’t seem to do it. I don’t want Claire to feel deprived of such a basic childhood pleasure. I can only hope that this isn’t a decision I will later regret. It sure does take a bit of the happy out of Halloween. And puts the scariness back into it.
For more information on GMOs, go to the Institute for Responsible Technology