Pulling out the broom

Hey! It’s sure been a while. I’ve been more of a writer on facebook where I garner a few likes and occasional comments as well as an actual journal full of sheets of paper nobody will probably ever read but I’m getting an itching to come back here and clean off the cobwebs just in time for the month of Halloween!

 (Photo from Iowa MSTP twitter account)

I have a few shirts (thanks to the U of Iowa MSTP program) that say I ❤ Science. You see, I’ve always been fascinated with the study of science (biology, chemistry, etc.). I was once even a Biology major in college for a few semesters until I switched over to English. My snag? My reason for changing majors? I’m a slow absorber when it comes to science and math. I enjoy scientific subjects but I’m a slow learner. and I couldn’t keep up with the fast current. I’ve been taking a few MOOCS (I’ve talked about these massive open online courses before, haven’t I?) over the years and most happen to be science courses. The nice thing about some of the MOOCS these days is they are archived so that I may come and go at my own snail pace. Have a few days where I’d rather sit on the couch during afternoon nap rather than paint a porch or clean a potty? I watch science lecture videos. For fun.

So, recently, I’ve become interested in essential oils yet again. I’d enjoy talking about them with others but I suspect, due to my slightly skeptical nature and differing of opinions/facts, few wish to engage with me. Everyone likes to stick to their own social groups. It’s a safe environment when you stick together with your own people. Spots should stick with spots; stripes with stripes. Venturing outside of those might cause some discomfort so why dare? What if I have spots AND stripes? Where do I fit in? Where can I go?

My relationship with essential oils, hmmm. If it were a facebook relationship status, it would be “it’s complicated”. I do see some benefits. I really do. But I also see a lot of incorrect or inconclusive information. So if I can’t seem to engage a discussion with an oiler, I suppose I shall write to the expansive void that is the internet. With my high interests in science, I can share some of what I’ve come across. Everyone and anyone seems to blog about them so why can’t I? My SEO is terrible but stay tuned, cobwebs and the occasional wander that happened along. Pretty please? 

[Figure out how to insert cool gifs like on facebook and insert some cool gif]


In which family home evening involves ice cream


Ask who likes ketchup, pickles, olives, etc. Cater this to your family’s taste. Ask for a volunteer, someone who said yes to all those things, and give them a Sundae glass with ice cream in it. Uncover the non-sundae toppings. Ask them what they would like on it. Question them by picking out a topping they’ve already said they like e.g : “Would you like ketchup on that? I know you like it!” They will reply something like “not on ice-cream”. Clarify by saying “Oh, so it’s good but not on a Sundae?” They should then confirm this. Do this with the other toppings reaffirming that they are good but not on a Sundae. Thank them for participating and say that although there are many things that might be good for us to do they aren’t appropriate on Sunday, the Sabbath. Turn the toppings around and discuss each word strip – why it is not a good Sabbath day activity. (http://www.cranialhiccups.com/2008/08/keeping-the-sabbath-day-holy-fhe.html)


D&C 59:9-13 – Why has Heavenly Father asked us to keep the Sabbath day holy?

Mosiah 13:16 – Talk about why it is important to keep the Sabbath day holy. What blessings do we receive when we do?


Ezra Taft Benson: “The purpose of the Sabbath is for spiritual uplift, for a renewal of our covenants, for worship, for rest, for prayer. It is for the purpose of feeding the spirit, that we may keep ourselves unspotted from the world by obeying God’s command” (“Keeping the Sabbath Day Holy,” Ensign, May 1971, 6). Keeping the Sabbath day holy expresses our love for the Lord and shows our gratitude for His goodness. When we follow this commandment, we receive great blessings from Him.”

Gordon B. Hinckley: “If you have any doubt about the wisdom, the divinity of observing the Sabbath Day … stay home and gather your family about you, teach them the gospel, enjoy yourselves together on the Sabbath Day, come to your meetings, participate. You will know that the principle of the Sabbath is a true principle which brings with it great blessings.”

Spencer W. Kimball – “The Sabbath is not a day for indolent lounging about the house or puttering around in the garden, but is a day for consistent attendance at meetings for the worship of the Lord, drinking at the fountain of knowledge and instruction, enjoying the family, and finding uplift in music and song. The Sabbath is a holy day in which to do worthy and holy things. Abstinence from work and recreation is important, but insufficient. The Sabbath calls for constructive thoughts and acts, and if one merely lounges about doing nothing on the Sabbath, he is breaking it. To observe it, one will be on his knees in prayer, preparing lessons, studying the gospel, meditating, visiting the ill and distressed, writing letters to missionaries, taking a nap, reading wholesome material, and attending all the meetings of that day at which he is expected.” Spencer W Kimball, “The Sabbath—A Delight,” Ensign, Jan 1978, 1–5.

When we are faced with the decision to engage in an activity that may or may not be appropriate for the Sabbath, we might ask ourselves three questions:

1. Is it doing good?

2. Is it spiritually uplifting?

3. Would Jesus do it?


Go to church, talk with family (we call the grandparents every Sunday evening), read a book (esp. the scriptures), take a family walk, play a family game.


Keeping Sunday Special

The ice cream scoops are things we thought up as a family and the ketchup, mustard, etc. on the sides are good things just not on Sundays like going to work and shopping.

CONCLUSION: When we keep the Sabbath day holy, we can be blessed with physical and emotional rest and feel re-energized to take on the weekday duties as well as  fill and care for our own spiritual wells. I love Sundays because I spend the best time with my family!

We finished off the lesson with real ice cream sundaes topped with fresh strawberries, hot fudge, and sprinkles!

(Personal Progress Faith Value #3)

In which I muse upon the Individual Worth #4 value at 11 o’clock on a Saturday night

D&C:119 Organize yourselves; prepare every needful thing; and establish a house, even a house of prayer, a house of fasting, a house of faith, a house of learning, a house of glory, a house of order, a house of God;

Here is a list of my hopes and dreams for my future* home, family, and education and some important things I would like to accomplish as well as a plan for some of them:

* My hope is that my home is and will be a place of safe and peaceful refuge for my family amidst the stormy seas of life. As a friend once wrote something about the kitchen table to being a gathering place to plan revolutions around and whatnot, (I have got to find that, or ask her where she wrote it) that’s kind of what I want my kitchen table to be a place to gather around – mealtime, homework, artsy-fartsy crafts, science experiments, talk, talk, and talk some more. I’d better get some padding for the chairs then if that’s what I want.

* My hope is that my children will realize their full potential and never feel discouraged by challenges. I will keep my mouth shut about how much I dislike math so that my children perhaps may do better at it than I did.

* My hope is to finish my college degree someday and even use it. The plan is to have Genius hubby finish his schooling first as well as all three children in school as well before I can return.

* My dream is to be a published author of a book or two worthy of others reading. Just keep writing. Even if it’s crap, it’s a good workout.

In which I speak of bravery

be you bravelyA college professor once told me public speaking was not my forte and I took it to heart, attempting to avoid speaking in public whenever I can.  Funny enough then that, upon Jamie asking if anyone would be willing to share a brave story at the last MOPS of the year, a talent-sharing meeting, I decide to respond to her facebook message. With writing being one of my talents, I thought perhaps I could compose a little something and read it but by the end of the long and nap-less day, I hadn’t written anything and I was exhausted. I resigned myself to giving up and crawled to bed. Only then did the thoughts and feelings suddenly clash together and flood my head to the point I could not sleep.

In the dark, with a snoozing baby in his bassinet next to me, I pulled out my tablet to write them down:

My story of bravery began months ago, at the beginning of the new MOPS year when I almost didn’t return to MOPS. I felt as though I didn’t belong; too different from other moms. I’m nerdy, shy, and socially awkward, just to name a few things. I let the adversary in and tell me all about my self-worth, listening to that negative voice inside my head all the way up until the day before MOPS was to begin again. But even introverts crave some social interaction and I realized if I didn’t return, I had nothing to replace the empty space MOPS had fulfilled in past years.

monet s postmodernWhat would be the fun in things if we were all so alike? Our different personalities, quirks, and talents make up who we are and, like a painting, our different colors blend and bloom about upon a canvas together to make a beautiful scene. Who wants a canvas of contemporary postmodern art, with just one color slathered on it? (Maybe the Metropolitan Art museum for half a million but that is not the point.)

And so I decided, shoving out the negativity of Satan and replacing it with a trust in the Lord, to come. I felt accepted and loved more than I had ever fully realized. I started the year trembling and afraid, with emotional wounds I feared might never heal, and ended soaring high on the wings of being bravely me.

Sitting down in my seat after speaking to the large group of ladies, I could sense I could not have completely done such a feat all on my own. The words that came to me, both written late at night and what I spoke, were inspired by the help of a more divine power than just little ol’ quiet me.

The Worth of Souls and Apples

The third value experience for Individual Worth was an effort to increase an awareness of the worth of others. D&C 18:10 reads: Remember the worth of souls is great in the sight of God.

For two weeks, I worked on being more aware of praising my children and acknowledging their accomplishments; whether it was simple things like saying my daughter was looking extra beautiful that day, how well she was reading, or thank you to Bubs for making Stormaggedon smile.

I chose this value experience to complete as it happened to correlate with the apple experiment and was a good opportunity to teach my children about the importance of what we say and building up the confidence of others. When we spent time during breakfast sharing nice things about each other after talking to the apples, I noticed our day went smoother and there was even more of a spring to our step.

As for building up/tearing down the confidence of apples? Apparently, apples don’t like “Jesus wants me for a sunbeam” or  Carly Rae Jepsons “I really really like you” sung to them…

apple experiment

Sunday YW Personal Progress Journal Update


In going along with the apple science experiment (which is progressing quite nicely, btw), I happily found a personal progress value experience that coincides with the second part of our experiment, which is that the children and I spend 30 seconds each day saying positive things to each other. It’s a good way to end the experiment on a happy note every morning and a boost of confidence before Goober heads off to school for the day.

Individual Worth #3: “Read Doctrine and Covenants 18:10 and 121:45. Do all you can to build others and make them feel of worth. Every day for two weeks notice the worthwhile qualities and attributes of others. Acknowledge them verbally or in writing. In your journal write what you have learned about the worth of individuals and how your own confidence grows when you build others.”

In another week and some, I shall report back on what I have learned “about the worth of individuals and how [my] own confidence grows when [I] build others” and then I shall have completed my first value experience!

An update on the progress of Choice and Accountability #2:  Read the pamphlet For the Strength of Youth. List in your journal each standard of righteous behavior the pamphlet outlines, and record why it is important to choose to live those standards. Practice living righteous standards by choosing three standards in which you need to improve. You might choose to be more selective about television, music, books, or other media, or you might improve your modesty, language, or honesty. After three weeks share your progress with your family, your class, or a leader.

1) We were late for church but hey, we made it! Excuses, excuses but I needed to throw five ingredients for a side dish into the crockpot for a potluck to be held after church and then Stormageddon (codename for our newest addition to the family) didn’t want to wait any longer to nurse (half hour drive can be torture on little tummies).

2) Each night before bed, I have been reading one or two talks from General Conference on my tablet so as to help with increasing my spiritual knowledge.

3) The apple experiment has been helping to remind me to speak more kind words to my children so as to build a stronger relationship with my family. It’s also been helpful in getting us started on the right foot each morning.

In which produce can hear and have feelings thus affecting the decomposition process?

Question: Will positive/negative words alter how an apple decomposes?

Hypothesis: While countless psychological studies can and do support the beliefs that words of affirmation affect fellow humans, I do not suspect it will alter the decomposition of fruit. I do not suspect speaking mean or angry words will speed up the decomposition process nor happy or positive words to slow it down.

Research: apples decompose as oxygen converts into carbon dioxide and starch into sugar.

Design: I have taken one ordinary apple, rinsed it under running water, and sliced it into 8 pieces with an apple slicer. Each apple slice has been randomly placed into it’s own labeled ziploc bag and arranged on a cookie sheet in the kitchen. Two slices will be included in each group (replicates).

Group #1 – upon opening the bag (across the room from the other groups), the apple will have good/happy words spoken to it for 30 seconds, timed.

Group #2 – upon opening the bag (across the room away from the other groups), the apple will have bad/mean words spoken to it for 30 seconds.

Group #3 – the apples will have their bags opened for 30 seconds but no words spoken to them.

Group #4 – the bag will not be opened or disturbed but left on the cookie sheet all week.

Analysis: To be continued…

Conclusion: To be continued…

In which this blog is pretty much a journal, right?



I have been in the Young Women’s Presidency (I belong to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints/ I know who I am/ I know God’s plan/ I’ll follow Him in Faith… pardon me, I digress into song occasionally) for a few months now and yet I haven’t fully completed a personal progress value experience. It has been a personal challenge, as well as a way to be a good example to the girls, to attempt to complete the program as a leader since I never did when I was a wee teenager. Many of the value experiences require writing in one’s journal and well, this blog really is my journal (full of randomness). So here goes!


Choice and Accountability #2

I have read “For the Strength of Youth” pamphlet, cover to cover, and now I shall list each standard outlined here and why they are important.

Agency and Accountability – we are free to choose how to live our life. However, we are not free to choose the consequences those choices have upon us and others. May we be responsible with this gift of life and make good choices.

Dating – Virtue loveth virtue; light cleaveth light.

Dress and Appearance – our body is a temple that we should respect by dressing and caring for it appropriately and modestly. As a mom, I should strive to get dressed each morning, rather than wandering the house in my pajamas.

Education – I love this section because I am a nerd. I love to learn! What we fill our minds with, will rise with us, so invest and fill it well.

Entertainment and Media – what we choose to watch, read, listen to, etc. has an effect on us. We must choose well so as to not drive away the spirit.

Family – strong families require effort. I need to be a righteous example to my children and be sensitive to others’ needs.

Friends – choose friends that have a good influence on you as well as be a good influence upon others. Do not compromise your standards to fit in, rather, stand out as you are a disciple of Christ.

Gratitude – we need to express gratitude for all the blessings we receive daily, big or small.

Honesty and Integrity – do what is right and live high standards, even when no one may be watching.

Language – clean and intelligent language is evidence of a bright and wholesome mind.

Music and Dancing – the spirit speaks with a still, small voice so choose music that is uplifting and enriching.

Physical and Emotional Health – as my body is a temple, I must care for it by practicing balance and moderation, avoiding extremes that can cause further harm. Seek healthy solutions to problems and safeguard both physical and emotional health.

Repentance – is a change of mind and heart, turning from sin towards God for forgiveness and seeking a desire to do better so that I may worthy to return to live with my family in heaven.

Sabbath Day Observance – prepare for the sabbath day throughout the week, show respect for the Lord by keeping the sabbath day holy. Be on time and attend all church meetings.

Service – “When ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God.”

Sexual Purity – intimacy is to be kept sacred between a husband and wife.

Tithes and Offerings – is showing gratitude for all that God has given me by returning a portion of what I have received.

Work and Self-Reliance – do not be idle, live within one’s means.

For the next three weeks, I am working on increasing my spiritual education daily, keeping the sabbath day holy by striving to be on time to church (a real challenge with three children and a half hour drive to church), and strengthening my family by continuing to strive to speak more words of affirmation to my children.

For more information: https://www.lds.org/young-women/personal-progress?cid=YS-M-personalprogress&lang=eng

In which I let my mouth fly open to share some unpopular but science-based medically pertinent opinions/information…

pizza and opinionsSorry if you might be expecting pizza. This post does not contain pizza.

I like science. Y’all know that. I read up on science-y things in my spare time… in my room… it’s for fun. So a couple of the latest dirty words that could get a bar of soap in your mouth if uttered in my household in a serious manner are “detox” and “all-natural”. Load of hippy dippy bologna, if you ask me (which nobody ever does… it’s like my name is Patrice). I’ve tried to ignore and just scroll past some posts showing up in my facebook feeds  from a growing number of friends in the past several months but it has been building up to a point where I just can’t sit with my mouth shut and my hands under my butt anymore. This being my little sanctuary of randomness, I shall let it fly open here.

Why do I dislike hearing the word “detox”? Because, unless you’ve been hitting up some street drugs and alcohol pretty heavy and landed your sorry butt in the ER, you don’t need to put your body through such a thing as a “detox”. That cheeseburger and onion rings splurge will work it’s way out just fine on its own in a few days. Want to detox? Eat some fruits and veggies. Drink some water. Go for a walk/run/dance dance revolution. Don’t waste your money on detoxing juices, wraps, supplements, and whatnot. The only thing being detoxed is your wallet.

Here are a few articles further explaining the uselessness, as well as possible harm, of unnecessary detoxing rather than me regurgitating it for you like a baby bird –

Science-Based Medicine is one of my favorite blogs to follow – http://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/detox-what-they-dont-want-you-to-know/



Many people are easily drawn towards quick and easy fixes like a moth to the flame, especially when the words “all natural” are included. But these things don’t come cheap and they’re only temporary (if they even work for those lucky few). One of those quick and easy fixes happens to come from a rather popular MLM company that likely is doing some bang up business around this time of year even after all the leftovers have finally been cleaned out of the fridge (I confess, I found a small container of cranberry sauce just last week). My BS detectors go off with this company that especially targets and preys upon stay at home moms. And sure, I could just shut up and let people do what they want but I actually have some serious concerns about these “natural” “detoxing” “miracle” products. I really do care, guys. So just hear me out, please?

pussFirst, those wrap thingys? Sure, they might soften the skin, tighten, or tone but it’s only temporary. What you are mainly loosing is water weight. Not fat, not cellulite, no toxins, just water from your cells. Oh and money. Want some honest reviews? Amazon is the place to go where the 1 star reviews heavily outweigh the 4/5 stars. It’s like the only safe haven for honest customer reviews one can find on the internet.

And in this day and age of digital cameras and Photoshop technology, those “proof is in the picture” posts don’t work on me. Camera angles, lighting, flash on/off, macro/micro, whatever those fancy camera terms are, can all be adjusted to get just the right look. Flex like this, breath in, out, tilt, etc. You’re going to tell me all I have to do is wrap my flabby appendages and I can look like a Victoria’s Secret model within a month without even having to leave the couch or give up oreos?

yeah-im-pretty-sure-its-photoshopped_o_2061181Second, the supplements. Natural does not always equate safe. Cyanide, arsenic, hemlock tea, dihydrogen monoxide… all natural, all deadly in varying amounts. I spent an afternoon going through the rather long ingredient list of one of the vitamin supplements from this company. (What can I say? I’m a nerd. Use me for my skillz anytime.) Of course, due to being a proprietary blend, exact amounts are unknown. As Paracelsus said, “the dose is what makes the poison” but how can we know if the amounts in these vitamins are at a safe enough limit for those that could possibly be affected by them? Especially children and pregnant or nursing mothers? That’s probably why this company has a CYA (cover your arse) alongside their required “has not been evaluated by the FDA to treat or cure blah blah” disclaimer by suggesting pregnant/nursing moms as well as children probably shouldn’t take them… This should include products even externally applied to the skin as they can absorbed and processed by the body.

Here are the ones that should be cause for concern:

Spirulina pacifica – this naturally occurring type of this blue-green algae (likely the stuff this company uses because they claim to use only the most natural of substances) can contain bacteria, heavy metals, and contaminants (called mycrocystins) that can damage the liver and affect children even worse than adults. It is not good for those with auto-immune diseases or PKU. (Source: http://www.webmd.com/vitamins-supplements/ingredientmono-923-blue-green%20algae.aspx?activeingredientid=923&activeingredientname=blue-green%20algae)

Eleuthero root extract – also known as Siberian ginseng, is not safe for children, those with high blood pressure, sleep apnea, narcolepsy, heart disease, bipolar/manic disorders, pregnant/nursing mothers, or those with autoimmune diseases; not to be used by those taking anticoagulants (aspirin, warfarin, etc.), corticosteroids, diabetes medications, lithium, immunosuppressant medications, or sedatives. (Source: http://umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/herb/siberian-ginseng)

Royal jelly – not safe for those allergic to bee products, may lower blood pressure.

Chlorella – not safe for those with autoimmune diseases, can cause extra sensitive skin when in the sun, may cause allergic reactions in those with asthma. (http://www.webmd.com/vitamins-supplements/ingredientmono-907-chlorella.aspx?activeingredientid=907&activeingredientname=chlorella)

Milk thistle seed – slows/impairs the liver’s ability to do it’s job in breaking down some medications such as ibuprofen, warfarin, etc and thereby increases their effects as well as side effects of these medications that may be necessary to those taking them. (http://www.webmd.com/vitamins-supplements/ingredientmono-138-milk%20thistle.aspx?activeingredientid=138&activeingredientname=milk%20thistle)

Astragalus root extract – mutagenic, not safe for pregnant/nursing women or those with autoimmune diseases.

Green tea leaf extract – contains caffeine; can interact negatively with many medications, see source. (Source: http://www.webmd.com/vitamins-supplements/ingredientmono-960-green%20tea.aspx?activeingredientid=960&activeingredientname=green%20tea)

Ginkgo biloba leaf extract – may increase risk of bleeding if taken with blood thinners, stop taking at least two weeks before a scheduled surgery.

Bilberry extract – interacts with blood thinners.

Aloe vera gel – unsafe to ingest during pregnancy, may cause birth defects or miscarriage; unsafe for children under 12; may lower blood sugar. (Source: http://www.webmd.com/vitamins-supplements/ingredientmono-607-aloe.aspx?activeingredientid=607&activeingredientname=aloe)

Black walnut leaf powder – may not be safe for those with nut allergies; avoid during pregnancy/nursing, mutagenic. (Source: http://www.drugs.com/npp/black-walnut.html)

Corn silk stylus – safe at normal food levels but larger amounts may cause miscarriage. (Source: http://www.webmd.com/vitamins-supplements/ingredientmono-140-corn%20silk.aspx?activeingredientid=140&activeingredientname=corn%20silk)

Dandelion leaf – may interact negatively with some medications. (Source : http://www.webmd.com/vitamins-supplements/ingredientmono-706-dandelion.aspx?activeingredientid=706&activeingredientname=dandelion)

Goldenseal herb (aereil parts) – not safe during pregnancy/nursing as contains a chemical that can cross the placenta as well as be found in breastmilk which can then cause kernicterus (brain damage) in infants. (Source: http://www.webmd.com/vitamins-supplements/ingredientmono-943-goldenseal.aspx?activeingredientid=943&activeingredientname=goldenseal)

Lemongrass – may cause miscarriage. (Source: http://www.webmd.com/vitamins-supplements/ingredientmono-719-lemongrass.aspx?activeingredientid=719&activeingredientname=lemongrass)

Marshmallow roots – may affect blood sugar levels.

Meadowsweet herb (aerial parts) – unsafe during pregnancy as it may cause miscarriage; contains chemicals similar to aspirin therefore not safe for those allergic to aspirin. (Source: http://www.webmd.com/vitamins-supplements/ingredientmono-108-meadowsweet.aspx?activeingredientid=108&activeingredientname=meadowsweet)

Papaya leaf – chemicals may cause birth defects, interacts with blood thinners.

Pau d’arco  bark – unsafe during pregnancy, may delay blood clotting.

Plantain leaf – causes uterine contractions as well as laxative effects. (Sources: http://www.drugs.com/npc/plantain.html)

Rose hips – rugosin E may slow blood clotting.

Rosemary leaf – may stimulate the uterus; contains salicylate, a chemical similar to aspirin; may increase risk of bleeding and bruising; may increase seizures. (Source: http://www.webmd.com/vitamins-supplements/ingredientmono-154-rosemary.aspx?activeingredientid=154&activeingredientname=rosemary)

White willow bark – this is what aspirin is derived from and therefore not safe for children under 16, pregnant/nursing women, or those already on blood-thinning medications. (Source: http://umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/herb/willow-bark)

So there you have it. A majority of the ingredients broken down using fairly trustworthy as well as easily accessible sources to anyone via Google. I’m not a doctor (nor do I play one on TV) but I would avoid if pregnant or nursing, on anticoagulants or immunosuppresants, etc. I would strongly advise not giving to children due to the aspirin-like similarities of some items. In fact, I’d save my money and go spend it in the produce aisle as well as use the extra on a new pair of shoes this spring. I think I’ll go eat an apple now; full of vitamins, minerals, and fiber. And cheaper. Any other products you’d like me to examine, just ask and I’ll willingly do the finger work for you. I even have a medical scientist sitting next to me every evening. He has access to even more information than I do.

And one last PSA, always tell your doctor any additional vitamins/herbal supplements you are taking, even if it might just be a basic over-the-counter tablet of Vitamin C. You may not realize it but even herbal supplements can interact negatively with medications or cause complications you may not even realize.

Date Night: Nerd Edition

Mr. Genius and I went on a date this week and I took notes! I suspect you’re wondering why I took notes on a date… Well, Mr. Genius asked me if I wanted to come hear a lecture titled “Facts and Fiction about GMOs in Food” for his Genetics Retreat and I decided, “why not?! I need to get out of the house for a couple of hours and be with my man.” Dates are few and far between outside of this household sadly due to time constraints and budget but I like to help out the local teenager babysitters when I can as family isn’t nearby to extort as easily. 😛

And, I don’t mean to brag, but I might’ve known just a little more than Mr. Genius on this topic. (I introduced him to The Genetic Literacy Project and Biofortified  afterwards.) I was expecting a more genetically-minded lecture but the speaker, Ruth MacDonald, is chair and professor of Food Science and Human Nutrition at the rival ISU, not Genetics. But whatevs. She still knows her stuff and is listed as an expert on the Best Food Facts and GMO Answers websites.

Yes, I’ve joined the dark side, they have cookies. And yes, I took some notes to share.

We came in a little late when Prof. MacDonald was talking about a few advances in fortified GMO foods such as golden rice and a type of banana developed to be high in Vitamin A. In some parts of the world, vitamin A deficiency is still a huge problem, causing permanent blindness and even death in children as well as adults. These two crops were developed to help provide more vitamin A to the local populations who grow them rather than shipping in food (which might not be possible in politically war-torn countries). But instead, there are many roadblocks because of the fear and misinformation of GMOs. Not only is scientific literacy a problem, but also politics. Greenpeace, a once useful group even destroys crops meant for testing.

90% of soybean crops, 80% of corn, canola, and sugar beets are GMO crops. These crops are used in the making of food such as breads, cereals, and sweeteners, as well as a high amount of corn and alfalfa going to animal feed. (A good portion, not mentioned by Prof. MacDonald, of Iowa corn goes to the production of ethanol.)

Papayas have been a GMO crop since 1980 when a ringspot virus was infecting crops. GE technology saved papayas in Hawaii, you’re welcome. Some squash is also GMO. GMO tomatoes failed on the market. Most sweet corn is NOT GMO, though I did read of a farmer in Iowa with a roadside stand that sold a few types of GMO corn for human consumption that did pretty well as earcorn bugs aren’t very appetizing and tend to waste a good portion of crops.

Corn is fractionated and therefore contains no DNA or proteins in human food though there is a trace amount in the germ of animal feed. A 30 year study on animal feed was recently published in The Journal of Animal Science. evaluated GM animal feed as safe.

“Numerous experimental studies have consistently revealed that the performance and health of GE-fed animals are comparable with those fed isogenic non-GE crop lines. United States animal agriculture produces over 9 billion food-producing animals annually, and more than 95% of these animals consume feed containing GE ingredients. Data on livestock productivity and health were collated from publicly available sources from 1983, before the introduction of GE crops in 1996, and subsequently through 2011, a period with high levels of predominately GE animal feed. These field data sets, representing over 100 billion animals following the introduction of GE crops, did not reveal unfavorable or perturbed trends in livestock health and productivity. No study has revealed any differences in the nutritional profile of animal products derived from GE-fed animals. Because DNA and protein are normal components of the diet that are digested, there are no detectable or reliably quantifiable traces of GE components in milk, meat, and eggs following consumption of GE feed.” http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25184846

Humans consume plant food (not just of the gmo variety) containing DNA and proteins which the body turns into useful nucleotides and amino acids.

It takes at least 10 years of testing from lab to market for a GM food product to be considered safe to consume by human or animals. To say GMOs are just thrown onto the market willy nilly and that there is no research is complete bull shiz (see Biofortified’s Genera project – a non-profit collecting project full of independent as well as company funded research on GMOs). The few research papers stating otherwise, often are flawed, unable to be replicated, and therefore promptly held in low esteem by the majority of the scientific community. Remember kids, good science is replicated.

The FDA, USDA, and EPA regulate the majority of GE technology:

  • FDA regulates food,
  • USDA protects animal and plant health from pests and disease as well as assess risks,
  • EPA determines the safety of pesticides and herbicides.

The safety testing includes:

  • comparing nutrient and chemistry to be the same as non-gmo counterparts
  • proves it contains no allergens
  • the breakdown of traits
  • environmental safety

Credible science is important. The majority of scientists and organizations have declared GMOs to be safe. Celebrities are often touting misinformation and fear mongering in order to increase viewership and profits. (Dr. Oz and negative bias.)

So what about labeling? It would be regulated by the FDA (conspiracy websites distrust the FDA and yet they would be the ones in control of labeling…ironic, eh?). Current labeling requires the identification of what the product is (i.e. Cheerios label is ‘toasted whole grain cereal’ under the brand name), a nutrition panel, ingredients listed by their scientific name (rather than vitamin C, it has to be listed as ascorbic acid), and recognized allergens (such as the major milk, gluten, soy, nut allergies). These have been the regulations since 1992. Any further labels are up to the company, such as GMO-free or certified organic, as long as they are true.

Further labeling would require extra monitoring:

  • laws would need to be passed to track and define products
  • tracking would increase food costs
  • require sensitive methods of detection (more money needed)
  • more inspections (more money needed)

All of this will require more money by raising food costs and more funding for the FDA to do such labeling would increase taxes. Is it really worth it? Companies can already choose to label their product organic. Then consumers can choose organic if they wish. Personally, our budget is tight enough right now. I don’t need food costs going up any more. People suspicious of corporations want more independent studies on GMOs and organic foods? This will require people willing to pay for it.

Farming is basic to civilization. Biotechnology is a part of farming. Plant modification is as old as agriculture. DNA technology has only helped to control and specify to get what we want most rather than years of trial and error waiting for nature (which doesn’t always produce safe outcomes either, i.e. killer bees).

Rather than a battle between organic vs conventional farming, shouldn’t we be working together? Few want to, it seems, thinking it should only be one way or the highway when they should work together.

The genetic genie is out of the bottle. Use it wisely.

Throughout audience questions, public education and scientific literacy came up as a very important role in all this as well as educating political leaders on such matters. Politics play a huge roll around the world when it comes to GE technology and laws are not always passed based on scientific results but more for who’s the louder voice or who has the bigger pocket book. Europe may look like they know what they’re doing banning GMOs but if you look closely, it’s all political.

Further resource suggestions by Prof. MacDonald: