Cygnia, Founder of MELT, recently sat down with Diana Reeves, the Founder of GMO Free USA, to discuss why she loves MELT® Organic and her mission to educate people on the hazards of GMOs.
How did you discover MELT Organic?
“For me, it is about finding food companies that share my core values and support doing the right thing for our food supply and sustainable agricultural practices. Then I go to the next level, ‘Is this something I can eat?’ When I find a food product that meets all of my criteria AND is safe for me to eat, then I jump up and down and shout it from the rooftops because there aren’t many food products out there that I don’t have to make myself.
It’s actually safe for me to put MELT in my body, which is why I love it! First, your products are organic, which is a top priority in our food supply since we have far too many toxins. Second, your products address the GMO contamination issue with the Non-GMO Project verification. Third, there all of the wonderful things you do with sustainability and Fair Trade. Finally, my family loves MELT! Before discovering MELT, I was using one of your competitor’s products. When I found MELT I jumped for joy, ‘Yey! It’s organic!’, which is so important and it tastes so much better. MELT is truly second to none… what more could you want?”
What are your favorite uses of MELT?
“I love using MELT for sautéing, especially chicken. If I make eggs I always use MELT. Chicken Marsala is one of my favorite recipes and MELT is amazing for making the sauce, in addition to Chicken Lemon Piccata or any chicken cutlet recipe. Any time a recipe calls for butter I use MELT. We have gluten-free English muffins in our house, and my husband loves his gluten-free English muffins with MELT and jam – it is his thing. Every time there is an opportunity to put butter and jam on something, he has his MELT out. I don’t bake much right now because I don’t have the time. When things slow down in the fall after the Neil Young Tour, I will definitely use MELT for baking.
What led you to found GMO Free USA?
“I was a CPA in my former life – an auditor, not a tax accountant, and I was on track to become partner at one of the ‘Big 8’ accounting firms. My last day of work was when my two and a half year old son was diagnosed with a tumor in his brain.
His doctors explained that the cancer my son had – fibrosarcoma in the middle of his brain – was extremely rare and he was probably born with it. Everyone was very puzzled by the tumor’s location since fibrosarcomas are associated with connective tissue and there’s hardly any connective tissue in that area of the brain. The doctors searched for a primary site elsewhere in his body and found nothing. They said it was a fluke.
My two and half year old son had four brain surgeries, plus additional surgeries, radiation, and chemotherapy. He ended up at the Mayo clinic and in the end we lost him after two years.
It is impossible not to beat yourself up with, ‘What did I do?’ The doctors said he was probably born with it, and then you say to yourself, ‘Babies are not born with cancer, there has to be something causing it.’
Jump backward, then forward.
When I first got into the Movement, I was not aware of what I am about to tell you, but it certainly motivates me now. One week after testing positive for my first pregnancy in September of 1983, I was in the yard managing weeds. Back then, everybody sprayed Roundup to kill the weeds. I was very conscious of the label – ‘non-toxic to humans, biodegradable’ – or whatever the language was at the time. The nozzle exploded and went all over my hands. I stood there and I remember thinking, “They better be right because if anything happens to this child, I am going to know why.” I never had a reason to revisit this because, as you know, the physiological effects of these chemicals and how they can enter into your body is not something every day people think about.
As you can imagine, I carry the memory of my son’s death with me.
Last summer, I attended a mini-conference directed towards the findings of the effects of glyphosate on breast milk, the so-called active ingredient of Roundup. I met one of the scientists who was very close to the Séralini study done in France and asked him what types of cancer are found in the rats that were fed no GMOs in their diet but were only exposed to environmentally relevant levels of glyphosate in their drinking water. I was told there was only one type of cancer: it was fibrosarcoma and that’s what my son had.
I remember my son’s doctors telling me, ‘Don’t beat yourself up, there are multiple factors. We don’t know if other toxins might have come into play, and why some people have these problems and others don’t’. Since I have the MTHFR genetic mutation, I suspect these toxins affected me more than other people and I know in my heart this is what caused my son’s cancer and his death. I have since had three children with no problems.
Roundup, known for destroying gut bacteria, along with antibiotics and other substances, was patented as an antibiotic microbial by Monsanto in 2010, so they know what it is doing to us. There’s a study that shows a level as low as 0.075 ppm of glyphosate kills beneficial gut bacteria in chicken, and of course there have been no human health trials to follow up on these findings.
In the mid-1990s, I read an article about GMOs and what they were doing to crops and said to myself, ‘This is a bad idea, why would you want to make food that can be sprayed with chemicals? The chemicals are going to be absorbed into the food.’ I said, ‘Ok mental note, keep an eye out, there’s going to be health ramifications; there have to be. Make a mental note and pay attention.’
In 2005, I read another article about the introduction of a new GMO crop, and I decided I wanted to know the residue level of Roundup in my food. I started making phone calls: I called the USDA and I couldn’t get anything from them; I called Pesticide Action Network.
I found that no one was actually testing for levels of glyphosate in our food supply and I was horrified. In the most recent report issued by the USDA where they track pesticides and agriculture, the USDA tested for every agrochemical except for the most ubiquitous one on the planet – glyphosate. The USDA does not test for glyphosate in our food supply. How is this possible?
In response, my organization began testing for glyphosate in common food products and the results we found are horrifying: we found Roundup in Fruit Loops and Morning Star Cereal (which has since been verified non-GMO by the NGP), and you know there are other products that are likely using the same ingredients as the Kashi line. We found Roundup in Morning Star Vege Burgers and ketchups. Our food supply is polluted. Trader Joes corn chips tested clean, which confirmed Trader’s Joes commitment to non-GMO, so it can be done. (But we know only 10% of conventional corn is non-GMO so it is very hard to find.) You must assume corn, wheat, soy, and other common crops are contaminated with glyphosate unless it is certified organic.”
What are the health issues you are managing?
“I have Celiac Disease and Hashimoto’s, which are both triggered by gluten. Casein and soy trigger my thyroid. In addition, my body is hyper sensitive to GMOs. My sensitivity to GMOs is so pronounced, that I had chronic fatigue for over a year even though my diet was clean and I wasn’t eating any GMO foods. I couldn’t figure it out. Three of my friends told me to check my vitamins to make sure they didn’t contain any GMOs and I was like, “Oh please, I could not possibly be that sensitive”. After a year of chronic fatigue, I finally took their advice and checked with my vitamin companies. As it turns out, two of my vitamins had ingredients derived from GMOs – corn and soy. When I swapped them out with non-GMO products, I had a miraculous turn around in a matter of weeks. It was unbelievable.
In addition to Celiac Disease and Hashimoto’s, I recently tested positive for a genetic mutation – MTHFR – which inhibits a person’s ability to detox and affects the methylation pathway and absorption of vitamins. Basically, my body doesn’t process toxins so they accumulate, which may be part of what I am experiencing.
My body is pretty complicated, but in many ways there are blessings to be found. I eat very healthy because I have no choice, but I enjoy it and I feel very lucky to be aware of the root causes of my health problems so I can manage them and still live a fulfilling life. Many people have similar problems but haven’t figured out why they are sick. The sad truth is our food system is poisoning us and it is not easy to put all of the pieces together.
I have three living children, and my son who is the oldest is the one who doesn’t have any major health issues. Both of my daughters have the same issues I have and my husband has Celiac Disease. Gluten and dairy make us sick. I am the front runner figuring out what is safe to eat and do my best to communicate my findings, hoping they listen. We have our hands full with dietary issues, but we have seen major improvements after completely removing GMOs from our diet, such as improvements in anxiety and, believe it or not, behavioral issues.”
What other initiatives or internal studies have you done to fill some of the information gaps?
“We have now accumulated over 2000 studies specifically on GMOs including peer-reviewed studies, reports or reviews, and research that reports harmful effects from genetically engineered foods and the agrochemicals that are used with them. We have had requests from scientists all around the world and we are at the point now – once I return from the Neil Young Tour – where we will need to raise funding in order to create a searchable database.
We also share studies on social media to educate people. A biochemistry study recently came out of Egypt based on voluntary safety assessments that showed on the 91st day of testing (as opposed to a 90-day study period of all tests funded by Monsanto), there was evidence of organ damage and other health problems like infertility. There is conclusive evidence that the GMOs themselves are causing serious health problems and it is important to get the word out.
We have been testing food products for GMO content. We tested a Gerber corn snack (intended for toddlers) and found the corn used was Bt corn, so its Roundup ready and engineered to tolerate being sprayed with Roundup. Bt corn has had the genes for a pesticide bacteria forced into the DNA of the plant so they express new genes containing the pesticides to kill insects when they bite into it. Studies demonstrate the harmful effects from consuming Bt corn as well, such as cell membrane death in humans and other immune disturbances. One study done in Canada (Sherwood Hospital) detected Bt toxins in 93% of pregnant women, and 80% in the cord blood of their unborn babies.
More research needs to be done. Monsanto and the biotech companies are controlling the messaging, which makes setting up this database more of an imperative so a tool is available for scientists, students, and the general public. Anyone should be able to type in key words like kidney toxicity and have a list of studies that pop up.”
“Factor GMO” Study first of its kind
“Factor GMO” is a HUGE, $25 million, first-of-its-kind GMO study that is kicking off in Europe. Last fall, I attended the press conference for this proposed study last fall in London. It will be a two to three year study that quantifies the multi-generational effects of GMOs with a focus on toxicity and cancer. It will be similar to the recent study that links the multigenerational effects of DDT (i.e., mother’s who are exposed to DDT have a higher chance of having children who contract breast cancer). The study will include evaluating the effects of GMOs, Roundup, and isolated glyphosate on birth defects, infertility, cancer and organ damage on a multigenerational scale. It should be a conclusive study whose findings will be difficult.”
Pompeo Bill, HR 1599
“What is going on politically with GMO labeling is quite frightening. Are you aware of what’s going on with the Pompeo bill, HR 1599? HR 1599 was recently amended and is under review by a Congressional Committee. In its current form this bill:
- Prohibits GMO labeling at the state and federal level;
- Allows foods derived from genetically engineered crops to be labeled “natural”;
- Allows GM food products to be labeled “non-GMO” if GMO DNA is undetectable using current PCR test. Examples would include refined oils from GMOs (canola, soy, Bt corn), refined sugar from GM sugar beets, refined or processed products such as corn starch – all of those would be allowed to be labeled non-GMO. If you have a product that can’t be tested to determine the source of the materials, this bill would allow these foods to be labeled non-GMO.
In addition to these provisions, two particularly nasty revisions to bill HR 1599 include:
- GMO crop regulation would only be allowed at the federal level, so any of the bans which have been passed at the county or state levels would all be overturned. For example, the farmers in Jackson and Josephine counties of Oregon recently passed local bans on GMO crops. The livelihoods of farmers growing organic seed for export and organic farmers are placed in jeopardy because GMO crops are a source of contamination through cross pollination. A public vote banned GMOs and now based on the latest revision of the Pompeo bill, those bans would be overturned and the farmers would have no protection.
- Finally, this bill will only allow the USDA to set the standard for non-GMO. Since the USDA has already stated they will follow the outline in the Pompeo bill, any other private label standard would be abolished. The non-GMO Project would be eliminated because they would be forced to shut down.
This is just so sinister. Its mind boggling. They think we are asleep at the wheel and we’re not. When we go on tour with Neil Young, we are going to be educating people, inspiring them to take action, and contacting their representatives not to support HR1599, but to support instead the Boxer, Blumenthal, DeFazio bill which all call for true mandatory GMO labeling.
They really need to hear from us. There is an ‘astro-turf’ campaign right now where the biotech industry – we are not sure if its Monsanto or the whole group of them together – are making phone calls to deceive voters. They have people calling voters saying they doing a survey on GMO labeling, but instead their agenda is to convince voters that a federally mandated standard is the only way to go because a patchwork of state-level labeling laws would be too complicated for food manufacturers to follow. Once they get the voter to agree, they state they will send them a package of information to take action. These voters receive documents via priority or express that includes a letter pre-written by the biotech industry addressed to their congressperson stating they support and want their representatives to support HR 1599. These voters have been misled to believe they are asking their congressperson to support mandatory labeling when in fact what they are supporting by signing and sending the letter is exactly the opposite by outlawing mandatory labeling.
I am so driven because I don’t believe that we’re doomed. I truly believe there’s hope and we have to come together. Some say, ‘We can’t fight because there’s so much money in politics and we’re never going to win.’ I disagree; if we all come together and speak out and hold our politicians accountable for representing the people that voted them into office there is definitely hope.”
Where are you in getting the message out on HR 1599?
“We have a phenomenal reach on social media, between 5 and 10 million per week on FB and another 2 to 3 million on Twitter. People are hearing us and getting outraged, so basically it’s about inspiring them to take action. We also are not the only organization in the movement; there are others who are also working on it. Together we can make a difference.”
On a personal note, how do you keep yourself from burning out, how do you keep this mission emotionally sustainable?
“That is a very interesting question. There is nothing stronger than a mother’s protective instincts for her children and for all of humanity. I feel responsible. Neil Young feels responsible and we actually have a quote from him on our website. We cannot leave our children with this mess, which is what motivates me to get up and fight everyday until the cause is won or I am gone.
I had a grandmother and bless her heart she was 4’10” with a jaw full of metal and she said to me, “Dee you can do anything you set your mind to…”. I had to believe her and her story applies to all of us.
We are promoting a test that is now available to the public where you can test for levels of glyphosate accumulation in your body. It is $119 per test that is not covered by insurance. Honestly Monsanto should be picking up the tab. but of course they are not. We are building a database of these test results so we can document all of these levels of accumulation. It empowers people to identify toxicity and do something about it; it also creates data that can be used in future studies.
One study found higher levels of glyphosate in organ tissue, muscle and body parts in individuals with chronic disease than in those who do not have chronic disease.”
Any other thoughts on MELT?
“You may be a small company, but you are mighty and doing amazing work by bringing change to our broken food system. Consumers are gravitating to your products because this is what we need in order to maintain our health. As a result, you are forcing change on the rest of the food system. What you are doing with the MELT Organic line is very powerful and you should be very proud it.
It is also very powerful that you haven’t sold out and we hope you don’t because we so appreciate who you are, being the little guy. When great companies are acquired, the quality deteriorates or these companies use the profits from their sales to fight GMO labeling, such as Kelloggs from their Kashi line.
We have been boycotting Kellogg for over 2 years. In 2013-2014, Kellogg ranked third in spending for blocking GMO labeling, spending $3.6 million on fighting GMO labeling initiatives and lobbying. In addition, they have contributed to defeating citizen’s campaign initiatives by spreading propaganda to the tune of $2 million. They claim GMOs are for feeding the world. If they took all of the money they spend on trying to hide what they put in their food products and invested it in something useful and productive like organic agricultural development or organic foods for feeding hungry children, just think of how much good they could do. We fight to force them to change.
I can’t live with anyone who poisons children. Kellogg is knowingly and intentionally feeding children Roundup-laced, genetically engineered foods. The corn in Fruit Loops kills insects when they bite into it – we tested it.”