HILDA LABRADA GORE: Zen Honeycutt is a speaker, writer and founder of Moms Across America, a national coalition of unstoppable moms. She created it to raise awareness of GMOs, pesticides and toxins that assail our world and the most vulnerable among us—our children. You are going to learn about the most common toxins that we are exposed to, what they do to us and how to protect ourselves against them. She will inspire you with stories of her own family’s fight for health and with her call to action for a better future for all of us. Zen, please tell the story about how your son’s health was compromised and how this led you down the path of concern over the toxic burden that we are putting on our children.
ZEN HONEYCUTT: Thank you so much for having me on your show. I appreciate having the opportunity to connect with other mothers, parents and citizens around the world about what is happening with our food supply. It is an urgent issue. I have three boys, ages thirteen, twelve and eight. Several years ago, I was sitting with my son at Thanksgiving along with lots of other people. He was five years old. All of a sudden, he looked very sick. And I thought, “Oh my, not now in the middle of Thanksgiving dinner.” I sent him to the back room to lie down and hoped it would go away, but it didn’t. In a few minutes, he was crying out to us, and my husband and I ran back to him. His body had swelled up like a raspberry. He had red bumps all over his body, face, neck and chest. We were horrified and realized that someone had put pecans in the stuffing. It didn’t even occur to us to check. Thank goodness I had an EpiPen, which we administered. We had suspected a nut allergy before, when he had a mild rash, but nut allergies get worse over time. In the car on the way to the hospital, his eyes were rolling back in his head, and we thought we were going to lose him. It was horrifying. When we were at the hospital, he was hooked up to tubes and looked at me with a desperate look as though asking me to do something. I felt so helpless—I could do nothing but pray.
Thank God, we did not lose him. After that, I felt like there was nothing I could do. For years, all we did was just avoid the food, which is what many people do. I was resigned that it could not be any different. When my son was about nine, he had a series of rashes that he developed around his mouth. We later discovered that he had a wheat allergy but at the time we didn’t know what was going on. For months, his lips would swell up, and he would get a red line around his mouth. It looked like he had sucked on a vacuum cleaner. It was very painful and embarrassing-looking. He said that he wished all his allergies would go away. I thought that was never going to happen, and he would have to accept it.
I was resigned to the situation and doubtful about this improving. But what if there was a way he could get better? A friend didn’t eat wheat for a year, and after a year she was able to consume a little bit of wheat occasionally and not react. I said to Ben, “What if you could get better? Would you like, in a year from now, to be able to eat a slice of pizza or have a birthday cake at someone’s party?” And of course, he said, “Yes!” I asked if he would be my partner in his health. “Would you go to alternative doctors with me? Would you do whatever it takes to make that happen?” He said yes. I promised he would get better.
That was a big deal for me because I didn’t know how to do this. I made that promise because I knew that I would take different actions by putting my word on the line, and I knew that my son would be in partnership with me because he trusts me. We did take different actions. We learned all about GMOs and glyphosate. He watched movies with me. We went to alternative doctors. We discovered that the allergic reaction he was having was from carrageenan, a seaweed food thickener. It took an iridologist, an alternative naturopathic and herbal doctor to tell us this. This allergen can be a big problem for some. People can develop stomach cancer from it. There are twelve-year-old kids who have stomach cancer from this allergen. We learned all about food. I learned about GMOs, and we went GMO-free. In four months, his allergy was dramatically reduced. He had a very faint reaction to it that only lasted two days instead of two weeks. A year or two later, after going more organic, his nut allergens dropped from a nineteen to a two.
HG: That’s fantastic. I imagine there are many parents of children with allergies who are resigned to always avoiding shellfish or peanuts or whatever it is. But you are saying that there is a chance that people can turn things around?
ZH: Absolutely. I’m not saying to go out and eat the allergen. You still have to be careful. But if you heal your gut, if you restore the integrity of your gut, you can eventually tolerate lots of things you couldn’t tolerate before. What we realized is that by getting the toxins out of his body and stopping the exposure to toxins, his gut restored itself. We added green drinks. The doctor at the time recommended MSM [a sulfur-containing compound often used for leaky gut] from the company MRM. That’s a product that coats the lining of the stomach so that it is able to restore itself.
There are new things developed in the last few years which I would recommend more now, like Restore. We have had so many amazing testimonials about Restore that we finally gave in and started selling it on our site as a fundraiser. I’m not talking about this in order to sell it, because that isn’t what we do. We offer it as a solution. It helps the integrity of the gut lining to remain intact.
Glyphosate is the number-one herbicide in the world. It is sprayed on our food, and it doesn’t wash off. We ingest it. My son was eating it. For nine years, I fed him GMOs sprayed with glyphosate. I fed him non-organic food. Glyphosate is a chemical that has been shown, in testing, to break apart the integrity of the gut lining. When that happens, little holes form in the gut lining, and food can enter into the bloodstream. And then the body responds to that food like a foreign invader because it isn’t digested properly. Then you develop inflammation. The gut lining is affected, and then the gut bacteria that are normally there can’t do their thing. There are good bacteria that contribute to your immune system. They keep out mercury and create serotonin and melatonin for you. They balance all kinds of things in your body aside from breaking down food.
If you have little holes in your intestine from glyphosate, you have a lot of problems. Restore goes in there and zips the gut lining back up. It is from the Earth, from fifteen-million-year-old soil. When you reintroduce glyphosate, nothing happens. It can support your gut to do what it is supposed to do because the integrity of the gut lining is restored.
HG: I’ve had a lot of guests on our podcast talk about the dangers of GMOs and glyphosate, which is a weed killer that negatively affects your health. But what can we say to the person who is skeptical? They’ve been eating glyphosate-sprayed wheat for decades, and nothing has ever happened to them.
ZH: Maybe nothing visible is happening to them, but I think we can all agree that pesticides kill things. When you understand that this one in particular, doesn’t wash off, I’d hope they’d consider at least reducing their exposure to it. You can’t see inflammation in your stomach. You are only going to see it when you start getting a histamine type of reaction with a rash on your body, eczema, psoriasis, lupus or some other kind of autoimmune disease. Or you may see it in your children or your grandchildren. One out of two children in America now has a chronic illness. It may be autism, allergies, autoimmune issues, asthma, diabetes or obesity, but I guarantee you that you have a family member affected by this. If you aren’t going to do it for yourself, I’d at least encourage you to have organic food available for your loved ones because we have to start reducing the toxic burden on ourselves and our family. It is imperative.
HG: I think that the toxic burden is greater now than it was before, which may be why older people have been doing okay. Glyphosate wasn’t sprayed on their food when they were young and growing. Children are more sensitive now; they have more allergies and issues than older people.
ZH: Yes. The older people weren’t eating foods sprayed with toxins when they had reproductive organs forming. Their brains weren’t developing, their hearts, livers and kidneys weren’t forming with that kind of toxic exposure. Children now are being exposed to a serious amount of toxins that adults were not exposed to as children. There is no doubt about that. There are all kinds of new toxins, like atrazine or chlorpyrifos—which just got taken off the list of being banned—glyphosate, dicamba and 2,4-D, half of which is Agent Orange. These chemicals are being sprayed on our food every day by the millions of pounds, and we ingest them. That is a fact. There are going to be repercussions. What we see in the animal studies is endocrine disruption, which can harm the development of a fetus. That means sex hormone changes. You have to wonder what it is doing to our children. These chemicals are found in our water and in our food. Glyphosate is a known carcinogen now. It is recognized as such by the California Environmental Protection Agency (CalEPA) and the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), which is part of the World Health Organization. It is neurotoxic. There are all kinds of health issues to be concerned about.
HG: Absolutely. Tell us more about that. I think you said there is some proposition in California?
ZH: Yes. This is very important for the rest of the world, not just California. California tends to lead the way in a lot of different environmental issues. Proposition 65 is a law that was passed in 1986 requiring California to publish a list of chemicals shown to be carcinogenic or to cause birth defects or other reproductive harm.1 Glyphosate is going to be placed on that list. They also have to provide a “safe harbor” level—a certain amount that someone could consume safely or a certain amount you can be exposed to in a product. For glyphosate, we want the list to state that “zero” would be the acceptable level in food. Glyphosate bioaccumulates, and we have scientific studies that show that 0.1 parts per trillion can stimulate the growth of breast cancer cells and 0.1 parts per billion destroy gut bacteria. As soon as you consume any small amount—even smaller than that—it is going to start bioaccumulating in your bone marrow and in your blood. That will then collect in breast milk, urine and throughout the body. We can’t have that. There should be zero glyphosate in our food, water, air and soil.
HG: I’ve heard that glyphosate even makes it to some organic foods, is that right?
ZH: Yes, unfortunately, organic food is being contaminated. There are a few reasons for that. The main reason, I suspect, is from fraudulent organic labeling. There has been evidence to show that food coming from Turkey has been fraudulently labeled organic. We import a huge amount of organic food. I don’t have exact figures, but there are millions and millions of bushels of imported soy. The majority of the soy in the U.S. is GMO, and we export it. However, 80 percent of the soy that is used in organic food is imported. Does that make any sense at all? No. And it is the same thing with corn. The majority of the corn we grow is exported. We are providing other countries with these grains to feed their animals. But we in America who want organic food have to get that food imported. The safety standards of those imported foods are questionable.
The other reason organic food may be getting contaminated is that glyphosate has been found in rain, in irrigation water, in soil and in manure. It is not easy for an organic farmer to avoid it. We have a huge problem. The solution is simply to have farmers stop using glyphosate-based herbicides and all toxic chemicals and have the EPA eventually ban glyphosate. I know that it is a very tall order but that doesn’t mean you can’t demand it. We must demand it. It is the only thing to do.
HG: I was thinking that not only politicians but Monsanto and other groups like them have a lot of money in the game. They aren’t going to just bow to our demands or interests. I’m glad that your group, Moms Across America, is stepping up to get parents aware of this toxic overload and what to do about it. Please tell us about Azure Farms in Oregon, an organic food provider that was being pressured to use herbicides to eliminate weeds on their farm. Pesticides would have compromised the integrity of their organic farm. Did you say that some farmer is not allowed to grow his organic food and is being forced to use glyphosate? Tell us about that story.
ZH: A story broke about Azure Farms, one of the largest organic food producers in the country. They received a notification that they must eradicate or completely eliminate certain weeds on their farm. My understanding is that other farmers in the area were concerned that because an organic farm allows for some weeds to grow, they might somehow spread and affect their farms. Most organic farmers don’t completely eliminate a weed. That is extremely difficult to do. They simply manage weeds, and there are many ways to do that with permaculture, mulch or cover cropping. If the weeds aren’t invading their crops, why would they use toxic measures to spray? They obviously don’t want to do that if they have an organic farm. You cannot eradicate all weeds. The case went to court, and luckily the county decided to work with Azure on a weed management plan that does not include toxic chemicals.
HG: It seems outrageous that they tried to force them to use toxic chemicals, and I am so relieved that they did not succeed in that!
ZH: Yes, it was completely outrageous. I believe their intent is to destroy the integrity of organic farming. They know that organic product purchases are growing at anywhere from 13 percent to 30 percent per year. They know that we are winning, frankly. When Cargill, one of the biggest agriculture conglomerates and food manufacturers on the planet, starts to certify some of their food as non-GMO and to listen to consumers, the GMO proponents get nervous. They don’t like what is happening, and they are trying to fight back. One of the ways to fight back is to destroy what your opponents need in order to keep going, which is organic food. If they are able to contaminate our organic food, it won’t be good for us. We absolutely have to protect all organic farmers—and all farmers. We don’t want conventional farmers spraying toxic chemicals and giving themselves cancer, depression or birth defects in their children. We don’t want any farmer spraying these toxic chemicals. We need this to stop.
HG: You are trying to ease the toxic burden on everyone. I see what you are saying—the companies that produce conventional food are on the run because they are losing market share. They either need to change what they do by going organic and non-GMO, or they need to try to stop their competitors.
ZH: Yes, that’s the tactic. If you are interested in being part of this cause, I recommend you read Sun Tzu’s The Art of War because the tactics that are being used are absolutely straight out of that book. We need to be aware of what the proponents of GMOs are doing. They are out to divide and conquer us and destroy the integrity of the leaders who are leading our cause. They are out to turn everything around and use our talking points against us. They are brilliant strategists, but they are on the wrong side of history. This chemical era is going to end, and their business plan has to change. It just isn’t viable.
HG: With determined people like you, I’m certain it will. What about the person who says GMOs are actually an answer? “They help us get greater crop yields so we can feed the world and eliminate starvation.” Don’t you want to do that, Zen?
ZH: I’d love to answer that question. The first thing I would do would be to direct them to a video we posted on Mothers Across the World and Moms Across America, about Alice from Uganda.2 She’s a woman I met in Australia while I was on a speaking tour. She is from Uganda, and her family is in Uganda. Her father died on his farm when he was growing GMO crops sprayed with glyphosate, with Roundup. Her sister and her mom have diabetes. She had nine miscarriages before she figured out she had to avoid the toxins in her food. Now she has three healthy children. She had her first healthy child when she was forty. In the video, she dispels every argument that Monsanto has. She talks about how the soil was depleted once they started growing these crops, which had to be sprayed with Roundup. For the first year, you may have a greater yield because you are getting rid of all of the weeds, and there isn’t a resistance that is being built up, and the soil is still what it used to be. But after one, two or three years of spraying the chemical on the soil—which essentially kills off the microbes and the good fungi in the soil, which is what holds in all the good bacteria, nutrients and more—the soil becomes depleted, and nothing else will grow. She explains that they used to grow cowpeas and legumes and all kinds of crops. Now, the only thing that grows in the soil is GMO corn. The village is essentially beginning to starve because they are running out of biodiverse foods. They are getting diabetes. They are dying. Their soil is depleted. They are getting sick with depression and tumors. It is a nightmare.
Anyone who says that greater yields are the main reason we need GMOs should investigate. It sounds like a good idea, but is it actually happening? Over a twelve-year period, are you actually seeing a greater yield every year? And what is the cost? What is happening to the farmer who is spraying the chemicals? What’s happening to the soil? To the water downstream? Look at what is happening in America today, with one out of two males and one out of three females expected to get cancer. You have to look at the fact that we are spraying a carcinogen on our food, and we are eating it every day. There has to be a connection to that rise in cancer and eating carcinogens. That’s just simply not a risk I’m willing to take, so I avoid it as much as possible by buying organic.
HG: Absolutely. It is funny that we started this conversation discussing a simple nut allergy that your son has. We are ending with a powerful discussion about glyphosate and GMOs, but it is all related, isn’t it, Zen?
ZH: Yes, absolutely, and I appreciate you bringing that all together—allergies, autoimmune and autism symptoms, which my other son had at eight years old. The issue is that the chemical companies have done excellent marketing and have convinced our senators, city officials and farmers that they should be spraying it everywhere—on our streets, sidewalks, playgrounds, food and animal feed crops. It is essential that we shift this thinking to regenerative, organic agriculture, permaculture and safe and healthy ways of growing food and taking care of the planet. HG: If readers would only do one thing to improve their health, what would you recommend they do?
ZH: Absolutely eat organic as much as possible. Right now, I would start with oatmeal and wheat because those are the two most highly sprayed with glyphosate. They spray them with glyphosate as a drying agent. I would also like you to avoid GMOs, which are corn, soy and sugar. Those are the highest numbers. Cottonseed oil, canola oil and dairy can harbor a lot of toxic chemicals because of the fat. If you can go with organic milk and cheeses, just take one step at a time and do anything that you can to go organic. Put reverse osmosis on your water filter, if you can afford it, or just get really good water filters. Also, forgive yourself for what has happened in the past. There is no way we could have known, and we are doing the best we can. Every day we are making a choice to protect our children and take care of ourselves.
1. “About Proposition 65.” https://oehha.ca.gov/proposition-65/about-proposition-65.
This article appeared in Wise Traditions in Food, Farming and the Healing Arts, the quarterly journal of the Weston A. Price Foundation, Winter 2018