GMOs have raised quite the concern since they were introduced into the marketplace about 25 years ago; this concern has risen exponentially for about the last 10 years. With this heightened concern folks want to know what exactly a GMO is, what GMOs are potentially dangerous, and how to completely avoid them (should you so choose). Let’s start at the beginning and understand where GMOs came from and why the food industry thinks we need them.
- What exactly is a GMO? This term is used to describe a scientific process in which traits from one organism are used to modify traits in another. Speaking in layman’s terms, if a producer wants a larger tomato he/she may try to engineer the tomato with genes from a pumpkin in order to gain a bigger crop. Now, I have no idea if that is even scientifically possible, but that is the main principle of GMO foods.
- GMO genes aren’t just taken from other plants. Sometimes these genes stem from bacteria and viruses or even insects and humans. When this process occurs, scientists are modifying foods to become a new strain of food that would never naturally occur outside of a laboratory. The reason that GMOs are usually created is to ensure that crops can withstand chemical treatments or repel pests.
- GMOs were created to withstand the elements and insects. For years, chemically laden food was the only option when picking through fresh produce. Consumers lay in the dark about seriously harmful chemicals that are being sprayed on an array of crops. One such chemical, methyl bromide, is a common pesticide that is used on fruits and veggies. Bromide is also a chemical that is used to disinfect pools and spas and even pool builders are replacing chemicals with safer disinfectants like ozone and salt water, just to give you a frame of reference. This is only one example of thousands of chemicals that are continuing to poison foods. Luckily organic foods have begun to erase unnatural pesticides from the food supply. However, genetically modified foods are much more available to the public than organic foods and GMOs have specifically been engineered to handle pesticides and insects where organic foods cannot. Because these chemicals are not required to be listed as being used on our foods there is no way to know what we are consuming.
- GMOs are unpredictable. When GMOs are created, the engineer has created an entirely new food product. There is no way to tell, without testing, that this new food product is going to react well with our bodies or if it could mutate and form other defense mechanisms that could distort the food entirely – nature has a way of protecting itself. Even if the original product seems stable coming out of the lab, the food may react in a way that can absolutely not be predicted once it is grown commercially.
- Most countries don’t allow GMOs. According to the non GMO project, “Most developed nations do not consider GMOs to be safe. In more than 60 countries around the world, including Australia, Japan, and all of the countries in the European Union, there are significant restrictions or outright bans on the production and sale of GMOs”. They go on to discuss information regarding the US and GMO products. The US has not banned GMOs and sellers are not required to place a label on GMO foods.
- GMOs are harmful to our bodies. The American Academy of Environmental Medicine states the following about GMOs, “several animal studies indicate serious health risks associated with GM food consumption including infertility, immune dysregulation, accelerated aging, dysregulation of genes associated with cholesterol synthesis, insulin regulation, cell signaling, and protein formation, and changes in the liver, kidney, spleen and gastrointestinal system”. They even go on to combat claims that GMOs have only shown slight side effects, “There is more than a casual association between GM foods and adverse health effects. There is causation as defined by Hill’s Criteria in the areas of strength of association, consistency, and specificity, biological gradient and biological plausibility. The strength of association and consistency between GM foods and disease is confirmed in several animal studies.”
- GMOs are hurting the food industry. In addition to the effects GMOs may have on our bodies, these products may also take a toll on farmers and other agricultural workers. The window for farmers to choose which types of seeds they choose to grow seems to be closing by the day. Those who have chosen to grow fully GMO-free fortunately have the option to support the sale of organically produced seeds. However, farmers that sustain their livelihood on commercially sold foods must purchase seeds as sanctioned by large companies and distributors. So, their only option is to either grow seeds given to them by these large corporations or possibly lose their businesses. Some sources even say that these GMO foods may not even be able to produce proper seeds to support the next year of growth, which many farmers rely on.
- You’re probably eating GMOs and you don’t know it. According to the USDA, a staggering 92% of all corn, 94% of all cotton, and 94% of all soy planted in the US for commercial use was genetically engineered. Corn oil and soy oil are two of the most commonly used products in food production. Not only are they used in an extreme amount of commercially produced foods, but they also show up in common household items and cosmetics.
Luckily, with the realization of the effects of GMO foods on our bodies companies have begun to stand up against the productions of these foods. If you have the means, make sure that the food you are buying is supporting a non-GMO growing operation. There are tons of labels on foods to tell you that what you are buying is a quality product. Non-GMO, no animal testing, organic, and fair trade are all common labels that are so important to keep in mind when shopping for eco-friendly food goods.