alarming aspect of the whole GMO debate is the fact that so many
Americans are going about their daily lives completely unaware that they
are consuming genetically modified organisms at just about every meal.
The reason I know this is because I used to be one of them.
So what are GMOs and why should we be concerned about them?
A GMO or genetically modified organism is created by merging the DNA
from different species to create an organism; plant, animal, bacteria or
virus which cannot be produced in nature or through traditional
crossbreeding. It can bring about the production of foods that taste
better, have longer shelf lives, or withstand harsh growing conditions.
Sounds harmless enough right? And even a good idea. But this isn’t
the whole story, much as big food companies would like you to think it
is. There are reasons why we should be extremely wary of consuming any
food that has been genetically altered. Here are five of them:
- GMOs are unhealthy: Since the introduction of GMOs in the mid-1990s,
the number of food allergies has sky-rocketed, and health issues such
as autism, digestive problems and reproductive disorders are on the
rise. Animal testing with GMOs has resulted in cases of organ failure,
digestive disorders, infertility and accelerated aging. Despite an
announcement in 2012 by the American Medical Association stating they
saw no reason for labeling genetically modified foods, the American
Academy of Environmental Medicine has urged doctors to prescribe non-GMO
diets for their patients.
- They increase herbicide use: When Monsanto came up with the idea for
Round-up Ready crops, the theory was to make the crops resistant to the
pesticide that would normally kill them. This meant the farmers could
spray the crops, killing the surrounding weeds and pests without doing
any harm to the crops themselves. However, after a number of years have
passed, many weeds and pests have themselves become resistant to the
spray, and herbicide-use increased (both in amount and strength) by 11%
between 1996 and 2011. Which translates to – lots more pesticide residue
in our foods – yum!
- They are everywhere! GMOs make up about 70-80% of our foods in the
United States. Most foods that contain GMOs are processed foods. But
they also exist in the form of fresh vegetables such as corn on the cob,
papaya and squash. The prize for the top two most genetically modified
crops in the United States goes to corn and soy. Think about how many
foods in your pantry or refrigerator contain corn or its byproducts
(high fructose corn syrup) or soy and its byproducts (partially
hydrogenated soybean oil).
- GM crops don’t ensure larger harvests. As it turns out, GMO crop
yields are not as promising as some projections implied. In fact, in
some instances, they have been out-yielded by their non-GMO
counterparts. This conclusion was reached in a 20 year study carried out
by the University of Wisconsin and funded by the U.S. Department of
Agriculture. Thus negating one of the main arguments in favor of GMOs.
- U.S. Labeling suppression: Many of the companies who have an
interest in keeping GMOs on the market don’t want you to know which
foods contain them. For this reason, they have suppressed recent
attempts by states such as California and Washington to require labeling
of GMO products. And since they have deep pockets, they were successful
– for now. The companies who spent the most on these campaigns are
Monsanto (who produces the GMO seeds), and Pepsi, Coca Cola, Nestle and
General Mills, who produce some of the most processed foods in
existence. Incidentally, most other developed countries such as the
nations of the European Union, Japan, Australia, Brazil, and China have
mandatory labeling of genetically modified foods. Food for thought!
So, if you don’t wish to partake of GMO foods, what can you do? First
and foremost, buy organic. The USDA has strict guidelines for producers
of organic foods which restrict them from using any GMO products in
If a food is not organically grown, look for a Non-GMO Project Label
which certifies that it has been tested and found to have less than 0.9%