Food… What Are We Supposed To Make of GMOs

Food… We all love it but like any other business it has its controversies. One very hot topic within the food industry right now is Genetically Modified Organisms.

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This isn’t necessarily a new movement or a shocker that the food industry messes with our food to produce enough of it to feed us all. BUT, I have to admit that when I started looking into this, I realized I have been turning my head and trying to ignore this truth because it is inconvenient. I don’t want to have to research what food to buy to stay healthy… I should be able to buy a salad and figure its a good health move. Well, unfortunately that is not the world we live in.

With this post I want to SPARK the knowledge of an underlying right, we do not know we have.

First of all; what exactly are Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) within our food? Then; what is so good or bad about GMOs? and Where can we find NON-GMO foods?

GMOs or Genetically Modified foods are generally “crop plants created for human or animal consumption using the latest molecular biology techniques. These plants have been modified in the laboratory to enhance desired traits such as increased resistance to herbicides or improved nutritional content.” [Source: CSA.com ] Basically, man has figured out a way to create super seeds in a lab that grow super plants resistant to pesticides and certain weather conditions. If these seeds still grow in the ground and create edible plants… are they natural?

” For example, plant geneticists can isolate a gene responsible for drought tolerance and insert that gene into a different plant.  The new genetically-modified plant will gain drought tolerance as well. …[another example is] B.t. crystal protein genes have been transferred into corn, enabling the corn to produce its own pesticides against insects such as the European corn borer. ” [Source: CSA.com ]

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Many farmers have embraced the GMO crops because they are able to decrease the chance of crop loss due to weather or pests. According to a USA Today article, U.S. farmers planted 12 million more acres of GMO crops in 2013 than in 2012. The U.S. Department of Agriculture states that in 2013 GMOs accounted for 93% of all soybeans, 90% of all feed corn and 90% of all cotton. To many farmers, GMOs are a positive economical decision.

Aside from creating financial growth for farmers; GMOs are said to have many other benefits. One being disease resistance. Plant biologists are working to create plants that can overcome certain virus, fungi, or bacteria typically found in plants. There are pharmaceutical benefits to GM plants as well. Researchers are figuring out a way to inject vaccines into tomatoes and potatoes, so the medicine is easier to ship and store in other countries.

There are also nutritional benefits. Many third world countries have a population that is plagued with starving and malnourished people. GM food that contains additional amounts of vitamins and minerals could be used as a cost effective way of helping nutritional deficiencies in other countries. This is being worked on right now by the Swiss Federal Institue of Technology Institute for Plant Sciences, where a strain of “golden” rice is being created that has a high content of Vitamin A.  [Source: CSA.com ]

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” Since this rice was funded by the Rockefeller Foundation14, a non-profit organization, the Institute hopes to offer the golden rice seed free to any third world country that requests it.  Plans were underway to develop a golden rice that also has increased iron content.  However, the grant that funded the creation of these two rice strains was not renewed, perhaps because of the vigorous anti-GM food protesting in Europe, and so this nutritionally-enhanced rice may not come to market at all15.”  [Source: CSA.com ]

This all seems great right? Well, nothing is ever one sided. There are criticisms and downsides to genetically modifying food too.

Environmental hazards are a big issue.  Pollen from the GM plants are currently under investigation because it is believed it is causing large fatalities to certain butterfly species. The tolerance the plants now have to pesticides allows for farmers to spray more of it. This is releasing more toxins and polluting the ground and air. This may also backfire and lead to insects building the same tolerance that the plants have to the pesticides.

According to treehugger.com, “Forests are clear-cut to grow the GMO corn and soy used to feed cows. Those crops have awful pesticide runoff that contaminate waterways, not to mention the waste generated by keeping large numbers of cows in CAFOs (concentrated animal feeding operation).”

There are believed to also be human health risks to GMOs. Genetically modified foods could create a new strain of allergens that may attack the human system. GMOs have created a fear of the unknown. This new science has not been around long enough to forsee what may end up being a health hazard. One specific fear is the possible effects on the human digestive system.

“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. In the U.S., the government has approved GMOs based on studies conducted by the same corporations that created them and profit from their sale.” [Source: non-gmoproject.org]

For a GMO to make its way onto the market it is put through tests by the FDA (Food and Drug Administration), EPA (Environmental Protection Agency), and USDA (United States Department of Agriculture). Many scientists believe , with the exception of allergen risks, GMOs are not a human health hazard.

Many believe GMOs to be unnatural and potentially dangerous. And there are those who say there is no danger at all and that GMOs are an economical and humanitarian benefit. It is a head knocking, migraine causing, back and forth, that makes it very hard for normal consumers like me to understand and make an informed decision about what to eat. It is almost enough to just be like “screw it” and not care and shovel whatever tastes good into my mouth. This exasperated mind set is one that almost everyone I know has. I see a huge downside to this mindset. It is ignorance.  I myself have been guilty of such ignorance. It’s not OK.

Now that I know this information I want to be able to choose what GMOs I eat. Unfortunately GMOs are not required to be labeled on our food. gmo not labelWe have no way to know if something is genetically modified or not.  I have no way of knowing if that salad I just ordered (my supposedly healthy meal of the day) is actually healthy for me. Logically, I can assume that unless it says “all-natural” on the label, it is made of GMOs. But who really knows? To be absolutely sure I would have to quit my day job and become my own farmer.

OR there is the option of buying more locally grown food. It is a win, win situation. You support the local economy AND can be reassured of the conditions your food is put through before you eat it. You can be aware that the meat you are eating did not come from an abused animal, or the veggies you are eating were not created in a lab. Investing in a CO-OP  is also a good way to go. For a fee you can receive your very own basket of goodies from a local farmer. To find local farmers and co-op opportunities in the Jefferson county, NY area check out this Food Guide!

If you want to be able to know what kind of foods you are buying from the store, there is always the option of joining the movement that is trying to convince the FDA to approve the labeling of GMOs on our food.

“In the United States, tens of millions of dollars have been spent in the past 11 years on initiatives seeking to require the labeling of GM ingredients. None have been enacted. They include Oregon in 2003, California in 2013 and Washington state in 2013. The Washington initiative was the state’s most expensive, with anti-labeling groups spending $22 million to defeat the measure.” [Source: USAToday.com]

121107084119-gmo-food-proposition-37-story-topThe Non-GMO project is a non-profit organization with many opportunities to get involved and fight against the use of GMOs. They also provide search tools to find local farms across the country that sell food that is non-GMO.

Are GMOs good or bad? Honestly, that is your own opinion; and it should be your right to know what you are eating. I am very surprised that GMOs were not automatically added to labels to begin with.

It is not always the consumers’ fault that they do not know what they are eating.  But it is the consumers’ responsibility to CARE and research what is going into their body. Eating completely non-GMO would not be easy; and lets face it… noone should be chastised for the occasional store bought pizza and cupcakes; or for not being able to afford to eat completely healthy all of the time.

But figuring out that something could potentially be harmful in the sense that it came from a lab, and then eating it, is much more respectable and admirable than devouring these foods and not knowing or caring where it came from. Your health and your body should be more respected than that.

images1VR9RYB6Stay informed so that when you are confronted with “Oh my god, do you know what is in that?!” you can say “Yes its steroid filled meat from an abused animal, wrapped in wheat grown with pesticide resistant, and bacteria resistant genetically modified seed that probably damaged the environment. But I am going to eat it today because my last 3 meals were non-GMO and locally grown. Every once in a while I am going to indulge and risk the harm to my body. But thanks for asking. ” as opposed to “don’t know and don’t care.” The latter, is the ultimate ignorant answer. Ignorance is NOT bliss when you die a 60 year old tumor ridden, cellulite ridden, overweight indulger.

Moderation and balance is key to most things in life… this includes food.  To help allow the individual to make informed decisions I believe the FDA should include GMO labeling on all of our food. As a reader, I hope I created a SPARK in you to want to know what you are eating. I encourage you to have the right to make your own decisions about what goes into your body!

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2 thoughts on “Food… What Are We Supposed To Make of GMOs

  1. Humans have been selectively breeding crops and animals ever since agriculture and animal husbandry was invented. Yes, we disrupt the “natural” progression of species, but this is nothing new. The GMO corn in my cereal is just as unnatural as any domesticated cat or dog, or any flower that we plant or buy. Therefore, I reject “unnatural” as an argument against GMOs. In fact, I would argue that human activity is completely natural, since we are indeed a living species trying to find a way to survive. Pest, fungus, and bacteria-resistant strains of plants to me would indicate that fewer pesticides are needed for a crop; this is a good thing. Homogenization of crops and the elimination of genetic variation is a problem, but we had that problem before GMOs. One issue I do have is that GMOs are patenable and farmers pay the price when GMO pollen from neighboring fields blows into their fields; but this is a policy issue, not an issue with the technology itself. The ill effects, if they exist, on the human body are yet unproven so that makes me nervous. To that I would say that we need more independent studies, not fear and outrage against technology.

    1. Hey Matt thanks for commenting! I just want to make clear that I am not trying to persuade people to fear or be against technology… there is good and bad to GMO. I am trying to SPARK support for the movement of the right to have GMOs labelled on our food by the FDA. =) Also from what I’ve read, farmers use MORE pesticide on the plants once they are resistant to it…. b/c the resistance allows the plants to survive no matter how much you spray. The plants are resistant, but the bugs are not, hence the reason to use more; which creates pollution. This may also lead to a pesticide resistance in the bugs b/c they eat the plants… kind of a catch 22.

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