What You Must Know About GMOs
Whether we like it or not, GMOs are a part of the American dietary landscape and they are something we all need to become more informed about. And, and it turns out, learn to avoid.
According to the Grocery Manufacturers Association, 70-80% of the food we eat in the United States, both at home and away from home, contain GMO ingredients.
A GMO is the result of a laboratory process where genes from the DNA of one or more species are extracted and artificially forced into the genes of an unrelated plant or animal. The foreign genes may come from bacteria, viruses, insects, animals or even humans.
The most common GMO foods are soy, corn, wheat, canola oil, cotton (cottonseed oil), milk (cows are given hormones to develop and produce milk faster), sugar, strawberries, aspartame, zucchini, yellow squash, and papaya.
Why GMOs? Stock answers from food manufacturers include that science is finding ways to make heartier plants that are better able to withstand pests, weeds, and weather and come to harvest in less time. Who could argue feeding more people quicker with the ever growing world population? The idea that we can feed more of the world through GMOs is false because GMO crops yield less than non-GMO crops of the same food. It is interesting to note that most of the 28 European Union countries want nothing to do with GMOs.
Animal studies have shown negative effects of GMOs. Rat tests showed GMO fed offspring to be smaller and less healthy. On a diet of GMOs, a rat’s testicles turned from red to blue. Human studies have not been done on a long term basis so we really do not know how dangerous GMOs can be.
A major GMO controversy revolves around Round Up, the herbicide produced by Monsanto. Round Up’s active ingredient is glyphosate, which when consumed, has been shown to cause nutritional deficiencies, especially minerals, and system toxicity. The World Health Organization’s cancer authority, the International Agency for Research on Cancer, has determined that glyphosate “is probably carcinogenic to humans.”
Monsanto’s first Round Up ready crop – which means the plant seeds have been engineered to stand up to Round Up exposure so that the herbicide can be used to get rid of accompanying weeds – was soy, first introduced in 1996. Current Round Up ready crops includes soy, corn, canola, alfalfa, cotton, sorghum, sugar beets, and wheat with others in development. Round Up ready seeds are sterile so that farmers can no longer use the best seeds from a previous crop. Each year they must buy new seeds from Monsanto.
Monsanto’s genetically modified “Bt corn” has been equipped with a gene from soil bacteria called Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis), which produces the Bt toxin. Bt is a pesticide that breaks open the stomach of certain insects and kills them. This GMO corn entered the food supply in the late 1990s. And the problems with Bt crops go far beyond the creation of Bt-resistant insects.
Researchers are finding that the Bt toxin can indeed wreak havoc on human health. The Bt toxin is now found in people’s bloodstreams in North America. And if it kills insects by breaking open their stomachs, how much more damage can it do to humans who regularly ingest Bt laden corn and other GMO products?
So as of today, the jury isn’t out on all the potential damage from eating a diet that contains GMO foods.
What can you safely eat if you wish to avoid GMOs? Most fresh produce, with the exception of those current GMO products listed earlier in this story, are non-GMO. Dried beans, grains, nuts, and seeds are non-GMO. However, meats, unless they are organically raised, have been fed GMO corn. So even though they are marketed as ‘natural,’ they can still contain GMOs.
The non-profit Institute for Responsible Technology (http://responsibletechnology.org/) was founded in 2003 by bestselling author and GMO expert Jeffrey Smith. An interesting study on the IRT website indicates that the proliferation of GMO foods and the effect of chemical residue (glyphosate) from Round Up weed killer used in growing these foods may be a major contributing factor to the now 18 million Americans with gluten sensitivity.
And our state has its own history with the GMO saga. In 2014, despite the protest of consumers across the state, California lawmakers rejected the GMO Labeling Bill. Just two years before, Monsanto – makers of Round Up and Round Up ready GMO seeds –spent $46 million to kill Proposition 37, a California ballot initiative that would have mandated GMO labeling.
So what else can you do to protect yourself and your family?
Keep current on what’s going on with GMOs by signing up for an e-newsletter from your choice of informational non-GMO websites. Cook whole organic foods at home whenever possible. And when you go shopping, look for foods that voluntarily label that they are non-GMO.