April 28, 2011

Simplifying the Facts About GMOs

I'm sure you've heard of GMOs before, but maybe you're unsure why they're not so good for you. GMO is an acronym for genetically modified organism. Genetically modified means that genes have been inserted into an organism, in this case plants or animals, and have altered their makeup. These plants have been manipulated to resist chemical herbicides that kill other plants. These plants have been manipulated to produce their own insecticide. These animals, namely salmon, have been manipulated to grow faster. These plants and animals would not naturally occur in nature. Nor are these foods required by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to be labeled or tested for safety. In many European countries, they are. In six European countries, GMOs are banned. Two Mexican states just approved legislation to ban the planting of GMO corn to prevent genetic contamination. Scary stuff.

According to an article written in Better Nutrition (March 2011), the U.S. Department of Agriculture has found that 93 percent of all soybeans, 78 percent of all cotton and 70 percent of all corn grown in the United States in 2010 were genetically modified for herbicide tolerance. Some crops, like corn, are both modified to be herbicide tolerant and insect resistant. This means that ingredients found in our packaged foods like soy, cottenseed oil, canola oil, corn oil and sugar beets contain GMOs, about 85% of our processed foods to be exact. Double scary.

One more thing to note: a vast majority of GMO seeds come from a company named Monsanto and are designed to tolerate the number one herbicide in the world, Roundup. Who is the company behind Roundup? Monsanto. Interesting. The Organic Consumers Association has an entire section of their website dedicated to the demise of Monsanto. If you're feeling indulgent, give it a read.

Are GMOs a health risk?
So now you know what GMOs are, should you be concerned? Absolutely. Although there haven't been any studies tracking long-term health risks to humans, researchers (including the American Academy of Environmental Medicine) do believe there may be many. One of them is endocrine disruption. Endocrine disruptors are synthetic chemicals that affect your hormone-controlled functions. Chemicals that are known human endocrine disruptors include dioxin, PCBs, DDT and some pesticides and insecticides. Researchers fear Roundup may be one, as well. For more detailed information on this, visit the Natural Resources Defense Council.

Other risks include organ damage, decreased fertility, increased allergies, a weakened immune system, accelerated aging and complications in regulating insulin and cholesterol. Wow, personally I'd like to avoid these best I can.

Why GMOs at all?
Proponents of GMOs believe they are helping farmers produce crops in conditions they normally wouldn't be able to. GMO crops facilitate simpler farming methods, making them less expensive. Production of crops with greater nutritional value are in the works. But all at what cost?

What can you do to avoid them?
Look for non-GMO labels. Many products in the health food section in your local grocery store are starting to include labeling that indicates they do not use GMO products.

Buy organic (click here to read my recent article on organic foods.) USDA organic foods are prohibited from containing GMO ingredients.

Avoid packaged foods with corn and soy. This is very difficult to do, as 85% of them contain one or the other. Read your labels and be an educated buyer!


Marli said... [Reply]

Hi Tracy,

Love your article! Well written and informative. I just sent you an email with a link from the Organic Consumers Association to sign a petition to Stop USDA's Plan for Monsanto and the Biotech Industry to Police itself. Talk about Scary!

Tracy said... [Reply]

Thanks so much, Marli! Will definitely check the link out - really interesting (and scary) stuff out there on Monsanto.

Post a Comment