What is GMO food?
GMO stands for Genetically Modified Organism. It’s a reference to a laboratory procedure of taking genes from one species of plant or animal and merging them with another in an attempt to gain a wanted trait or characteristic. They are also known as transgenic organisms. This process is can be referred to as Genetic Engineering (GE) or Genetic Modification (GM). This process can create unstable plant, animal, viral and bacterial genes that don’t happen naturally or in traditional crossbreeding.
How is GMO different from hybrid or selective breeding?
Genetic engineering is unlike traditional breeding and brings unique dangers. We can mate a horse with another horse to get a new variety, but it is not possible to mate a horse with a rat or a vegetable. Genetic engineering however, allows scientists to break these barriers. They have for example, spliced fish genes with tomatoes, resulting in plants (or animals) with traits that are virtually impossible to achieve through natural processes; including grafting or crossbreeding.
Scientists have created tomatoes with an extended shelf life by adding flounder genes, potatoes that create their own pesticides, and potatoes with jellyfish genes that glow in the dark when they need water.
How many GMO foods are there?
70% of items in American food stores contain genetically modified organisms, according to the Grocery Manufacturing Association. Commercial sale of genetically modified foods began in 1994. From 3.6 million in 1996, the U.S. now controls over half of the GM foods market, with 88.2 million acres of GM crops since 2001. There are 50 registered GM crops in the United States. 70 percent of our corn farmland and 93 percent of soy farmland are planted with crops genetically engineered to resist pests and herbicides and increase crop yields.
Soybeans – Gene taken from bacteria (Agrobacterium sp. strain CP4) and placed into soybeans to make them resistant to herbicides.
Corn – There are several varieties of GE corn. One has a Gene from the soil bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis implanted to produce Bt toxin, that poisons moths and butterflies. Others are resistant to various herbicides.
Rapeseed/Canola – Gene implanted to make crop more resistant to herbicide.
Sugar beets – Gene implanted to make crop more resistant to herbicide.
Cotton – engineered to produce Bt toxin. Seeds are used for cottonseed oil, which is a common ingredient in margarine and vegetable oil.
Dairy – Cows given GE hormone rBGH/rBST; possibly fed GM grains and hay.
Sugar – In 2012 the FDA approved GMO sugars to be sold on the market under the name “SUGAR” So now, when you go to buy “All Natural” Dreyer’s Ice Cream, you can’t know for sure that you are actually eating cane sugar. If you see “CANE SUGAR” on the label there’s a good chance it is not GMO.
Papayas – Since 1998, genetically modified papayas have been in Hawaii, USA. They are resistant to a domestic viral disease. Genetically modified papayas are not approved In the European Union.
Zucchini – Like many others, Zucchini is engineered to resist some strains of virus.
Baked goods: Frequently have one or more common GM ingredients inside them. Some brands avoid GMOs – organic is an option.
Aspartame: A mock sweetener found in many products, aspartame accounts for as many as seventy-five percent of adverse reactions to food additives described to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), conferring to some reports.
Why is GMO food bad
Since it’s not your mom or dad in a laboratory whipping up GMOs for your breakfast, lunch and dinner, and since GMOs are virtually hidden inside the food you already buy, chances are the people creating these products (motivated solely by money) are not actually concerned about your long term health.
If they were they would not be modifying genes, they would instead be out not getting laid or doing something else! Basket weaving?
A 2012 French study showed that rats fed GMO-corn developed tumors, organ damage, and were more likely to die prematurely compared to those who were fed non-GMO corn. But the results were not well received from the scientific community and did not collect the full support of all experts.
GMO foods require being sprayed with toxic chemicals. If you wanted to go GMO-free, it’s not that easy. Currently, the U.S. does not require brands to label foods that contain GMOs (European nations do and Whole Foods will require any brand in their store to do so by 2018.
There are the health concerns of being exposed to foods treated with highly toxic pesticides — that include allergies, infertility, birth defects, digestive issues, imbalances in gut bacteria, and even certain cancers and tumors.
Right now there isn’t a large amount of conclusive scientific evidence showing that GMOs are unhealthy. Of course the same would’ve been said for trans-fats ten years ago, and that didn’t work out too well.
What to do
Until some juan can prove beyond any doubt that merging the genes from a flounder fish into a tomato is both worth doing and safe to eat; having no long term health effects, I believe we need to stop eating this crap. Call me silly.
Here’s another way of putting it- how stupid can you be?
Or- do you need to see gills on tomatoes before you stop buying and eating them?
Read labels. Buy food labeled 100% organic. The US and Canadian governments don’t allow manufacturers to label something 100% organic if that food has been genetically modified or been fed genetically modified feed. You will probably discover that organic food is more expensive and different in appearance from conventional products – Which is kinda cool and somewhat reassuring.
And just because something says “organic” on the label doesn’t necessarily mean that it does not contain GMs. In can, in fact, still contain up to thirty percent GMs, so be sure the labels read 100% organic.
Reliable Organic Certification institutions are QAI, Oregon Tilth, and CCOF. Look for their mark on the label of a product. USDA Organic standards pale in comparison. Do not think a product is 100% organic if it is only USDA Organic Certified.
If you are eating packaged or processed foods, there is probably either GMO soy or corn in there. Health foods contain GMO ingredients as well. If a food contains a corn or soy ingredient and does not have the non-GMO-verified label, it is safe to assume it contains GMOs. If you start to read labels, you might be surprised to find out how much soy and corn is consumed in a day. The documentary Genetic Roulette , shows that 88 percent of corn is GMO and the Non GMO Project states that 94 percent of soy is genetically modified.
The FDA has approved more than forty types of GMO foods. Although corn and soy are the most greatly produced, included are tomatoes, canola, sugar beets, papaya, alfalfa, zucchini, and salmon. The reasons for each can be different They may be resistant to certain herbicides or being tolerant to others.
Samantha Lynch, R.D., founder of Samantha Lynch Nutrition.