What is a genetically modified organism, or GMO? Genetically modified food is made by forcing genes from one species (bacteria, virus, animals, or humans) into the DNA of crops or animals in order to introduce a new trait. GMOs are usually engineered to withstand herbicides and/or to produce an insecticide.
GM food has no long-term data in humans, but several animal studies have found concerning results. These studies indicate serious health risks such as infertility, immune problems, accelerated aging, faulty insulin regulation, and changes in the gastrointestinal tract and major organs.
Not only are GMOs potentially dangerous, but they have also not lived up to their initially claimed benefits, such as increasing crop yields, more food production, weed and pest control, and drought-tolerant plants. Farmers are not able to re-use GMO seeds and must buy seeds every year from biotech companies such as Monsanto, DuPont, and Cargill. GMO seeds will not feed the world; in fact, they have not increased the yield of a single crop.
In order for GMO crops to grow, you must use a huge area of just one crop which depletes the soil faster than growing a variety of crops together such as organic farmers do, and yields less crop per area.
Sure GMO crops can resist Roundup®, but these crops do not control weeds and pests; instead, they have led to the emergence of super weeds and super pests – much like the incorrect use of antibiotics can lead to resistant bacteria. And these super weeds which are becoming immune to Roundup® can only be killed with higher and higher amounts of chemicals. The active ingredient in Roundup® – glyphosate – has been shown to cause birth defects and reproductive problems in animals at low concentrations.
The logic is backwards. We plant huge fields of a single crop which depletes the soil and makes the crops unhealthy so that pests can injure the crop. Instead of making the soil and plants healthier using organic compost and biodiversity of crops, Monsanto (maker of Agent Orange and other dangerous chemicals) develops Roundup® to kill the weeds. Since this dangerous chemical will also kill crops, now they come up with GMO strains of crops which can withstand the Roundup® – cha ching! Instead of fixing the problem, come up with a solution that simply masks the problem and needs another money making intervention to work.
Biotech companies have patents on GMO seeds and can therefore restrict their use. Even if a seed naturally drifts over to a non-GMO farm and contaminates it, companies like Monsanto can sue that farmer. And they have! Is it really appropriate for large corporations to ‘own’ nature?
How can you protect yourself from GMO ingredients? Unfortunately, in the states, unlike Europe, GMO ingredients do not need to be labeled as such. So if you are not buying certified organic products, there is a good chance you are eating GM products. You can also look for the Non-GMO project verified seal. Oh, and remember my post on dangerous dairy products? Monsanto is also responsible for making genetically engineered bovine growth hormone. Look for dairy products labeled ‘no rBGH or rBST’ otherwise you are drinking a genetically modified ingredient. Over 90% of corn, soybeans, canola, and sugar beets grown in the states are genetically modified – so any processed food you eat probably contains at least one of these genetically modified ingredients.
Read labels and avoid these ingredients. You can check out NonGMOShoppingGuide.com (there’s even an app for that!) for details on specific products. Buy whole organic foods and cook from scratch as much as you can to avoid GMOs.
I am a supporter of the “Just Label It” campaign where over 900,000 people have summited written support to the FDA for labeling GM foods. http://justlabelit.org/about-ge-foods/ge-foods-at-a-glance/ Check them out and sign the petition to the FDA!