One alarming aspect of the whole GMO debate is the fact that so many Americans are going about their daily lives completely unaware that they are consuming genetically modified organisms at just about every meal. The reason I know this is because I used to be one of them. Many of us have chosen to bypass GMO free foods and supplements in favor of convenience and price.
So what are GMOs and why should we be concerned about them?
A GMO or genetically modified organism is created by merging the DNA from different species to create an organism; plant, animal, bacteria or virus which cannot be produced in nature or through traditional crossbreeding. It can bring about the production of foods that taste better, have longer shelf lives, or withstand harsh growing conditions.
Sounds harmless enough right? And even a good idea. But this isn’t the whole story, much as big food companies would like you to think it is. There are reasons why we should be extremely wary of consuming any food that has been genetically altered. Here are five of them:
- GMOs are unhealthy: Since the introduction of GMOs in the mid-1990s, the number of food allergies has sky-rocketed, and health issues such as autism, digestive problems and reproductive disorders are on the rise. Animal testing with GMOs has resulted in cases of organ failure, digestive disorders, infertility and accelerated aging. Despite an announcement in 2012 by the American Medical Association stating they saw no reason for labeling genetically modified foods, the American Academy of Environmental Medicine has urged doctors to prescribe non-GMO diets for their patients.
- They increase herbicide use: When Monsanto came up with the idea for Round-up Ready crops, the theory was to make the crops resistant to the pesticide that would normally kill them. This meant the farmers could spray the crops, killing the surrounding weeds and pests without doing any harm to the crops themselves. However, after a number of years have passed, many weeds and pests have themselves become resistant to the spray, and herbicide-use increased (both in amount and strength) by 11% between 1996 and 2011. Which translates to – lots more pesticide residue in our foods – yum!
- They are everywhere! GMOs make up about 70-80% of our foods in the United States. Most foods that contain GMOs are processed foods. But they also exist in the form of fresh vegetables such as corn on the cob, papaya and squash. The prize for the top two most genetically modified crops in the United States goes to corn and soy. Think about how many foods in your pantry or refrigerator contain corn or its byproducts (high fructose corn syrup) or soy and its byproducts (partially hydrogenated soybean oil).
- GM crops don’t ensure larger harvests. As it turns out, GMO crop yields are not as promising as some projections implied. In fact, in some instances, they have been out-yielded by their non-GMO counterparts. This conclusion was reached in a 20 year study carried out by the University of Wisconsin and funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Thus negating one of the main arguments in favor of GMOs.
- U.S. Labeling suppression: Many of the companies who have an interest in keeping GMOs on the market don’t want you to know which foods contain them. For this reason, they have suppressed recent attempts by states such as California and Washington to require labeling of GMO products. And since they have deep pockets, they were successful – for now. The companies who spent the most on these campaigns are Monsanto (who produces the GMO seeds), and Pepsi, Coca Cola, Nestle and General Mills, who produce some of the most processed foods in existence. Incidentally, most other developed countries such as the nations of the European Union, Japan, Australia, Brazil, and China have mandatory labeling of genetically modified foods. Food for thought!
So, if you don’t wish to partake of GMO foods, what can you do? First and foremost, buy organic. The USDA has strict guidelines for producers of organic foods which restrict them from using any GMO products in their foods.
If a food is not organically grown, look for a Non-GMO Project Label which certifies that it has been tested and found to have less than 0.9% GMO-contamination.
At Viance, we are convinced that eating a clean, contaminant-free diet is essential in achieving good health and vibrancy. That is why we do not allow any genetically modified organisms in any of our products.