GMO’s DEFINED: GMO stands for Genetically Modified Organism. You may also hear the term “genetically engineered” which means the same thing. To explain this complicated science in the most basic of terms, DNA from one species is being transplanted into another. This is a fairly new (20-year-old) occurence in the American food supply. Scientists are genetically modifying foods in an attempt to lower the cost of food, produce bigger crops, and ward off plant diseases. In many cases, genes are added or transferred to our food in order to make the food inherently resistant to pesticides, herbicides, insecticides, and resistant to drought and frost.
In corn in particular, bacteria is transferred which causes corn to produce something called the Bt toxin, which poisons moths and butterflies. In sugar beets, a gene is added which makes the crop more resistant to the Roundup herbicide. This means when we consume GMO’s, we are consuming these toxins and various other genetic mutations. Currently, nearly 90% of corn, soy, and sugar beets in the USA are genetically modified. This likely means that GMO’s exist in over 75% of the processed foods currently available on the market. Right now, the USA has no requirements in place to require labeling, which would let the consumer know their product contains GMOs, despite the fact that many other countries require this labeling – including China and Russia.
GMO TESTING: Why should we care if we eat GMO’s?? Well, when these crops first started entering our food supply, scientists within the FDA warned that extensive, long-term studies needed to be done to determine the effects of these foods on the human population. They feared they were dangerous to our health, and wanted them to be tested. Unfortunately, this never happened and these crops entered our food supply, unbeknownst to us, without any research as far as their effects, and without any regulations requiring the food industry to alert us that these crops were in our food. There are no tests on effects of genetically engineered foods to fetuses and no literally no long-term testing on animals. Are you willing to take the risk and consume genetically engineered foods?
HEALTH RISKS: Studies show that we should proceed cautiously. According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, the insecticide that is found in GE corn is actually showing up in the umbilical cord of pregnant women, and in our bloodstream. Diseases have sky rocketed, food allergies have increased, and people are more unhealthy now than ever before. These crops have the potential to introduce new toxins and allergens into our food supply. Additionally, various studies have shown that lab animals, live stock, and pets who are fed a GMO diet have rapidly deteriorating health problems. These problems not only reverse, but are non-existent when the animals are taken off the GMO diet, and fed non-GMO’s. Additionally, in animal lab studies where a GE diet was introduced, scientists saw an increase in pre-cancerous cell growth, damaged immune systems, infertility, smaller brains, livers, and testicles, partial atrophy or increased density of the liver, false pregnancies and higher death rates.
CURRENT GMO CROPS: There are currently 9 crops on the market that are genetically modified:
- Sugar Beets
- Hawaiian Papaya
- Yellow Crookneck Squash
Additionally, various by-products of these crops pose a serious risk as well. This includes, but is not limited to canola oil, vegetable oil, soy lecithin, corn starch, corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, corn meal, soy sauce, and cottonseed oil. If a non-organic product made in North American lists “sugar” as an ingredient (and NOT pure cane sugar), then it is almost certainly a combination of sugar from both sugar cane and GM sugar beets. And, don’t forget about animal products where the animal was fed a GMO diet… Meat, milk, and eggs are all considered to be contaminated with GMO’s if the animal it came from consumed a diet of GE corn or soy, which is what is used for the majority of animal feed. Also, all soy-based infant formulas are made with GMO soy. If you feed your baby soy formula, the only way to guarantee non-GMO soy is to buy 100% organic.
AVOIDING GMO’S: So how can we avoid GMO’s? Well, California is about to vote on requiring the labeling of GMO food – Prop 37. We really hope it passes. And in WA, we are trying to get a similar measure on the ballot. However, in the meantime, there are a few things we can do as consumers to avoid GMO’s. Remember, when you pay for something, you are essentially voting for it with your dollars….
1. Buy USDA certified, 100% organic. This guarantees that no GE crops were used.
2. Make sure that egg and meat sources are organic, reputable, and preferably local. Eggs marked “cage-free” or “free-roaming” are still highly likely to contain GMO’s. Look for 100% organic eggs. As far as meat, choose 100% grass-fed. If that is not available, choose 100% organic meat.
3. Look for non-GMO label. The Non-GMO Project provides America’s only 3rd party verification and labeling for non-GMO food products.
4. Avoid at risk ingredients (see above).
5. Download the Non-GMO Shopping Guide to help you locate non-GMO food. This is an invaluable tool.
We know that was a lot of information, but hopefully that helps you to understand a bit more about GMO’s and why / how to avoid eating them. If you are interesting in learning more, the sources listed below provide a good place to dig in a bit deeper.