What is a GMO?
Genetically Modified Organism - A genetically modified organism for food purposes would be a a plant or an animal which has been genetically altered for a specific “beneficial” purpose. Crops were first genetically modified to resist pesticides and herbicides (weed killer) so that farmers wouldn’t lose their crops during an infestation of weeds or bugs. The first GMO was patented by Monsanto about 30 years ago – soybeans – in order for the beans to survive being doused with Round Up. There is an absolute TON of controversy about Monsanto these days, and it’s felt that Monsanto-esque companies are driving GMO production, less nutritious foods, and driving the small farmers making good food out of production with their thug like policies. Seriously, if you’ve watched Food Inc you know exactly what I’m talking about!
We watched a documentary called “King Corn” this weekend, and though it wasn’t super exciting, it’s always fascinating to learn even more about American food and the way we use our resources. King Corn is the story of 2 college graduates who decide to move to Iowa, plant and raise an acre of corn and track where their corn ends up. In summary, they learned that corn is in virtually everything we eat or drink in America. The corn is genetically modified to resist pesticide, herbicide(weed killer) and fungicide so farmers can produce higher yield with less work. The movie does not address soy beans, which is the other major player in American processed foods. So why is it so bad to genetically modify these crops? Don’t want more corn?
Sure. We want corn we can eat. But what these farmers are growing is corn that is literally inedible, and is sold purely to be processed. By the time it gets to you, you’d never know it was ever corn. Same with Soy. Imagine your tomato – it used to be nutritious, but now it’s been modified to stay red and round, and to resist Round Up. It needs to resist roundup because it will be doused in it.
“[Genetic modifying] proponents claim that genetic engineering of crops is no more risky than natural/conventional breeding. But in fact, genetic engineering is different from natural/conventional plant breeding and poses special risks. In particular, the genetic engineering and associated tissue culture processes are highly mutagenic, leading to unpredictable changes in the DNA and proteins of the resulting GM crop that can lead to unexpected toxic or allergenic effects.” – saynotogmos.com
A great resource of evidence based research on GMO’s is www.saynotogmos.com. 3 PHD’s review the literature in a 125 page document, so it’s a lot of reading but can most certainly answer any question you may have.
I’m the first to admit, we don’t even FULLY know the consequences of GMO’s yet. But we do know that GMO vegetables are less nutritious across the board. They’re vegetable crap. Sure you’re eating a tomato, but it’s been modified to resist poisons and therefore is carrying less nutrients. What the heck?
There are also thoughts in the medical community that GMO’s MAY be contributing to the rise in food allergies. If you’re in your 30′s or above, you probably remember the days when it was rare that someone you know had a food allergy. Now, every kid we know is allergic to gluten, soy, peanuts… all heavily modified foods. Coincidence? We don’t know. But we’re speculating, and hopefully there will be data to support it soon. I found this article on www.organicconsumers.org, which gives a great little summary of what we’re thinking:
Scientists have long known that GM crops might cause allergies. But there are no tests to prove in advance that a GM crop is safe. That’s because people aren’t usually allergic to a food until they have eaten it several times. “The only definitive test for allergies,” according to former FDA microbiologist Louis Pribyl, “is human consumption by affected peoples, which can have ethical considerations.” And it is the ethical considerations of feeding unlabeled, high-risk GM crops to unknowing consumers that has many people up in arms.
The UK is one of the few countries that conducts a yearly evaluation of food allergies. In March 1999, researchers at the York Laboratory were alarmed to discover that reactions to soy had skyrocketed by 50% over the previous year. Genetically modified soy had recently entered the UK from US imports and the soy used in the study was largely GM. John Graham, spokesman for the York laboratory, said, “We believe this raises serious new questions about the safety of GM foods.”
How can I avoid them?
USDA Certified Organic – these should NOT be GMO – the regulations aren’t air tight, so it’s always best to look for things that say “No GMO” – like my favorite organic geniuses, Amy’s Organic.
LOCAL FOODS – buying local fruits and veggies from your small hometown farmer you’re extremely unlikely to find GMO’s. You can even ask them. If you’re at a farmer’s market, chances are the seller will absolutely know the answer.
Stay tuned for more on this growing controversy!!!
This guest post comes from Claire O’Bryan, from her blog Heavy On the Veggie. She is a Nurse Practitioner with a BS in Exercise Science. She has recently entered the world of blogging to share her passion for all things local, organic, healthy, and delicious. She’s a vegan wanna be who deep down loves a good piece of cheese. She’s currently practicing at the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston, SC.