GMO - What is it, and how does it affect our lives?
GMO – or genetically modified organism is an organism whose genetic material has been altered using a laboratory-based technique, where mutation, insertion or deletion of genes occur. In agriculture, genetically engineered crops are said to be created to possess traits such as resistance to pests, herbicides and harsh environmental conditions.
In conversation, GMO’s and GE (genetically engineered) foods refer to the same thing; they are foods created through the gene splicing techniques of biotechnology.
Unlike its claims, GMO crops cannot solve the problem of world hunger. Initially, the argument was that by developing pesticide and herbicide resistant crops, farmers would be able to increase their yields and decrease their costs; Instead, bugs and weeds have become increasingly resistant to the widespread of these chemicals, leading to increased use of both, which results in higher costs for the farmers; higher damage to the environment and more health concerns.
For the producer, in this case, Monsanto, the parent of Roundup who owns about 86% of GMO seeds sold globally, it means more products purchased.
The safety of GM foods is unproven and a growing body of research connects these foods with health concerns and environment damage. Unfortunately, in Canada we do not have a policy requiring mandatory labeling of GM foods yet. Canadians are often unaware that the foods they choose contain GM ingredients.
According to the documentary ‘Genetic Roulette,’ “physicians and scientists have uncovered a serious trend. The same serious health problems found in lab animals, livestock and pets that have been fed GM foods are now on the rise in the US population. And when people and animals stopped eating genetically modified organisms (GMOs), their health improved.” The documentary also examines the significant connection between GM food and the rise of birth defects, autism, allergies and intestinal damage.
In 2009, The American Academy of Environmental Medicine (AAEM) stated that “several animal studies indicate serious health risks associated with genetically modified (GM) food, including infertility, immune problems, accelerated aging, faulty insulin regulation, and changes in major organs and the gastrointestinal system”. These findings led the AAEM to ask physicians to “educate their patients, the medical community and the public to avoid GM foods when possible”. Yet the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) claimed they were unaware of any information that genetically modified food was substantially different from conventionally grown food – therefore GM food did not need testing and was safe to eat.
Monsanto and other companies such as those that own Silk and Kashi do not want consumers to know the truth about GMOs in the foods they buy. They are also spending huge sums of money to try to defeat the Proposition 37 – a bill which would simply require GMOs to be indicated on food labels. Why don’t these companies want you to know what you’re eating? Because you are eating poison!
Which foods are GMO?
Sadly, more than 70% of processed foods found in retail stores and restaurants contain ingredients derived from GE corn, soybeans, canola, and cotton. In addition, half the sugar used in food products comes from GM sugar beets.
Fifty percent of the papaya grown in Hawaii is GM. Small amounts of yellow “crook neck” and zucchini squash are also GM.
As many as 15% of cows in the US are injected with a genetically modified bovine growth hormone, called rBGH, to produce more milk. rBGH is banned in many countries due to negative health impacts on cows.
Furthermore, the top 10 breakfast cereals most likely to contain Monsanto’s genetically modified corn are:
-Kelloggs Frosted Flakes
-Honey Graham Ohs
-Honey Nut Chex
-Kashi Heart to Heart
-Kelloggs Corn Flakes
How can you protect yourself? Below are some tips from ‘The Non GMO- Project’. Projects like this have created voluntary non-GMO certification to facilitate consumer information.
1. Avoid processed foods containing ingredients from corn, soy, canola, sugar beets, and cotton.
2. Look for Non-GMO Project verified products.
These food products have gone through a rigorous verification program to minimize the risk of GMO contamination, giving you the best assurance they are non-GMO.
For more information visit www.nongmoproject.org.
3. Eat organic.
Buying organic foods also offers assurance against the risks of genetic engineering because GM substances are prohibited in organic production.
4. Buy locally grown foods.
There is nothing better than locally produced fresh fruits and vegetables. Buying local supports farmers and keeps food dollars in the community. Another option is a community supported agriculture (CSA) program, which you pay a membership fee to a local farmer and receive fresh organic produce throughout the growing season.
5. Grow your own.
Gardening is a great hobby, nourishing to the body, mind, and soil. You can also participate in urban agriculture projects that are sprouting nationwide.
On May 25, two million people in 52 countries took to the streets in a global ‘March against Monsanto’. That same week the New York Times reported that U.S. food companies are starting to make arrangements to reformulate the ingredients in their processed foods and reorganize their supply lines so to avoid having to admit their brand name products contain GMOs. Change is possible, one bite at a time. Who will you support?
Yours in Nutrition
Flávia Roberta Martins Young