What are GMOs and why have they become such a controversial issue? Glad you asked. GMOs are Genetically Modified Organisms. They can be present in your food, beverages, nutritional supplements—even in your skincare products. The reason GMOs are such a hot topic is because there is some evidence that they may prove harmful to your health. To make matters worse, they are never listed on products labels. In short, we are kept in the dark.
In a nutshell, this means that when you think you’re taking care of yourself, you may be compromising your health every time you pick up an apple, dip a corn chip, sip a soft drink, or pop a vitamin. If you want to make healthier choices for you and your family, it's important to know what to look for and what to avoid.
Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) are plants and animals that have been genetically altered. The process involves forcing genes from one species into another, totally unrelated species, breaking the boundaries that exist between them in nature. These forced genes can come from bacteria, viruses, insects, and animals—and become part of the food we eat.
Often people confuse GMOs with hybridization. The latter is a natural process that involves creating new varieties from naturally compatible sources. The flower of one species is fertilized by the flower of another--and both are plants. Hybridization has been practiced safely for thousands of years, both in nature and science. Seedless watermelon, tangelos, broccoli, and cauliflower are great examples of successful hybridization.
Unlike hybrid foods, GMOs are totally new and untested. For example, these newly engineered crops can kill the insects that usually eat them. In other words, they become their own insecticides. “Bt corn” has a gene from Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt), a bacterium found in soil. This gene produces Bt toxin, a pesticide that breaks open the stomach of certain insects and kills them. But if it does that, what is it doing to your stomach and digestive tract?
GMOs can also make crops more tolerant to herbicides, so the weeds surrounding them die while the crops survive. This allows for the use of much larger quantities of herbicides, not less as claimed. Unfortunately, these same chemicals are readily absorbed into the crops, hence the food you eat. Although wheat hasn't been genetically modified, the very same herbicides are used in huge quantities during harvesting to kill the weeds around it. And we ingest them along with that yummy bagel.
There’s more. These new organisms can be toxic, allergenic or, at the very least, less nutritious than their natural counterparts. In short, we cannot alter the genetic code of our food, spray it with barrels of toxic pesticides and think it will not affect our health. It will.
One such pesticide is RoundUp, the main ingredient of which is glyphosate. A study published in the journal Environmental Sciences Europe disclosed that Americans have sprayed 1.8 million tons of glyphosate since it was created in 1974. And 9.4 million tons have been used worldwide. It has now become the most heavily-used agricultural chemical in history. And the World Health Organization has claimed that glyphosate is “probably carcinogenic.”
There have been absolutely no substantial, long-term studies indicating the safety of GMO foods. But there has been research, such as that of Prof. Gilles-Eric Seralini, that supports the damaging effects of GMOs. This includes producing tumors in rats fed GMO foods. Research has shown that glyphosate is an endocrine disruptor, which means it interferes with your body’s hormonal system with sometimes devastating results. More research is needed. At the very least, these foods should be labeled so we can make our own informed choices. GMOs are banned in 38 countries. Not just labeled—banned.
What does all of this mean for you and your family? It means that it is important to be mindful and vigilant. Follow these simple tips to avoid GMOs:
1: Buy Organic… When you buy products labeled “100% organic” there cannot be any GMO ingredients. If something says “made with organic ingredients” all the organic ingredients in these products are produced from non-GMO sources, but there could be other questionable ingredients that are not organic. Keep reading the labels!
2. Look for the “Non-GMO” seal on product labels…One of the most prominent organizations that labels foods is the Non-GMO Project. You can visit their website at nongmoproject.org to see all the products and companies that are verified as non-GMO.
3. Avoid “high-risk” ingredients and foods…Stay away from non-organic products made with any of the crops known to be genetically modified. These include alfalfa, canola, corn, cotton, Hawaiian papaya, soybeans, sugar beets and many forms of sugar, zucchini, and summer squash. Avoid non-organic and non-labeled corn chips, tortillas, tofu, tempeh, and other corn and soy-based products.
To simplify the process for you—and make a dramatic difference in both yours and your family’s health—eat organic foods whenever possible. Be sure to look for the non-GMO Project verified seal on all labels.
Try shopping at your local farmers’ market. It’s fun, friendly, and an easy way to buy organic fruits and veggies at great savings. Say no to GMOs and yes to better health!