If you have not heard the term “GMO” or the phrase “genetically modified food,” then I suspect that you have been living in a cave for some time now.
When a gene from one organism is purposely moved to improve or change another organism in a laboratory, the result is a genetically modified organism (GMO). It is also sometimes called “transgenic” for transfer of genes.
There are different ways of moving genes to produce desirable traits. For both plants and animals, one of the more traditional ways is through selective breeding. For example, a plant with a desired trait is chosen and bred to produce more plants with the desirable trait. A second technique is applied in the laboratory where genes that express the desired trait is physically moved or added to a new plant to enhance the trait in that plant. Plants produced with this technology are transgenic. Often, this process is performed on crops to produce insect or herbicide resistant plants. They are referred to as Genetically Modified Crops (GM crops).
More simply, a GMO is a plant or animal that has been genetically altered by scientists to improve its ability to grow in non-native environments, resist pests, tolerate extreme weather conditions, produce more food (like milk in cows), or show other desired traits. A GMO is no longer natural even though its parts may be natural in origin.
Why should you be worried about GMO’s? The list is too long to post in its entirety but here are a few key reasons why you should steer clear of all genetically modified foods:
- They trigger the emergence of new diseases due to the use of viruses and bacteria to modify some GM foods. These new diseases could be resistant to antibiotics.
- They raise the risk of developing cancer.
- They compromise digestive health.
- They trigger food allergies as a result of a food that causes allergies in some people being placed in another organism.
- They harm the ecosystem by removing a pest that could be an important source of food for another animal.
- They can be toxic to an organism and lead to its extinction.
The World Health Organizations answers 20 questions about Genetically Modified Foods at their site. It is well worth the time spent reading it!
So what genetically modified foods are YOU consuming? Here are just some of the foods that you are probably eating on a regular basis:
- Corn (If you eat any kind of processed food on a regular basis – tortilla chips, cereal, granola bars – chances are, you consume genetically modified corn. The Center for Food Safety estimates that over 70% of the processed foods in American grocery stores contain genetically modified corn.)
- Zucchini Squash
- Canola Oil
- Sugar Beets
- Sugar Cane
- Vitamins – Vitamin C (ascorbic acid) is often made from corn, vitamin E is usually made from soy. Vitamins A, B2, B6, and B12 may be derived from GMOs as well as vitamin D and vitamin K may have “carriers” derived from GM corn sources, such as starch, glucose, and maltodextrin.
- Aspartame (How can an artificial substance be genetically modified? Aspartame may seem like an odd addition to this list, but the fact is, Monsanto makes it using genetically modified bacteria. The bacteria produce the amino acid phenylalanine, which, when combined with aspartic acid, creates the faux sweetener.)
- Cotton (We don’t think of cotton as a food, and technically it isn’t – but we still end up eating it. Cotton isn’t classified as a food crop, so farmers can use any chemicals they want when growing it. That means cottonseed oil, which is present in products like mayonnaise and salad dressing, can be packed full of pesticides.)
Want to see which food products your favorite brands are making with GMO’s? Check out this list! Betty Crocker isn’t sounding so good right about now.
Interested in learning even more about GMO’s? Check these out:
Wondering how you can take action against GMO’s taking over as our food source? Check out this comprehensive post from My Life In A Pyramid! Really, really informative!
Do you avoid GMO foods? What steps are you taking to eliminate them from your diet?