This is one of the pictures I took at the 2013 March against Monsanto in Calgary, AB
The subject of genetic modification is very controversial, but in the natural health industry the general consensus is that GMOs are not healthy and should not be eaten. I will explain the main reasons on why you should avoid them in this article.
Genetically Modified Organisms or GMOs are foods produced from organisms that have had specific changes introduced into their DNA using the methods of genetic engineering. This is not to be confused with hybridization which is a process of selectively breeding 2 species for specific traits. While hybridization is still interference with nature (to some extent), it is still something that could have eventually happened naturally. On the other hand, genetic modification is something that would never have happened naturally because genes have been directly inserted into the hosts DNA (source). So remember that hybridization and genetic modification are different!
The most famous (or rather, infamous) company that produces GMOs is Monsanto. Monsanto describes their company as “a sustainable agricultural company” but there is much disagreement on both Monsanto’s business practises and long term goals. Here are some of them:
1. Genetic modification is a Business Strategy
One reason that plants are genetically modified is so that they withstand larger amounts of the pesticide known as “Round-up” creating “Round-up ready crops”. This ensures they sell more Round-up, and also more of their crops, as any non-genetically modified crop would die from having high levels of Round-up dumped on it. The EPA recently raised the allowable limit of pesticide residues allowed to be present on Monsanto’s products even further (Source).
Monsanto uses the argument that GMOs will help solve the world hunger problem (due to larger crop yields), but growing more food actually isn’t the solution to world hunger. Right now there is more than enough food in the world to feed every person (source). People aren’t dying of hunger due to lack of food, they are dying of hunger due to poverty. They can’t afford to buy food or buy land to grow their own food on.
2. Genetic Modification is Harmful to the Environment
The high doses of pesticides used on GM crops are killing bees. This occurs because bees collect pollen from pesticide drenched plants and bring it back to their nest to store it as honey, then later when the bees go dip into said stored honey, they are also hit with a concentrated dose of systemic pesticides which compromises their immune system and also targets their central nervous system (Source). Bees are needed to pollinate the majority of our crops; here is a list of crops that require bee pollination. If the bees disappear many crops will no longer be about to grow.
Many other agricultural practises of industrial farms are also harmful to the environment. These include monocropping which depletes the soil of important minerals, and using chemical fertilizers which contain high levels of toxins (such as cadmium and fluoride). The high use of pesticides and herbicides on GM crops along with chemical fertilizers renders the soil toxic which can then contaminate nearby water supplies such as wells or lakes. The overuse of herbicides has already lead to chemically resistant weeds known as superweeds (source).
Genetically modified crops are also invasive which threatens non-GMO conventional and organic farms. Because GM crops do not exist naturally, most other plants have no natural resistance to them and thus become over run (source). These GM crops have been patented, so any farm that becomes invaded by GM crops can then be sued for theft! The law states that the contaminated crops, no matter how the contamination occurs (pollination, wind, etc.), becomes property of Monsanto. Monsanto has done this to over 400 small farms, putting many of them out of business (Source).
3. GM foods contain less nutrients and more chemicals than naturally grown food
Even non-organic (+non-GMO) conventional food has less pesticide residues on it than genetically modified crops. Higher levels of chemical residues increase oxidative stress on the body, which increases risk of cancer or other illnesses (source). Organic produce contains the least amount of pesticides although organic farmers can still use some types of pesticides. There is still some debate about if organic food is really more nutritious than conventional food but there are a sufficient amount of studies that point to organic food being more nutritious (source). You don’t have to analyze it in a lab to know that organic food tastes better and often has richer color. Conventional and GMO produce are both flavourless because yield and imperfections have been prioritized over taste and nutrients.
4. GMOs are unethical and have unknown long term health effects
GMOs are unethical because they were introduced into our food supply without long term studies done on their safety and without public awareness. GM crops were introduced into the food supply in the 90s (source). Check out this list of products that now contain GMOs. Note the items on that list are probably 90% or more of conventional grocery store items. The majority of grocery stores shelves have become GM products without our knowledge or consent.
To date, the longest studies done on GMOs are about 20 years: only 1/4 of the average American lifespan. We still have no idea what kind of effects could be seen an entire lifespan or two down the road. While many studies on consuming GMOs have not shown any long term effects, there are also some that have.
If you are interested in learning further about genetic modification,
I recommend this video:
How do you avoid GMOs?
Products that are certified organic, by law, cannot contain GMOs. So buying organic is a great way to avoid them. You can also use the phone application Buycott that will allow you to scan the barcode of grocery store items and inform you if the company supports labelling or not. This can help you determine which foods contain GMO products as generally companies that are against labelling have products that contain GMOs. Be especially careful of any product that contains corn, canola or soy because its probably GMO unless it states otherwise.
Eating local and organic produce and doing your own cooking is the best way to avoid accidentally buying or using products that contain GMOs. Lastly, look for the Non-GMO Project label. This means the product is GMO-free!
Thank you for reading everyone! You can follow me on google+ or like my facebook page to keep up to date with my blog posts.