The Importance of Buying non-GMO

Why avoid genetically modified food
Photo by Peter Blanchard

What is Genetically Modified Food?

Genetic engineering is different than hybridization. To compare….

  • Heirloom plants have been passed down from generations and produce fruits and vegetables with seeds that replicates the exact same kind.
  • Hybridization can happen naturally or with human intervention. Related plants are cross-pollinated to create particular characteristics like seedless fruit, durability, color, yield, size, and taste, or for novelty like broccoflower. Unlike heirloom plants, the seeds from these plants usually revert back to one of its parents, or like a mule, don’t replicate at all.
  • Genetic engineering alters things in a way that does not naturally occur in nature, between non-related species, creating a whole new set of genes/DNA.
  • For more facts & myths on GMO see here.
In genetically engineered foods, genes/DNA are transferred from one organism (a bacteria, virus, animal, etc…) into another un-related organism creating new DNA. For example insect-resistant plants can contain genetic material from bacteria that attacks insects. While some of this genetic material might be a “natural” pesticide, it would never naturally occur in the crop.

Roundup Ready plants were created when a species of bacteria was found growing in the waste-fed column at a glyphosate factory, the herbicide used in Roundup products. The DNA from the bacteria was combined with the DNA of the plant producing a new patented plant. (For more on this process see here).

Why should you avoid genetically modified food?

For now, no one knows for a certainty the consequences of eating genetically modified foods. A quick google search reveals multiple studies showing side effects such as liver and kidney damage, obesity in children, extra chromosome development in the genetically engineered food, and strain resistance. But then for each study that is produced, the other side refutes it.

Who knows what to believe anymore. What about good old common sense? Something tells me all this messing with DNA cannot be a good thing and I’m not willing to be a guinea pig for the profit of big business. That is why I choose to avoid as much genetically modified food as I possibly can within my budget.

Of course this is not easy to do.
  • Over two-thirds of all food products sold in grocery stores today contain genetically engineered ingredients.
  • Most products made from corn, canola, and soy, (which is in everything!!) is made from Roundup ready crops.
  • Unlike many countries (China, Russia, and all the countries in the European Union, etc) Canada and the US do not require genetic engineering to be disclosed on product labels.
  • Most livestock is fed genetically engineered ingredients.

Genetically Modified Foods to Avoid

According to the NON GMO Project, the highest risk crops are:

  •  Sugar Beets (approx. 95% of U.S. crop in 2010)
  •  Soy (approx. 94% of U.S. crop in 2011)
  •  Canola (approx. 90% of U.S. crop)
  •  Cotton (approx. 90% of U.S. crop in 2011)
  •  Corn (approx. 88% of U.S. crop in 2011)
  •  Alfalfa (first planting 2011)
  •  Zucchini and Yellow Summer Squash (approx. 25,000 acres)
  •  Papaya (most of Hawaiian crop; approximately 988 acres)
  •  Animal products (milk, meat, eggs, honey, etc.) because of contamination in feed.

Is organic food better?

Unfortunately, non-GMO claims are not required to be verified by a third party so it comes down to trust. The Non-GMO Project is the only organization offering independent verification of testing and GMO controls for products in the U.S. and Canada. Products bearing this seal must not contain more than 0.9% GMO ingredients. Look for this seal or check out their list of verified products here.

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