Wow. There is a TON of information out there about GMO’s. But what ARE they? Well, a GMO is a Genetically Modified Organism. What is their purpose? Well, according to the companies manufacturing them, it’s to produce higher yields in crops, and thereby feed more people for less money.
But there are some real concerns out there. For one, not much (if any) testing has been done with regard to possible short-term and/or long-term side effects. The problem is, GMO foods are modified without much regard to nature. So you could have tomato plants genetically modified with fish genes. That just seems wrong somehow.
In fairness, there has not been any definitive side effects linked to GMO foods. Again, in fairness, there haven’t been any real studies done objectively to determine this. Most developed countries (over 60, in fact) have either restrictions or outright bans on GMO foods. These countries include Japan, Australia, and every country in the European Union. Of the developed countries in the world, the United States is the only one who considers GMO foods safe. We have made this determination based on studies conducted by the companies who output GMO foods. Many many Americans are choosing not to eat foods made with GM organisms.
But why are people choosing to stay away from these organisms? What are the concerns? According to GMOfreeusa.org:
- They are inadequately or un-tested. In the U.S.A., the FDA has allowed biotech companies to do their own studies on these products. The FDA is not conducting safety studies.
- As there is no labeling requirement (as of yet), there is no real way to trace back any diseases or injury that may occur.
- “GMO crops are engineered to withstand heavy applications of toxic herbicides like Monsanto’s Roundup, killing weeds and all other plant-life except the crop. GMO Bt crops are engineered to produce a toxic insecticide within every cell of the organism in order to kill the bugs that attempt to eat the crops. Monsanto’s unlabeled Bt sweet corn is now sold in every Walmart store across America.” (http://gmofreeusa.org/gmos-are/) This one scares me. If they are engineered to be toxic to the bugs, it stands to reason they would be toxic to people as well.
- The few studies which have been conducted seem to show links to autism, allergies, auto-immune disorders, infertility, birth defects, obesity, and cancers.
- GMO crops are highly cross-contaminating. They have contaminated many heirloom crops they neighbor, which makes it even harder to discern which foods contain GMO’s, and therefore harder to avoid.
But they are supposed to reduce world hunger, right? Well, in 1994, the first GM food was introduced – the Flavr Savr tomato. Today, it is estimated 33% of the world’s population (about 800 million) are under- or malnourished. So it seems as though we still have a significant problem.
Add to that the increased autism rates (up just from 2000 to 1 in 88 diagnoses), increased allergies, increased obesity, etc. It seems as though we were promised a lot with GMO foods, and they haven’t delivered. Not to mention we are seeing an increase in side effects that we cannot prove or disprove because there hasn’t been adequate testing.
Ultimately, the GMO debate has many sides to it, and it’s hard to decide which side is more credible. There are so many “studies” conducted by the large corporations outputting GMO products, and there is so much money involved that bias in the studies is inevitable. The best you can do is to make a choice whether or not to eat the foods output with GMO in it.
Unfortunately, this is tricky also, due to the cross-contamination by GMO crops and the lack of labeling. Recently California was nearly the first state to require GMO labeling. Unfortunately, this measure was shot down by a 51% to 48% vote. The GMO labeling movement is gaining momentum, however. People want to be able to choose what is in their foods. (Interestingly, several companies I previously thought would be on the side of GMO labeling weren’t, including: Kashi, Organic Harvest, Odwalla, Cascadian Farm Organic, Lara Bar, Santa Cruz Organic, Similac (!), and MorningStar Farms, just to name a few – the list I found is located here: http://www.cornucopia.org/wp-content/themes/Cornucopia/downloads/prop37-poster.pdf).
So, what can you do to avoid GMO foods if you choose? Well, I really love this website: http://www.nongmoproject.org/. They are a website dedicated to honest labeling of GMO foods. They have a stringent list of “best practices” to avoid GMO foods, and are constantly campaigning to have foods labeled. They are non-profit, and are really well informed.
Ultimately, the choice is yours. Hopefully this helped you to get a little more informed, and gives you some resources to do your own research.