Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) have been a topic of controversy for some time now. Almost all foods today contain GMOs and it is difficult to determine whether a product contains these organisms or not. States across the nation have proposed legislation that requires manufacturers to label products containing GMO's; but most of these pieces of legislation have failed. Proponents believe that as consumers we should know everything that is in the food that we consume. They also believe that labels are a crucial part of the evaluation process when choosing a food product. Opponents argue that if food manufacturers are required to put labels on their products; they may face decreased sales. Ultimately, some manufacturers may see increased costs because they would have purchase or use more costly ingredients that are GMO free.
The big question is: Are GMOs safe and if not what can you do to avoid them?
GMOs are organisms (plants or animals) that have had their DNA injected with the DNA of another organism. The purpose of modifying the organism is to give it enhancing characteristics such as: resistance to disease or spoilage, increased growth or yield, and/or tolerance of pesticides. The info-graph the to the right breaks down the GMO process.
Are GMOs safe?
Very little research has been performed on the side effects of GMOs (on humans) because they are relatively new. Lab research on field mice indicates that GMOs can cause problems with the gut, immune system, liver, kidneys, heart, and adrenal glands. Some researchers say this could cause problems such as obesity, diabetes, autoimmune disease, accelerated aging and infertility. Much of this research, about the negative effects of GMOs, has been suppressed by agriculture companies and major corporations.
The bigger problem is what GMOs are doing to the soil and the environment. GMO crops have a higher tolerance to herbicides which allows farmers to increase the amounts used to protect crops from insects. These herbicides are harmful to birds, insects, soil organisms, and the marine ecosystem. Once GMOs have been introduced to seeds, cross pollination can contaminate the gene pool of other crops. If there are problems with GMOs discovered in the future, it would be difficult to remove this cross contamination.
GMOs have been used in food production for centuries and many scientists believe that the good outweighs the bad. Because there is no significant evidence that the GMOs cause problems in humans, it is difficult to say that GMOs have negative consequences. But we think is better to be safe than sorry and to insure that our children have healthy futures, we suggest avoiding GMOs.
How can you avoid GMO's?
Although GMO's are difficult to avoid, you can:
- Eat Organic –USDA standards will not allow the use of GMOs in any product listed as organic
- Buy Fresh –Experts suggest that 60% - 70% of processed foods in the US have GMOs. Pre-made, pre-packaged or boxed foods typically contain GMOs. Eat fresh organic fruits and vegetables. Stay away from products that contain sugar beets, soy, canola, crook neck squash, cottonseed, or non-cane sugar. Do not buy them unless they are listed as organic. Products that typically contain these ingredients are cereals, soft drinks, and crackers.
- Search for verified food products using the "Find Non-GMO" tab located on the Non-GMO Project website http://www.nongmoproject.org/find-non-gmo/search-participating-products/. Their database is extensive and you can browse by category, brand or search by name. Another nice feature of their website is you can search for restaurants and retailers located in your state that are verified NON-GMO.
- Shop at specialty food stores such as:
- Trader Joe’s - All of their Trader Joe’s branded products (excluding meat, dairy and some farmed fish) are expected to be NON-GMO. Here is the official statement regarding their products. http://www.traderjoes.com/about/customer-updates-responses.asp?i=4
- Whole Foods – Plans to have all their products GMO free labeled by 2018. http://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/gmo-your-right-know
- Eat At Home – this will increase the likelihood that what you consume is GMO free.
Since Halloween is right around the corner, we thought we would share some popular Halloween candies that contain GMOs.
And for more reasons to avoid GMOs check out: http://www.responsibletechnology.org/10-Reasons-to-Avoid-GMOs