GMO or No GMO?
It seems like a question everybody should be able to answer – do you know what’s in your food? And while the question may seem simple enough to answer, you might not necessarily be able to find the answer on the nutrition label or packaging of your food. This is because there is currently no legislation that requires food producers to report if there are GMOs, (genetically modified organisms), in their products. GMOs, are plants or animals that have been genetically engineered with DNA from viruses, bacteria or other plants and animals and do not occur from natural processes or crossbreeding.
According to the Non-GMO Project, as much as 80% of conventional processed food in the United States contain GMOs. These products include canola, soy, corn, papaya, zucchini, sugar beets and cotton among others. Most of these products have been genetically engineered for increased tolerance to herbicides and increased resistance to insects and viruses, making the crops cheaper to produce and sell. This engineering, however, has birthed many environmental and health problems.
Many scientists are worried about the affects of GMOs on human health – including increased exposure to new allergens and carcinogens as well as increased exposure to anti-biotic resistance genes. These antibiotic resistant genes can interact with the bacteria that lives in our guts, producing new bacteria and diseases that are highly resistant to antibiotics. Additionally, cows that have been given GM bovine growth hormone produce milk that contains increased hormone 1G-F – a hormone that has been linked to cancer. GMOs also contain higher residues of toxic herbicides linked to cancer, infertility, organ damage, hormone disruption and birth defects. For these reasons, the American Academy of Environmental Medicine strongly recommends following a purely non-GMO diet.
Additionally, GMO engineering produces a number of negative environmental impacts including soil and plant contamination, increased use of herbicides and pollution of water and soil. All of these effects trickle across the greater ecosystem and affect bird, amphibian and marine life. Aside from GM crops destroying natural habitats, increased herbicide use due to GMOs have been linked to birth defects in frogs and organ damage in marine and land animals.
The question, however, still remains – how can you know if GMOs are in your food? While there are no laws that require GMO labeling, as a consumer you can make conscious decisions to purchase food that specifically states it is non-GMO and lobby to make GMO labeling a requirement on all food labels.