Blog #17 What Are GMO’s?
The World Health Organization defines GMO’s as organisms in which the genetic material has been altered in a way that does not occur naturally. An extreme example of this was a tomato plant that had a fish gene spliced into its DNA. This tomato was never used commercially, since it was not frost resistant. There is much debate about the safety and efficacy of GMO’s (genetically modified organisms) used in agriculture. Proponents of GMO technology claim that GMO food has significantly reduced green house gas emissions, herbicide run-off and soil erosion. They say that they are producing plants which can better withstand drought, disease, and insects and which require less natural resources and pesticides to produce. These plants are immune to the negative effects of one or more pesticides, including RoundUp, which disrupts the digestive processes in insects. Monsanto, a major inventor and distributor of many GMO seeds, has spent a lot of money developing GMO’s and has chosen to patent the seeds, making it necessary for farmers to purchase new seeds every year rather than use seeds from the previous year’s plants.
Although numerous scientists have asked that more time be allowed to test GMO products for safety before placing them on the market, Monsanto and other companies refused to wait, making the U. S. and world population the testing ground for product safety. Some results of animal testing since GMO’s have been in use are as follows: thousands of sheep, buffalo and goats in India died after grazing on GM cotton plants; mice eating GM corn for a large portion of their lives had smaller and fewer babies; more than half the babies of mother rats fed GM soy died within three weeks and were abnormally small; testicle cells of mice and rats fed a GMO soy diet changed significantly by the 3rd generation; most hamsters fed a GMO soy diet lost the ability to reproduce. Also, in the U. K., human soy allergies increased by 50% soon after GM soy was introduced. Approximately 85% of commercially produced foods in the U.S. contain some GMO ingredients; however, we often don’t know which products or ingredients they are, since food manufacturers are not required to inform the public.
GMO plants also effect the environment. Unintended and uncontrolled mutations tend to occur in GMO plants, and when these interact with other organisms in the environment, they generate unintended, unpredictable side-effects. For example, when ordinary commercial corn or organically raised corn is exposed to the pollen from GMO corn, GMO corn characteristics take over in future generations, threatening the existence of non-GMO corn and organic corn. The same is true for other GMO crops. Some of the plants that are now genetically modified include corn, white potatoes, cotton, wheat, sugar beets, zucchini, tobacco, tomatoes, strawberries, alfalfa, peas, soy, rapeseed (the source of canola oil), sorghum, papaya, pineapple, and some trees. There also are plans for the use of GMO salmon in the very near future. Cows, poultry, sheep, and other animals that are fed GMO foods also may have an unfavorable effect on our health and the environment compared with animals raised humanely and organically.
It is my opinion that until the safety of GMO foods has been proven, it would be advisable to avoid consuming them as much as possible. Many countries, including Australia, Brazil, Norway, France, Germany, and Spain have chosen to protect their citizens and environment with partial or complete bans on some GMO seeds and/or products. Ways to eliminate GMO foods from the diet in the U. S. are by consuming only certified 100 % organically grown foods, growing your own food, checking the labels on produce (5 digits beginning with a 9 means that the food was organically produced), purchasing foods only from local farmers whom you trust, and only buying foods with the following certifications: QAI, Oregon Tilth, or CCOF. USDA Organic standards are nowhere near as stringent as the former three. Below are a few links which I would strongly recommend you explore for even more information about GMO foods.
This month’s offer: contact me if you have any questions about particular foods containing GMO ingredients. Either I will talk with you over the phone or ask you to come into my office along with the particular food(s) in question. Depending on the time I spend with you, I may charge a small fee. The first 15 minutes are free of charge.