sharing knowledge; enhancing wellbeing.
WHAT’S THE PROBLEM?
Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are quickly taking over our food supply, and are touted as the way of the future. Apparently, it is widely believed that one result of the exponentially growing population will be a shortage of food and that GMOs are the answer. A food shortage may or may not be imminent; however, it is critical to note why GMOs are unlikely to be the answer to our potential problems. Here are the reasons why I say to to GMOs, and why you may want to (re)think your stance as well:
1) Safety of human GMO consumption is not established. However, we do have telling evidence from multiple animal studies. Guess what researchers found?
* Diminished fertility after a few months in the first generation. In multigenerational studies, as breeding continued, later generations had fewer and fewer births and lower birth weights when compared to those eating a non-GMO diet.
* They can also create food allergies. The proteins in GMOs are typically novel compared their natural counterparts, which can cause an increased sensitivity to these types of foods. For example, since GMO soy entered the market, soy allergies have increased exponentially! It is now estimated that one in every thirteen children have food allergies.
*Liver and kidney damage are possible implications of GMO consumption. The liver and kidney are responsible for clearing toxins from the body; thus, it makes sense that these organs are affected, as GMOs are toxic! GMOs were designed to survive high doses of herbicides. Clearly if these plants are sprayed with high levels of poison, it is only natural that increased levels of toxins will reside on, and soak into the food. Additionally, GMOs contain DNA that has a pesticide included in its genes so that insects die, and therefore avoid eating the plant (how appetizing does that sound? Who in their right mind is going to eat produce that is specifically designed to kill living creatures?). So, if you are eating GMOs, you are literally eating both herbicides and insecticides. It then makes sense why the liver and kidneys, amongst other organs and tissue might have some problems!
2) As Newton famously stated, “To every action, there is always opposed an equal reaction.” There is now evidence that GMOs will create an onslaught of bacterial, viral, weed, and insect resistance for the following reasons:
* Remember what we just learned about the modified DNA in GMOs? There are animal studies that demonstrate that even after we’ve halted the consumption of GMOs, the DNA and proteins continue to reside in our guts, affecting intestinal flora. Furthermore, the DNA can travel to other organs in our bodies, even into the fetuses of pregnant mothers. This is relevant in this section because the DNA of most GMOs contains an antibiotic gene, which could generate antibiotic-resistant super diseases. (This is similar to antibiotic resistance explained in past posts. Read: what’s for dinner?)
*There are also virus-resistant genes in some of the GMO crops (namely papaya and squash). For the same reasons that you find antibiotic-resistant bacteria, we will also see mutations in viruses, with the potential of deadly super viruses that our immune systems might not be capable of defeating.
*There is evidence that herbicide-resistant weeds are cropping up. Of course, GMO farmers continue to douse these weeds (along with the produce) with more herbicide, only adding to all of the above-mentioned health issues.
*There is also an indication of insecticide-resistant bugs. Remember, insects have faster life cycles, so it is easier to observe mutations in their species. Farmers have witnessed bugs that are unaffected by the poisonous produce. I can’t wait to hear the brilliant answer GMO engineers have for this problem.
3) Considering the above-mentioned, there are obviously larger-scale environmental implications.
*All of that pesticide and herbicide is entering our environment. It is tainting our water system as well as our food system. Even the meat that you eat (unless it’s organic) likely ate GMOs for the duration of its life.
*GMOs are contaminating organic farms. Even if you buy organic, it is estimated that you will still be eating around 3% GMO. Farms are not closed environments, and nature has its own special way of reproducing. Seeds from GMO farms travel to organic farms and pollute the natural plants.
*There are other animals in our ecosystems that are harmed by GMOs and its related issues. For example, tadpoles are having a tough time surviving the higher levels of herbicides in the environment. More research on how GMOs affect the ENTIRE ecosystem, including multiple levels of the food chain, should have been determined prior to the widespread use of these products.
*The soil is greatly affected by the use of GMO crops and herbicides. Every farmer knows that their produce is only as good as their soil, as that is the main source of nutrients for the plant. With toxic residues continuously polluting the soil, the outcome could be dangerous. We already know that there has been a decrease in the nutrient levels of our produce since the advent of big agriculture.
WHAT CAN YOU DO TO HELP?
It might seem like this is an overwhelming issue, and that there is nothing that you can do to help… but that is just not the case! There are several ways that you can help alleviate the impact of GMOs.
1) Buy organic. I have said it before, and there’s no doubt that I will say it again. Going organic is the way to go. There are so many benefits! The food is more nutritious, you know you are reducing your consumption of GMOs greatly, and you are doing a service to the environment as well! Think of it as an investment in your health, the health of others, and the environment.
2) Buy local. While there may be worries about future potential food shortages, buying local will ensure that your local, responsible, organic farmer stays in business! When you buy from a local farmers market, join a community supported agriculture group (CSA), or choose from the local selection in your grocery store you are helping! Bonus, you can speak with those that grew the produce in order to determine how the food was grown. Additionally, the food is in season and has more nutrients (since it didn’t have to travel far to get to your kitchen). You are also benefiting the environment by reducing shipping and its associated issues.
3) Spread the knowledge. You are now equipped with the basic information that you need to help inform others! You have the power to influence those around you by sharing what you know. One of my favorite things to do is invite others over for a local, organic, GMO-free dinner, and tell my guests all about the health benefits of what they are eating at my table!
4) Contact your local, state, and federal government; vote on the issues. Did you know that one of Obama’s campaign promises was to require labeling for GMOs? Unfortunately, major GMO business players were incorporated into his administration, and needless to say consumers are still mostly unaware of the extent to which their food is GM. (If you find that you are unaware, think about it this way: if you are eating non-organic, you are almost certainly eating GMOs). In California, responsible consumers have worked diligently to get GMO labeling on the next ballot. It will be up to the voters to make this happen! Stay active if you believe that you, and others, have the right to know what you are consuming. If your state does not have this item on the table, contact organizations (similar to those that have helped California) and see what you can do to inspire change in your state. If GMOs are so safe, then I’m not quite sure why it is such a problem to let the public know what’s in their food (note sarcasm).
So, my challenge to you is to do one, two, three, or all four of these things as much as you possibly can. When I started eating more responsibly, I would typically revert back to my “old ways” and feel guilty about it. When I explained this to a special person in my life, his response to me was, “We can’t all be perfect. Every time you are able to make a healthier, more responsible choice, you are doing your part to change the world. You are doing the best you can in every moment, and that in itself is helping to make the world a better place.”
Be the change, people!