You’ve likely heard a lot about GMOs, but what are they really? Where do they come from and why should you be concerned? Here are five things you should know.
What is a GMO?
GMO stands for Genetically Modified Organism. A GM food is created when scientists remove a gene from one organism and transfer that gene to a different organism. Unlike traditional methods, where farmers might breed plants from the same species to make a stronger plant, GM technology makes it possible to transfer any gene from any organism into a different one. There are essentially two types of GM crops—those engineered to produce their own pesticide in the form of Bacillus thurengiensis (Bt) and those engineered to be resistant to Roundup weed killer.
Why are these foods harmful?
The negative environmental impact of these crops is profound. Roundup tolerant weeds also known as “superweeds” began to emerge only 4 years after these crops were first introduced. Fighting these weeds means incrementally upping herbicide use which is devastating the soil. Access herbicides in the land are making it more difficult for plants to take in crucial micronutrients like zinc, chromium and manganese. This not only results in sick crops but also foods that do not taste as vibrant and full of flavor as they should.
Bt crops are not any better. New York University microbiologists found that the natural pesticides these plants produce is leaking from their roots into the soil. The Bt that remains (sometime for as long as 7 months) is killing natural organisms that foster plant health.
Are GMOs bad for our health?
The truth is, we just don’t know. Because GM foods are so pervasive it’s impossible to isolate their impact. The Grocery Manufacturers Association estimates that nearly 75 percent to 80 percent of conventional processed foods now contain GMOs.
Most recently, a study published in the scientific journal Entropy suggests that long-term exposure to glyphosate residues could be linked to a suite of human health issues, including gastrointestinal disorders, Alzheimer’s and certain cancers.
What crops should I look out for?
The top 7 GM crops are: corn, soy, cottonseed, alfalfa, papaya, canola and sugar beets.
Just because you don’t see one of these ingredients on the label doesn’t mean it’s GM free, though. The top 7 hide in a bevy of processed food ingredients including: lecithin, xanthum gum, cellulose, dextrose, and more. You can find a complete list here.
How can I avoid eating these foods?
Buy organic. Genetically modified crops are exempt from certification. You can also look for the Non-GMO Project Verification Label which tests products to guarantee that they’re GMO free. In addition to being 100 percent organic, Made In Nature’s fruit is also Non-GMO Project Verified so feel free to snack with impunity!