So, I’m walking around the grocery store, working down my list of things to buy. I try to buy organic as much as possible and if I can’t get it all organic I at least try to follow the dirty dozen and the clean 15. As I’m looking at labels I see non-GMO. I start thinking - what does it mean for a food to be non-GMO?
First off, what is a GMO? Also known as a genetically modified organism, it’s when a plant or animal (or other organism) has been modified in a lab by altering the organism’s genetics¹. This does not include cross-breeding of two different plants such as a grape and an apple, that yields a grapple, for example.
Sounds pretty involved and actually helpful when you read about what some believe to be beneficial²:
Pesticide resistant plants
Heartier crops (some need less water, for instance)
Ability to grow more crops and meet the demand for food
Scientists have the ability to create seeds that have been genetically modified to produce the types of plants described above.
Less bugs, more food, less resources all sound wonderful until you look at the effects³:
Unhealthy for humans. Some of the residual from the GMO alteration ends up in our tissues which could lead to long-term damage. It’s good to note that we don’t know about the long-term damage since the prevalence of GMOs is still relatively new, but I always like to er on the side of safety when it comes to unknowns like these.
It’s also good to note that in the 9 years after GMOs were introduced (1996), Americans with 3 or more chronic illnesses increased from 7% to 13%. Instances of allergies, digestive issues and autism (among other issues) have risen as well. While there’s not enough research to point directly to GMOs as the cause (and there are probably many more contributing factors), again, I’ll er on the side of safety and do my best to steer clear.
Engineered to resist herbicides. Farmers use an increased amount of herbicide to get rid of weeds since they know it won’t kill the GMO crop. However, by using more herbicide, they are creating ‘superweeds’ which are resistant to the herbicide over time.
Harmful to the environment. With the overuse of herbicide, the wildlife is feeling the after effects. Birds, butterflies and amphibians can all suffer since the runoff from the crops gets into water supplies and stays in the soil.
These three points are enough to convince me to pay attention to GMO foods.
So yeah, GMO OMG is right. Pay attention to the labels and work to buy non-GMO items, at least until there’s more research to back up the claims that GMO items are harmless.
The good news is that if something is marked organic, then it’s also non-GMO. One more reason to buy organic.
If you’re wondering about the benefit of feeding more people because of GMO crops, keep in mind that we have the ability to grow enough food for ample supply. We’re overfed and we think we need more than we do. Portions have increased over the years. Then there’s food waste. How many times have you tossed produce b/c you just didn’t get around to eating it? Me too, by the way. We consume/waste way more than we should and if that was curbed it would make our food supply go a lot further.
Ready to take action? It’s pretty easy. These are the current GMO-approved crops. When you purchase these, make sure you buy them organic and you’ll steer away from GMO’s.