In the last decade or so, consumers have been bombarded with information regarding the safety of what goes into their bodies. We have learned that the chemicals used to combat insects and fungus on produce are harmful to our health and we know we can avoid these pesticides and fungicides by switching our conventional diet out for a cleaner, more natural, organic one, and doing so is simple...because organic foods are labeled as such. Recent news articles and headlines, however, have been warning us about the how harmful genetically modified foods are to our health and to the environment, and some are questioning the morals behind “messing” with nature. Not only that, but much of the food we consume is not required to be labeled if it does contain genetically modified materials.
What are genetically modified foods or “GM foods” (GMO’s - genetically modified organisms)? Simply put, they are plants that have been modified to enhance desired traits. Think about an apple. We love apples because of the crisp bite and sweet, slightly tart juice. Genetic engineering looks at these traits and says, “Hey, let’s make sure every apple can be crisp and juicy!” Engineering a piece of fruit to taste a certain way and have all of the characteristics of a dream-apple allows for better consistency than nature can provide which makes money, right? Not only that, but produce can be engineered to better tolerate drought, pesticides, and other factors which could negatively affect the final product. Genes from some organisms, plant or not, can be used in others to create something of a super product.
One example of the process in taking genes from one organism and using them in another is the use of Bacillus Thuringiensis, or BT. BT is a bacteria that produces a type of protein which kills off insect larvae. If a worm lays eggs on a crop modified with BT, the eggs will not survive and the plant will be unaffected by nature. It all sounds vary science-ficiton-y, and certainly isn’t naturaly or something most of us want happening to our food.
Many argue that treating foods like a science project is good - they see that this practice allows the plants to repel insects, weed killer, disease, cold and drought, and that by growing such strong crops, we can “feed the world”. This may be true to a certain extent, but what are the consequences of messing with nature, both on our health and on the future of food?
Recent statistics show that over 80% of packaged food sold in the United States has been genetically modified at some point. Whether the corn used in your corn chips was resistant to insecticide, or the canola seed used to make oil was treated to resist drought, someone has messed with these products. Some locations around the globe indicate that the corn treated to resist insects - basically, “insecticide corn”, is polluting lakes, streams and rivers in surrounding areas and consumers are becoming ill. It has been linked to death in aquatic life.
Sometime else worth considering: there has been a drastic rise in the incidences of children with deadly peanut allergies. Some of these children can not even be in the same room as a peanut-product without having a reaction. Studies are beginning to reveal that this could be from GMOs. “There is a possibility that introducing a gene into a plant may create a new allergen or cause an allergic reaction in susceptible individuals. A proposal to incorporate a gene from Brazil nuts into soybeans was abandoned because of the fear of causing unexpected allergic reactions...” When genetic modification of foods was first being studied, there were concerns, but for whatever reason, these concerns have been tossed aside, and the results are affecting us.
Shouldn’t something which can cause damage to humans, animals and the environment be labeled? Unfortunately, there are not laws to regulate labeling products containing GMOs. The best way to avoid them is to eat organic foods and limit consumption of processed food which contain more than we’re often aware of. Many organic-food-producing companies, however, are aware of GMOs and will not use them as ingredients, but it never hurts to double check what you consume.
By following this link, you can sign a petition to get your foods labeled which will help you avoid these products, and also help people, plants, and animals live healthier lives. Also, check out the smart phone app called, “True Food” - it gives tips on how to avoid possibly genetically modified foods and keeps you up to date on other food-safety news!
Find organic, safe foods at Pomegranate Market and feed your happy!