GMOs are genetically modified organisms–plants or animals whose cells have been inserted with a gene (genetic engineering) from an unrelated species in order to take on specific characteristics. The crops most commonly genetically modified are corn, canola, soybean and cotton. (source)
While the reasoning behind beginning genetic modification may be good (trying to strengthen crops against pests, producing greater quantities of crops, etc.), the results have been negative for humans’ health. Disturbing the natural, created order of foods at a cellular level causes “unpredicted alterations” (Weston A. Price Foundation – source below) and unintended consequences:
The gene insertion process, whether accomplished via a “gene gun” or through infection by Agrobacterium, can really mess up the normal functioning of the plants’ DNA. It can create mutations, deletions, and altered gene expression near the point where the gene is inserted and elsewhere. Then the transformed cell is cloned into a GM plant using tissue culture, which can produce hundreds or thousands of additional mutations throughout the plants’ genome. In total, a GM plant’s DNA can be 2-4 percent different from that of its natural parent. In addition, up to 5 percent of the natural genes can alter their levels of protein expression as a result of a single insertion. (source)
These unpredicted alterations caused by genetic engineering “can result in new or higher levels of allergens, toxins, carcinogens and anti-nutrients” (same source). Click through to my source for numerous examples. These increased levels of negative contents have been shown to provoke immune response, permeate the intestinal wall, and damage gut flora–and all three of those reactions have far-reaching, long-term consequences themselves (e.g., many neurological disorders with a gut-brain link like autism, ADD/ADHD, depression).
In addition, beyond the cellular changes in the organisms themselves, a main reason behind genetic modification is to make plants resistant to herbicides. “The vast majority of GMOs are herbicide tolerant—they allow specific herbicides to be sprayed on fields without damaging the GM plant. Roundup Ready soybeans, for example, tolerate applications of Roundup herbicide” (same source).
The bottom line is that I do not want to put these toxins (from the genetic mutations themselves and from the herbicides) into my body or into my kids’ bodies.
How to avoid GMOs
If you, like me, want to avoid GMOs, there are some steps to take.
- First, certified organic foods cannot contain GMOs.
- Second, when reading an ingredient label you’re unsure about, you can be pretty sure the following ingredients are GM: amino acids, ascorbic acid, sodium ascorbate, citric acid, sodium citrate, natural flavorings and/or artificial flavorings (this seems to be a favorite way for labelers to hide lots of nasty stuff!), high fructose corn syrup, hydrolyzed vegetable protein, lactic acid, maltodextrins, molasses, monosodium glutamate, textured vegetable protein (TVP), vitamins, and yeast products (and here is a more exhaustive list).
- Third, you can buy fewer packaged products and switch to a more whole-foods, unprocessed diet that includes organic produce and meats from verified sources.
- Finally, you can visit The Non-GMO Project and click FIND NON-GMO to find products, restaurants, and retailers that do not use GM ingredients. (I also appreciated this article about avoiding GMOs when eating out.)
On a side note, I do not believe it is the government’s job to ban things like GMOs. I believe it is people’s right to research and decide for themselves and, if they decide not to consume GMOs, to buy those more expensive foods that don’t contain them (rather than the government dictating everyone must buy the more expensive choices). There is a current movement to try to get labeling mandated; personally, I’d appreciate clearer labeling, but not at the cost of higher prices for everyone. Even without labeling changes, it is possible for a consumer to do his/her own research and know which companies and which types of ingredients to avoid.