The food industry, represented by the FDA, the USDA and several large corporations assert that genetically modified foods (GMO) are safe. Moreover, they cite several additional factors supporting the need for genetic engineering in agricultural production. First among these is the increased production by crops that resist drought, diseases and pests. They also claim that GMO crops require less pesticide use and this benefits the environment and consumers. Finally, they claim to produce better foods that are richer in certain nutrients or absent certain natural toxins, such as mold.
All of these claims are further supported by the World Health Organization, the National Academy of Sciences and the American Medical Association who declare GMO foods to be as safe as any other foods. Interestingly, many countries have banned the growing of GMO crops and others, at the very least, require labeling of GMO foods. Clearly, entire regions of the world are concerned about the potential for toxicity in the food supplied by GMO foods.
One of the genetic modifications to corn, soy and sugar beets has been to make them “Roundup Ready”. This means these crops are engineered to resist the effects of glyphosate, the main ingredient in the Roundup weed killer. Glyphosate blocks the function of enzymes that help plants absorb nutrients. The plant then starves to death quickly. Farmers spray the chemical liberally in their fields to eradicate weeds. Unfortunately, these food crop plants absorb glyphosate along with the weeds. They don’t die as a result because of the genetic modification designed to resist that process.
This glyphosate residue then makes its way into the food supply, both for direct consumption by humans in packaged foods, and through animals, which are raised on GMO corn and soy. High levels of glyphosate have been found in soy and corn products. The problem is that glyphosate performs the same function in the human body as it does in plants. That is, glyphosate disrupts enzymes that help us to absorb nutrients, which can lead to a host of illnesses. If you’ve eaten any packaged foods recently, then you have most likely consumed glyphosate.
Another genetic modification involves resistance to pests such as worms. In this case, modified corn and squash products produce the same toxin that is produced by a bacteria that naturally occurs in the soil. Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) is commonly used as a biological pesticide, sprayed on crops to destroy invading pests. When a pest attacks a GMO crop, the plant itself blocks the attack as the pest ingests the Bt toxin. Unfortunately, this toxin is also in the foods that make it to the shelf in neat packages. From there, it enters human bodies and causes damage to cells.
The list of genetic modifications continues to grow, and the long-term effect of this will only be known for certain after years of research. In the interim, millions of people may be harmed by consuming these products, believing them to be safe. Evidence is already mounting to suggest that these agents are toxic to humans and many countries, other than the US, are beginning to respond. Day-to-day, it is up to you to choose a food supply that you know you can rely on, versus one that involves you in a potentially dangerous experiment to boost the food supply.
Avoiding packaged food altogether would be a good place to start. If you can’t resist, then examine the label closely. Many producers are beginning to identify “non-GMO” ingredients on their labels. In addition to looking for “non-GMO” labels, some ingredients are clear indicators of the presence of GMO elements. These include high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS), aspartame, MSG, trans fats, food dyes, sulfur dioxide, and potassium bromate. The list of foods that are known to be genetically modified include corn, soy, alfalfa, canola, cotton, papaya, sugar beets, zucchini, yellow summer squash, wheat, rice, and flax.
Choose products labeled 100% Organic, certified by the USDA. To be certified organic means that the crop is grown without the use of harmful chemical and GMOs are not on the USDA’s approved list. Support your local farmer’s market, but be sure to ask questions about their farming practices. Not all local farmers are non-GMO or follow organic practices. Finally, grow your own vegetables in your back yard. A small space can produce a healthy supply of nutrients that you know are safe.