Are you wondering what a GMO is and why in the world you should avoid it? After reading this post, I’m certain you’ll want to make changes to avoid them in your diet.
GMOs in a nutshell (from The Institute for Responsible Technology):
“are the result of laboratory processes which artificially insert foreign genes into the DNA of food crops or animals. Those genes may come from bacteria, viruses, insects, animals or even humans. Although banned by food manufacturers in Europe and elsewhere, the FDA does not require any safety evaluations. Most Americans say they would not eat GMOs if labeled, but the U.S. does not require labeling. GMOs are not safe, but have been in the food supply since 1996 and are now present in the vast majority of processed foods in the US.”
The very DNA of a plant is altered.
“Genes of the plant can be mutated, deleted, permanently turned off or on, and levels of expression can change. The gene that is inserted can be truncated, fragmented, mixed with other genes, inverted or multiplied, and the GM protein it produces may have unintended characteristics with harmful side effects.”
Are you concerned yet? Look to some of the ill effects genetically modified products have on life:
-Lab animals tested with GM foods had stunted growth, impaired immune systems, bleeding stomachs, abnormal and potentially precancerous cell growth in the intestines, impaired blood cell development, misshapen cell structures in the liver, pancreas, and testicles, altered gene expression and cell metabolism, liver and kidney lesions, partially atrophied livers ,inflamed kidneys, less developed brains and testicles, enlarged livers, pancreases, and intestines, reduced digestive enzymes, higher blood sugar, inflamed lung tissue, increased death rates, and higher offspring mortality.
-About two dozen farmers report that GM corn varieties caused their pigs or cows to become sterile,
-71 shepherds say that 25% of their sheep died from grazing on Bt cotton plants,
-and others say that cows, water buffaloes, chickens, and horses also died from eating GM crops.
-Filipinos in at least five villages fell sick when nearby Bt corn was pollinating and hundreds of laborers in India report allergic reactions from handling Bt cotton.
-Soy allergies skyrocketed by 50% in the United Kingdom, soon after genetically engineered soy was introduced; and one human subject out of the few tested showed a skin prick allergic-type reaction to GM soy, but not to natural soy.
-In the 1980s, a GM food supplement killed about one hundred Americans and caused sickness and disability in another five to ten thousand people
What foods contain GMOs?
The most common foods that contain GMOs include, but are not limited to soy, corn, canola, cotton, Hawaiian papaya, alfalfa, zucchini, and yellow squash. Other sources include:
- Dairy products from cows injected with rbGH.
- Food additives, enzymes, flavorings, and processing agents, including the sweetener aspartame (NutraSweet®) and rennet used to make hard cheeses
- Meat, eggs, and dairy products from animals that have eaten GM feed
- Honey and bee pollen that may have GM sources of pollen
- Contamination or pollination caused by GM seeds or pollen
Okay, if you are like me, you might be feeling a bit overwhelmed. Or, very overwhelmed! “I thought MSG was in everything! Now, GMOs too?!” I know, I felt the same way. I wondered what in the world is “healthy” to eat. I had to stop and process everything I learned about GMOs and figure out what to do with all of this new information.
Here is what I did:
I decided that I absolutely did not want my kids consuming GMOs. I felt sick at the fact that my little girl probably already has. But, there is nothing I can do about it now, so I can’t dwell on it. I was on a mission to figure out what contains GMOs and what is GMO free. There is an excellent site, Responsible Technology, on which you will find everything you need to know about GMOs (and is the source of much of my information about GMOs).
I would recommend watching the video, Everything You HAVE TO KNOW About Genetically Modified Foods. It is eye opening and Michael Pollan does a fantastic job of communicating with plenty of scientific research what GMOs are and why they are so dangerous. This is what really opened my eyes to what GMOs are.
Second, I downloaded the Non-GMO Shopping Guide. In this guide, you will find four tips for avoiding GMO foods:
TIP #1: BUY ORGANIC Certified organic products are not allowed to contain any GMOs.
TIP #2: LOOK FOR “NON-GMO” LABELS
TIP #3: AVOID AT-RISK INGREDIENTS Most GM ingredients are products made from the “Big Four:” corn, soybeans, canola, and cottonseed, used in processed foods. See the list of invisible ingredients in this Guide.
TIP #4: BUY PRODUCTS LISTED IN THIS GUIDE
You will also find a list of common foods and brands that are non-GMO or may contain GMO products. On the back of the brochure is a list of common food additives that are “hidden” in foods. This buying guide is a tremendous way to help you avoid GMO foods.
Let me throw in a lifeline of hope: did you notice that certified organic products are not allowed to use GMO ingredients? That means in organic salad dressing, no secret GMO corn under the name of “xanthan gum” or something else will be found. This is encouraging.
Next, it only confirmed in my mind the need to continue avoiding processed foods and to buy produce, meat, egss, honey, and dairy from people and places I trust. GMOs aren’t an issue if you just avoid the foods in which they are commonly found. You can also ask questions of the people from whom you buy your food. You can also do this of larger corporations; some will be able to answer your questions with confidence and others might not have any idea what you’re talking about. It can never hurt to ask.
I tossed all of my store bought salad dressings and began making my own. Shame on me for not having organic dressing and for not being frugal in the first place! My husband is not a huge salad dressing fan anyway and I only had two that I really enjoyed, so we have really enjoyed homemade salad dressings, which you can check out in my Transitioning to Real Foods Recipe eBook.
Lastly, I began to buy more organic foods. I downloaded and began carrying around the Environmental Working Group’s Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides. I cannot afford to buy everything organic, but this list has helped me to determine what is most important to buy. Keep in mind that this list has nothing to do with GMOs, but simply pesticides. So, make sure that if you are about to buy something from the “Clean 15″ that it is not genetically modified (thankfully, most produce in the US is not, but grain fed animals are probably consuming it. More on meat later!).
GMOs are scary. More than that, we cannot trust the FDA to look out for our best interests. Let me post this quote again that was at the beginning of this post:
“Although banned by food manufacturers in Europe and elsewhere, the FDA does not require any safety evaluations.”
I urge you to take responsibility for your family’s nutritional health. If you don’t do it, nobody else will.
Okay ladies, we’ve dug even deeper today. Any more thoughts? Is this overwhelming? Ask questions, share your honest thoughts!