GMO’s are a super hot topic that lots of people are talking about lately. From Halloween Candy to the Dinner Table our foods are loaded with Genetically Engineered (GE) foods. Tons of misinformation exists, so we are going to provide a Cheat Sheet with the basics: what you need to know, what to look for in the store, and how to avoid the worst offenders.
WHAT IS A GMO?
GMO’s, or Genetically Modified Organisms, were introduced into our food supply in the 1990s. A GMO food is created in a lab between different species. Very different from what occurs naturally due to evolutionary modifications. A gene, bacteria or virus is taken from one species and put into another species. The goal is primarily to produce a food that resists herbicides or insects and therefore will result in higher yield.
WHY SHOULD I BE CONCERNED?
Other countries do not allow GMO’s into their food systems, because GMO’s have not yet been proven safe for use. Very little testing has been done. Yet the United States allows GMO’s into the food supply AND does not even require GMO’s to be labeled because in theory they have not yet been demonstrated to be dangerous. However, it’s a pretty flawed system. According to Robyn O'Brien, author and expert on food allergies, “The FDA is responsible for food safety. However, it doesn’t do any testing on genetically engineered food and doesn’t require any independent tests. The only studies done are by the same companies developing the foods and they’re not required to give all their data to the FDA. They only need to declare their studies are adequate and that the GE food is safe. By and large, genetically engineered food safety is self-regulated." The very same companies that have a vested interest in selling their GMO products are the ones responsible for doing the testing.
ARE GMO’S DANGEROUS?
There is a new study recently released by the Institute of Health and Environmental Research in Australia. Two groups of pigs were reared under identical conditions, and one group consumed a diet of genetically modified (GM) corn while another group consumed a non-GM corn diet. The striking and statistically significant results:
1.) GM-fed females had on average a 25% heavier uterus than non-GM-fed females, a possible indicator of disease that requires further investigation.
2.) The level of severe inflammation in stomachs was markedly higher in pigs fed on the GM diet.
Once created, a GMO can’t just be removed. It is possible, and some people argue probable, that GE foods have consequences that we won’t see in humans until 20 or 30 year from now. Are GMOs worth the risks?
WHAT FOODS ARE THE WORST?
Processed, non-organic foods are the worst offenders. The top 5 ingredients to avoid (we like the Non GMO Shopping Guide list ):
1.) Sugar Beets (grown commercially for sugar production). Commonly referred as sugar.
2.) Soybeans. GMO Soy is found in soy lecithin and countless other soy additives (read labels carefully!).
3.) Cottonseed Oil.
4.) Canola. Also known as Rapeseed Oil.
5.) Corn. GMO Corn is found in high fructose corn syrup as well as all corn-derived products such as chips, polenta, grits, etc.
In addition, non-organic animal products (milk, meat, eggs, etc.) often contain GMO’s because of contamination in the animal feed. While these are the top ingredients to avoid, GMO's can be found in lots of foods so be aware and mindful as your shop.
WHAT SHOULD I BUY?
A few key steps to take to ensure that you are reducing your exposure to GMO’s:
1.) Look for the Non GMO Verified Project seal, which is the only US label of its kind.
2.) Buy organic. Certified USDA Organic foods do not contain genetically modified ingredients.
3.) Prioritize. Non-organic, processed foods make their way into our system (hello, kiddie birthday parties!). Be selective when you can, and avoid consuming the GMO Trifecta (corn, sugar, soy).
HOW CAN I GET MORE INVOLVED?
Do you feel passionately about this topic? Some great ways to get more involved include:
1.) GMO OMG. This new film explores the systematic corporate takeover and potential loss of humanity’s most precious and ancient inheritance: seeds. Watch, donate and/or promote.
2.) Non GMO Project. This project offers many ways to participate, from donation to participation in October’s Non-GMO Month.
3.) Just Label It. This organization promotes the right to know what’s in our food. Petition the government and convince the FDA to change its policy.
4.) Learn more about GMOs and how you can get involved at GMOinside
5.) Find out more and get guides on shopping, buying, and dining NonGMO at the Institute for Responsible Technology
6.) If you, or anyone you know lives in Washington State make sure they're informed for the November vote.
This blog is part of the Friends of the Earth Bloggers Unite for GMO Labeling effort