It seems to be a common belief that genetic modification is a necessary and harmless part of farming that has been used to produce a heartier and more bountiful harvest for centuries. In truth, modern genetic modification is very new technology that hasn’t been around long enough to establish it’s safety. The first genetically modified crop (a tomato) appeared on the scene in 1994 and it is now estimated that up to 65% of North American foods contain some genetically modified ingredient(s).
The world health organization defines GMO’s as ‘organisms in which the DNA has been altered in a way that does not occur naturally.’ This is actually pretty terrifying when we really think about it. Far from selective breeding that IS safely used by organic farmers, and has led to the evolution of certain modern crops that are now more hearty and robust than they were in the past, genetic modification happens in a lab, and is far from natural.
Genetic modification (also referred to as biotechnology or gene technology) allows genes to be transferred from one species to another. Gm seeds are commonly modified to be resistant to high doses of herbicides, high doses of pesticides, pest resistance or a combination.
Plants modified for herbicide resistance are able to withstand super high levels of toxic weed killers which end up on the foods we eat and can lead to congenital problems, hormone imbalances and cancer. Plants modified for pest resistance (ie: Monsanto’s BT Toxin) have insecticide built into their seeds on a cellular level so when pests eat the crops, their stomachs are broken open and they die. Just think of what this is doing to the stomach lining of humans who eat the crops in large amounts?! Could GMO crops be at least partially responsible for the huge modern rise in digestive issues and leaky gut?
Scarier yet, the modern prevalence of GMO’s also threatens pollinators such as bees and butterflies. Could it be coincidental that bee populations have recently dwindled to alarmingly low numbers?
And GMO crops can also mean bad news for organic farmers as cross pollination could in theory eventually make truly organic foods a thing of the past. Crazier still, GMO crops are protected under restricted use patents so organic farmers can actually be sued by the corporations if it is discovered that their organic crops were inadvertently cross pollinated with GMOS!
Much like cellular technology, GMO’s have not been around for long enough for their long term safety to be established. The best thing we can do to protect ourselves, our families and our planet is to look for foods labeled Non GMO project verified or certified organic, especially when consuming the most commonly genetic modified crops.
The most common GMO crops are:
Soybeans: 93% genetically modified particularly for herbicide resistance, commonly hidden in processed foods and vegetarian meat options.
Canola/rapeseed: 90-95% genetically modified particularly for pests and pesticide spray, used in fried and processed foods.
Corn: 88% genetically modified particularly for pests and pesticides. Found in corn starch, corn syrup, and processed foods.
Cotton: 94% genetically modified for both herb and pest resistance. Common in fast fashion retailers, wash new clothes prior to wearing.
Hawaiian Papaya: 50% genetically modified for ringspot virus.
Potatoes: 10% genetically modified for pest resistance, also one of the dirty dozen.
Sugar beets: 95% genetically modified for pests and pesticides, always choose organic.
In the past week I have had to explain to explain on three separate occasions that genetic modification as we know it today is not normal and has not been practiced by farmers for centuries. Sometimes I take for granted that everyone in the world is as interested in nutrition as I am and I wrongly assume this is all common knowledge. In working with clients and speaking with friends and family I am constantly reminded about how much misinformation is out there regarding nutrition and in particular GMO’s and realise it’s so important to spread the word about the dangers of these frankenfoods.
Dropping genetically modified foods from our diets is an essential first step towards better health and one we should all take to protect ourselves and our planet.