The topic of genetically modified foods, (GMO’s) has become increasingly prominent in today’s media and has created much discussion as well as confusion among consumers. Because of the plethora of information in the marketplace, it is important for consumers to understand the issues and concerns that GMO’s raise. A GMO plant is a plant that has been genetically altered using genetic engineering techniques, and is commonly found in crops such as canola, corn, soybeans and cotton. These plants are modified to express a resistance to herbicide, which can be beneficial to farmers, allowing for less work so more crops can be harvested.GMO’s are plants or animals created through the gene splicing techniques of biotechnology (also called genetic engineering, or GE). This experimental technology merges DNA from different species, creating combinations of plant, animal, bacterial and viral genes that do not (and probably cannot) occur in nature or in traditional crossbreeding.
What does this mean?
Essentially, what is happening during the process of genetic modification is that a specific trait or characteristic from one organism is artificially inserted into another organism to bring about a desired outcome. For example, a specific gene from a fish may be inserted into corn to bring about a desired effect. If a manufacturer wants its corn to resist certain diseases or pests or grow taller, or be more yellow; it will isolate the specific gene in a specific organism, (it could be another animal, plant or bacteria) to achieve the desired effect. That specific DNA or group of genes (from the fish for instance) is then transferred into that corn gene.
While the intended effects of GMO foods may be desirable, there are certain unintended effects of GMO foods that are not desirable and may, in fact, be quite undesirable. In the United States pharmaceuticals undergo extensive testing and studies under the rigorous and strict supervision and protocols of the Food and Drug Administration. With GMO foods government regulators tend to rely primarily, if not entirely, on information provided by the biotech developer. Contrary to popular belief, the FDA does not have a mandatory GMO food safety assessment process and has never approved a GMO food as safe. Instead, the FDA operates only a voluntary program for pre-market review of GM foods.
ARE THEY SAFE TO EAT?
Without years of extensive testing and data to analyze, it is very difficult to say that there are no health issues or concerns with eating GMO foods. However, there are developing concerns over the health of GMO foods. Recently, the American Academy of Environmental Medicine noted that animal studies are beginning to show that GMO foods may cause immune dysregulation, including cytokines protein molecules involved in immune responses associated with asthma, allergy, and inflammation. Because there is a lack of testing, as described above, we simply do not have a complete understanding of the impact that GMO foods have on humans. But, there is reason for concern. GMO foods are now pervasive in our food supply and frequently unlabeled and not identified. The sad truth is many of the foods that are most popular with children contain GMOs. Cereals, snack bars, snack boxes, cookies, processed lunchmeats, and crackers all contain large amounts of high-risk food ingredients. In North America, over 80% of our food contains GMOs. If you are not buying foods that are Non-GMO Verified, most likely GMOs are present at breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
What are the implications?
As the research evolves we will continue to learn more about the long-term health effects of GMO foods. In the meantime what does this mean to the average consumer? For one thing, it complicates an already confusing nutrition landscape. As we battle alarming rates of childhood obesity, increases in autism and spectrum disorders, and an increased prevalence of celiac and other gastrointestinal diseases in young children, we can’t help wonder if there is a link to GMO foods? Since some studies indicate an adverse immunological affect from GMO foods, parents with a child suffering from allergies, Celiac Disease, Crohns, IBS and the like, need to be especially focused on the affect of GMO foods.
A recent CBS/New York Times poll states that 53% of Americans say they won’t buy food that has been genetically modified; avoiding GMOs is not an easy task, however (2). Without labeling, it is impossible to know the extent of any biotech contamination. And in creating GMOs, the DNA is often spliced with DNA from other organisms that could be detrimental to those with serious allergies or even those who are vegetarians. The Brazil nut was combined with soybeans for a time, until it produced too many allergic reactions
What to do next? Be Proactive
As the jury still remains out on the health implications of GMO foods, it is natural to ask ourselves: what do we do next? Until label laws are passed or restrictions are placed on GMO use, it is up to consumers to determine whether or not to include GMO’s in their family’s diets. People must take the initiative to become informed about and understand their nutrition and food sources. To learn more about GMO foods and the foods that do not contain them visit:
This website offers a host of useful information along with the studies and recent news about the use of GMO in our food supply. Additionally, studies show that consumers strongly agree that it is our right to know how our food is made. Without labeling of GE foods, consumers cannot make informed choices about their food. Visit the website below to learn more about gmo’s as it relates to a consumers right to know and having a voice. The Just Label It campaign was created to advocate for the labeling of GE foods.
Clearly, this is an important and growing topic. Making informed decisions about GMO foods is not only prudent, but also crucial when it comes to the health of your family and what you decide to feed them. Not only do we need to be mindful of the types and quality of the food we are eating, we also must become aware of how it was actually made. Organic food is by law not allowed to contain GMO ingredients. While not everyone can afford to eat completely organic all of the time, making wise choices when it comes to your family’s nutrition is paramount to keeping them healthy.