GMO’s: the good, the bad, and the really ugly

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As promised from my quick comment last week, I want to discuss Genetically Modified Organisms and why I wouldn’t touch them with a 10 foot pole.

Let’s get some terminology down first. GMO stands for Genetically Modified Organisms, an organism that has been changed using genetic engineering. GMO’s are used in research, agriculture, and gene therapy. While some research methods may use GMOs for positive outcomes, the ones found in are food supply are not.

What I want to discuss starts with a company called Monsanto. The largest application of GMOs in food is done by making crops resistant to pesticides and/or produce pesticides from the inside out. Most of these GMO seeds are owned by Monsanto. The most popular example is “Round Up Ready Corn Seeds” which, as their name implies are resistant to round up pesticide spray. Spray the plant insensibly with round up, kill everything else around it and keep the corn plant. Yes, genetic engineering is a very powerful technology.

The problem:

1. Safety: There are very few authentic studies done on the safety of GMOs. For one, the FDA does not require testing when a gene is transferred to a plant that is a common allergen. The fact that my specialty is in food sensitivities, I find this to be alarming. If you are allergic to soy, you may not know that the corn you’re eating has been implanted with soy genes. I have clients who tell me that when they eat food in other countries, their allergies/sensitivities disappear or lessen. When they eat the exact same item in the USA, they have a ¬†reaction. So is an apple really an apple? If it’s genetically modified, probably not. GMOs are not required to pre-market safety testing (like other food additives are).¬† In the United States most soybeans, cotton, and corn are genetically modified.

2. Labeling: Unfortunately, as of now, companies doesn’t have to state that their product contains GMO’s. Most soybeans are genetically modified. Unless it says ‘Organic Soybeans’ or Non-GMO soybeans used, I would bet that it is a genetically modified organism.

3. To me, the most important: the environment. Besides the monopoly that GMO seeds have on the small farmer (check out Food, Inc. for more on that). GMOs also have an damaging effect on cross-pollination. The inability for plants to cross pollinate creates super weeds which then creates the need for more toxic pesticides to be used to kill them. It also severly limits biodiversity, we do need weeds!

For more information check out these publications:

  • Farmageddon: Food and the Culture of Biotechnology (Brewster Kneen: New Society Publishers, 1999)
  • Genes in the Field: On Farm Conservation and Crop Diversity (Stephen Brush: Lewis Publishers, 1999)
  • Seeds of Deception: Exposing Industry and Government Lies about the Safety of the Genetically Engineered Foods You’re Eating (Jeffrey Smith: Chelsea Green, 2003)
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    • BL

      Very insightful. However, you just ruined my obsession with Morning Star products!

    • Alexis

      Why would they not lable them?? I mean why stop??

      • DK

        Hi Alexis,

        Thanks for commenting. The fear from food companies is that the American public would not want to eat GMO foods and therefore they would not be able to continue to produce them. GMOs are great for big agra business as they are considered to be “Round Up ready” and have a higher yield than traditional produce. Round-Up is the pesticide used which is sprayed all over the produce in large quantities.

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