Genetically Modified Organisms or GMO foods have been getting their fair share of air time lately and they should! GMO foods are those which have had their DNA altered by scientists in labs. These are not to be confused with hybridized foods, bred for desirable traits such as a shorter ripening period in tomatoes.
Genetically modified organisms are also called genetically engineered. This is because scientists have gone in a changed the natural genetic code in these plants and animals (think salmon). The most commonly genetically engineered crops are: corn, soybeans, cotton, Hawaiian papaya, and canola. The advantage of genetically modifying these crops is that they are resistant to pesticides and herbicides, namely Round-up. Some GMO crops produce insecticide within the plant which kill pests and beneficial insects as well.
It is interesting to note that the European Union does not allow genetically engineered crops to be grown within Europe, with the exception of maize (corn), which is an animal feed crop. GMO ingredients such as soy are imported into and used in the EU; however, they are all labelled as such.
Why do I try to stay clear of GMO foods? Well there are many reasons from the environmental damage growing them causes, sustainability issues and health issue that we just don't know enough about.
GMO foods are sprayed heavily with toxic pesticides and herbicides. These chemicals do not simply wash off of the produce or grains that you eat. They are taken into the cells of those foods and in turn ingested by us. Many of these chemicals are known carcinogens which affect not only our health, but the atmosphere, soil, water and health of the wildlife that come into contact with them.
GMO crops rely heavily on synthetic fertilizers which do not replenish the soil, pollute ground water and create run-off into the watershed, killing lakes and ocean deltas.
GMO crops contaminate the DNA of non-GMO crops grown in the same area, causing genetic changes to those crops.
GMO seed must be bought annually, reseeding using seed from the previous year's crop is illegal. This leads to a lack of sustainability and corporate control of food supply by multi-billion dollar corporations like Monsanto.
I think it is also important to note that Monsanto is patenting seeds in the same way that products are patented. They own the rights not only to many of the seeds sold in North America, but they own the seed companies too. It appears that they are trying to control the food that we eat from the seed up.
GMO sweet corn has been altered to create its own insecticide, Bt toxin, within the plant. This toxin is responsible for the death of not only pests but good insects like bees and butterflies as well. Studies have shown that Bt toxin shows up routinely in humans tested. It has been speculated that Bt corn turns the human gut flora into an insecticide producing factory.
Recent studies show a wide range of immune system responses to Bt corn, from elevated antibodies to increased inflammation. The possible results being allergies, autoimmune issues, GI problems, fertility issues and cancer.
If you are like me, you are saying enough already! How do I avoid GMO foods? Well, that's why this article is entitled "Why I Try Not To Eat GMO Foods and You Should Too" It is estimated that over 70% of the processed foods we eat contain genetically engineered ingredients. Statistics say that 93% of the soybeans, 85% of the corn, 75% of the canola, and 93% of the cotton grown in the US is genetically modified. Canada isn't far behind. Whenever you see the ingredients: canola, corn, high fructose corn syrup, cornstarch, soy, soya sauce, lecithin, you can be almost guaranteed that these foods contain GMO's. If you eat out or eat processed foods and who doesn't, you are consuming GMO foods.
If you want to avoid eating genetically engineered foods eat whole foods, those without added ingredients. Avoid purchasing processed foods like corn-based cereals, corn chips like Tostitos or Doritos, Ketchup containing high fructose corn syrup, the list goes on. Foods labelled organic are not allowed to contain GMO's so buy organic ketchup, mayonnaise, soya sauce, etc. A comprehensive guide to Non-GMO Foods can be found here: http://www.nongmoshoppingguide.com/