By now you’ve probably heard about the prevalence of GMO foods in the United States. Just as a reminder, the term GMO stands for genetically modified organisms. Basically scientists taking DNA from one species and inserting it into another create GMOs. Unlike cross breeding or hybridization that occurs naturally, GMOs are manipulated and the resultant organisms would never have occurred in nature. That alone should give you cause for concern. Curious about GMOs? Here’s what you need to know.
GMOs are practically everywhere.
Walk up and down the aisle of your typical supermarket and a large portion of foods likely contain GMOs. Unfortunately you may not know for sure. Why? Because in the U.S., genetically modified organisms are not labeled. In contrast most of Europe, Russia, China and approximately 60 other countries in the world require GMO labeling when it comes to food. Practically all the major crops in this country are either genetically engineered to contain pesticides or are heavily doused with weed killers and chemicals like Monsanto’s Roundup. That means about 85 percent (if not more) of all canola, corn, cotton, soy and sugar beets have been tinkered with in some way.
What does this mean for you? Chances are that the foods you’re eating (especially processed foods) are laden with ingredients that have been genetically altered. Since they aren’t labeled, the only way to avoid them is by buying organic foods, which must be labeled and certified as such. You can also choose foods that say non-GMO or non-GM. But other than that, assume that it’s GMO and it’s everywhere.
GMOs are big business.
It’s not so much the local farmer or consumer that benefits from GMOs, rather it’s the major biotech and chemical corporations. The big three—Monsanto, DuPont and Syngenta control a major portion of the seed market. Their seeds are proprietary and patented, meaning farmers can’t save seeds from their yields for next season. These companies are also responsible for the chemicals and pesticides used in conjunction with the seeds. So year after year, farmers must continually buy seeds and pesticides, ensuring a steady stream of annual profits for these corporations. These companies’ products are also the main ones used in big agribusiness, including feed for livestock. GMOs have not been sufficiently studied long term.
Although there have been short-term studies regarding GMOs, there have been few major independent long-term scientific peer reviewed studies to speak of. You as a consumer should be concerned with the potential long-term health risks of GMO foods. A recent Australian study showed stomach inflammation and damage to pigs fed a diet of GMO corn and soy, while a French study found that GMOs were linked to cancerous tumors in rats.
Ironically, many of the studies performed for U.S. government approval of GMO seeds and crops were conducted by the very companies that stand to profit. When it comes to GMOs, make sure you are in the know.