Maybe the hottest debate in the food industry today involves three letters: GMO. GMOs or genetically modified organisms (also referred to as GE: genetically engineered) are the result of science splicing the genetics of certain foods and chemicals that would otherwise never be caught in bed together. The original intended outcome was to yield more for less, creating a super “Franken-crop,” built to withstand weeds and bugs without compromising nutrition or health (with the existence of the latter intention being debatable).
As this has turned into a debate, arguments from both sides exist. On one side we have those motivated by profits to be lost if the public learns what they are actually putting in their body. On the other, we have those fighting the battle to ensure the information and right to choose are afforded to the consumer.
As the prevalence of chronic diseases continues to rise, one can’t help but notice that this rise occurred along with the introduction of genetically engineered food back in 1996. A direct cause and effect relationship has not been outright proven, but one can’t help but wonder. One can’t help but err on the side of caution either as that food you grew up on is no longer the same due to laboratory alterations.
Genetic modifications creates new, unnatural proteins in the organism that we then consume. These proteins have been shown to be highly allergenic, leading to the provocation of an overactive immune system waging a war within.
Even scarier is what’s being seen in second generation genetic engineering (seen especially in wheat); a phenomenon known as gene silencing. This silencing was designed to alter the carbohydrate content in wheat, but once consumed may actually react with and silence human genes, leading to a decreased expression of our intended and necessary physiology.
GMOs are also engineered in order to withstand higher and repeated doses of herbicides, mainly glyphosate. Other than simply preferring to avoid foods showered in numerous doses of chemicals, one should be particularly wary of glyphosate, found in Monsanto’s RoundUp (a powerful and toxic herbicide). Findings from studies as recent as June of this year indicate glyphosate as a common denominator behind multiple chronic diseases.
Glyphosate is a mineral chelator, meaning it tightly binds minerals, blocking their availability to us when we consume foods. Not only does this directly lessen the nutritious benefit we consume the vegetable for in the first place, but these minerals are necessary co-factors for utilizing vital vitamins as well. Consistent consumption of foods laced with glyphosate can very well lead to a mineral and vitamin deficiency.
A second detrimental attribute of glyphosate is that it is a patented anti-biotic. As we’ve covered in previous posts, anti-biotics don’t discriminate and wipe out all of your good bacteria or flora (aka probiotics) as well. These good bacteria are vital to your overall immune function and protecting you from a leaky gut and the laundry list of conditions associated with it.
Another GMO fun fact is that these crops are also modified to contain built-in pesticides in order to deter living organisms from chowing down on them. (Wait, aren’t we living too?) Most notably is a toxic protein known as Bt toxin which works by actually rupturing the stomach of the unfortunate diner.
While this toxin is obviously designed to combat insects, it should be noted that the safety and long term effects on the stomachs and digestive tracks of humans is unknown. As a matter of fact, a study done in February of 2012 demonstrated that this toxin has the potential to damage human cells. Call me crazy, but I’d like to refrain from feasting on stomach rupturing toxins.
The sad thing here is that the debate isn’t over whether or not to unleash GMOs on the unknowing masses (they already have been), but rather whether or not us masses be granted the right to know what is GMO and what isn’t. Predictably, the big corporations that already utilize GMOs make up the powerful financial backing behind fighting to keep you in the dark. Wanting to know what’s in the food you spend your money on and then put into your body does not seem unreasonable, yet it appears that we now may have to fight for that. Check out the initiatives in motion in your own state and get involved. At the very least, be aware of when it will be on the ballot and exercise your right to vote when it is.
TIPS FOR AVOIDING GMOs
Tip #1: Buy Organic
Certified organic products cannot intentionally include any GMO ingredients. Buy products labeled “100% organic,” “organic,” or “made with organic ingredients.” You can be doubly sure if the product also has a Non-GMO Project Verified Seal.
Tip #2: Look for “Non-GMO” Labels
Products that carry the Non-GMO Project Seal are independently verified to be in compliance with North America’s only third party standard for GMO avoidance, including testing of at-risk ingredients. The Non-GMO Project is a non-profit organization committed to providing consumers with clearly labeled and independently verified non-GMO choices. Look for dairy products labeled “No rBGH or rBST,” or “artificial hormone-free.”
Tip #3: Avoid At-Risk Ingredients
If it’s not labeled organic or verified non-GMO: Avoid products made with ingredients that might be derived from GMOs (see ingredient list below). The eight GM food crops are Corn, Soybeans, Canola, Cottonseed, Sugar Beets, Hawaiian Papaya (most) and a small amount of Zucchini and Yellow Squash.
If a non-organic product made in North American lists “sugar” as an ingredient (and NOT pure cane sugar), then it is almost certainly a combination of sugar from both sugar cane and GM sugar beets.
Products may be from cows injected with GM bovine growth hormone. Look for labels stating No rBGH, rBST, or artificial hormones.
Hidden GM Ingredients
Processed foods often have hidden GM sources (unless they are organic or declared non-GMO). The following are ingredients that may be made from GMOs.
Aspartame, also called
NutraSweet®, Equal Spoonful®,
Canderel®, BeneVia®, E951 AminoSweet®
canola oil (rapeseed)
cobalamin (Vit. B12)
fructose (any form)
high fructose corn syrup (HFCS)
hydrolyzed vegetable protein
modified food starch
mono and diglycerides
monosodium glutamate (MSG)
soy protein isolate
sugar (unless cane)
textured vegetable protein
tocopherols (Vit E)