People tend to get pretty worked up over GMOs. Some say they’ve revolutionized the food industry in remarkable ways, while others are up in arms over their existence and how prevalent they are in our modern food system.
This extremely polarized issue is surrounded by a ton of confusion, misinformation, and greed.
And a big part of this confusion begins with the question, “What is a GMO?” as well as the more basic question, “What does GMO stand for?”
Sadly, most people (even/especially those who are opposed to consuming GMOs) have no idea how to answer either one of those questions. And this short video from The Jimmy Kimmel Show proves it. If you have a sense of humor, this is a must-watch.
Hilarious as it is, this video is a good reminder to all of us that when taking a stance on anything, it’s always good to know why we are upholding that decision/belief. And that starts with getting informed (while this post certainly isn’t the final word on GMOs, it’s a start. The references listed at the bottom will provide you with even more information on the subject).
In order to be an informed consumer on the issue of GMOs, it’s important to first know what a GMO is. To put it simply, a Genetically Modified Organism (GMO) is a plant or animal that has been genetically altered with DNA from another other plant/animal, bacteria, or virus. According to Chris Kresser,
Genetic modification involves the transfer of genes from one species of plant or animal to another, using techniques that can cause mutations in the genome that may have unintended consequences for the crop’s safety. The imprecise rearrangement of genes can create new proteins in these plants that may trigger allergies or promote disease. Our immune systems often do not recognize these new proteins and may mount an immune attack against them if they enter our bloodstream intact. These unintended gene transfers, along with those that are intended, can lead to significant changes in gut and immune function, and may have long-term consequences that are not yet known to the scientific and medical communities.
These percentages have undoubtedly increased since 2011.
Most GMO crops are engineered to withstand direct application of herbicide (like Monsanto’s Roundup), which has increased the amount of herbicides being used on crops by millions of pounds and has also contributed to the evolution of herbicide-resistant weeds.
Other GMO crops (corn and cotton) are tampered with using the gene of a bacteria called Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) that produces a pesticidal toxin in every single cell of the plant. The Bt toxin breaks down the gut of the insect, causing a blood infection that eventually kills it. Several recent studies have also linked the Bt toxin to decreased immune function in mice, the premature death of human cells in vitro, and liver and kidney damage in mice.
What all of this means for humans who consume GMO crops isn’t exactly clear, which brings us to my next point…
Why GMOs Scare the *bleep* Out of Me
GMO advocates argue that there’s no evidence of GMOs being harmful to humans. But that’s just the thing — there’s NO conclusive evidence either way because there here have been no long-term studies on the side effects of GMOs on humans.
There IS however, plenty of evidence to suggest that putting GMOs into our bodies probably isn’t such a good idea (like the Bt toxin studies cited above). Here’s a few more examples:
- 50% more people became allergic to soy in the UK soon after genetically modified soy was introduced.
- Mice that were fed experimental GM peas began also reacting to a variety of other foods. The scariest part? The peas had already passed all of the allergy tests normally done before a GMO makes it on the market. Only an advanced test (which is never used on the GMOs we eat) revealed that the peas could be unsafe.
- Rats fed GM potatoes had partially atrophied livers that were also smaller in size than those of their GMO-free counterparts.
- Mice had less babies that were smaller in size the longer they were fed genetically modified corn.
- Shepherds in India reported a 25% death increase in their sheep after they had grazed on genetically modified Bt Cotton crops after harvest. The sheep experienced symptoms that included reddish and erosive lesions on the mouth, blackish diarrhea, and death within 5-7 days.
And if you’re more of a visual learner, this infographic from seedsnow.com a great job of illustrating the issue.
Scary as it may be, this information still doesn’t tell us enough about GMOs to prove that they’re unsafe for humans to consume. And finding studies that do might be nearly impossible, as scientists cannot publish independent research on genetically modified crops without first receiving permission from corporations that sell GMO seeds.
This gives the agritech companies that make GMO seeds complete control over the research, which could explain why there have been no conclusive studies proving that GMOs can have negative side effects on humans (see what I meant when I said greed was involved)?
The bottom line?
GMOs are NOT natural. And whenever we humans try to outsmart nature, we fail.
Our health has suffered ever since we as a society decided that manufactured, processed food-like products were healthier than real, whole foods. It took us awhile to realize it (and most still haven’t) but many of us are finally starting to turn a corner and revert back to eating the sorts of foods that kept our ancestors healthy and disease-free.
So instead of making the same mistake with GMOs (and waiting decades for their health hazards to surface and become common knowledge), I suggest avoiding them as much as possible.
What You Can Do
There are currently no labels to make consumers aware of products that contain GMOs, at least not in the United States (64 countries around the world have already made it mandatory for GMO foods to be labeled).
But the good news is, we still have some choice in the matter.
Those who follow a paleo/primal lifestyle (free of processed foods as well as corn and soy — two of the most common GMO crops in existence) will naturally consume less GMOs than those who eat a S.A.D.(Standard American Diet). Eating Organic produce also ensures that your fruits/veggies are free of GMOs.
Meat can be tricky. It’s an industry with a lot of loopholes and not much regulation. And as I’ve said in the past, the ONLY way to know your meat is to know your farmer — like, on a first-name basis. Always ask tough questions and visit the source if possible.
Or you can be like the guy from the video and only worry about it after you get sick. KIDDING! Please don’t do that. 😉
Those are my recommendations. Now I want to know what you think! Do you avoid GMOs? Why or why not?
More resources on GMOs:
Health Risks Associated with GMOs by the Institute for Responsible Technology
Yes on Prop 37 – Label Genetically Modified Food by Lisa Bronner
Are GMOs Safe? by Chris Kresser