GMO is short for any “genetically modified organisms.” Currently genetically modified plants and genetically modified animals both exist. GMOs are created by using the DNA from different species of plants, animals, bacterias, and viruses and merging them together with gene splicing techniques. These GMOs can not be created naturally which means you can not achieve them by crossbreeding or cross-pollinating.
You will never find them in nature.
Scientists probably created GMOs with the best of intentions. Many GMO plants were created to fix problems such as hunger and malnutrition. The argument is that GMO plants can provide increased vitamins and minerals so that people don’t get sick. Or that GMO plants can increase the world’s food production so people don’t go hungry.
And that is why GMOs have so many proponents outside of people who have a financial incentive to support GMOs.
In my opinion, nothing happens in a vacuum and nothing happens without consequences. I am not convinced that the negative consequences to growing and eating GMO foods outweighs any proposed benefits.
Right now, nobody even knows the consequences of GMOs because there are no long term, impartial studies that show that GMOs are definitely safe or definitely unsafe for our health.
And this is a large part of why many countries in the world do not allow GMOs. According to the Non GMO Project:
In 30 other countries around the world, including Australia, Japan, and all of the countries in the European Union, there are significant restrictions or outright bans on the production of GMOs, because they are not considered proven safe. In the U.S. on the other hand, the FDA approved commercial production of GMOs based on studies conducted by the companies who created them and profit from their sale. Many health-conscious shoppers find the lack of rigorous, independent, scientific examination on the impact of consuming GM foods to be cause for concern.
Unfortunately, GMOs are in the majority of the American food supply. I’ve seen estimates saying anywhere from 70-90% of our foods contain GMOs. Corn and soybeans are two of our most dominant GMO crops.
Many of you have possibly never seen a field of growing corn or soybeans. Here in Indiana, they are everywhere. Let me tell you what I see.
During the winter and spring, the field is full of weeds. Occasionally a cover crop (to add nutrients to the soil) is put down, but most of the time the field is just left to grow weeds.
Once planting time is near, the farmer goes out and sprays a chemical herbicide (such as Round-up) all over the field. Within days, the field starts turning brown and everything starts dying – except some resistant weeds. Yep, most of the weeds, any grass, and any volunteer plants are all killed by the herbicide.
Into this dead, brown field, the farmer next comes along and plants his corn or soybean seeds. The field that just had everything killed now is the place where food is being grown.
How can the corn or soybeans grow in this toxic environment?
The plants can grow because farmers are planting seeds that have been genetically modified to be resistant to the chemical herbicide.
Monsanto has engineered their corn and soybean seeds to be resistant to the Monsanto herbicide Roundup. So the farmers kill everything in their field with Roundup and then they plant their corn or soybeans in it. And this is the corn and soy that either feeds us directly or feeds the animals that we eat or obtain milk from.
How can this be healthy?
Even if the GMO corn itself were healthy (which has definitely not been proven), all of that herbicide that it is grown in has long-term health concerns in my opinion.
And the truth of the matter is fields are requiring more and more roundup because some weeds are becoming resistant. According to the USDA, glyphosate (the chemical in Roundup) use increased 6,504% from 1991 to 2010. Now granted, a lot more Roundup ready corn and soybeans are being planted so more farmers are using Roundup. But farmers are also using more of it per square foot.
It’s kind of scary how pervasive it has become. Unless it is an organic field, it is almost universal, whether the farmer realizes it or not. You may ask a farmer if he plants GMO corn, and he might tell you, “No.” But if you ask him if he plants “Round-up Ready Corn”, he will tell you, “Of course, what other kind of corn is there?”
Since GMO corn and soy seeds are the predominant options, few farmers learn more about it and even realize they have a choice. For them, the decision is not whether to plant GMO or non-GMO, the only choice is to plant or not to plant.
So what can you do to avoid consuming GMO food until it is proven safe or until it is proven unsafe and removed from our food supply?
Grow your own food. Whenever possible, grow it yourself in healthy soil without the use of pesticides or herbicides. No matter what situation you are in, if you truly desire it, you can find a way to grow your own food even if that means helping out a stranger or older person with their garden. I know that I have always been willing to share garden produce with anyone who comes and helps me with weeding or canning. And for years, I’ve been the recipient of extra garden produce – even when we were living in inner-city Trenton, New Jersey. You don’t need to live in the Midwest to grow your own food.
Find a local food source you trust. There are lots of CSAs (Community Supported Agriculture) and farmers that practice sustainable, organic farming out there. It may take some leg work, but go find them! And remember that many of them can’t afford to get the certified organic label, but they may still follow organic farming principles. Talk to them and find out how they deal with weeds and pests.
Eat organic where possible. I prefer small-scale, local farmers over large-scale organic farming. While I don’t always agree with the practices of large-scale organic farmers, organic produce is under stricter guidelines. So if you can’t find a local farmer, definitely when possible choose organic produce. But if money is tight and organic is beyond your budget, don’t let anyone make you feel like a bad parent. Do the best you can and leave the rest to God.
Don’t Buy Processed Food. Most processed and pre-packaged food is made with GMO ingredients. Buying whole food and cooking it yourself will help to keep GMOs out of your diet.
Support the Labeling of GMOs. Freedom of choice starts with labeling of GMO foods. So far, Monsanto and their friends have been able to throw enough money at the problem to squash mandatory labeling of GMO foods. But this is something that needs to happen so consumers can make informed decisions.
Until there are some long-term, scientifically rigorous, impartial studies performed on the impacts of GMO foods, I will be avoiding them whenever possible.