My interest and knowledge of health has grown over the years. When I was first beginning to take interest in my personal health, I learned about calories and frequency of meals. From there, I began focusing on less processed foods, followed by organic and local options. Now, the growth continues as I’ve become more aware and interested in the negative effects of genetically modified organisms (GMOs).
What is a GMO? GMOs are plants (or animals) that have had their genetic codes (DNA) altered in a way that does not occur naturally. Scientists go into plant DNA and remove and/or add genes to make the plant take on a characteristic that is not naturally occurring in that species.
Why are companies creating GMOs? There are many reasons: to increase yield, to make the plant resistance to pesticides, to make more money, for appearance or shipping purposes (a great example is found in this article describing why grocery store tomatoes are flavorless).
So what’s the problem? There are a few. First of all, genetically engineered foods were first introduced in 1996 and now make up 80% of the soybeans, corn and cotton in the US. (source) Americans eat a large amount of GMOs without even knowing it. Since it isn’t required for GMOs to be labeled, unless you buy foods that are labeled 100% organic, there is no guarantee that GMOs aren’t in the product. The FDA claims GMOs are safe, despite a growing number of studies suggesting they aren’t.
Additionally, although you can’t patent a natural life form, you can patent a genetically altered specimen, which Monsanto, a large US agricultural biotechnology corporation, has done. This allows them to make ridiculous amounts of money on their patented seeds and herbicides, like Round Up. Furthermore, since a field growing GMO plants can cross pollinate with a nearby field growing traditional, non-GMO crops, the non-GMO crops can be contaminated and start to grow the GMO plants without the farmer’s knowledge. Monsanto is finding the small farmers that have GMO crops unknowingly and suing them for patent infringement, thus leading to many losing their farms. This is just one reason why there is a growing uprising against Monsanto.
Why is this a problem in the US and not other countries? Currently in the US GMOs are not required to be labeled, thus consumers aren’t able to vote with their dollar. Other countries have the opportunity to refuse GMO foods by not buying foods labeled as containing GMOs and they do refuse to buy them, which leads to less being grown.
What can we do? We can educate ourselves via resources like the Non-GMO Project. We can use our dollar to vote against GMOs by using these techniques to avoid buying GMO products. We can support companies that are committed to not using GMOs. We can talk about it. You can join in the conversation on twitter by using and following the #JustLabelIt hash tag.
There are the basics. Now let’s chat…
Are you familiar with GMOs?
What are your thoughts on genetically altered foods?