There are currently no epidemiological studies that have looked at the potential effects of GMO foods on human health. Most of the “research” claiming that GMOs are safe have been performed by the same biotechnology companies producing these GMOs. So let’s take a look at everything you need to know about non-GMOs, organic, and GMOs.
What are GMOs?
GMO stands for Genetically Modified Organism. A GMO is a plant, microorganism, or other organism whose genetic makeup has been modified in a laboratory using genetic engineering or transgenic technology.
Genetic engineering involves the direct manipulation of one or more genes, altering the DNA and genetic makeup of an organism. Transgenic technology may include introducing foreign DNA into an organism’s genome or combining DNA from a variety of different genomes.
This process creates combinations of plant, animal, bacteria, and virus genes that do not occur or exist naturally.
Genetically Modified Crops
Industries using genetically modified crops claim those crops:
- increase yields
- reduce pesticide use
- benefit farmers, environment, and economic growth
- reduces energy use
- can help solve climate change
- are safe to eat
- more nutritious than regular crops
- will help feed the world
However, scientific evidence is proving these claims to be false. In fact, studies have found genetically modified crops:
- do not increase yield potential
- increase use of pesticides
- create serious problems for farmers
- including herbicide-resistant “superweeds”
- compromised soil quality
- increased disease susceptibility of crops
- harm soil quality, disrupt ecosystems, and reduce biodiversity
- use just as much energy as regular crops
- no effective solutions to climate change
- can be toxic and allergenic
- less nutritious than other crops
- cannot solve the problem of world hunger
Genetically Modified Food
Genetically modified (GM) foods were first commercialized in the United States in the early 1990s. The FDA allowed GM foods into the market, despite warnings from scientists. These scientists predicted GM foods would produce new toxins and allergens that had never seen before. They also warned that GM genes could also potentially escape GM crops and transfer into other (unintentional) organisms, affecting humans, animals, soil, and the environment.
In addition, genetically modified foods are safety tested by the developer. Regulation varies from non-existent to weak. The FDA permitted GM foods to enter the market without any independent testing or labelling.
Based on claims by the biotech companies producing these GM foods, they are “generally recognized as safe” (GRAS). However, GM foods do not meet the legal definition of GRAS.
The FDA has never approved as safe any GM food that is currently on the market.
Safety of GM Foods
Despite what biotech companies want us believe, independent studies have found that genetically modified foods are not safe.
Genetically Modified Foods are:
- severe organ damage
- liver and kidney toxicity
- stomach sores or ulcers
- increased rates of large tumors
- increased rates of mortality
- altered blood biochemistry
- disturbed liver and pancreas function
- potential effects on fertility
- disturbed testes function
- higher density of uterine lining
- increased immune responses
- immune disturbances
- allergic reactions
- enlarged lymph nodes
- stomach inflammation
- disturbed enzyme function in kidneys and heart
- disturbances in digestive system
- intestinal abnormalities
- potentially contribute to antibiotic resistance
- negatively alters nutritional value of food
Studies claiming that GM foods are safe were likely conducted by a particular biotech company or their associates. Therefore, those studies are often biased.
Also, the health of animals who are fed GM foods is affected. In turn, this may also affect the health of humans who consume those animal products.
Even more disturbing: few human studies on GM foods have been conducted. And, no long-term studies have ever been done.
The Non-GMO Project is a nonprofit and third-party organization, independent from the FDA, USDA, or any government agency. They independently test and certify products as non-GMO. Their label is one of the highest demand and fastest growing sectors in the marketplace.
On the contrary, organic labeling is run directly by the government.
The use of GMOs are prohibited in organic products. That means no GMO seeds for crops, no GMO feed for organic animals, and no GMO ingredients in a food product labeled as organic.
In order to meet the organic regulations by the USDA, farmers and food processors must show they are not using GMOs. Additionally, they must also prove they are protecting their crop and products from contamination with prohibited substances (such as GMOs and pesticides).
Organic operations must implement strict practices: such as not planting or growing near GMO crops, ensuring shared farm equipment has not come into contact with GMOs, and processing facilities that are organic and non-GMO. In addition to GMOs, these preventative practices must also avoid contact with prohibited pesticides and antibiotics. (Produce can be certified organic if it is grown in soil that has not used prohibited substances for at least 3 years prior to harvest).
Farmers must draft and initiate a plan for meeting all of these criteria. Then, the USDA conducts on-site inspections and tests to verify that farmers are following rules and codes.
- grown without the use of GMOs
- grown without the use of pesticides or synthetic fertilizers
- animals grown organically aren’t treated with artificial drugs, growth hormones, or antibiotics
- free of artificial preservatives, flavorings, and colors
- no synthetic substances
Types of organic:
- 100% Organic: each ingredient is certified organic
- Organic: at least 95% of the product is organic
- Made with Organic: contains at least 70% organic ingredients
- Less than 70% organic ingredients but made with some organic
Common GMO Crops
- about 90% of U.S. canola crops are genetically modified
- canola is especially prominent in processed foods
- developed to resist pests and diseases
- some GMO potatoes have also been developed to resist bruising and browning
- unless you purchase organic, soy is almost always genetically modified in some way
- for vegans, this includes tofu, tempeh, soy milk, and all soy-based products
- Sugar Beet
- also genetically modified to be resistant to Roundup
- used to produce sugar
- Zucchini and Yellow Summer Squash
- Animal derivatives
- manufactured from genetically modified bacteria
- artificial sweetener found in diet sodas, gum, yogurt, and other processed foods
Organic vs. GMO
Given what we know about the increased use of GMOs, it’s safe to assume many of our current health problems may be related to GMOs. This includes increased occurrences of allergies, increased cases of infertility, cancer rates, and other health issues. However, in order to know for sure, more studies must be done. But, it is my belief that biotech companies do not want these types of independent studies conducted; they know GMOs are not safe and are likely contributing to many adverse effects in humans, animals, and the environment.
Additionally, I recommend watching the documentary GMO OMG. (Currently streaming on Amazon Prime Video and available to rent on iTunes).
The moral of the story is this: purchase organic or non-GMO products whenever possible. It may be a little more expensive upfront, but could also potentially save you a ton of money in healthcare costs down the road. 💚