What is a GMO? And why I should or shouldn’t worry about them…

What is a GMOI recently saw a press release from McCormick & Company INC. that they planning to expand their organic spice line and also plan to remove GMOs from 80% of their herb and spice lines by 2016. Another major company, General Mills, released a statement last year that they had made Cheerios Non-GMO…so what does all of this mean? And why are they removing these from products?

A GMO is a genetically modified organism. Basically they alter the DNA of a plant to be resistant to pesticides, produce higher yields, produce a more consistent product, be resistant to environmental factors (extremes in weather), etc. An organism is not considered GMO if it is altered through breeding processes…i.e. cross breeding two plants from the same genus. Instead, they directly alter the DNA, instead of cross breeding over and over to achieve the desired effect. For example there have been species of tomatoes and strawberries that have been developed, where they have added DNA from Salmon to make those plants less resistant to freezing temperatures…weird right??

So why is everyone so concerned about removing them from products? And why is everyone skeptical of these big companies removing them?

Well, McCormick and General Mills are under the big parent company Monsanto. Monsanto is the largest producer of GMOs, they control about 90% of seed genetics world wide, and is also know for their trademarked pesticide Roundup. So, why would a company, who has a large sum of money invested in GMOs suddenly start eliminating them from their products? That’s a good question, and unfortunately that is not one I have an answer to…but it does make me quite suspicious of their intentions.

The reason that everyone is concerned about removing GMOs from products, is not a simple question to answer. There are a few different reasons that have many in agreement, and some other opinions that are less cut and dry and depending on what sources you’re reading you will get conflicting information. So, we’ll stick to the most common reason and the one that can be backed up with scientific evidence…

Nearly all GMOs are engineered to be resistant to pesticides. These foods that are “resistant” to pesticides don’t deflect the pesticides…they still absorb them. They’re just designed to not die when they are sprayed. Roundup specifically kills the plant by way of the shikimate pathway, which humans and animals to do not possess…however bacteria do. So the glyphosphate contained in Roundup can kill bacteria. And guess what? Bacteria outnumbers cells in your body by 10 to 1…so all that good bacteria in your gut could take a hit from consumption of foods contaminated with glyphosphate. Once the bacteria in your gut is out of balance a series of complicated event can occur, including small perforations in the wall of the intestinal lining, also known as leaky gut.

Leaky gut has be directly related to gluten sensitivity as well as a number of autoimmune conditions, including Celiac disease. The problem is, when people find out that they are sensitive to gluten they typically start eating prepackaged gluten free foods, that are filled with corn…which is one of the most commonly genetically modified foods.traitsinfographic

Now you’re probably wonder what foods are genetically modified…according to GMOanswers.com the following are commercially available GMO foods: corn (sweet corn & field corn), canola, soybeans, rainbow papaya, alfalfa, cotton, sugar beets, and summer squash. According to the website potatoes and apples are the next to become commercially available. It may not seem like there are that many GMO foods out there…but if you really think about it, how many foods do

Click the photo to go to the original website and view the enlarged image.
Click the photo to go to the original website and view the enlarged image.

you find some type of corn or soybean in? Probably a lot more than you realize…anything that contains corn meal, corn starch, corn oil, soy protein, TVP, lecithin, soybean oil, etc are all made from these GMOs (unless they label it otherwise…which is RARE). 94% of the soy on the market is GMO and 90% of corn is GMO…those are HUGE numbers. Start checking your labels and see how many products you regularly consume that contain one or more of these ingredients. How many GMOs do you think you are consuming daily?

So how does one go about finding out what foods are free of GMOs? Well, there is a non-profit Non GMO Project LOGOorganization called Non-GMO Verification Project. they use third party testing to find if products are free from GMOs. By standard regulations, if a product contains the USDA organic logo it is supposed to be free of GMOs, however if it is processed there are some loopholes. They can display that logo, in some cases, if the main ingredient is certified organic. Look for the logo for the Non-GMO project to ensure your product is free of GMOs (click the logo for the Non-GMO Verification Project to go to their webpage). You can also visit the webpage: NonGMOShoppingGuide.com for a list of products that are free of GMOs.

As in many cases, there are some documentaries out there that are pretty extreme…but some of the information presented is interesting. So here are a few GMO documentaries you can check out. Some are available to stream on Netflix or Amazon Prime:

  • GMO OMG –“GMO OMG director and concerned father Jeremy Seifert is in search of answers. How do GMOs affect our children, the health of our planet, and our freedom of choice? And perhaps the ultimate question, which Seifert tests himself: is it even possible to reject the food system currently in place, or have we lost something we can’t gain back? These and other questions take Seifert on a journey from his family’s table to Haiti, Paris, Norway, and the lobby of agra-giant Monsanto, from which he is unceremoniously ejected. Along the way we gain insight into a question that is of growing concern to citizens the world over: what’s on your plate?”
  • Corn King — “King Corn is a feature documentary about two friends, one acre of corn, and the subsidized crop that drives our fast-food nation. In the film, Ian Cheney and Curt Ellis, best friends from college on the east coast, move to the heartland to learn where their food comes from. With the help of friendly neighbors, genetically modified seeds, and powerful herbicides, they plant and grow a bumper crop of America’s most-productive, most-subsidized grain on one acre of Iowa soil. But when they try to follow their pile of corn into the food system, what they find raises troubling questions about how we eat—and how we farm.”
  • The Future of Food — “The Future of Food distills the complex technology and consumer issues surrounding major changes in the food system today — genetically engineered foods, patenting, and the corporatization of food — into terms the average person can understand. It empowers consumers to realize the consequences of their food choices on our future.”
  • Genetic Chile — “A look at the world of genetically modified foods through the lens of New Mexico’s iconic chile pepper. The Chile pepper defines New Mexican cuisine and is considered a sacred plant by many cultures. Despite overwhelming evidence of gene flow, persistent safety questions, predatory multinational agribusiness corporations and potential economic damage, the State of New Mexico funded research to produce a GMO chile. It was the first time a state government directly targeted a crop for genetic modification. Because the funding is public, we were able to force a rare interview with a genetic researcher at NMSU. This film is packed with information about the harmful use of GMO technology and the ignorance shown by the proponents of GMO crops.”

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