Genetically Modified Foods: What you need to know
A good friend of mine moved to New Zealand not too long ago. Her family was having a good time at a local fair. They came upon a food booth that was loaded with a variety of kiwis to taste. My friend told me that everything looked so yummy and perfect. She asked the woman there if the kiwis were GMO. The woman looked horrified as she exclaimed, “No! We don’t allow genetically modified foods in New Zealand.”
No wonder I’ve been jealous of her ever since she moved.
What are Genetically Modified Foods?
A GMO, or Genetically Modified Organism, is an animal, plant, or bacteria that has had its genetic make-up altered. We’re not talking about cross breeding or other farming practices that have been around for thousands of years. We are talking gene modification here. Proponents of GMOs say that this modification is designed to improve the quality of the organism. But not everyone is convinced Genetically Modified foods are safe, including me.
1. Genetically Modified Foods are just too new.
There is a reason why many countries have banned Genetically Modified foods including New Zealand, Japan, and much of Europe. The first genetically modified plant was only produced in 1983. And the US didn’t approve commercial marketing for GMO foods until 1994. We are talking less than twenty years. With such a short history, how can anyone really know the long term effects of GMOs on our health? But rather than take a “better safe than sorry” approach, our country has given these major food and seed companies the right to experiment with our health.
2. Genetically Modified Foods are everywhere.
Did you know that more than 90% of all soybeans grown in the U.S. are genetically modified? Or that 85% of all corn is also genetically engineered? These statistics become even more scary when you consider that corn and soy find their way into practically everything. In fact, The Grocery Manufacturers of America has estimated that as much as 80% of processed foods in the United States contain Genetically Modified Ingredients.[ii] This includes breakfast cereals and other products that can still bear the label “all natural.” Along with corn and soy, cotton and canola oil are also among the conventionally grown foods that are most likely GMO.
3. Genetically Modified Foods aren’t labeled.
Clearly if you eat a lot of processed foods you’re going to have a hard time avoiding Genetically Modified foods. But beyond just being able to find safe food, this non-labeling issue becomes a major freedom issue.
I should be able to choose what food I put on my table. I should be able to “opt out” of this cruel “food” experiment. I don’t need my children being the guinea pigs only to realize twenty or so years from now that we have royally messed things up. Every person should be able to decide for themselves what they put in their body. Period.
4. Genetically Modified Foods are out of control.
I do my best to protect my family by buying only organic foods. Is it costly? You bet. Am I rich? No way. But my family has decided it’s worth forgoing big vacations, a second car, and other “luxuries” to provide real health through real food. But here’s the thing: Foods labeled “USDA Organic”are supposedly free from genetically modified foods. But due to cross-contamination of crops, even organic products almost always contain trace levels of GMOs.
“According to the Center for Food Safety, there have been more than 200 contamination episodes since GE crops were introduced, costing farmers hundreds of millions of dollars in lost sales. In 2008, the Government Accountability Office compiled a report that highlighted the challenges of containing regulated GE crops “given the porous nature of biological systems and the potential for human error.” According to the report, representatives from the biotech industry, agricultural commodity growers and consumer advocacy organizations admitted that “future unauthorized releases of low levels of regulated GE material are likely to occur.[iii]”
Not only that, but GM crops have been altered to withstand increased pesticides. The constant use of Roundup (and its active ingredient: glyphosate) has created an epidemic of superweeds that are now resistant to glyphosate. Cross contamination and superweeds. Seems like we have lost control, folks.
5. Genetically Modified foods simply are NOT safe.
Here’s the bottom line: GMOs expose people to higher levels of pesticides. In fact, according to a report by the Organic Center, GE crops are responsible for increasing herbicide use by 383 million pounds in the United States over the first 13 years of commercial use[iv]. The Glyphosate causes higher plant estrogen levels which can be dangerous and pose long term health risks[v]. By genetically altering these foods we are creating complex interactions within the body—the results of which pose unknown risks. And even though the effects on humans are still so mostly unknown, animals who have grazed on GM crops have died from ruptured internal organs.
Do you want to eat this stuff!?
David vs. Goliath: What can you do?
If you are already aware of Genetically Modified foods you know that this is an uphill battle. With huge businesses like Monsanto bringing big bucks to the table to keep us as lab rats in this experiment, it can seem like we are fighting Goliath. And guess what? We are. But the key is that we are fighting.
And if you remember, David wins.
Proposition 37: Label GMOs
This November, voters in California will have the right to decide whether or not to require GMO labeling on foods and drinks. Finally, there is hope that we can at least have the right to know what is in our food.
This will not be an easy victory. To fight this initiative, the big Goliaths are going to fight hard. Monsanto and PepsiCo are among the opponents of labeling Genetically Modified foods and have already put up $25 million (and could raise up to $50 million) to sway the vote in their favor.[vi]
Makes you wonder: If Genetically Modified foods are safe, why the worry about having them labeled?
Well, I don’t live in California… So how does this affect me?
Remember, a “yes” vote in California (which is home to about 10 percent of all Americans) would ultimately be a vote “yes” for all of us. The likelihood of food companies printing different labels for different states is unreasonable. So labeling in California would be a major step forward to reclaiming our food.
Okay, so… still, I can’t vote. What do I do?
Spread the word. Let people know. Make GMOs a household name. Tell the real story. Share this post with your friends. Change your facebook status.
Say YES on Proposition 37!!! You can learn more about the proposition and how you can help by visiting carighttoknow.org.
I believe we all have a right to nourishing, whole, real food. Unfortunately our world has done a pretty good job messing that up. But at the very least we have a right to know what is in our food. We have a right to know if about genetically modified foods.
Looking for quality real food ingredients? Be sure to the check out the Village Green Marketplace!
This post is part of Living Green Tuesday, Fresh Food Wednesdays, Whole Food Wednesdays, Eat Make Grow Thursday, Keep it Real Thursday, Simple Lives Thursday, Freaky Friday, Fill Those Jars Friday, Simply Living Saturdays, and Real Food Wednesday.