There’s been a lot of buzz about GMO foods and they are certainly behind a lot of controversy, but what exactly are GMOs – and why are they harmful?
GMO refers to any organism that has had its genetic makeup altered. Unfortunately, many foods we eat every day are foods that have been genetically altered to increase yield and be more pest and disease resistant. The long-term health effect of these foods has not been sufficiently studied, leading many to choose to avoid exposure as much as possible.
Not everyone is convinced of the safety of GMO foods and several countries have banned them outright, or at least require labeling. The American Academy of Environmental Medicine has issued repeated warnings about the links between GMO’s and numerous health conditions. Many consumer groups and activists have pushed for stricter regulation in the US to no avail.
The Most Common GMO Foods
Corn: Corn is one of the most abundant GMO crops grown in the US, second only to soy. Any product with “high fructose corn syrup” is like from a genetically modified source. If a product has glucose or fructose on the label, chances are it also comes from genetically modified corn. Read labels carefully and avoid anything that has these ingredients if you want to avoid exposure.
Soybeans: Soy is the most prevalent GMO food in America today. Up to 91% of soy is genetically modified to be herbicide resistant. Most soy products, including soy milk, tofu, and other processed foods have been genetically altered.
Milk & Dairy: Chances are if you drink non-organic milk it has come from cows fed an abundance of GMO corn. There are a few issues with this. First of all, cows do not naturally eat corn. Secondly, cows kept in feedlots are pumped full of antibiotics and growth hormones to combat infectious disease and increase milk production. All of this leeches into the milk and dairy products you consume. If you choose to eat dairy or drink milk, be sure it’s organic and “grass fed”. If you can, find a local farmer who can sell you raw, organic milk and dairy.
Canola Oil: This is possibly one of the worst GMO products on the market and it is widespread in many products. Canola oil has always been a genetically modified product. It is developed from the rapeseed plant. Rapeseed causes numerous health problems, but the claim is canola oil is safe to use since it is modified to no longer be rapeseed, but canola. Canola stands for “Canadian oil low acid”. Canola oil inhibits metabolism and depletes vitamin E.
Cotton: Cotton has been engineered to resist pesticides and up to 88% of cotton on the market is genetically modified. Cottonseed oil is a product in many foods including mayonnaise, salad dressings, pastas, margarine and commercial baked goods.
Most of the base crops in the US are now genetically modified, and unfortunately, modified meat products are likely just around the corner. As of December 2012, a genetically altered Salmon is in line for FDA approval, potentially opening the doors to future animal products.
It can be incredibly difficult to avoid GMO foods because they are used in so many products. Labeling isn’t required in the US and Canada. Consumers are exposed to these foods daily, without the information they need to make an informed decision. The best way to avoid GMOs is to buy organic. Organic foods are required to be processed without bioengineering. Also, avoid processed foods as much as you can. Nearly all of them contain GMOs.
Paying close attention to the foods we eat has a tremendous impact on our families’ health and well-being.
May every step you take be healthy!