TLDR; maybe/probably. We don’t know for sure.
Long answer, keep reading.
Many people interested in healthy living are concerned about GMOs. I understand, and I don’t want a fish gene-spliced into my tomato either!
It’s why I try to grow as much of my own food as possible, because it’s cheaper and healthier. What I don’t grow I try to buy locally (from a farmer I can talk to) or organic.
So…are Genetically Modified Organisms Bad?
Ok people, bear with me, and I’ll explain what I mean. Let’s define what we’re talking about. What’s a GMO? A GMO is any organism (plant, insect, fish, goat) “whose genetic material had been altered using genetic engineering techniques”(Wikipedia).
Scientists combine genes from different sources (same or different organisms) then insert those genes in another organism and use a vector which is some method of copying the modified genes to the organism’s genes.
What seems to work really well is using a modified virus or bacteria, because viruses are really good at DNA copying. They can also inject the DNA into the cells, or shoot the cells with a “gene gun”, the projectiles of tiny DNA-coated balls of gold or tungsten.
Still with me?
The fact is that genes modification happens all the time in nature, but the determining safety factor for me is how the changes are done.
OK, so what has modified genes that’s not a GMO?
- Child generation of natural genetic crossings, like normal plant pollination or animal reproduction
- Hybrids (though maybe undesirable from a seed-saving perspective), from combination of parent’s genes
- Natural mutation – genetic information is constantly changing due to environmental factors and RNA copying errors, as well as natural and cosmic radiation
I think an easy way to remember it is:
If it can happen in the wild, it’s not GMO. If it must be done in a laboratory, then it’s probably GMO.
Ok, let’s see what the effects of GMO are on animals you might eat. I hope you’re not hungry…
GMO-Eating Animals Cancer Risk Greater?
There’s lots of information about GMOs food safety in the internet. Searching turned up several sources (see the More Info section at the bottom of the post). From the studies, it concerns me that corn is so highly genetically modified.
Corn is in almost every preprocessed packaged food product. Try to find ketchup, peanut butter, maple syrup (!?), or spaghetti sauce without corn syrup or a corn product. The only place you’re likely to find this is if it’s a “natural” or “organic” product.
The USA produced 385 million metric tons of corn in 2016, which is 37% of the world’s supply.
It’s processed into many food and industrial products, including starches, sweeteners, and corn oil. So it’s part of the ingredients in lots of processed foods you find at the grocery store.
And that’s what concerns me: it’s in everything! (remember what I told you about absolutes? Stop that!)
If something bad is in everything, should that concern us?
We Just Don’t Know
Part of my concern with GMOs is that we have yet to see the long-term effects of genetically modifying food. Given the government’s terrible record of “protecting” people from food dangers, I don’t believe the FDA or USDA when they approve items as safe. After all, they promoted DDT (insecticide responsible for huge environmental impacts, made by Monstanto and others) for agricultural use. So trusting the gov’t to keep us “safe” doesn’t make sense.
Other food additives approved by the gov’t:
- Sulfites on veggies – triggers asthma attacks and deaths
- Artificial coloring Red #3 – causes cancer in animals, banned in cosmetics but allowed in food?
- Partially hydrogenated oils & trans fats – deaths and heart attacks
- Caramel coloring Level IV – carcinogenic. In Starbucks “Pumpkin” Spice Latte
- Antibiotics in animal feed for growth – to survive poor conditions, creating superbugs
So, yeah, they don’t have a great track record for determining what’s safe and not.
No long-term studies exist of what happens when large numbers of people eat lots of GMO food. The smaller studies (done on animals) are not encouraging.
My standpoint is that I will avoid GMOs in general.
Don’t Be a Zombie
I don’t want to mislead you. I’m not here to bash Monsanto or Cargil or Bayer or any of the other GMO or agribusiness companies. Some have been (rightly or wrongly) vilified by alternative media and culture, but I think you should make your own decision.
Inform yourself: read the actual studies, not an interpretation; read the ingredient list on packaging, to know what you’re putting in your body.
Read and understand the scientific and natural processes so you’ll know if an explanation is legitimate or baloney.
Don’t believe everything anyone says.
<sarcasm>Except me, of course. Everything I say is true, every time, in every circumstance</sarcasm>
Well, make up your own mind! Don’t just swallow the twisted half-truths hook, line, and sinker that agribusiness, major or alternative media spin your way.
Make up your own mind about GMOs
Do your own fact-checking, and thereby educate and inform yourself. If you make an informed decision and it differs from mine, fine. I’ll disagree with you, but at least you made a decision from the facts.
Please, please, please, check out things that you hear or read. Be skeptical, even of things you would agree with, that fit your world view. Too much misinformation is spread by both sides and then unthinkingly repeated.
It just muddies the waters for all of us to be able to understand the truth.
OK, that’s all folks! Do you have any questions or comments about GMOs or food safety? Ask your question down below and let’s talk! You can also use the contact form, or email me at info at thepermaculture dot life.
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