Are GMOs Still a Thing and Why It Matters
As people who love good, clean nutrition, we have particular things we look for when buying our food. Of course we want it to be plant-based, protein packed, and delicious, but we also look for the green and white USDA Organic stamp, the blue and white Non-GMO stamp, and preferably foods that are gluten free and low on the eight major allergens. We like organic because we don’t want all the added chemicals and pesticides in our systems. We want plant-based snacks to get more of nature’s goodness and less artificial foods. We want high protein snacks to make sure our bodies get all the cellular building and repair they need to stay strong and healthy. Now that leaves non-GMO. Let’s take a look at why we have chosen to leave GMOs out of our diet.
Saying why we don’t want GMO foods cannot be as neatly summed up in a few words like our other preferences. First, we need to understand what GMOs are and how they got in our food. GMO is the acronym for genetically modified organisms. Truthfully, we’ve been altering plant DNA for hundreds of years. However, the old-school way was to crossbreed them and mix strains to alter aesthetics, flavors, crop strength, resistance to pests and elements, and so forth. It was a slow process, but it was a natural course of action that we helped direct and control. Today, genetic engineers have taken plant modification to a new extreme by going directly to the cellular level.
They study what traits in a plant's DNA make it stronger, more resilient, pest resistant, bigger, and any other quality the food industry desires, and then they isolate that gene and make copies of it. They take these targeted gene copies and then inject them into the DNA of another plant essentially making a mega version of the original. While the science is fascinating, we feel there is something fundamentally wrong with getting so much of our food from creations in a petri dish.
The argument comes in when these new strains are so bio-resistant that they have few to no natural predators or controls allowing these strains to become invasive, killing off biodiversity. This was the complaint of smaller farms who could not control GMO seeds and spores from infecting their lands and taking over their non-GMO crops. If our food supply were to be predominantly GMO super crops, it could kill off all other native species of that food leaving only one strain available for consumption. This is dangerous due to the cycles of the planet. If something were to attack that strain or if we conclusively link genetically modified foods to serious health risks, we would have a global food shortage unlike any ever experienced before.
The motivations to create GMO foods were all built on good intentions. By creating stronger, bigger, more resistant crops, we could grow more food, faster. We dramatically cut down the loss of crops due to natural causes. We could use less pesticides and chemicals making it safer for farmers. This all allowed for lower costs and greater production which was supposed to help with world hunger. However, we all know the saying, “The road to… disaster... is paved with good intentions.”
When it comes to our health, there are a myriad of concerns around GMO foods, but at the moment food manufacturers have decided that the pros are outweighing the cons, and the FDA and WHO are satisfied with the results. We are a bit more circumspect.
The WHO says, “ Different GM organisms include different genes inserted in different ways. This means that individual GM foods and their safety should be assessed on a case-by-case basis and that it is not possible to make general statements on the safety of all GM foods.”(1)
The FDA doesn’t actually do any testing for the safety of GMO foods. They leave that up to the food manufacturer and take it on faith that big business will make the right decision for consumers.(2)
While it is quite difficult to find conclusive scientific studies on the negative effects GMO food has on the body, there are many studies showing its safety. When you trace those studies back to the labs who performed them, they are nearly all funded by the corporations who profit from GMO crops. This is not to say that the studies are inaccurate. We may be reasonably safe from any harmful side effects at the moment, and that is a very good thing as current estimations state that up to 75% of processed foods now contain a genetically modified ingredient.(3) However, at the moment it is all circumstantial at best. As humans, we have never consumed genetically modified foods in such abundance and for such long periods of time as we do now.
So it is a waiting game. The two camps of GMO and non-GMO sit with bated breath to see the outcome, and we can only hope that it turns out to be benign for both the planet and the population. Regardless, this is a risk we simply choose not to take, and we aren’t the only ones. Nineteen out of 27 of the members states in the European Union have chosen to partially or fully ban GMOs. France, Germany, Austria, Greece, Hungary, the Netherlands, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Bulgaria, Poland, Denmark, Malta, Slovenia, Italy and Croatia have completely banned all GMOs within their borders. So have Turkey, Kyrgyzstan, Bhutan and Saudi Arabia in Asia and Belize, Peru, Ecuador and Venezuela, and only four out of 54 countries of Africa allow GMO crops.(4)
So our short answer is this. We don’t want to eat anything that was genetically modified and produced in a lab. We prefer healthy high protein snacks that are made from organic, non-gmo plants because we know exactly what clean nutrition does in our bodies and for our health.