A Non-GMO Shopping Guide – The Risks of Genetically Modified Foods and the Role of Agribusiness
Have you noticed the size of green peppers these days? As a matter of fact, when you walk through the produce aisle you may be impressed with how the fruits and vegetables appear shiny, colorful and larger than life. But did you know that unless you specifically purchase food labeled organic most of the food in the produce aisle (and other aisles as well) has been genetically modified?
Also called recombinant DNA technology, this practice changes the core genetic make-up of the organism. This genetic manipulation gives scientists the ability to create any trait they desire — natural of unnatural. Food marketers have decided tomatoes should be sweeter, peppers larger, and fruit blemish-free. And scientists have met their specifications. If it’s not perfect, food marketers assume, or more precisely, dictate, that we don’t (or shouldn’t) want it. But GM food is far from perfect.
Simply put, GM foods are foods that are grown from seeds whose DNA is genetically altered. An example of gene alteration is the insertion of Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) into the seed.
These Biopesticides are touted as being less harmful than chemical pesticides because they are biologically based (being viruses, bacteria, pheromones, natural plant compounds, etc.) in contrast to synthetic chemicals But a pesticide in which the active ingredient is a virus, fungus or bacterium, or a natural product derived from a plant source may well be far from benign – despite its ‘natural’ origins.
Why? In short, the danger lies not in the origins of these pesticides, but from the ramifications of their use. Bts result in increased herbicide usage and resultant herbicide resistance; “super weeds;” traces left behind on and in food crops; genetic contamination of non-GM crops which hurt organic and conventional farmers; and damage to surrounding wildlife.
In addition, Bts combine with our own gut bacteria gene; ingesting food treated with Bts gives birth to a dangerous pesticide in the human body.
What is the role of agribusiness in all of this – certainly not an altruist one? The giant corporation Monsanto is at the forefront of the problem. Monsanto is the largest producer of hybrid or GM seeds. Monsanto is now patenting seeds which restrict the farmer from the use of any seed other than theirs. Farmers have actually been sued by Monsanto for doing otherwise.
GM technology crept its way through the door many years ago when the government mandated the FDA to promote biotechnology. The man that was appointed to lead the charge was actually a former Monsanto attorney!
Unfortunately, there was very little, if any, testing for the safety of GM foods. The FDA claimed it was not aware of any information showing that GM crops were different from non-GM crops and therefore didn’t require testing. Because of an eventual lawsuit, 44,000 internal FDA documents that were made public proved that this was an outright lie.
There was an overwhelming consensus among the FDA’s own scientists that the GM foods were indeed different and could give rise to hard to detect allergens, toxins, new diseases and nutritional problems. Could that explain the sudden rise in food allergies, food sensitivities and digestive problems?
GM food is not just in the produce aisle either. 75% of all processed food contains GM ingredients. Corn and soy are the largest GM crops, and corn and soy is in just about everything. (As always, read the ingredients — you’ll see for yourself.)
The list of GM products is long and getting longer. The USDA decided that GM foods do not need to be labeled for the US consumer (you and me). However, most other countries will not import food from the US unless it is clearly labeled GM or not.
If you’ve read any of my other articles, you know by now just how far the foods in our grocery aisles have diverged from the essential qualities we should have a right to expect — real, natural, healthy, and nutritious.
A Non-GMO Shopping Guide:
Pay attention to those hard to read little stickers on fruits and vegetables. They contain a series of digits that are your key to identifying whether produce is conventionally grown or organic, and, furthermore, if it’s genetically modified (GM).
• A four-digit number indicates conventionally grown.
• A five-digit number beginning with 9 — it’s organic.
• A five-digit number beginning with 8 — its GM.
Nearly all of the following foods are GM so do your best to avoid them:
• Processed food, period.
Creating a healthy diet is your responsibility — unless the USDA makes some changes, foods will not be clearly labeled as GM anytime soon.