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Healthy Skepticism – Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO)

by Deliciously Organic on August 8, 2012

Genetically modified food crops are said to increase yields, require less pesticide use, and be healthier than their conventional or organic counterparts. Some people say they’re unhealthy, untested, and bad for the environment, though. We have heard a lot of shouting from both sides of the debate. Which story are we to believe? It’s important to educate ourselves and use a bit of healthy skepticism when deciding whether Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) should grace our tables. Let’s take a look.

What is a GMO?
GMOs (or “genetically modified organisms”) are organisms that have been created through the gene-splicing techniques of biotechnology (also called genetic engineering, or GE). This relatively new science allows DNA from one species to be injected into another species in a laboratory, creating combinations of plant, animal, bacteria, and viral genes that do not occur in nature or through traditional crossbreeding methods.” Some GM crops are engineered to resist pests, reduce polyunsaturated fatty acids, or even alter how they ripen. You may have heard about “Roundup Ready” crops. They’re called “Roundup Ready” because the crops won’t die when sprayed with the weed killer Roundup. Some GM corn and soy now produce a bacterial protein which actually kills insects.

What crops are genetically modified or genetically engineered?
In the United States, the following food and feed crops are currently allowed to be GMO:

1. Canola
2. Corn
3. Soy
4. Alfalfa
5. Papaya
6. Zucchini
7. Squash
8. Sugar beet
9. Chicory
10. Cotton
11. Flax
12. Potato
13. Rice
14. Tomato

Are There Any Other Foods Which Contain Genetically Engineered Substances Besides The Crops Listed?

Yes. rBGH (or rBST) is a hormone used on dairy cattle which is created in a laboratory. This drug enables the cows to produce more milk than they normally would.

Who Produces Genetically Modified Seeds and Why Do They Think We Need Them?

The world’s largest chemical companies produce GM seeds. Here’s what one company called Monsanto says about its product:

“The world doesn’t just need more food. It also needs better food that’s more nutritious. And it needs to find ways to make the process of growing food more efficient and aligned with our environmental needs, so farmers use less water and land, and better utilize things like fertilizer, herbicides and pesticides.”

Do GMOs Yield More Food?
According to a report by Union of Concerned Scientists expert Doug Gurian-Sherman, the promise of a higher yield has proven to be empty. GMO crops have failed to produce a higher yield with the exception of corn, but this increase is marginal. It’s possible GMOs will yield more food, but not a forgone conclusion. I’m skeptical.

Are GMOs Safe?
As far as I know, no long-term studies have been done on humans to determine if consuming foods made with these crops are safe. That fact alone makes me very skeptical. Shorter term studies are beginning to roll in, and the picture isn’t pretty.

According to the American Academy of Environmental Medicine (AAEM), “safety assessment of GM foods has been based on the idea of ‘substantial equivalence’ such that ‘if a new food is found to be substantially equivalent in composition and nutritional characteristics to an existing food, it can be regarded as safe as the conventional food.’ However, several animal studies indicate serious health risks associated with GM food consumption including infertility, immune dysregulation, accelerated aging, dysregulation of genes associated with cholesterol synthesis, insulin regulation, cell signaling, and protein formation, and changes in the liver, kidney, spleen and gastrointestinal system.” Animal studies also show a decrease in liver function, changes in the kidney, pancreas and spleen, infertility, cell growth and disruption of the intestinal immune system, and gene disruption.

As a result of the AAEM’s findings, they’re urging physicians to educate everyone to avoid GM foods when possible.

According to Jeffery Smith, author of Seeds of Deception, the pesticide in GM corn creates a “pesticide factory” in your gut.

“The biotech industry is fond of bragging about their genetically modified (GM) crops that ‘resist pests.’ This conjures up images of insects staying away from GM fields.

But resisting pests is a euphemism for contains its own pesticide. When bugs take a bite of the GM plant, the toxin from the plant splits open their stomach and kills them.

The idea that we consume that same toxic pesticide in every bite is hardly appetizing. But the biotech companies insist the pesticide, called Bt-toxin, has a history of safe use.” I’m skeptical about these claims and unfortunately I haven’t seen independent testing which substantiates them.

Are GMO foods or processed foods containing GMOs labeled?
No. Unfortunately, in America we have no labeling requirements. But this November, the people of California will vote to decide whether foods containing for GMOs must be labeled. Many companies don’t want this to happen and have donated money to campaign against the measure. Here’s a short list of the opposing companies: Grocery Manufacturers Association, Dupont, Pepsico, Coca Cola, ConAgra, Kellog’s, JM Smuckers, Dean Foods, Hormel, Hersheys, General Mills and Sara Lee. Their motivation is easy to speculate about – just the cost of redesigning their packaging would be high. The GMO label would likely need to be applied to nearly everything they sell in California.

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How Can I Avoid GMO foods?
The only way to avoid GMO foods is to buy 100% certified organic. Currently, organic foods are not allowed to contain GMOs.

So if I Buy Organic, Will I Completely Avoid GMOs?
Not exactly. If you buy any processed foods, and I mean any processed foods, you need to look closely at the label. Canola, corn, soy and sugar beets are very often ingredients in processed foods. These foods aren’t always labeled as such. For instance, manufacturers use GMO corn to create preservatives, additives, and sugars like: glucose (aka dextrose), high fructose corn syrup, citric acid, fructose, polyols, erythrithol, mannitol, sorbitol, xylitol, corn starch, clyclodextrins, lactic acid, amino acids, vitamin C, vitamin E, along with many others.

A label might say “organic” but it doesn’t mean all of the ingredients are organic, so there could be some GMO ingredients in that food.

GMO grains are used as feed for cattle, pigs and chickens. Many believe it’s best to avoid these conventional meats because the food they put in their body might also be ending up on your plate.

Now I’m Overwhelmed. What Can I Do?
1. First and foremost, continue to be skeptical about the claims of agricultural companies, food processors, and activists. Do your own research. Government regulators and chemical companies may not have the same standards as you regarding the safety of the food you eat. Labeling may not be regulated or complete for your area of concern, whether that’s preservatives, artificial ingredients, or genetically engineered crops.

2. I’ve decided to look at the foods we eat, read the labels and determine if we’re consuming GMOs. A helpful tool is the Non-GMO Shopper’s Guide provided by the Center for Food Safety. They have lists of foods that do not contain GMOs and even an app to help as you walk through the grocery store.

3. If you’d like to ask the Food and Drug Administration to label foods containing GMOs, consider signing the petition set up by the organization, “Just Label It”.

4. As always, I recommend making steps towards an unprocessed, whole foods diet. Know which whole foods are GMO and try to buy organic options when possible. Remember, it’s almost impossible to eat a completely GMO-free diet. Go easy on yourself. Get educated, stay skeptical, and make the best decisions you can.

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For Further Reading:
GM Crops – Just the Science: Research Documenting the Limitations, Risks and Alternatives

If Some Supermarkets Get Their Way, You Won’t Know if GMOs Are in Your Food

Study Ties GMO Corn, Soybeans to Butterfly Losses

The film Food Inc. provides some in-depth information regarding GMOs.

Seeds Of Deception by Jeffery Smith

California Right to Know

Sources:

1. http://www.nongmoproject.org/about-gmos-2/
2.http://www.science20.com/michael_eisen/how_bt_corn_and_roundup_ready_soy_work_and_why_they_should_not_scare_you
3. http://www.ucsusa.org/food_and_agriculture/science_and_impacts/science/engineered-foods-allowed-on.html
4. http://truefoodnow.org/campaigns/rbgh-and-hormones/
5. http://www.ucsusa.org/food_and_agriculture/science_and_impacts/science/failure-to-yield.html
6. http://www.aaemonline.org/gmopost.html
7. http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2010/10/08/a-pesticide-factory-in-your-stomach-think-corn-chips.aspx
8. http://www.rodale.com/gmo-labeling-california
9. http://www.corn.org

Farm photos credit: istockphoto – used with permission

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{ 34 comments… read them below or add one }

Alicia August 8, 2012 at 11:32 am

Thank you so much for sharing this information. There is an overwhelming amount of material out there and it’s hard to know what to believe and what not to believe. This helped to clear up some of the confusion.

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shoprubyjean August 8, 2012 at 11:49 am

I find myself STILL today ( even knowing what I know about food ) fighting off the commercialism of products and the ease of convenience even when it comes to Organic Boxed items ( macaroni and cheese :) But with a family of 7 soon to be 8 it becomes sometimes easier to grab the prepackaged organic meals. I am thankful for companies like Azure Standard ( which have a great story ) which make it much easier for me to try to plan ahead whole meals when making our monthly orders. I actually just shared your Chia Seed Pudding recipe on my blog yesterday http://shoprubyjean.com/2012/08/chia-seed-pudding/
We enjoyed it for desert last night :)

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Kammie @ Sensual Appeal August 8, 2012 at 2:47 pm

Wow great article. I love the educational tone in it, I’ve learned quite a bit and definitely will not settle on GMOs!

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HeatherChristo August 8, 2012 at 3:59 pm

Oh my. this is overwhelming- but important. Thank you for sharing all of this info Carrie.

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Lisa @ A Little Slice of Life August 8, 2012 at 5:48 pm

I think GMO food should be labeled. It gives people a choice, just like knowing how many calories are in your meal before ordering it. Labeling allows people to make the choices that are right for them.

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Allison [Girl's Guide to Social Media] August 8, 2012 at 9:00 pm

This is great insight. I had no idea. Thanks, Carrie!!

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Barbie August 9, 2012 at 12:33 am

Thank you for sharing this information!

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Jodee August 9, 2012 at 8:03 am

Thank you so much for this information!

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Cindi Stickle August 9, 2012 at 8:08 am

When I say your title, I got a little worried. In my mind, there is nothing healthy about GMO’s. I’m a grad student getting my Master’s in sustainable development and have done several term papers on GMO’s. There have been studies, in other countries like Canada, that show the damaging effects of GMO’s. I know my hypothyroidism and multi-nodular goiter is because I was drinking A LOT of soy protein shakes. 95% of soy crops in the US are GMO, and soy lecithin is in EVERYTHING that is processed.

Thanks for sharing.

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Deliciously Organic August 9, 2012 at 10:04 am

I appreciate your thoughts. I’m sorry to hear of your health struggles and agree with the soy issue. I also avoid it because of it’s damaging affects on the thyroid. Because of the Veggie Libel Laws, I try to be very careful when I talk about food companies. This is why I’ve taken the angle of “healthy skepticism”. I want to present facts and ideas and then let the reader come to their own conclusion.

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Scarlet August 9, 2012 at 9:34 am

What a great article! I have stumbled it (user MWYT)

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Erika August 9, 2012 at 10:12 am

I have not heard of Roundup Ready crops, but anything that survives Round-Up is scary!

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Carol L August 9, 2012 at 10:23 am

You’ve written such an informative article without bias, and brought some serious, unknown facts to the table. I hope you’ve encouraged millions more to let their voices be heard on this situation that continues to spiral out of control. Well done, and thank you for awakening those who were unaware! I hope everyone who reads this article takes the time to click the link and let the FDA hear them loud and clear!! I just did!

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Deliciously Organic August 10, 2012 at 7:18 am

Thank you for your kind words, Carol.

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marla August 9, 2012 at 12:25 pm

Very informative + helpful post Carrie.

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dynamics August 9, 2012 at 7:31 pm

I gave up on medical doctors PRACTICING medicine on me and throwing away thousands of dollars with no results. I went to a “herbalist.” This man is amazing. Through him and additional research such as your site, I have figured out that GMO foods do not agree with me (amongst other things) and I have side effects. Corn is my biggest problem. I cannot have chicken because it is fed GMO corn. It goes on and one. I know the next day if I have eaten a genetically modified food. We need to continue educating our doctors to help the public realize how dangerous and damaging these products are. Take a close look at our children and how many of them have problems. I firmly believe a lot of those problems are directly related to the amount of pesticides they ingest, ie: GM foods etc. Thanks Carrie for a great post. Just learned about “modified food starch” Amazing.

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Deliciously Organic August 10, 2012 at 7:20 am

Wow. That’s incredible that you were able to pin your health issues on GMOs. The way that food affects our bodies continues to amaze me.

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Dynamics August 10, 2012 at 7:56 am

The girl I walk with cannot lose weight either. She appears to be doing things right. She went on the South Beach Diet and the first week her intestinal problems went away and her stomach feels better AND she has lost 3 pounds and a few inches to boot. She obviously has a food allergy. Definitely a gluten intolerance. She said she feels the best she has felt in years. If only more people would check their food intake before running to the doctor to take carcinogenic drugs. If only more people would at least read (your blog) instead of ignoring all the great info out there, they might feel better without taking so many drugs.
You know I love you site and have learned a lot.

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Deliciously Organic August 10, 2012 at 8:05 am

Thank you for your kind words. I also wish others would take a more serious look at their diet when they face health issues. That’s great that your friend is finding answers! Medicine has it’s place, and I’ve been thankful when it’s been there when needed, but so many of the answers can be found through food.

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Christina Main August 10, 2012 at 10:12 am

FANTASTIC post Carrie! I completely agree with you. Here in the Main Household, we try to eat as much organic, grass fed meats, organic poultry as possible and avoid all GMO’s, HFCornSyrup , etc. It is a tough thing to do though. Especially since labels aren’t telling us 100% of what they should be. :/ So, then we try to make things from scratch! Still hard.

Thanks for the info!

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A Table in the Sun August 11, 2012 at 6:54 am

Great information. I’m now more equipped to have an opinion on GMO products. I will continue to research, and then…………..spread the word.

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Megan Lane August 12, 2012 at 1:12 pm

This was so helpful – thank you! Reading an academic article about GMOs a few months ago is what got me to re-think how I eat and I am completely changed now. Some very helpful links here, just signed a bunch of petitions :) I am very uncomfortable with the fact that there are no long-term studies and that it’s had adverse effects on animals. Just read that Dow Chemicals is working to get approval on GMO seed that contains a toxin used in Agent Orange.. Give me a break! So glad I found your blog :) and I love how objective/clear-headed this post is!

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Jill August 13, 2012 at 1:29 pm

Organic Gardening magazine alerted its readers to the dangers of Bt-laced corn and the plans to modify that and other crops years ago, and their predictions are all coming true. I believe relying on modern traditional medicine to heal us – while ignoring what’s being done to our food – is not the best course of action anymore, and I don’t know if it’s too late to fight back and try to counteract all the damage done by these chemical giants.
Gee, do you think maybe corn and soybeans have suffered MORE from the drought due to the chemical tampering? I have to wonder about that one.
I’ve also read Dr. Mercola’s posts for some time, and while I hope the situation is not as dire and frightening as his research shows, the man does do his research.
People tell me they can’t afford to eat clean organic foods and can much better afford to eat everything from a box, a packet, or a can. The recent drought that’s affecting corn and soybeans is going to drive the prices much higher, and their argument may no longer be true. I hope in the near future more people will realize the urgency of turning to organic foods not only as sustenance, but also as a way to heal their bodies.

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Jami @ An Oregon Cottage August 13, 2012 at 3:23 pm

Thank you for your detailed explanation! I have been trying to avoid GMO’s for a couple of years and you’re right – it is hard! Especially when they keep adding crops like alfalfa (which I used to make my own vegetable fertilizer). Ugh. Potato and Rice, though have not been on my radar – sheesh, two more to add to the avoid list!

Btw, I started avoiding GMO’s a few years ago because I am an organic gardener, and I HATE what GMO’s mean to the small farms and the potential for cross-contamination. But now I’m hearing more European studies that talk about the affect on our bodies and there’s obviously another reason to steer clear of them as much as possible.

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Jennifer August 14, 2012 at 4:48 pm

Thank you for all of this info Carrie – I think that this is such an important issue that very little is known about. Another very informative source that I found recently is “The UnHealthy Truth” by Robyn O’Brien. It is an in-depth book about this very issue and how these GMOs MAY even be tied to the very disturbing rise in childhood ailments like ADHD, asthma and allergies. I also had no idea how much of our nation’s food supply is controlled and “protected” by our government. Thank you for all you do for us Carrie!

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Tim August 17, 2012 at 5:47 am

I am so grateful to you for sharing information about GMOs. There are many facts you have explained that I had no clue of. Perhaps producing own food can somehow help one avoid buying these unhealthy GMOs. Until proven healthy and fit, for human consumption, I will continue to eat organic food. Once again thanks for such a helpful article.

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iGOZEN August 17, 2012 at 10:20 am

I think one of the biggest issues with GMO related growing is transparency. There is not enough info supplied to the community regarding GMO food.

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Em August 17, 2012 at 11:55 am

Can you direct me to the source for the “GM crops – just the science” article. I see it posted various places around the web when I do a quick search, but nothing that tells me who wrote it. Kind of weird there’s no author or contact info listed in the article. Thanks.

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Deliciously Organic August 17, 2012 at 1:49 pm

It was written by the Non-GMO Project. Here is a link to their “who we are” page. I would think that if you write and ask who wrote the article they would tell you. I agree that they should have included who wrote the article. They have dozens of sources, but no author. Strange.

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Claudia August 18, 2012 at 2:34 pm

I really enjoy your website and reading your articles, but this is the first time (I believe) that I am posting because I find this to be an extremely interesting and important topic. I think that the health benefits that you talk about are important, but I think that you are missing another side to the subject as well – the farmers. It is interesting that you mention Monsanto because a few years ago I hear Vandana Shiva talk about this company and what it does to rice growers in India and it was shocking and upsetting. From what I understand GMOs are also a problem in the States because the company has rights to the seeds and causes the growers to purchase new seeds every year, makes it illegal to save seeds, and if you are discovered with GMO plants growing on your farm and haven’t purchased seeds (for example, by wind pollination) you can be sued for “stealing” the product. Great article, I really enjoyed reading your opinions and those of your readers.

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Deliciously Organic August 20, 2012 at 10:44 am

Hi Claudia – That is a great point, and is another issue with GMOs and Monsanto. I feel terrible for those farmers who have been sued and lost so much they have worked for.

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Joshua @ SlimPalate November 4, 2012 at 6:56 am

Excellent post! I completely agree with your view on GMOs. Whenever I think GMOs it makes me sick tom my stomach. Thank you for the educational post!

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www.harleys-dancing.com April 9, 2013 at 7:09 pm

Highly descriptive post, I liked that a lot. Will there be a part
2?

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Deliciously Organic April 10, 2013 at 10:50 am

If Chipotle removes GMOs from their foods, then I’ll definitely have a part 2!

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