• Food for Thought Friday: GMOs and Food

  • by Lauren Russell

Anyone who’s been surfing the internet, watching the news, or visiting social media sites lately has most likely come across information on GMOs. In fact, just last week, the major restaurant chain Chipotle announced its plans to stop serving genetically altered food. This announcement took social media by storm as Facebook posts and twitter tweets praised the company for making the right decision.

That’s because the use and safety of these products are highly debated. While opinions vary on whether GMOs are safe or not, it is important to at least know what they are and how they may affect your health.

Short for Genetically Modified Organisms, GMOs are plants, animals, or microorganisms that a lab has altered by genetic engineering. These aren’t organisms in their natural state – they don’t occur in nature. Instead, they are genetically changed to be able to grow faster, stay fresh longer, and withstand the effects of pesticides, disease, and bugs. This makes them highly useful in the mass production of such needs as food and medicine.

According to the Health and Safety Executive, GM technology has allowed the health world to create insulin and human growth hormones that have no risk of transmitting diseases – unlike human- and animal-produced medicines that carry a small risk of transmitting disease.

GMOs have also been used in crops and animal feed, meaning many produce and animal byproducts contain the altered organisms. Many different kinds of fruits, veggies, and beans come from genetically modified seeds as well. Other foods may include: cereal, soda, peanut butter, tofu, infant formula, pasta, salad dressing, and more.

So why are GMOs a concern? Those who advocate against GMOs have cited studies and journal articles that link the organisms to such health risks as allergies, obesity, infertility, cancer, and auto-immune disease. There may also be environmental effects from GMOs. These problems may be why more than 60 countries have restricted or banned GMOs – some even refusing products from the United States.

Because of these and other health and environmental risks, many people have rallied to pass bills that require mandatory GMO labels. Some states have already done so, but many have not. Ultimately, as of right now at least, it is up to you to determine whether you want to avoid GMOs. It means more work and a higher grocery bill, but it could mean a healthier you. The verdict is still out.

If you do choose to try to avoid GMOs, look for seals of approval from such non-GMO companies as Non-GMO Project, ProTerra, or 365 Everyday Value. Always buy organic because USDA National Organic Standards forbid GMO use. You may want to steer clear of soy, canola, corn, and sugar beets, since most of these products come from GMO crops. 94% of soy crops are genetically modified, while 95% of sugar beet crops and 88% of corn crops are genetically modified.

For more information, it is best to consult your doctor about changes to your diet and potential health effects of GMOs. This article is for informational purposes only.