7 Reasons To Avoid GMOs And 4 Ways To Spot Them
GMOs are genetically modified organisms, including foods, whose genes have been altered using biotechnology. More precisely, this means that to obtain a GMO, scientists transfer one or more genes from one organism to another, giving the latter new traits. The technique is similar to, but rapidly replacing selective breeding, a process that has been used by humans for centuries and that has allowed them to breed only those specimens of a plant or of an animal with desirable qualities. If selective breeding was based on a form of natural selection, GMOs are made possible by recent discoveries in biotechnology.
So Why Are GMOs Controversial?
1. The safety of GMOs is yet to be ascertained. At this time, there are no long-term studies that demonstrate the safety of consuming genetically modified foods. In other words — and especially considering that current research is dramatically divided between scientists who affirm GMOs are perfectly healthy and scientists who warn us against GMOs — we cannot possibly know whether or not consuming GMOs will have negative effects on our bodies in the long run.
2. GMOs encourage the use of toxic herbicides. One of the first traits conferred to plants through the use of biotechnology was to make them herbicide-tolerant (HT). This meant that any amount of herbicide could be used on crops, without damaging the resulting produce. Using large amounts of herbicides did, indeed, become the new practice, and the emergence of superweeds was its consequence.
3. GMOs contain Roundup and glyphosate residues. One of the most commonly used herbicides is Roundup, which contains the controversial, harmful glyphosate, as well as other potentially toxic substances that have created numerous disputes. Because Roundup is used in massive quantities on GMO crops, residues of the toxic substances in its composition remain in the soil, on the crops themselves, and are likely ingested by buyers.
4. GMOs could have less nutritional value. It is being investigated at this point whether genetically modified plants have lower nutritional qualities than their natural counterparts. Some evidence already exists in this regard. For example, it has been shown that an inserted gene can cause a plant to produce higher levels of phytate, a compound common in seeds and grains that binds with minerals and makes them unavailable to the human body. If a plant produces more phytate, then its mineral nutritional value is decreased.
5. GMOs might increase antibiotic resistance. When modifying a plant through biotechnology, it is difficult for scientists to estimate whether the plant’s genome has incorporated the desired gene or not. To find out sooner, biotechnologists bind the desired gene to an antibiotic resistance gene, and then grow the plant in a solution containing the corresponding antibiotic. If the plant survives, this means that it has, indeed, incorporated the new gene, alongside the antibiotic resistance gene. In recent years, however, health professionals have become alarmed with the number of bacterial strains that can no longer be treated with antibiotics. GMO foods might participate to this development.
6. Cross-contamination is a serious issue for other farmers. GMO plants cross-pollinate just as usual plants do. Unfortunately, this means that if a farmer who wishes to grow organic produce is anywhere nearby genetically modified crops, his or her crops will pollinate with the neighbouring GMOs and inherit their traits. Once a crop is contaminated with GMO strains, these become nearly impossible to eliminate.
7. GMOs ultimately lead to corporate control over seeds. Like resistance to herbicides, the absence of seeds is another common trait conferred to GMO plants. Since crops no longer produce their own seeds, the only way to obtain new seeds is by consistently buying them from corporations who specialize in their production. Because of cross-contamination with GMOs, many farmers who choose to grow organic foods cannot continue to do so, as their plants also cease to result in seeds.
Product Labels Can Be Deceiving
Labelling standards for GMOs remain stricter in Europe than in the United States. For example, many American food producers who sell GMO foods would rather hide this fact from the buying population and are legally allowed to do so because of lax US labelling laws.
Product labels can often be deceiving, not only in terms of calories contained, but in terms of the actual content, as well. No producer will specify, for instance, that their foods might be contaminated with Roundup because the herbicide was used in growing the GMO plants involved in its production. While the natural conclusion is that it is safer to simply buy organic, even this can be a challenge because of local product availability as well as proposed loopholes in organic labelling laws to accommodate Big Ag that organic watchdog groups must constantly defend against.
4 Ways To Spot GMOs
1. When buying groceries, look for their PLU sticker. In a supermarket, each fruit or vegetable should be tagged with a sticker that also features a “price look-up” code or a PLU. If the PLU is only four digits long, this means that the produce may or may not be genetically modified. If the code is five digits long and it begins with a “9,” then the produce is organic and not genetically modified. Codes that feature five digits and that begin with an “8” signal produce that was genetically modified, but producers are not obligated to use this tag, so it’s best not to rely on it. If you want to be safe, choose produce whose PLU code is five digits long and begins with “9.”
2. Look for corn derivatives. Some produce is more likely to be genetically modified than others. These include corn, soy, zucchini and canola. If you buy processed foods, you should read the label for any corn derivatives that were likely extracted from GMO crops. Some common examples are: malt, maltodextrin, malt extract, dextrin, sorbitol, monosodium glutamate, mono- and diglycerides and starch. If the product contains corn derivatives, check to see that it is also labelled organic or non-GMO.
3. Look for soy derivatives. Some examples of soy derivatives that are likely to result from GMOs are: tofu, tempeh, margarine, soy protein isolate, protein isolate, lecithin, soy lecithin, soy sauce, textured vegetable protein, soy beverages, as well as some mayonnaise and salad dressings. If the product contains soy derivatives, check to see that it is also labelled organic or non-GMO.
4. Research the producer. A good strategy to ensure that a product is non-GMO is to look up whether its producer abides to a non-GMO philosophy. With vegetables and fruit, you can find out the name of the producer by scanning the PLU code or by searching the code online. Some producers are even guaranteed for by third party organizations, such as the Non-GMO Project. Especially with products that you buy on a regular basis, choosing a reliable producer can save you a significant amount of time.
Paul Jenkins is the CEO and founder of sports supplements brand DNA Lean. As a free thinker and truth seeker of how the few are enslaving the whole of humanity through corporate governments, oil companies, Big Pharma and industrial agriculture, Paul seeks to change this trend through nutrition education and healthier products.