GMO foods: Killers or just getting a bad rap?

Food can either kill you or heal you and evidence suggests both scenarios are true.

Before jumping into this topic, consider for just a moment that Chipotle recently announced it would not use genetically modified ingredients in its menu. Now, the popular chain faces more challenges because of E. coli outbreaks tainting its food.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported additional cases of food-borne illness associated with the eatery and since the outbreaks, the chain has temporarily closed many of its outlets.

Perhaps conspiracy theorists already have chomped on this information – the fact that a major restaurant has cut ties with genetically engineered, or GE, food monopolies for the sake of its integrity and the health of the general public.

Now, the embattled Chipotle must contend with bad publicity and some folks may wonder: Is the outbreak accidental or caused by a larger, darker force?

That dark force is Genetically Modified Organisms or GMO food crops and it’s even been said that GMOs are a new life form.

Some theorists, however, say GMOs in our food supply pose a very slim danger to human health.

According to the GMO industry, there are many good reasons to use GMOs:

  • Reduced need for herbicides
  • Reduced need of pesticides
  • Reduced greenhouse emissions as GMOs require less tillage or plowing and less use of fossil fuels
  • Ability to manipulate foods to increase desirable components such as nutrients
  • Increased production of food for starving third world countries

A GMO is the result of a laboratory process that involves gene splicing, whereby scientists take genes from one species and insert them into another. The end result is a product that may be herbicide and/or pest resistant. So far, at least 60 countries around the world, including Australia, Japan and all of the countries in the European Union, restrict or ban the production and sale of GMOs.

According to the World Health Organization, in a nutshell, genetically engineered foods were developed to benefit farmers and the food industry with a hardy product at a lower price.

“The GM crops currently on the market are mainly aimed at an increased level of crop protection through the introduction of resistance against plant diseases caused by insects or viruses or through increased tolerance towards herbicides,” the WHO states in its literature.

Further, the WHO says that the safety assessment of GMO foods focuses on:

  • Direct health effects such as toxicity
  • The potential to provoke allergic reactions
  • The nutritional or toxic properties
  • the stability of the inserted gene
  • The nutritional effects associated with genetic modification
  • Any unintended effects, which could result from the gene insertion

In addition, “GM foods currently available on the international market have passed safety assessments and are not likely to present risks for human health. In addition, no effects on human health have been shown as a result of the consumption of such foods by the general population in the countries where they have been approved.”

According to the Institute for Responsible Technology, human studies reveal how GMOs can leave material inside the body, possibly causing long-term problems.

One sure way to avoid GMOs in your food is to buy organic.

Certified organic products cannot intentionally include GMO ingredients. Also, look for the Non-GMO Project Verified Seal.

The Non-GMO Project is a non-profit organization that provides consumers with labeled and independently verified non-GMO choices.

A debate has existed for decades about GMOs and one camp agrees these particular crops grow faster, hardier and supply food just that much faster to our nation and others suffering from poverty and starvation.

The other side argues that GMO foods are unsafe for human consumption. Both parties provide ample, scientific proof for their causes. So what does a person do when considering what to eat?

Non-GMO advocates suggest avoiding at-risk ingredients such as the eight GMO food crops: Corn, soybeans, canola, cottonseed, sugar beets, most Hawaiian papaya and some varieties of zucchini and yellow squash.

GMO ingredients may be detected even in “natural” and gluten-free foods. Be careful when purchasing sugar as this could be made from sugar beets that are genetically modified. Take note that if the label does not specify cane sugar, it could very well be engineered or modified beet sugar. A large percentage of sweeteners used in processed food may come from corn, not sugar cane or beets.

Ingredients derived from the risk crops listed above include amino acids, aspartame, ascorbic acid, high fructose corn syrup, textured vegetable protein, vitamin C, yeast products, lactic acid and more.

GMO ingredients are found in almost all prepared foods and it seems that making a meal without engineered items is impossible. However, knowing what common items contain GMOs helps with shopping and making informed choices.

Some pantry items may contain GMOs such as canned soups that may contain high fructose corn syrup, cereals, snack bars and many snack crackers, according to the Non-GMO Project.

Also, meat and dairy products processed from animals that have been fed GM animal feed, such as corn or alfalfa

About 22 percent of cows in the U.S. are injected with recombinant (genetically modified) bovine growth hormone (rbGH)

There are several ways that GMOs may affect health:

  • Food allergies
  • Toxicity
  • Infertility
  • Gluten disorders
  • DNA transfer
  • Birth defects from Glyphosate
  • Cancer

Another thing to consider when choosing or avoiding GMOs is that Glyphosate herbicide is widely used in connection with genetically engineered crops and has been classified as a carcinogen.