GMO? GM-me? GM-you?

A question I get asked a lot is “Are GMO’s bad for me?” I’ve done some research and have finally come up with an answer. . . .there isn’t enough unbiased information to say definitively one way or the other. To GMO or not to GMO is a decision each of us has to make for ourselves and our families.

One of the best articles on the subject was in the September, 2013 issue of Scientific American. In the article, David Freedman covers a lot of areas including safety, research and how groups both pro- and con-GMO use intimidation to swing the debate in their direction.

Are GMO’s safe? At this point I’m going to say probably. Safe in that I don’t think they can cause harm (unless you have an allergy or intolerance to what has been modified). From what I’ve seen in the literature and heard in my discussions with a plant geneticist, the GMO process doesn’t alter the nutritional quality of the food. It can mean that less pesticides have to be used, which in my opinion is a good thing. Some GMO crops can grow in sub-optimal climates meaning that more people can be fed with food grown locally – or at least closer than currently brought to them and in greater quantities which can be important in the developing world.  Some GMO foods, like “golden rice”, are engineered to deliver more nutrition. Golden rice has more vitamin A than spinach and could help reduce the number of deaths and irreversible blindness due to vitamin A deficiency found in the developing world.

I hear that “GMOs are BANNED in the EU!” Well, not exactly. GMO crops are banned by 8 of the 28 European Union member countries as well as India, China and several African nations (including Kenya). However, the lists are constantly changing. I also don’t agree with pack mentality. Just because one group of countries have banned something, that doesn’t mean everyone has to ban it.

Growing food is a high-stakes business. Serious business. Whenever there are big dollars involved, as in crop development, farming, etc., big companies get involved. One of the things that Freedman said in the article that surprised me at first was that some researchers won’t come out against GMO crops because the food production industry will attack them and their credibility. Some scientists have said that “after publishing comments in respected journals questioning the safety of GM foods, they became the victims of coordinated attacks on their reputations.” That is scary if scientists can not speak freely of their findings and research.

Honestly, I struggle with “what’s the problem with GMOs anyway?” Humans have been genetically engineering plants (and animals) through selective breeding for years. How does being able to be more specific with what genes are being changed get dubbed as “evil”?

Obviously, I don’t have all the answers. Until the answers become clear, if they do, each of us has to decide what we’ll put on our tables and in our bodies.

Comments

  1. Readers must first understand the climate under which this article is written: as a R.D, Penny cannot endorse or warn against GMO foods without the science to support the claims, otherwise not only is she open to a lawsuit but may be stripped forever of her professional license she worked a hard 6+ years for. This is why NO DIETITIAN worth their salt will tell you GMO food is harmful. Not yet, anyway, but in 10 or 20 years this will be completely different. I am a lay person who happens to have researched nutrition, and GMOs and am happy to share a few things for thought.

    Monsanto and other corporations spend millions of dollars each year to keep studies from being done on the effect of genetically modified crops on human beings, we are not seeing the science because it isn’t being researched. But it doesn’t take a scientific research study to tell us that a corn (by Monsanto) that produces it’s own BT pesticide to kill the bugs that might chomp down it is not going to be good for the human body, either. Tumors grow in rats fed GMO crops, and by the third generation the rats are sterile. Personally, I do not want to wait for my grandchildren to become sterile because I ate, and fed GMOs to my children and they to theirs. The truth is, there is no proof GMO foods harm humans (because the Big corporations block them) AND there is no proof they are NOT harmful, but plenty to make me wonder! I choose for myself and my family, to avoid GMO foods, and products containing them. Since 95% of the corn in the US is GMO and 90% of the soy, and the only way to be sure a corn or soy food is not GMO is if it is organic (buy definition organic means the food cannot come from GMO seed) then I avoid all but organic corn and soy. This is a good thing to do, and often means reducing drastically the amount of processed food my family consumes, so we eat much healthier.
    The other huge issue to consider is this: GMO foods were introduced in the United States in the 90’s; the same time that the number of food allergies, ADHD, Autism, and many more problems in children jumped 400%. Coincidence? Maybe. Maybe not. Some day we will finally see the science linking these things, and until then it is better safe than sorry; better organic than GMO.

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