There are two sides to every story. Nothing could be more true than in the case of the people vs. Big Food on the topic of GMOs. Its a story of scientific experimentation, greed, innovation and public safety.
But what exactly is a GMO? And why is everyone afraid of them? Here is a break down on what they are and what each opposing side is saying about them. From there you can make your own decision of what side of the fence you stand on and what you feel comfortable putting into your body.
- “Genetically modified (GM) foods are foods derived from organisms whose genetic material (DNA) has been modified in a way that does not occur naturally, e.g. through the introduction of a gene from a different organism”. – world health organization (WHO)
- 88-95% of our corn, canola, soy and sugar is Genetically modified. – GMO OMG- a film by Jeremy Seifert
- Monsanto, Du Pont & Syngenta are the 3 patent holders of GMO products. – GMO OMG- a film by Jeremy Seifert
- The 9 main GMO crops in US are soy, corn, cotton, canola, sugar beets, Hawaiian papaya, zucchini & alfalfa.
- There are 2 types of GMOs:
- Herbicide resistant crops: Crops that are bred to be able to outlive being sprayed with a toxic amount of herbicide. An example is Round Up ready soybeans. GMO OMG- a film by Jeremy Seifert
- Pesticide producing crops: Crops that have BT – bacillus thuringiensis toxin inserted into their DNA so that when a pest eats them they die. Examples of this are BT corn & cotton. The Future of Food
- 75% of all processed foods contain GMOs. – Center for food safety
- 70-90% of all food producing Animals are fed GMO crops. – Forbes
- Common ingredients that contain GMOs are: amino acids, aspartame, ascorbic acid, vitamin C, soy lecithin (used in chocolate), xanthum gum, molasses, some vitamins & supplements, baking powder, corn syrup and tempeh.- Non GMO Project
- Europe bans all GMOs. – gmo-free-regions.org
- Monsanto owns thousands of seed patents. If a farm is illegally using their seeds without a license they can sue them for patent infringement. – RT.com
- Large food corporations raised over $45 mil to fight prop 37 in CA against GMO food labeling. They scared the public by telling everyone their food prices would increase dramatically.. – SFGate
- The non-gmo project is a non profit 3rd party verification program that is commited to building sources of non GMO products and providing the public with GMO information. – nongmoproject.org
- The Non-GMO label on foods is the fastest growing label and boosts sales of its products dramatically – Institute for responsible technology
- Whole Foods will require that everyone label their foods with GMO ingredients by 2018 – macleans.ca.com
As most of you probably know activists have been fighting tirelessly for GMO labeling so that we can find out if there are GMO ingredients in the food we are eating. It has been an uphill battle to not only demand transparent food labels but also to even just conduct solid scientific research on the possible effects of eating GMO crops.
Here is what the opposing side is saying:
- GMO corn was linked to tumors, liver & kidney damage in rats. – Institute for responsible technology
- Monsanto argues there is no difference in nutrients between a GMO crop and a non GMO crop. – Monsanto.com
- “GM foods are not properly tested for human safety”- Institute for responsible technology
- GMOs are not labeled because they are considered “substantially equivalent” to other foods and are categorized as “generally recognized as safe” with no scientific evidence by the FDA – The Future of Food
- Our immune system could get confused at telling apart genetically engineered protein and regular protein, which can lead to chronic inflammation. – Institute for responsible technology
- Overuse of GE crops and herbicides that are used with those crops have led to weeds that are resistant to the herbicide so you have to spray more. – The Future of Food
- Companies like Monsanto prevent researchers from using their seeds to conduct scientific studies. – The New York Times
- Almost always when people switch to a non GMO diet their gastrointestinal problems, allergies, asthma, skin diseases go away – Institute for responsible technology
- Soybeans when modified trips the typsin inhibitor which then blocks the action of trypsin, an important protein digester – Institute for responsible technology
- Studies in Scotland showed the process of genetically engineering something is responsible for pre-cancerous cell growth in digestive tract and damaged immune system in rats. The scientist that conducted this study was fired and gagged for speaking of the dangers of GMOs. He was later allowed to talk. – Institute for responsible technology
- BT toxin is used in organic farming as a natural pesticide. The GMO crop that produces BT toxin is 3-5 times more toxic than the natural spray. It contains properties of known allergins which provoke the immune system. – Institute for responsible technology
- Glyphosate (round up ready’s main ingredient) deprives plants of nutrients which makes the crops nutrient deficient –Institute for responsible technology
- When we eat GMO ingredients the glyphosate binds with gluten and nutrients and makes us nutrient deficient, which makes us sick –Institute for responsible technology
- Glyphosate (Round-up) is a powerful antibiotic which kills good gut bacteria. Bad bacteria like e.coli, salmonella and botulism is resistant to round up. This creates dysbiosis (leaky gut syndrome), acid reflux, digestive issues and immune issues. –Institute for responsible technology
- Glyphosate (Round up) is an endocrine disrupter in human cells – Pub Med
- Glyphosate (Round up) inhibits cytochrome enzymes from filtering toxins out of our bodies and reaks havoc on our gut microbiome which can lead to a variety of diseases like gastrointestinal disorders, diabetes, heart disease and alzheimers. . – MDPI
- The person in charge of GMO policy at the FDA is Monsanto’s former attorney. His policy claims that GMOs are safe. – Institute for responsible technology
- Scientists working at FDA found that GMOs were in fact different and dangerous and urged long term safety studies, they were ignored – Institute for responsible technology
- “A report by the US Centers for Disease Control shows that food related illnesses increased 2-to 10-fold in the years beween 1994 (just before GM food was commercialized) and 1999” –Institute for responsible technology
- Farmers who reach out for help from the government are ignored because they say it is not their policy to get involved in private litigations. – The future of food
- GMOs neither feed the world nor address nutrition problems. They are a cheap food source for factory farms and processed foods. – Food and Water Watch
- Over 300 former congressional and white house staff member are now employed by biotech frims as lobbyists. – food and water watch
- Staff members go back and forth working for the FDA and GMO companies. – GMO OMG
- In March 2015 the World Health Organization’s International agency for research said glyphosate was “probably carcinogenic to humans”- Marion Nestle
- Insects or wind can carry GMO pollen for miles and pollenate other plants. – GMO OMG
- Because of this farmers could be growing GMO crops with out even knowing it. The farmers are then charged or taken to court by biotech companies that have patented the seeds for “planting them” with out a license.– The future of food
- “Its been 20 years since the first genetically modified crops were approved in Canada. But theres been no evaluation from the federal goerment as to the risks and benefits of that experiment. “ – Lucy Sharratt, Canadian biotechnology action network.
Here’s Big Food’s side of the story:
- GMO crops have been grown for 20 years, there is no evidence that says these crops lead to health problems. – Biotech industry
- GMO Sugar is so highly processed that by the time you eat it it has no more GMO DNA left. – NPR
- “It doesn’t matter which protein it is, or where it came from, it almost always ends up as nonfunctional pieces that are recycled to new dehydration reactions elsewhere in the body to create new proteins. There’s an exceptionally small chance for a novel GMO protein to survive the digestive system intact and functional, and GMO proteins are not any more likely than any other protein to do so.” – his science is too tight
- Farmers are able to use less toxic pesticides which are safer for farmers and the environment. PBS
- Farmers have higher yields of crops and increased income using GMO crops. – Biotech industry
- Glyphosate is safe – Monsanto
- GMO farmers say that they are feeding the world.- his science is too tight
- “GM foods currently available on the international market have passed safety assessments and are not likely to present risks for human health” – The WHO
- Over 2,000 studies have been done on GM foods affirming their safety – Genetic Literacy Project
- “FDA’s process for evaluating bioengineered foods is one in which the public can have confidence that food biotechnology products must meet the law’s safety standards.” – FDA
- “Monsanto should not have to vouchsafe the safety of biotech food…Our interest is in selling as much of it as possible. Assuring its safety is the FDA’s job” – Phil Angell, Director of Corporate Communications, Monsanto, quoted in New York Times Magazine, October 25, 1998
- “Ultimately, it is the food producer who is responsible for assuring safety” – FDA, “Statement of Policy Foods Derived from New Plant Varieties” (GMO Policy), Federal Register, Vol. 57, No. 104 (1992), p. 22991
- GM animal feed is safe and nutritionally equivalent to non-GMO feed. – Study of GMOs and food by the university of CA-Davis department of animal science in the Journal of animal science- Forbes
So what do you do if you don’t want to eat GMO crops? It can be difficult since they are in virtually everything but here are a few helpful tips.
- Buy organic.
- Shop at farmers markets or buy CSA boxes.
- Choose non GMO foods. Look for the Non-GMO Project label.
- Avoid buying nonorganic processed foods
Some Big Food companies wised up real quick when sales started to take a hit. Here is a list of companies that have now agreed to label GMO products
- General Mills (Cheerios are now GMO free)
What do you think about GMOs? Are they feeding the world or are they making us sick?
Sarah Burchard is the author of The Healthy Locavore, a natural foods chef and experience host whose writing focuses on cooking, holistic health, supporting community and eating locally grown and made foods.