Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Understanding GMO

I came across an interesting article about GenXers’ cooking and shopping habits that I thought warranted some discussion.

The good news?

The article, which defines Generation X as people born between 1961 and 1981, asserts that GenX men are preparing meals more frequently than their fathers did ─ bucking the stereotype about men not knowing how to cook.  The study polling 3,000 young adults found that on average, GenX men are shopping for groceries more than once a week and are cooking about 8 meals per week, while GenX women were preparing approximately 12 meals per week.
 
The study also found that “about half of GenXers said they preferred to buy organic foods at least some of the time, and one in 10 said they are committed to buying organic when it's available.”

The bad news?

The study showed that GenXers, although interested in organic, display a lack of understanding about genetically modified foods.  In fact, on a 10 point index of understanding, the GenXers scored an average of 3.8.

I find this interesting, because it seems to me that “genetically modified,” “GMO,” and “genetically engineered” have become buzz words in an increasingly health conscious generation, but the lack of understanding shows that there may also be a bit of apathy when it comes to this vitally important health issue that is invading much of our modern food system.

So, what is GMO in laymen’s terms?

A genetically modified organism (GMO) or genetically engineered organism (GEO) is an organism (animal, plant, fungus, micro-organism) whose genetic material has been altered in a way that does not occur naturally, utilizing direct human manipulation of an organism's genetic makeup.  This manipulation is accomplished through modern DNA technology.

Why are genetically modified foods produced?

GM foods are developed, because there is some perceived advantage to the producer, typically a lower overall production price due to fewer damaged crops.  Introduced to the market in 1996, the initial objective for developing plants based on GMOs was to improve crop protection through the introduction of resistance against plant diseases caused by insects or viruses or through increased tolerance towards herbicides.

Which crops are genetically modified?

Here’s a short list of the crops that are most commonly genetically modified, and the list is growing rapidly.  Note that 86% of all corn and 93% of all soybeans in the U.S. are genetically modified. Corn and soybeans are the keystones to the modern food system and can be found in an eye-popping number of foods.  They also serve as some of the primary ingredients in conventional livestock feed.
 
Here’s a sample list of foods containing corn-based ingredients (this is not an exhaustive list).

Are genetically modified foods bad for me?

In short, the jury is still out, but as health freedom advocate, Joshua Corn (yes, I see the irony in the name) puts it…

“To date, there have been no long-term human safety studies conducted on GMOs. To assume that they are safe defies common sense, as we lack any scientific evidence to prove that they do not pose a threat to human health. In fact, more research points towards potentially harmful effects of consuming GMOs.”

He further points out that according to the American Academy of Environmental Medicine early animal studies indicate that there may be serious risks associated with genetically modified foods, including reproductive problems, compromised immunity, accelerated aging, blood sugar imbalances and harm to major organs.

I urge you to take the time to learn more about GMO, as I believe it will continue to be one of the most hotly debated issues of this decade and may ultimately prove to be the single greatest threat to the health of people world-wide.