A conversation with some friends has encouraged me to revisit the topic of consuming genetically modified organisms (GMO’s), which are prevalent in our food supply today.
According to the USDA, corn is the most widely produced feed grain in the United States, with most of the crop providing the main energy ingredient in livestock feed. In a report dated July 2017, the USDA states that domestic Bt corn acreage (GMO’s) grew from approximately 8% in 1997 to 81% in 2015. That means that more than 80% of the corn grown in America is genetically modified corn.
Further, the USDA states that processed soybeans are the world’s largest source of animal protein feed and the second largest source of vegetable oil and that the domestic soybean acres planted with HT seeds (GMO’s) rose from 17 percent in 1997 to 94 percent in 2014. That means that more than 94% of the soy grown in America is genetically modified soy.
So what does that mean for you, does it matter if we and the animals that we are consuming, if you eat meat, are eating genetically modified foods such as these two plants? Let’s take a look…
A non-GMO food is one that has not been genetically modified or had its DNA altered in some way.
Unaltered plants have less toxic pesticide residue than the genetically modified (GM) crops.
Unaltered, specifically organic, crops have been shown to naturally contain greater nutritional value such as higher levels of vitamin C and secondary metabolites that provide protection to the plant and those who consume the plant.
Unaltered foods have a more favorable impact on the environment such as the bee population. Pesticides/herbicides from the GMO’s have been found to kill the bees, our natural pollinators.
To purchase and consume non-genetically modified foods you can purchase certified organic products that display the USDA Organic Seal.
These certified organic foods must be grown, harvested and processed without conventional pesticides, fertilizers, growth promoters, ionizing radiation or bio-engineering (GMO’s).
GMO’s are engineered by removing a specific gene from one organism, such as a bacterium, and inserting it into another organism that does not naturally carry that specific trait to produce new recombinant DNA products (Yau & Stewart, 2013).
GMO’s pose risk for antibiotic resistance and are said to increase the possibility of compromising the clinical effectiveness of antibiotics.
GMO’s pose risk for transgene flow, or the passing of traits or characteristics to other organisms they come into contact with and may lead to the extinction of certain plant populations. GMO foods have been linked to gastric lesions, liver and kidney damage, organ failure, and allergic reactions among other conditions.
The International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA) listed the biotech crops (GMO’s) in 2016 as corn (maize), soybean, cotton, canola, sugar beets, alfalfa, papaya, squash, potatoes, poplar, brinjal (eggplant), and pineapple. In 2014 the list included tomatoes and sweet peppers as well.
Further, the USDA has approved genetic modification for these additional crops: rapeseed, rice, rose, flax, apple, plum, Cichorium Intybus (common chicory), and tobacco, which are reported as not currently being produced.
The U.S. is now the leading producer of genetically modified crops, with about 73.1 million hectares reported in 2014. Globally, the area for cultivating transgenic (GM) crops increased 94-fold from 1996 to 2011 with GM crops being grown on over 160 million hectares around the world, according to Yau & Stewart (2013).
This brief overview of GMO’s is not intended to solve the debate over whether GMO’s provide greater value or potential for damage to the human race.
Those that support GMO’s state that they have the potential for increased crop yields to provide food to the hungry, that GMO’s reduce costs for food and drug production, as well as reduce the need for pesticides, enhance nutrient composition and make the plants more resistant to pests and disease.
However, with GMO’s in the marketplace for over 30 years we now have research that supports the opposing view to each of these supporting statements. For example, the herbicide tolerant GM crops have been found to have increased the need and use of herbicides, which have been associated with disease states such Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), diabetes and cancer among others (Gangemi et al., 2016; Hsaio, 2015).
If you are eating non-organic pre-packaged food items or eating out at restaurants, you are most likely consuming GMO’s, as they are used widely in the food supply today. If you have concerns about consuming GMO’s you can reduce your exposure by choosing certified organic products and making adjustments to your restaurant selections based on the GMO listing mentioned above.
Pro 3:13-14 Blessed is the one who finds wisdom, and the one who gets understanding, for the gain from her is better than gain from silver and her profit better than gold.