About 4 years ago, when I found out my cholesterol was sky-high, I tried going “gluten-free”…after 6 months my cholesterol had plunged 50 points. 50 points! Now, if I eat anything made from wheat I get a terrible “brain fog,” get dizzy, and feel terrible. But, is it actually the gluten? …or is it simply GMO-wheat?
I was recently out of the country and was able to eat non-GMO bread (well, pizza crust) with zero problems. I was tentative to try it, and was shocked how I felt no symptoms.
And, time and time again, I’ve heard of others who are gluten-intolerant able to eat pastries, pizza, and baguettes in Europe where their wheat is non-GMO. This indicates that we may not be intolerant to the gluten, but simply to GMO foods. (It’s also possible that we also, or instead, are sensitive to Round Up and other pesticides sprayed on wheat. I should know, I grew up on a wheat farm and know all of the in’s and out’s of the industry).
In the last decade, the worldwide debate about genetically-modified foods, and genetically-modified organisms (GMOs) in general, has continued unabated.
While spokespersons for the big food companies that are heavily invested in genetically-modified (GM) foods and GMOs tout their own studies to back up claims that the foods are completely safe, many genetic researchers and scientists beg to differ.
What started out as a good idea back in the 1970s has turned into a global business conglomerate today, with pro-GMO companies doing everything in their power to:
- Promote (pay for) studies that back their claims of safety
- Control the market so that non-GMO foods (which tend to be organic, non-pesticide-ridden) are eventually snuffed out
- Influence government regulators in every food-producing country on earth
- Prevent labeling laws that would require GMO producers merely tell the truth about what’s inside their product packages
Here are some facts about GMO foods that everyone should know:
- The S. currently has no GMO-labeling laws, which means that the corn, potatoes and other mainstream foods you buy in stores may or may not be genetically modified. There are ways to find out, but the labels won’t tell you.
- Whether GMO foods carry long-term health risks is a question still open to discussion, debate and further research. Large food conglomerates, however, say the issue is “settled science” and that consumers should just stop asking questions and get with the program, so to speak. Even though there is no such thing as “settled science,” (ask Galileo), many find it odd that food companies would resist labeling and not want to investigate the possible risks of certain kinds of foods.
- Most studies cited by food companies of the “pro-GMO” variety are of questionable credence due to the fact that the companies themselves sponsored the research. Only a generation ago the tobacco industry tried the same tactic but consumers caught on and demanded strict labeling and more research into the health effects of smoking. That’s not to say that GMO foods will prove to be as dangerous as cigarette smoking; far from it. But stifling inquiry is not the approach of an open-minded, objective scientist.
- The so-called GMO controversy is really several issues rolled into one. The main questions center on labeling, what governments should do, long-term effects of GMO foods on the environment and human health, whether such foods are a smart way to address world food production in general, the long-term effects on pesticide resistance, and whether farming as we know it will continue to be a viable business if GMO crops come to dominate world production.
- A widely-cited “scientific review” of hundreds of studies on GMO foods (sponsored by pro-GMO business interests) has been called into question. The “clean bill of health” that advocates tout appears to be the result of picking and choosing data and results, and excludes negative facts about GMO foods.
- Genetic engineers and researchers (Fagan, Antoniou and Robinson) have questioned the many industry-sponsored studies and done research of their own that points to key safety concerns about GMO foods. Their 330-page examination of the food industry’s genetic-modification practices debunks many claims made by corporate, pro-GMO voices.
- Animal studies used to support claims of GMO safety appear to have been misinterpreted, either intentionally or not, by food companies who sponsored the initial research.
- Laboratory studies point to a high risk of breast cancer and other physical problems that are a direct result of a chemical that is present in GMO-altered crops, especially soy.
- Whether GMO foods are completely or partially safe, or not safe at all, is still an open question. Environmental concerns about sustainability of the world food supply also come into play. Advocates for natural and organic farming often point out that proper crop breeding, as has been practiced for thousands of years, is the best and safest way to create plants that are resistant to diseases and pests. Genetic alteration or modification is not necessary for increasing crop yield, creating nutritious products, or for breeding food crops that can resist extreme weather. Tinkering with the genetics of otherwise healthy crops is not the way to go, some say, and can only invite long-term environmental and public health problems.
- The Union of Concerned Scientists, among others, has called for a moratorium on certain types of GMO crops and suggests that the risks of these genetically-altered plants have not been sufficiently investigated.
- Advocates of better labeling laws have formed an organization that voluntarily labels certain food products “non-GMO” as a way to give consumers a choice when they shop for foods at the grocery store and elsewhere. The Non-GMO Project is a not-for-profit organization that helps S. and Canadian retailers label and market products that meet strict “non-GMO” verification criteria. Consumers have responded in a positive way; sales of food products labeled “non-GMO” have been brisk and are expected to increase significantly in 2016.
- About two-thirds of processed foods sold in the S. contain GMO foods at least as one of their ingredients.
- Soy, cotton and corn crops account for about 40 percent of all S. cropland. GMO seeds for these crops first became available 20 years ago, in 1996. Nowadays, about 90 percent of all soy, cotton and corn grown in the U.S. are of the GMO variety. Some farmers are attracted by the pest-resistant qualities of genetically-modified crops, at least in the short term. Whether that advantage is worth the trade-off is a question that needs to be studied. Considering the potential risks of GMO crops and foods to farmers, consumers and the environment, the controversy surrounding GMO engineering is bound to grow.
Demanding more research and working for clear, honest labeling laws is not “taking a side” in the GMO debate. It is the role of rational, open-minded citizens and scientists who want to know the truth about the foods they eat. Data produced by pro-GMO lobbyists and corporate entities that have a financial stake in the results is neither scientific nor fair. Smart consumers ask questions about the foods they eat, which is one reason the voluntary labeling organization, The Non-GMO Project, has met with grass-roots success.
What is your take on GMO foods?