October means that the kids are back in school, Fall is in the air, and Halloween is on the way. It is also Non-GMO Month. Even scarier than the little Ghosts and Goblins that will be visiting our homes are all the foods we bring into our homes without realizing the potential harm they may cause.
GMOs, or genetically modified organisms, have been created through the gene splicing techniques of biotechnology. Basically, this relatively new technology allows the DNA from one species to be injected into another species in a laboratory. Scientists can, and do, create combinations of plant, animal, bacteria, and viral genes that do not occur in nature or through traditional crossbreeding. This process is somewhat unpredictable and can lead to unintended and uncontrolled changes in the organism’s DNA. One can’t help but picture Dr. Frankenstein and his team of mad scientists, coming up with all sorts of organisms Mother Nature never intended.
The vast majority of genetically modified crops are bred for herbicide tolerance and insecticide production, to reduce pest damage and gain better weed control. Despite claims made by the biotech industry, there are no GMOs available in the United States that are designed for increased yield, improved drought tolerance, nutritonal superiority, or any other consumer benefits. In fact, studies have found that GM Roundup Ready soy consistently delivers low yield crop production, while increasing the use of herbicides. GM Roundup Ready soy is modified to tolerate the herbicide Roundup, which is based on the chemical glyphosate. This transgenic modification allows the crops to be sprayed with glyphosate, killing all plant life except the crop. Farmers who grow GM RR soy are finding increasing amounts of glyphosate-resistant weeds, and these “super weeds” have forced farmers to use increasingly toxic herbicides.
Unfortunately, misinformation about GMOs is common. Though plantings of GMO crops reached all time highs last year, with 93% of soybeans, 86% of corn, and 93% of the cotton planted in the United States being genetically modified, the public knows little about them, their prevalence in our food, or how to avoid them. Further, the biotech companies who control this new technology have effectively prevented researchers from publishing studies on the potential risks of GMO consumption.
Because of concern about health and environmental risks, and a lack of information proving that GMOs are safe, over 30 countries around the world, including Australia, Japan and all of the countries in the European Union have significant restrictions or outright bans on the production and import of GMOs. In the US, however, the FDA has approved the commercial production of GMOs, based solely on studies conducted by the very companies that will profit from these products.
With these concerns in mind, worries are on the rise about the health and environmental impacts of GMOs, and Americans are wondering what they can do to avoid them. Since there are no labeling requirements for identifying GMO ingredients, we don’t know what is in our food. Fortunately, a group of conscientious retailers, scientists, farmers, and manufacturers put their heads together to create the Non-GMO project.
The Non-GMO Project believes that you have the right to know what’s in your food, and a right to choose Non-GMO. To this end, they maintain North America’s only third-party standard for GMO avoidance, with a focus on traceability, segregation, and testing of all high-GMO-risk ingredients. Around 2,500 products have been verified to this rigorous standard and bear the Non-GMO Project seal and more are being verified each month. Keep an eye out for this trustworthy label while shopping. Educate yourself and buy organic or Non-GMO verified products. We can clean up our food supply by voting with our dollars.