You have likely been living under a rock if you haven’t heard about the raging debate about GMO. There are definitely two sides to this debate; in my opinion it is the health-conscious individuals versus the food manufacturers who don’t want to lose profits by admitting that GMOs may not be entirely safe. Unfortunately, many people don’t even realize that they consume foods that contain GMO daily. In this article, we will answer – what is GMO? – and provide a list of the most popular GMO containing foods.
What is GMO?
GMO is an abbreviation for genetically modified organism; it basically describes a scientific process whereby the genes of one organism, such as a plant or a crop, are extracted and then implanted into the genetic structure of another organism. More and more farmers in the United States, and even worldwide, are using this artificial process in order to “improve” their crops. The GMO Project states that the biotech industry, the one that creates this process, promises “increased yield, drought tolerance, enhanced nutrition” as benefits of creating GMO foods.
What are the Risks Associated with GMO?
Although the positives of GMO are up for debate, many individuals and organizations have been vocal about the dangers of genetically modified foods to our health and environment. The fact is that this genetic modification is rather new, so no one can yet substantially answer how changing an organism’s structure may change nutritional values, changes to the environment, and what effect it can have on allergies and digestion. Research presented on the GMO Awareness website reports that studies have found a “significantly higher mortality rate in baby rats born to mothers who had consumed GM soy;” as well as “a significant decrease in offspring over time and significantly lower litter weight in mice fed GM corn;” and “intestinal damage in animals fed GM foods.”
What Foods Contain GMOs?
Currently about 80% of processed food in America contains genetically modified organisms. Here is a list of the most popular foods that you probably consume:
Bread – Although most wheat production around the world is still gmo-free; many other ingredients in bread and baked goods contain GMOs. Food Babe explains that “soy lecithin, soybean oil, corn oil, corn starch or soy flour” are most likely genetically modified, unless stated otherwise.
Corn – In the 1980’s, Monstanto began to genetically engineer corn in order to be able to tolerate Roundup, a herbicide, trying to get rid of weeds while still growing crops. In 2013, 88% of conventionally sold corn in the US had GMOs, according to Elle. Eating Well reports that “in late 2011, Dow Agrichemical upped the stakes with field corn by applying for permission from the FDA to market GMO corn that is resistant to 2, 4-D, an herbicide that was a component in the Vietnam War-era herbicide Agent Orange and is still used in many home lawn-care products. In people who work with 2, 4-D, the chemical has been linked to cancers, hormonal disruptions, reproductive difficulties and birth defects, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.”
Soy – If asked, most people would probably say that they don’t consume a whole lot of soy. Unless you are an avid lover of soymilk or tofu, you likely think your diet is soy-free. However, that couldn’t be further from the truth since many products contain soy, such as baked goods, cereal, beverages, whole and processed meat, pasta and non-dairy milk-type products. USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) cites that in 2007, over 90% of all soybeans made in the US were genetically engineered. There are dozens of different names for soy on nutrition labels, such as miso, supro, tamri, etc.
Sugar – All of the sugar beets in the US are currently Roundup ready, meaning that they contain GMO.
Canola – A popular cooking oil, canola is not just used in that capacity, but it is also used for margarine, animal feed, and for vitamin production. Scientific America says that around 90% of rapeseed, used to make canola, contains genetically modified organisms.
The good news is that while many of today’s traditional foods contain GMO – up to 70% of all processed foods – by some experts, the public’s backlash is starting to gain traction and, hopefully laws that will require states to label GMOs in foods will soon take effect. Unfortunately, many organic and non-GMO farms are being cross-contaminated with GMOs, which is another big problem. Currently, consumers can look for the “Non-GMO Project Verified” seal, which means that the food manufacturers paid a third party to inspect their food ingredients for GMOs, or purchase organic products if they want to avoid GMOs.
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