GMOs: in Food

This is to pick up from GMOs: from the beginning where we learned where they started- in the medical industry.  The research then brought me to the controversy of GMOs in your food.

I read through this quick read [I think it is meant for juvenille education purposes but, you know, that means it will be quick and to the point].  So I learned before that GMO is a genetically modified organism, where scientists take one gene from the DNA of one unrelated organism and puts it into the DNA of another organism.  From the outside the plant can look the same but carry a characteristic that it normally doesn’t have.  This biotechnology can range from tomatoes that are more juicy and melons that ripen more slowly to vegetables that can be their own pesticide.

For years, farmers have played with genetics to get the best from their crops and livestock.  They pick seeds from the best plants to re-use and they choose the animals that produce the most milk and are the most healthy [therefore carrying “good” genes] to use for breeding.  Farmers and gardeners have also learned how to cross similar crops.  For example, they can cross a juicy apple with an apple that is healthier for you, creating a healthy juicy apple.  They call these plants hybrids.  They can also cross breed similar animals.  A breed of sheep that can stand the cold can be bred with a breed that produces thick wool making a strong hardy sheep with thick wool [cross breeding animals, however, can take many years].  With biotechnology, scientists are able to take the desired gene from one organism and place it into the DNA of even an unrelated organism [this is a GMO].  Therefore, they can use a gene from a fish that keeps it from freezing in icy water and put it into the DNA of a tomato, resulting in a plant that can better survive frost.  Scientists discovered that a tiny bacteria in the soil makes a poison called Bt that can kill insects [but they say doesn’t hurt people].  They have now added the Bt poison to many crops making it it’s own pesticide.  This results in not having to spray the crop with pesticides.

Some scientists believe that GM crops are the answer to world hunger and our fears of weather changes.  They see endless possibilities of making crops that wouldn’t normally be able to grow in areas that are too dry or too cold.  They are doing things like adding a gene to rice that produces Vitamin A so that rice is healthier for countries that rely heavily on rice as a source of food.  They are using GM to make animals grow bigger and faster.  Or to make animals with less fat and more meat.

So why is this all so controversial?

Some scientists believe that GM crops could wipe out wild plants or create super-strong weeds.  Controlling GM crops is near impossible.  As corn that creates it’s own Bt is created, it can naturally crossbreed with other plants, making them create their own Bt.  This means that plants and flowers that you don’t want killing off insects [killing off insects means messing with pollination] or that it’s killing more insects than what you want.  Monarch butterfly caterpillars do not eat crops yet studies have shown that corn pollen from GM corn can kill them.  If a gene that allows GM crops to be unaffected by weedkiller, overtime gets into the weeds [through cross pollination] this could create a “superweed” resulting in the need for more chemicals needed to keep the weeds from choking out crops [brought to you by…the same company that makes the GMO seeds].  The effect that genetically modifying plants can have in nature is unknown and almost impossible to predict.

Right now crops are tested to make sure they are safe for us to eat.  They have said that complete testing of all GM foods would be too lengthy and costly of a process, so the government has come up with a standard that as long as it is “substantially equivalent in nutrition” to the conventionally grown food, the food does not need to be tested beyond it’s initial test.  The problem that some scientists argue is that they may be nutritionally equal but may not be physiologically equal.  Therefore their reactions with other chemicals could be different.  So, a GM tomato gets tested and approved  because it’s substantially equal. But the tomato sauce that gets made from the tomato does not need to be tested.  However, when it’s made, the tomatoes could react badly with [let’s say] the onions, causing it to be toxic when it normally wouldn’t have that reaction.  It would never be noticed because the tomato itself was not toxic and was deemed “the same.”  The problem didn’t occur until it was mixed in.  Since they are not testing all possible consequences of that tomato mixed together with everything else [and most importantly what reactions happen within our individual bodies], this label of “safe” is only relevant, at best, to the individual tomato that was tested.

People with food allergies could also begin to have reactions to foods they wouldn’t normally react to.  For example, in the 1990s a gene from a brazil nut was added to a soybean to make it more nourishing.  They realized that people with nut allergies would have a reaction to the GM soybean and had to discontinue.  So if we start adding soy genes into corn and corn genes into soy, it could mess with those who are allergic to corn but not soy [or vice-verse].  What about adding the fish gene into something like a tomato?  Someone who is allergic to fish could now be allergic to tomatoes.

These scientists, believe that this isn’t an answer to world hunger [or at least not a safe one] and is very damaging to our ecosystem and the way things naturally work.  As far as enhancing our food nutritionally, these scientists would say where a potato could be genetically modified to contain less starch, it would be safer to just eat less potatoes.

For more information by scientists in support of GM foods go here.
For more information by scientists against GM foods go here.

Both sites are done by professional, well-educated scientists.  Both, not surprisingly, talks very negatively and defensively against the other.  So which is it?  Who is right?  How far should we go in genetically modifying foods?  And because we “can” does that mean we “should.”

I dunno.

I think it is something for all of us to think about and make a decision for ourselves.  And here is where I have a huge problem.  Right now we are not able to make the decision, whether our family will or will not be eating genetically modified foods, on our own.  Over 80% of processed foods [non-organic] contain at least some GM foods.  Whether it’s a little [just a bit of the corn] or in entirety [that tomato].  They are not currently labeled.  Which means I can’t watch and see if I personally have a negative reaction to soybeans or just these particular genetically modified soybeans.  In most of Europe, they have now moved to making food makers and restaurants label foods if they contain GM foods.  But not in America.  The US is currently the largest maker of GM foods.  I’m not sure the reason behind them not labeling them except that they want to protect their industry and are afraid that we won’t buy them if we know they’re there.  So right now, the only way I can choose to not eat GM foods is to buy purely organic.  The problem is, like all products of higher quality, they cost more.  My family can’t afford to eat 100% organic like I would like.  It concerns me to not be able to look at two brands of a product and choose which one uses GM foods and which one doesn’t [I can at least choose a brand of spaghetti sauce that doesn’t use high fructose corn syrup over a brand that does].

So whether or not you believe it’s good or bad, I think we can all agree that it’s our right to know that it’s there.  Here is a link to a site that shows how you can read a plu to avoid GM produce [of course I don’t know if it is accurate].

To join the fight visit this site: www.labelgmos.org
Or to learn more about the movement against GMOs: http://www.saynotogmos.org/
I tried to find a site to go to, if you want to support the GMO movement but couldn’t, so you’re on your own there.  😉

Also- this link will take you to the research Dr. Oz did on the subject.

Hopefully this helps you understand the fight better.  I don’t think I exhausted [of course] all research on the subject but it helped me understand the fight and the arguments on both sides for me to be able to make a decision for my family.  Hopefully it helps you decide for yours.

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4 thoughts on “GMOs: in Food

  1. Pingback: GMOs: from the beginning |

  2. Thanks for these posts! Very informative. I, personally, don’t like GMOs because (as you said) it’s impossible to test them in all circumstances. We see already how many drugs and substances are tested and approved…only to be pulled from the market years later after serious side effects have occurred.

  3. Good job, Jen. Keep adding more information as you come across it. Many scientists believe that the pollination of GMO’s is part of the problem with the bees dying. They are picking up GMO pollen with roundup in it’s dna and it’s killing them. If the bees are destroyed, WE are going to have food shortages of mass proportions as many food crops depend on bee pollination. We honestly have no idea where this is going to end up.

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