GMOs Part 1: What They Are and Why We Should Avoid Them

One of the biggest food issues right now is the growth and consumption of genetically modified organisms, or GMOs. Many consumer groups are pushing for labeling of GMOs while others want to see them outlawed all together. On the other hand,

Mature soybeans

the companies that produce these products claim that GMOs are perfectly safe. With so much information swirling around and many questions left unanswered, you may be feeling confused about what these foods are and what their impact is on our lives and overall health. This is an issue I feel passionately about, so here’s what I think you need to know about GMOs.

1. You’re eating them right now.

In my conversations with people, the one thing I have found most disturbing is that many consumers think that the GMO debate is about introducing this technology into the food system. What they don’t know is that these products are the basis for the majority of processed foods in the U.S. today. Corn and soy are two of the biggest players, and you’re likely to find one, if not both, in nearly every processed food on the shelf. Just one more reason to ditch that pre-packaged garbage and choose whole foods instead.

2. They’re not the same as plant breeding.

Many proponents of GMOs will argue that the resulting product is the same as that of the cross-breeding techniques that has been used for centuries to create plants with the most desirable characteristics. This, however, just isn’t true. Cross-breeding apples involves crossing one type of apple with another. With genetic modification, the apple’s DNA could be spliced with the DNA of a chicken. Crossing species in this fashion could produce consequences we can’t even imagine. Trust me, no matter how good of a breeder you are, you’re never going to cross a plant with an animal, period.

3. They promote excessive pesticide use.

The premise behind many genetically engineered foods is that they are pesticide and/or herbicide resistant. This way, the crops can be sprayed with these chemicals, killing any insects that may want to drop in for a snack or weeds competing for space and sunlight, without killing the crop itself. The result is over spraying. Prior to the widespread use of GMO crops, pest and weed management was much more targeted, but now they can spray all willy nilly without a care in the world. The only problem is that the pesticides land on and many times are absorbed into the food and then transferred to those who eat them. Also, the run off from these “farms” can wreak havoc as these toxic chemicals make their way to other areas, including our waterways. Sounds appetizing, huh? No, I didn’t think so.

4. They can negatively impact the surrounding ecosystem.

One of the biggest problems with GMOs is that they can have detrimental and far reaching effects on the overall ecosystem. For example, using high levels of pesticides to kill a large population of a specific insect could shake the balance of life in that area, leading to the overgrowth of plants or other organisms the insect may prey upon and the loss of those organisms that may rely on that particular insect as a major food source. The ripple effect from this could be devastating to the surrounding environment. We simply don’t know the impact that these crops could have.

If you’re convinced that GMOs are something you don’t want on your plate or in your body, check back for my next post GMOs Part 2: Where They Are and How to Choose Foods Without Them.

6 thoughts on “GMOs Part 1: What They Are and Why We Should Avoid Them

    • Thanks Dohn. Yes, you’re right, education is so important! It’s scary to think of the grip companies like Monsanto have on the food supply with so many consumers completely left in the dark.

  1. I’m not so sure on your last point. You can use a large amount of pesticides on non-GMO plants too. That is the farmers “fault” not the GMO’s “fault.” Disturbing the ecosystem in that manner comes from poor farming technique not the GMOs. I think the ecological disturbance is more likely to come from these plants cross pollinating with other non-GMO plants and spreading in an uncontrolled manner, or, because of their genetic modification, out competing native plant species causing the “ripple effect” you mentioned.

    • It’s true that the overuse of pesticides and herbicides is found on many crops, but the genetic modifications in plants such as Monsanto’s Roundup Ready soybeans are for the specific purpose of allowing the plants to be sprayed with Roundup without killing the soybeans themselves. This encourages excessive spraying because there is no risk of killing the crop. Also, you bring up a great point with the cross pollination issue. This is another potentially devastating effect, not only to the ecosystem, but the farmers themselves. Many farmers who choose not to use these GMO crops have had their farms contaminated by GMOs planted on neighboring farms. When these farmers save their seeds for replanting the following season, many have been sued for saving seeds that are the intellectual property of the corporations which produce and sell them.

  2. Pingback: GMOs Part 2: Where They Are and How to Choose Foods Without Them «

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