This awesome guest post was written by Aamar Khwaja, Inventor of modgarden (Mod Garden). Aamar is a health advocate and on a mission to see everyone eat healthily.
GMOs, or “genetically modified organisms,” are plants and animals created through a variety of biotechnological techniques. The topic of GMOs has received much media attention in the past decade, leading to increased awareness about the potential risks of genetically-engineered foods.
GMO proponents claim that genetic engineering is safe, beneficial, and crucial to ensuring global food supply for the future. However, many recent studies are showing the danger of the unknown effects of GMOs on our bodies and our environment.
Toxic products, such as herbicides, pesticides, and insecticides, are being used frequently on crops that have been genetically-engineered to withstand extremely high levels of these toxins.
Thus, herbicide like glyphosate is making its way into our food and eventually into our bodies with extremely negative consequences. Although GMOs in theory may seem like a fantastic idea, in actuality, there are certainly some major concerns about the safety and impact on our overall health.
Today, more and more Americans want to know what is in their food and are publically asking their states to push for legislation in such areas. Many nations have banned genetically-engineered crops, including regions of Austria, China, India, Germany, Hungary, Greece, Bulgaria, Poland, Italy, and Russia.
The company Whole Foods Market has promised that they will label all their products by 2018 and the food chain, Chipotle, has made similar promises. Still, there is much to be done in the fight for GMO-labeling and it is crucial to spread awareness about the negative consequences of GMOs in our food system.
Why are GMOs Dangerous?
The reason that this technology is so dangerous is because genetic modification interferes with naturally occurring genetic modifications that organisms perform naturally in order for their continued survival.
Simply looking back at the evolution of humans shows the incredible ways in which organisms have the capacity for natural adaptation and change under environmental pressures. According to Dr. Mae-Wan Ho of the Institute for Science in Society, the positive benefits of genetic engineering is merely “an illusion.” (1)
He says that this is because an organism’s genome is not static but fluid. To try and control a genome via artificial modifications is a dangerous game with an outcome that no one knows. Whereas natural genetic modification is precisely and efficiently negotiated by the organism, artificial genetic modification is often unpredictable and uncontrollable.
Additionally, in natural situations, genetic modifications take place at appropriate times when the organism is responding to its environment accordingly. However, with artificial genetic modification, changes are forced into the cells without environmental context and the aggressive manner of this can result in foreign genes being expressed in unnatural ways.
Artificial genetic modification includes gene splicing, which is essentially the transfer of DNA from different species. Also known as horizontal gene transfer, this process generally involves injecting a gene from one species into an entirely different species.
Because of the artificiality of this process, creating GMOs can result in unstable and potentially harmful combinations of plant, animal, bacterial, and viral genes that would not naturally occur in the wild.
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The goal of most GMOs, specifically commercial GMOs, is the ability to withstand direct and frequent application of herbicides, pesticides, and insecticides. An example of this is found with Monsanto’s genetically-engineered plants that are “Roundup-Ready,” meaning that they can withstand high levels of this toxin while still growing and surviving.
Despite decades of the biotech industry’s goals and promises about increased yield, drought tolerance, and better nutritional benefits, none of the GMOs currently on the market meet these claims.
Top 10 Most Common GMO Foods
The most common GMOs are soy, cotton, canola, corn, sugar beets, Hawaiian papaya, alfalfa, and squash. Many of these ingredients appear as added ingredients in most foods that we commonly consume.
For example, although you may not regularly directly drink soymilk or tofu, soy is found in a large percentage of foods as soybean oil or soy lecithin.
Scarily enough, GMOs are most often found hidden in common processed food ingredients such as Amino Acids, Ascorbic Acid, Sodium Ascorbate, Vitamin C, Citric Acid, Social Citrate, Natural and Artificial Flavorings, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Lactic Acid, Maltodextrins, Monosodium Glutamate, Sucrose, Xanthan Gum, Vitamins, and Yeast Products.
Because of all that is lurking in processed foods, it is best to avoid them as much as possible and eat a wholefood diet.
What You Can Do
The severity of GMOs in today’s food industry is no joke and we are unable to depend on government regulation in order to ensure the safety of the foods that we are consuming.
Today, there are multiple boycotts occurring in direct target of companies that label their foods as “natural” but are filled with GMOs and other artificial products. Polls have indicated that 90 percent of Americans want to know whether or not their food has been genetically engineered.
Demands for mandatory labeling, safety testing, and bans on GMOs, glyphosate, and other toxins are still being worked for every day by consumers and lobbyists with some positive results.
Whole Foods Market announced that all 40,000 or so products in their stores would be labeled by 2018 if they contain GMOs.
Because of the large market that Whole Foods serves, many of their suppliers are now in the process of removing GMOs from their products in order to pass the test. In the restaurant world, the Chipotle chain has also made a similar promise.
Although eating organically-grown and locally-produced foods is one of the easiest way to avoid GMO ingredients, if you have a green thumb and want to try your hand at gardening, there are many options for growing your own sustainable foods.
A Healthy Garden
A good garden begins with good seeds—and finding a seed company that is actively working to ensure that their seeds are verified non-GMO is the key to a healthy garden. Secondly, be sure that your garden contains organic compost and soil, as the importance of healthy, quality soil is crucial to growing a quality crop.
Even if you live in a small apartment and don’t have access to a garden, there are options available. An example of a product that is beneficial for these very reasons is Modgarden, which allows you to grow a micro-farm in the comfort of your own home. With such a small garden inside your home, you are able to ensure exactly what you are eating!
Despite the concerns posed by the omnipresence of GMOs in today’s food industry, there is still hope that consumers will be able to not only make some positive impacts in regards to labeling, but also take advantage of the many possibilities of buying organic produce, joining a local CSA, or even growing your own food at home to ensure your ultimate health and wellness.
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