And Speaking of GMOs…

This week I thought that I’d touch upon GMOs, or genetically modified organisms, as a continuation of my guest blogger’s poem.  Below you’ll find information about all things GMO: why they’re in our food, the arguments that favor them, the arguments that denounce them, and how we can identify what foods they are in at the  supermarket.

What are GMOs?

All animal and plant species consist of cells, and at the center of every cell resides a nucleus.  The nucleus is known as the brain of the cell, and it operates the cell’s functioning and how it carries out day to day activities.  Next, DNA, or deoxyribose nucleic acid, can be found inside the nucleus in the form of genes.  And that brings us to genetically modified organisms, or plants and animals that have been engineered to have coveted traits and qualities.  To create a genetically modified organism, the DNA from one species is literally injected into the DNA of another.  However, it’s important to note that these methods are different than breeding or hybridizing.  This is because traditional breeding allows for members of the same species to mate with one another, thus producing a new and improved variety.  It is impossible to breed two different species together using this traditional breeding method.  On the other hand, a genetically modified organism can be engineered using different species.  For example, this science allows for a pig to be mated with a potato…pretty freaky!

Why are GMOs in our Food?
In an effort to make species immune to roundup (a type of pesticide), genetically modified organisms are in four-fifths of all of the food we eat.  Roundup is used to exterminate insects and prevent insurmountable weed growth.  GMOs that are able to resist pesticides maximize profits for farmers and manufacturers.
Arguments that Favor GMOs:
Many large scale farmers and manufacturers will argue that the science behind GMOs makes these engineered plant and animal species bionic, and able to withstand the harshest of conditions.  For instance, a genetically modified organism will be more apt to survive droughts and freezing temperatures.  Also, they are more likely to resist wide spread diseases and persistent pests or insects.
Arguments that Denounce GMOs:
The three main areas of concern against GMOs are their effects on our environment, our health, and our economy.  First, people are worried that plant and animals species that aren’t intended to be genetically modified will actually become GMOs through pollen.  For instance, it is possible for the pollen from a crop of corn to be carried over to milkweed plants.  The milkweed would then be consumed by monarch butterfly caterpillars.  The infected pollen would damage the caterpillar’s insides and cause it to die.  Therefore, many worry about what seems to be uncontrollable contamination of species.  In addition, GMOs have been linked to autism, increased allergenicity, birth defects, diabetes, and cancer.  Finally, the seeds of genetically modified organisms are quite expensive, and it is possible there will come a day when all small scale farmers, many from third world countries, wouldn’t be able to afford the cost of the genetically modified seeds.  Hence, without the immediate availability of food, malnutrition and starvation would skyrocket.
How To Detect Food Containing GMOs at the Supermarket:
If you’re looking to reduce your exposure to GMOs, here are some super savvy shopping tricks that you can use to reduce your overall exposure:
1.)  When you’re in the produce aisle, scan your fruits and veggies PLU or price lookup code.  If the first digit in the code is an 8, this means that the fruit or veggie is genetically modified.
However, it’s important to note that these PLUs aren’t required by the FDA, so nothing is guaranteed.
2.)  Opt for products that announce that they’re GMO free or non-GMO.
3.)  Purchase 100% grass fed beef in order to ensure that the animals weren’t fed genetically modified corn.
4.)  Start a garden this spring season…this way, you’ll know exactly what you’re eating: right down to the types of seeds that you bought!
5.)  Scout out local farmers markets and ask the farmers  how they treat their crops.  As a general rule, small scale farmers rely less heavily on genetically modified organisms and pesticides than do large scale farms and plantations.
Interestingly, the labeling of a genetically modified organism in the United States is not mandated by the FDA or the government.  Although a million people have petitioned the FDA in an effort to get proper labeling on genetically modified foods, powerful companies have lobbied against taking action.  But does the FDA’s refusal to grant consumers requests speak for itself in terms of the health effects of GMOs?  Let me know what you think!
Until Next Week…Plan Well, Pack Well, Live Well,
Katie 🙂
References:
Clark, Sandra. HealthyFoodNaturally. Healthy Food – Naturally. 2013. Web. 19 March 2013.
Mastroberte, Tammy. ElevatedExistence. 2011. Web. 19 March 2013.
NoGMOShoppingGuide. Institute for Responsible Technology. 2010. Web. 19 March 2013.
Whitman, Deborah. CSA. ProQuest. 2012. Web. 19 March 2013.
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