GMO- What Exactly does this mean?
BY: Dr. Rachel Steiner
The three-letter abbreviation GMO has become a hot topic of discussion and debate with food and nutrition, but many do not understand exactly what it means. “GMO” is an abbreviation for Genetically Modified Organism. Biotechnology and bioengineering are the two fields of science that studied and created GMO’s with a goal of reducing world hunger. This started with golden rice, which was the first GMO food created with a goal of increasing the nutritional value. It was specifically designed to supplement the diets of children who suffered from Vitamin A deficiencies and was considered a huge break through. This new science creates unstable combinations of plant, animal, bacteria, and viral genes that do not occur in nature or natural crossbreeding methods. Most GMO foods can withstand herbicides, pesticides, and drought intolerance, therefore increasing the chances of the crop making it through the growing process to then be available to the public.
An example of this unnatural science that is currently being done is inserting a cold-water fish gene into a tomato planet so the plant won’t freeze in the winter. Another combination taking place is inserting a bacterial gene that is toxic to insects in a corn plant so corn worms die when they attempt to eat the corn.
This is a debated topic of discussion as we are the "guinea pigs" of this experiment. The knowledge regarding this issue is too new to know if there are any long-term side effects, but we are essentially being treated as test subjects in the meantime. Some argue that GMO foods are perfectly fine and are a great attribute to the food industry to modify foods to make them with whatever makeup and nutritional value we want. Because this new science was originally created with the vision of ending world hunger, regulations and bans have been put to the side to support the supposedly good cause.
On the flip side, many believe GMO products are believed to be ruining the health of citizens with nasty side effects. GMO products are restricted or completely ban in over 60 countries including Australia, Ireland, Saudi Arabia, and Thailand. There are some ongoing experiments showing that consuming GMO foods can lead to reduced fertility, increased inflammation, impaired metabolism, autism, obesity, allergies, and altered liver and kidney function. GMOs do not require labeling anywhere in North America, preventing potential health liability claims from being traced back to the GMO producers and food processors. Without mandatory, legally defined labeling there is no traceability, accountability, or liability to find a direct correlation between GMO products and any side effects.
Until regulations are set and more research is done, there are a few things we can do in the meantime to protect ourselves. Be aware that items containing GMO’s will not be noted on the label. Again, because the government has not put any restriction on these products, GMO products are not required to inform the public of the fact. Obviously if a company is using GMO products, they would not want to advertise it if they are not required to for the sake of sales and business.
However, there is some good news! Recently, items that do not contain GMO’s have a green label as seen in the picture with this article. These labels have come available through the Non GMO Project, which is a recognized group who are trying to get restrictions on genetically modified food. To see a complete list of GMO free products, you can visit nongmoproject.org.
I am no expert on GMO’s, how exactly they work, or the absolute truth of the side effects but I don’t think anyone, is which I find scary. I am still doing my research to learn and become more educated on the topic. Although with this being such a new concept in the world today, the exact long-term side effects are still unknown. That statement alone is scary to me. Scientists are not 100% that the researched side effects are caused exclusively by GMO products. However, anytime we interfere with nature and the amazing job it does, it is never a good thing. I encourage everyone to take the time to do his or her research to better understand this topic that could effect our planet and future generations forever.