With non-GMO labeled foods increasing in popularity, let’s define what it means, why it’s so important, and how it ties into “organic” food labeling.
What are GMO Foods?
GMOs is short for genetically modified organisms and in food production, the term is used to describe crops that have been genetically modified or genetically engineered in some way, shape, or form.
When plants are genetically modified or engineered, scientists remove one or more genes from the DNA of another organism and recombine them into the DNA of the plant that they want to alter. The objective is to give the plant a specific characteristic that it doesn't already have, such as increased resistance to pesticides.
For example, conventional food production commonly uses the toxic herbicide glyphosate. Some foods are genetically modified to be resistant to glyphosate, with the intent of killing the pests but not the plant.
That may sound great on the surface, but scientific organizations, consumer groups, and environmental groups have found substantial health and environmental risks associated with genetically modified foods.
Understanding the long-term health and environmental implications of GMOs in our food supply requires more research. And for many people, GMOs represent health risks that they're just unwilling to take.
The GMO Debate
The biotechnology companies that develop GMOs create patents for their inventions and restrict their use. They argue that they're creating foods that produce higher yields, are less expensive for consumers, use less space and fewer resources are resistant to pests. They also contend they're completely safe for human consumption, and that there are no adverse health risks.
Anti-GMO advocates argue that genetically modified foods come with unintended consequences that we don't fully understand yet. One concern, for example, is the new proteins that GMOs produce. Those proteins develop into toxins and become allergens in foods that we consume.
GMO crops are incredibly common in the US. At least 90% of soy, corn, canola, and cotton are grown through genetic modification. And it's estimated that 80% of the food found in grocery stores has ingredients that have been genetically modified or engineered.
Today, food manufacturers here in the U.S. are not required to label their food as genetically modified. That's changing in 2022. Food manufacturers will be required to label their products with the “bioengineered food” label if they contain genetically modified ingredients.
How Does Eating Non-GMO Contribute to Good Health?
There is so much that we don't know yet about the long-term health effects of genetically modified foods on both humans and their impact on the environment. The big biotech companies claim it's all safe. It’s impossible, however, to fully understand the consequences of modifying a food’s DNA.
The concern is that eating genetically modified foods can affect the entire body, starting with the gut. Studies have shown, for example, that GMO corn can cause tumors and organ damage in rats. And GMO potatoes caused damage to the intestines of mice. GMO corn toxins have been found in the blood of pregnant women.
Not enough time has passed to really see the long-term effects of genetically modified foods on our health and the environment. We do know that genetically modified foods require more pesticide use, which contributes to the prevalence of "superweeds".
Avoiding genetically modified foods is the healthiest choice you can make, which is why we always recommend reading product labels and packaging. It’s also one of the benefits of turning to the organic label. If you're eating organic, you can rest assured that you're non-GMO, as genetically modified foods aren’t permitted in organic food production.
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