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What You Should Know about GMOs

GMOsHere’s why genetically modified organisms are stirring controversy–and why you should be wary of them. From Cavewomen Don’t Get Fat: The Paleo Chic Diet for Rapid Results.

Topping the ever-growing list of things to do to protect our health: steering clear of genetically modified organisms (GMOs). A GMO is an organism—plant, bacteria, animal—that has had its genetic structure artificially engineered, or modified, to create a different organism. For example, a particular type of corn may be engineered to resist diseases or to guarantee larger yields. Much of our food is being messed with in laboratories, and the result is what I like to think of as an agricultural “hate child” of modern technology merging with corporate greed. Big biotech companies do not have your best interests at heart. I don’t know about you, but patenting the world’s food supply doesn’t sound like such a good idea to me.

Some companies have also contractually limited farmers’ ability to use GM seeds from their crops. Farmers must buy new seeds every year instead of growing from the previous year’s yield. Ironically, GM crops have shown no increase in yield. GMOs are bad for your body, bad for the community, bad for farmers, and bad for the environment. Here are some compelling reasons why you should avoid GMOs:

• We don’t know the long-term health outcomes of consuming GM foods. GM plants, such as soybean, corn, cottonseed, and canola, have had foreign genes forced into their DNA. The inserted genes come from species, such as bacteria and viruses, that have never been in the human food supply. Genetic engineering transfers genes across natural species barriers. It uses imprecise laboratory techniques that bear no resemblance to natural breeding and are based on outdated concepts of how genes and cells work. Gene insertion is done either by shooting genes from a “gene gun” into a plate of cells or by using bacteria to invade the cell with foreign DNA. The altered cell is then cloned into a plant. It is unknown how these new strains of bacteria may affect our body systems’ balance.

• As I write this, foods that contain GMOs are not labeled in the United States. Americans already have a tough time deciphering claims on nutrition labels and breaking down the nutritional status of a food. So if your labels aren’t showing you what ingredients lie within, the margin of opportunity to eat clean foods diminishes. Several states are working to pass legislation mandating that GMO foods must be labeled as such, but large conglomerates invested in GMOs spend enormous amounts of money to defeat such attempts. The European Union has banned GMOs, as have Australia, Japan, and two dozen other countries. These countries recognize that a lack of long-term studies and testing may be hiding disastrous health defects.

Here in the United States, the House of Representatives 2013 Agriculture Appropriations Bill contained a provision, dubbed by some as the “Monsanto Protection Act,” that gives the agriculture biotech industry the ability to get temporary USDA approval or derregulation of a GM crop, even if the safety of the crop is under challenge. The passage of this provision has been met with public outcry and several members of Congress have pledged not to extend it when the bill comes up for renewal. Only time will tell.

• Genetic engineering reduces genetic diversity. This pretty much tosses the evolutionary concept “survival of the fittest” right out the window. When genes are more diverse, they are naturally more robust, which is why purebred animals have more health problems than mixed breeds. Plants with reduced genetic diversity cannot handle drought, fungus invasions, or insects as well as natural plants can. That can have dire consequences for farmers and communities.

• Studies conducted on GM foods don’t look so hot. Thousands of sheep, buffaloes, and goats in India died after grazing on GMO cotton plants following harvest. Others suffered poor health and reproductive problems. Farmers in Europe and Asia say that cows, water buffaloes, chickens, and horses died from eating GMO corn varieties. About two dozen US farmers report that GMO corn varieties caused widespread sterility in pigs and cows.

Simple Tips to Avoiding GMOs
1. Purchase certified organic foods that are GMO-free, and tell your friends and loved ones to do the same.

2. Download your free Non-GMO Shopping Guide or Apple’s ShopNoGMO iPhone app and use it when you go food shopping. This is published by the Institute for Responsible Technology (IRT) and founded by activist and author Jeffrey Smith to educate policy makers and the public about GMOs.

3. Read the books Seeds of Change and Genetic Roulette: The Documented Health Risks of Genetically Engineered Foods by Jeffrey Smith.

4. Sign petitions against GMOs at Food Democracy Now! (www.fooddemocracynow.org). FDN is a grassroots movement of over 650,000 farmers and citizens dedicated to building a sustainable food system that gives our communities access to healthy foods and respects the dignity of the farmers who produce those foods.

5. Steer clear of all processed foods, as well as nonorganic soy, rice, papaya, tomatoes, rapeseed, dairy, potatoes, peas, corn, and conventionally farmed meats, to limit your exposure to GMOs.

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