Genetically engineered foods have been around for longer than any of us, starting with selective crop breeding ages ago and followed by cross-breeding a few centuries ago. Modern-day genetically modified organisms (GMO) only came into use in agriculture in the late 1970s and early 1980s and have been a growing concern ever since. So, have they become a viable part of modern crop production, or should you say no to GMO?
Not all crops are subject to GMO processes, but the most prominent use of GMO tends to be for making crops resistant to herbicides such as glyosphate. Certain crops will also sometimes have the insecticide Bacillus thuringiensis incorporated into their genetic pattern as a means to fight off infestation from insects. As of 2015, it was estimated that 89-94% of corn, soybean, and cotton crops were herbicide resistant due to GMO use. That number would be even higher now.
Herbicide-resistant crops are sprayed with glyosphate to kill invasive weeds while preserving the plants. Unfortunately, the herbicides also kill the friendly bacteria which help fortify the health of plants and make them more resistant to disease.
The glyosphate sprayed on GMO-based crops has been declared a “probable human carcinogen” by the World Health Organization (WHO), and the increasing use of it has also had the negative impact of creating herbicide-resistant “superweeds” that didn’t previously exist.
The main selling point of GMO-altered foods is that they’re necessary in order to feed our ever-growing population by increasing crop yields and improving food security through cheaper and more durable crops. The problem is that these GMO-based foods have never been fully tested for human safety which has caused 60 countries across the globe to either restrict or completely ban the use of GMO-based foods and crops.
The question of whether or not you should say no to GMO is a personal issue for you to weigh out. Despite the substantial growth of GMO-based crops, if you’re planning to limit or eliminate GMO in your daily diet, it’s becoming easier to do so thanks to health-conscious individuals and organizations.
Shopping for GMO-Free Foods
When it comes to shopping, the search for organic and GMO-free foods is becoming much easier. Natural grocery stores are becoming more abundant, and many chain stores even have an area dedicated to natural foods.
It’s safe to assume that bulk produce and labels that don’t specifically call out the use of organic and GMO-free content will be neither organic nor GMO-free. Otherwise, labels will generally have clear indications of being organic, GMO-free, or even certified organic and Non-GMO Project Verified.
For produce, it’s usually a safer bet to go to a nearby farmer’s market to acquire locally-grown organic produce, but you’ll still want to speak with the farmer or distributor to confirm that they don’t use pesticides, herbicides, or GMO-based seeds for their farming.
Eating out on a GMO-Free Diet
Eating out is a bit more of a challenge and will likely continue to be. Many cities now have farm-to-table restaurants which are usually good choices, but you’ll still want to consider contacting the management or owners to verify their farming practices
Many of the larger natural grocery store chains now cater to diners by incorporating eat-in facilities, so it’s like having an organic and/or GMO-free restaurant right in the store. Otherwise, prepared foods can often be found for healthy eating on-the-go. Organic and non-GMO proteins and bars are also a great way to ensure healthy nutrition whether at home or on the road.
Whether you plan to say no to GMO altogether or you’re simply looking to reduce the number of modified foods and unknown chemicals in your diet, it’s good to know there are options and that concerned people and organizations across the world are looking out for your best interests.