The 411 on GMOs

What they are and what to look for when shopping



©PetrMalyshev/istockphoto

You’ve heard the letters. But what exactly are GMO’s? With over 70% of processed foods on U.S. grocery store shelves incorporating genetically modified ingredients, over the years there have been some major controversies regarding regulations on foods that include Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO). The GMO controversy is one that is still under review from scientists, doctors and nutrition experts; disputes include whether GM foods should be labeled, the effect of consuming these types of foods on the body, and the effect they have on the health of the environment. 

What are GM foods?

Genetically Modified Foods are produced from organisms that have had specific changes to their DNA using genetic (or man-made) engineering. This process has allowed the introduction of new crops as well as greater control over a foods genetic structure through selective and mutation breeding. With the first edible food using genetic modifications being a tomato, now more than hundreds of foods that are out on grocery store shelves have been genetically modified. What are some of the most common ingredients that are GM? Soybeans, corn, cotton, rapeseed, canola oil—many of which are included within cereals, snacks, soda, baby foods and even some animal meats (due to their diets containing GM gains or other food).

Are GM foods safe?

The United States Government’s official position is that genetically engineered crops are safe, resistant to disease and can provide needed food in starving nations (or so we presume, because as of today there are still millions worldwide who are starving due to food shortages). The U.S. believes that the benefits of increased pest and disease resistance and drought tolerance outweighs the potential risks of environmental contamination, adversely changing the nutrient  content of the crop and altering Nature’s natural chemistry. With the U.S. being the largest producer of genetically modified crops, this seems like a pretty convenient stance for them.

What do other countries think? The EU says to keep it out, preferring organic foods that provide health benefits. Often called “Frankenfood," the EU thinks that eating GM crops also squeezes out more traditional farmers, essentially negatively affecting the local economy.

What we need to realize, is that when we consume foods, we are not only consuming nutrients, vitamins and proteins essential for daily functioning, but we are also consuming micro RNA which are gene regulators which either positively help, or negatively affect how our genes respond. When companies alter the genetic chemistry of plants that are then eaten, they’re also essentially altering how our body’s genes will respond to these foods—which could have long term devastating effects such as cancer and neurological disorders.

Why isn’t there specific labeling or regulations?

When doing research for GM foods, you’re able to find that regulation falls under three organizations: the FDA, EPA and USDA—though the actual approval is done mostly in-house from the companies creating the technology, specifically Monsanto who also manufacture Roundup and other herbicides. Monsanto has created GM foods from the seed up; so when cross-pollination happens from GM farms to non GM farms, there is no way to truly regulate the crop, therefore regulations basically get thrown out the door.

In early December 2013, Connecticut governor Dannel Malloy stood outside of organic, raw and vegan restaurant Catch a Healthy Habit in Fairfield to commemorate the states passing of the first GMO labeling law. Approved in June 2013, this bill requires that all food meant for human consumption that contain GM ingredients be properly labeled. While other states are following suit, the status for the law remains open because it requires at least four other Northeastern states with a combined population of no fewer than 20 million to approve similar acts before it can officially go on the books (are you tired from jumping all those hoops yet?). While surveys show people want labeling and that more than 60 other countries in the world already have mandatory labeling laws, America seems to be slow with making any actual changes.

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About This Blog

Brittany D Costa

Brittany D. Costa works with individuals on becoming healthier by guiding them through proper physical fitness, healthy nutrition and leading a positive and balanced lifestyle. Brittany has studied through various fitness and nutrition focused schools in order to become a Personal Trainer, Barre and Pilates Instructor, Strala Yoga Guide and Nutrition Coach practicing throughout the Fairfield County area and beyond.

Brittany is also the Official Health & Wellness Guide for various Miss USA, Miss Teen USA and Miss America pageant contestants. Brittany’s writing focuses on Health and Wellness trends within the industry.

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