As if grocery shopping isn’t confusing enough, there is a new controversy about where our food comes from everyday. Most recently, we are warned about “GMOs” (genetically modified organisms). So, what the heck is a GMO? What do they do? And, is it more harm than good?
GMOs are made by forcing genes from one species (ex: bacteria, viruses, animals, humans) into the DNA of foods to add desirable traits, like: repelling pesticides/herbicides, more vitamins and minerals, drought-resistant, delayed ripening for longer shelf life, better taste, better appearance, seedless, etc. And, this is not new! It’s been used for years to decrease cost and waste. It is estimated that 80% (!!!!) of conventional foods contain GMOs.
So, how could this be going on for so long and we are just now hearing about it? The truth is: The US population has only recently shown interest in the food production process; and, since food companies are not required to report this information directly to consumers, we never asked questions and continued to get our usual foods for reasonable prices.
It’s ironic that we worry about things like artificial sweeteners, but never even considered that most of the food we eat goes through similar chemical processes, and producers don’t need to tell us about it.
So, why use chemicals when we know that foods can grow without them? Well, like any business, money is king. The food business is just that: a business. Chemicals save time, labor, and money; and, if companies follow federal regulations, no one worries. Research says that the food is safe; but, are we sure?
60+ countries restrict or ban GMOs because of possible health effects, and environmental damage; so, why does The United States allow them? Well, because the research says that there is no evidence that GMOs are causing significant harm; BUT, the research was done by the same companies who make GMOs and benefit financially from them. So, yes, the government says “go ahead and use them”; but, be careful, because “more research is needed”.
There are lots of factors to consider when grocery shopping, but finances have the biggest influence on what we buy. GMOs save money for food producers, which, in turn, saves money for consumers. Foods labeled as “certified organic” do not have GMOs, but these foods are much pricier than conventional options, indicating why so much of our food currently contains GMOs. If we keep buying it, companies will keep making it!
80% of our food contains GMOs, making them difficult, if not impossible, to avoid. The most common sources are: soy, cotton, canola, corn, sugar beets, Hawaiian papaya, alfalfa, zucchini and yellow squash. Check the ingredient lists, because GMOs commonly find their way into processed foods as: amino acids, aspartame, ascorbic acid, sodium ascorbate, Vitamin C, citric acid, sodium citrate, “natural” and “artificial” flavorings, high fructose corn syrup, hydrolyzed vegetable protein, lactic acid, maltodextrins, molasses, monosodium glutamate, sucrose, textured vegetable protein (TVP), xanthan gum, vitamins, and yeast products.
This is an overwhelming list, but remember: preparing your own food is the best way to know what goes into your body, so avoid processed, convenience foods, when possible. Check out the non-GMO project (http://www.nongmoproject.org/learn-more/) for more information!