OMG! It’s a GMO!!

My mother has recently started seeing a nutritionist. In all honesty, I don’t believe she really needs to. Her diet is pretty well balanced for the most part. If anything, her money would probably be better spent on a personal trainer. She doesn’t move all that much!

Anyway, I was reading the papers the nutritionist gave her to look over just to see what they said. Overall, the advise was fairly sound. Don’t eat too much salty and sugary foods, focus on the protein aspect of a meal first, try to keep to the perimeter of the supermarket when food shopping. The useful advise you could expect from a good nutritionist. But there was one page that really irked me. As you might have guessed, it was concerning genetically modified organisms or GMOs. It started off with:

“A Note about Genetically Modified Foods (GMOs)

Genetically modified foods have been shown to cause harm to humans, animals, the environment, and despite growing opposition, more and more foods continue to be genetically altered. It’s important to note that steering clear from these foods completely may be difficult, but if you avoid processed foods you are already ahead of the game since many ingredients in processed foods include sugar, corn, canola and soya derivatives. Look for NON GMO project verified seals.”

The passage was then followed by a list of foods labelled DO NOT EAT to help you avoid accidentally consuming a GMO.

Now, whether you are against the use of GMOs in food or in general, that’s purely up to you. There are valid reasons to be for or against them.  In other words, I don’t mind what your stance is on the topic, provided that they are based on facts rather than hysteria. What I don’t like is when people spread misinformation. I find it  particularly disappointing when a professional is responsible for spreading false information to the public.

For those of you who don’t know, genetic engineering is the practice of deliberate modification of the genome in plants and animals (or fungi…or bacteria). It’s a very old practice which has been used by humans for many centuries, but has recently be hugely improved with the use of technology.

After reading the passage from the nutritionist, I was little surprised at first. Really? I thought. That’s not how I remember it when we covered it in high school. I guess things have changed now that there’s more evidence.

I was curious to find out in what way GMOs were causing harm to humans, animals and the environment and looked up a few articles with Google Scholar. One review by Paparini and Romano-Spica  stated that “despite no described medical condition being directly associated with a diet including approved GM crops in large exposed populations such as 300,000,000 Americans and a billion Chinese, public opinion seems to look at this new technology with either growing concern or even disapproval.” Sounds about right.

Another listed several ways in which GMOs may effect the environment and the breeding of the Monarch butterfly, but no significant results had been found to back up any of these potential concerns. There was no mention of any adverse health effects found in humans.

I typed “GMO” into regular Google to see what would come up. A great number of results flooded my screen, the vast majority of which seemed to come from health bloggers’ pages on how to avoid these evil things without giving any real information on why they were bad. One claimed that they all have more chemicals than non-GMO foods. I find this unlikely to be true. Especially considering how many GMO crops have been altered with a gene to make them more resistant to plant diseases and insect predators. If anything, they should probably have fewer chemicals, since they don’t need to be doused in pesticide. Personally, I’m pretty sure that consuming pesticide would do you much more harm than eating any kind of approved GMO.

Some people are against the use of GMOs due to fear of market monopoly by these large companies who own the patent to each GM crop and believe it harms the business of small family farms. To me, this at least seems to be a valid concern based on reason.

I do wonder why there is such hysteria surrounding the topic. The Washington Post released an article in 2016 addressing the unfounded fears of “Frankenfoods”, which was a quick and interesting read. It stated that the National Academies experts had reviewed relevant studies and had this to say about their findings;

“No differences have been found that implicate a higher risk to human health safety from these GE foods than from their non-GE counterparts.” 

Also, “the committee found no conclusive evidence of cause-and-effect relationships between GE crops and environmental problems. Among other things, the scientists found concerns that the crops are degrading plant and animal biodiversity to be insubstantial.”

People, particularly in the United States, seem to be terrified of them for no apparent reason. Is it because GMOs made using advanced technology has only become available until fairly recent years, and so we can’t be fully certain about their effects in the future? Do people fear that by poking around at organisms on a genetic level should be considered “playing God” and a sinful act? Is it simply because the idea of eating something that has been genetically modified sounds icky and a bit frightening? Perhaps they hear the word GMO and immediately think of this guy.

250px-Blinky

I wouldn’t want to eat him either.

Whatever the hype is about, it certainly doesn’t seem to be based on facts.

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One response to “OMG! It’s a GMO!!

  1. People hating on GMOs is a particular pet peeve of mine. They’ve been around for decades and were the start of the green revolution. They have saved literally millions of lives. Yet those in rich countries are afraid of them because “what if they alter you!” These are the same people who’ve never looked at the ingredients list on their hair dye. Why do they feel that way? Hysteria. Misinformation. Perhaps in a chaotic world, this feels “controllable.” But whatever it is, it comes down far more to feelings than facts.

    I think the only reason to avoid GMOs is, like you stated, to support diverse crops. Big agro swings dangerously close to a monoculture, which are notoriously susceptible to blights, and their corporate practices are downright despicable. But not all GMOs are company driven; many, like golden rice, were created with humanitarian needs in mind. Places like the US turning up their noses at them is, in my mind, simply snobbery.

    Sorry, put in my own rant there. Guess it’s just a favorite topic of mine.

    Like

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