GMOs, GMOs everywhere, but are they?
Every time you open a pack of food, drink your favorite drink, or venture out into the world of diet culture, you may often hear the word GMO thrown around a lot. And while some health gurus may have you rolling your eyes about going vegan or abandoning your bacon, GMOs are something you don’t want to ignore.
But what are GMOs? Aren’t most foods these days technically genetically modified by selective breeding of crops? What’s the difference? And why should we avoid them so much?
GMOs have left their mark on our food sources, and now it’s time to see why you may want to indulge in the hype of avoiding these mutant foods.
What is GMO?
Let’s start with decoding this little fear-inducing acronym. GMO stands for genetically modified organisms. What this means is your corn, soy, and other crops, have had their genome genetically altered in a laboratory. By genetically altering these plants in a lab, the scientist was able to create new plant strains that are resilient to viruses, bacterias, and pests. Sound harmless right?
Well, the genetics scientist uses to create these mutant plants aren’t found in nature. And they usually are a combination of spliced genes from other plants, animals, bacteria, and viruses. Safe to say, you won’t be finding your favorite ear of corn in nature with that type these types of genetic combinations.
And on top of these gene-splicing experiments, GMOs are often made to be resilient to herbicides, insecticides, and have drought tolerance. On top of that, many GMOs are nutritionally enhanced and made to have longer shelf lives than their organic counterparts.
Sounds like something you should be okay with, after all, more resiliencies mean more crop yield, and more crop yield means more food, right?
While a hefty crop yield is every farmer’s dream, GMOs aren’t exactly tested for safety and long-term health effects.
GMO Vs. Selective Breeding
Back to the whole, isn’t selective breeding the same as GMO?
Selective breeding and GMOs are only similar in the fact that there is a selective process that plants and animals go through to produce certain desirable results.
Where these two methods differ is in their selective processes. GMO is manufactured in a lab using various genes that aren’t typically found in plants or a plant specie’s natural genome. Selective breeding, on the other hand, relies on the old fashion process of choosing the best crops, seeding them, and then cross-pollinating them to create a better crop.
Selective breeding is how we originally modified crops to suit our needs and to some degree, we still rely on selective breeding. Heirloom vegetables are a type of organic seed that has undergone selective breeding.
12 Reasons Why You May Want to Avoid GMO Foods
While organic fruits and vegetables do tend to be expensive, they’re more beneficial to us in ways the GMOs harm us. But if you’re not sure about what GMOs specifically do to us, then take these 12 reasons for why you may want to avoid GMO foods.
1. Adverse effects on animals that are fed GMO foods.
Animals that were lab tested showed varying degrees of liver, kidney, spleen, heart, and adrenal gland damage. They also showed a decline in immune response and varying degrees of compromised immune systems.
2. GMO crops are commonly grown with many toxic pesticides, herbicides, and other harmful chemicals.
While the GMOs may not be toxic to human health, the many pesticides and herbicides are extremely toxic. Many of these chemicals are carcinogenic and can lead to many health complications and allergies.
3. GMOs require stronger and more poisonous pesticides.
Despite what the many GMO companies have the public believing, GMOs require more pesticides and herbicides to grow the same amount of food than organic crops.
4. The harmful chemicals used alongside GMOs wind up in the soil, water, and air.
Many of the pesticides used on these GMO crops wind up in the rivers, lakes, and ocean. This, in turn, causes mass algae blooms that end up killing fish and other aquatic life every single year. And on top of the water contamination, these pesticides and herbicides remain in the soil for many years. Air quality around these farms also suffers, and many toxic chemicals are dangerous to inhale.
5. Weeds and bugs are developing a resistance to harsh herbicides and pesticides making them tougher to remove from crop fields.
Weeds have been adapting to the strong poisons and this has resulted in superweeds that require even stronger chemicals having to be used. These same harsh chemicals are also contributors to soil erosion. On top of superweeds, there are cases of superbugs, insects that are immune to the harsh toxins.
And many farms have had to use carcinogenic chemicals such as Roundup and 2,4-D, a major chemical found in Agent Orange, to combat both superweeds and superbugs.
6. GMOs contribute to 60% of nitrous oxide total emissions in the world.
7. Harms many of the beneficial species of insects.
Many bees’ colonies have been collapsing due to the harsh chemical spraying as well as butterflies, moths, and other pollinators.
8. GMOs cross-pollinate with and cross-contaminate organic crops.
Because GMOs are owned by a select few corporations that have patented these crop strains, any cross-contamination that yields crops are automatically taken by the company. This leaves farmers without their crops.
9. One corporation has control over 95% of the world’s GMO seed supply and patents.
Companies such as Monsanto are known culprits for cornering the seed market, which results in farmers going into debt just to get seed for their farms.
10. GMOs don’t produce the higher yields as previously claimed.
Not only do GMOs not produce the promised higher yields on average, but they also aren’t any nutritionally better than their organic and non-GMO counterparts either.
11. GMO corporations do not allow farmers to save seed from organic crops that have been accidentally contaminated by GMO pollen.
With every yield, farmers would grow some of the crops just to have seed for next year’s planting. GMO companies forbid farmers from keeping any seed from their yield due to the GMO strain patents.
12. GMO corporations are a major reason behind the small farm and farming livelihoods being lost or significantly altered in a negative way.
Despite how good GMOs may seem, there are many consequences to using these genetically modified plants. And while data isn’t showing any adverse health effects in human diets, our animal counterparts aren’t fairing as well. So, when buying food, it never hurts to be a little more conscientious of the things we eat. Our Earth and all of our fellow flora and fauna will thank you.