What The Heck Are GMOs & Why Do They Matter?

What is a GMO? 
“GMO stands for Genetically Modified Organism”

A GMO is any type of organism, plant, or animal, whose genetic material has been manipulated through genetic engineering. While bacteria, plants, and animals can all be genetically engineered, you’re probably mostly familiar with the GMO crops used in agriculture, like corn, soy, and alfalfa. (Definition via Medical Daily)

Anything Can Be Affected By GMOs: Meat. Grains. Nuts. Veggies. Fruit.

Soon almost all GMO foods will be required to be labeled as “Bioengineered”, see excerpt from the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) below:

“U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue announced the National Bioengineered Food Disclosure Standard on December 20, 2018. The National Bioengineered Food Disclosure Law, passed by Congress in July of 2016, directed USDA to establish this national mandatory standard for disclosing foods that are or may be bioengineered.

The Standard defines bioengineered foods as those that contain detectable genetic material that has been modified through certain lab techniques and cannot be created through conventional breeding or found in nature.

The implementation date of the Standard is January 1, 2020, except for small food manufacturers, whose implementation date is January 1, 2021. The mandatory compliance date is January 1, 2022. Regulated entities may voluntarily comply with the Standard until December 31, 2021.” – AMS

GMO History

In the 1970s the GMO debate began. As biochemists began to cut pieces of DNA from one organism and place it into other organisms, scientists were able to adjust characteristics of medicine and food. At this time consumers began to question whether this was bad for their general health. 

In the late 1980s, the US Supreme Court allowed GMOs to be patented. Monsanto, a notorious pesticide company, began testing the method in plants to reduce crop death by pesticides – specifically glyphosate found in Roundup. The soy bean was the first, and the most widely used GMO at this time. After having success with the soy bean, new GMOs began to emerge — including animals, potatoes, cotton, rice, sugarcane, tomatoes and others — with the goal to make these organisms resistant to insects, antibiotics, diseases, herbicides, and pesticides.

Today, with some research supporting their safety, the FDA has deemed them safe.

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But Are They? 

So you may ask, is a GMO bad for me? To understand the negative affects of a GMO we must understand pesticides. 

Under state and federal law,
a pesticide is any substance intended to
control, destroy, repel, or attract a pest.

California DPR

There are good and bad pesticides. “Good” being the pesticides that have been studied and show no harm to humans, and “bad” being pesticides that have been studied and are harmful to humans.

.. and they are harmful to humans, this is why the organic standards were created.

Roundup pesticide is the most commonly used pesticide in the world. It is used to kill insects and weeds, but it can also kill our crops. This specific pesticide contains a chemical called glyphosate, which is the active ingredient.

The FDA originally allowed the maximum levels of glyphosate in food to be 0.1 mg/kg – .2 mg/kg. But in 2014, this level was increased to 10-20 mg/kg around the world… that’s 100 times more than the previous limit? 

Here’s Why

In 2014, new research emerged. They found that GMO plants, after being treated with Roundup, contained nearly 10-20mg/kg of glyphosate and it’s break down product AMPA. So what does that mean? That means GMO products contained more than 100 times the glyphosate recommended by the FDA. 

So how did governments around the world and Monsanto deal with these findings? They increased the limits and allowed populations in different companies to consume these products. 

Learn More:

So, What’s So Bad About GMOs?

Now that you know the history and the politics behind GMOs, the basic fact is: GMOs may not be bad for you, but the pesticides used on them ARE bad for you. Because GMOs have pesticides sprayed directly on them, they tend to absorb more of the chemical glyphosate. This means higher levels of pesticides tend to be found within GMO crops.

Should You Eat GMOs?

Due to the levels of glyphosate found in GMO grains, fruits, and vegetables treated with Roundup pesticides, it may not be a good idea to consume GMOs. Especially if you have young children who do not need high levels to develop toxicity. It is up to the consumer, but there are ways to avoid GMOs.

What should You do? 

  • Buy Organic: Organic foods are not allowed to have GMOs in them. Organic meat means the animals did not eat GMO feed. Therefore they should not contain the pesticides associated with GMOs. Now sometimes there is contamination, as seen with organic hummus in 2020, but consuming organic foods will reduce your risk of exposure.
  • If Organic Is Too Expensive Buy Non-GMO Conventional: These fruits and vegetables have also been shown to have no glyphosate in them per research. Synthetic pesticides are still used on conventional crops but glyphosate and Roundup are usually not.

What Does The Label Non-GMO Mean?

The Non-GMO Project is a nonprofit organization committed to preserving and building sources of non-GMO products, educating consumers, and providing verified non-GMO choices. A NonGMO Project Verified seal on animal products not only means that the animals themselves weren’t genetically engineered but also that the animal feed was tested for major GMO crops (such as corn and soy) and contained less than 5 percent GMO material. (See Non-GMO Project)

Again, GMOs have not been found to be harmful, but pesticides have.

What Does The Label Conventional Mean?

Conventionally grown is an agriculture term referring to a method of growing edible plants (such as fruit and vegetables) and other products. It is opposite to organic growing methods which attempt to produce without synthetic chemicals (fertilizers, pesticides, antibiotics, hormones) or genetically modified organisms. The risk from pesticides on conventional produce varies from very low to very high, depending on the type of produce and on the country where it’s grown. The differences can be dramatic. For instance, eating one serving of green beans from the U.S. is 200 times riskier than eating a serving of U.S.-grown broccoli. (Read more: Organic Foods vs Conventional Foods)

What Does The Label Organic Mean?

Buyers should beware of organic labels on nonfood products

There are two groups of agricultural pesticides: synthetic and organic. Synthetics are created in labs, and organic ones are substances that occur in nature. The majority of synthetic pesticides (and all of the most toxic ones) used in conventional farming are banned in organic farming, but pesticide drift can mean chemicals sprayed on conventional crops may find their way to nearby organic farms. Still, all of the organic produce in our analysis fell into the very low-risk or low-risk categories. Organic pesticides are usually less toxic than synthetic ones. “Before a pesticide is even approved for use in organic farming, it must be evaluated for potential adverse effects on humans, animals, and the environment, and prove it’s compatible with a system of sustainable agriculture.” (Read More: Consumer Reports)

So, How Do You Determine Whether A Fruit or Vegetable Is
GMO, Organic, or Conventional? 

Those little stickers on your fruits and vegetables tell you a lot about what you are consuming. Who would’ve thought? Take a look below, and note the numbers and what they mean for your produce:

Learn How To Pick
Conventional Veggies and Fruits

Consumer reports created amazing guidelines that teach you how to choose your produce. Click on the link to their article below. You will not be disappointed!

Consumer Reports:
Eat The Peach Not The Pesticide

In Conclusion

If GMOs were not a problem our government officials would not go through the trouble, or find the funding to lobby, and pass laws allowing us to see which foods are GMOs. Unless the company reports how much pesticides are absorbed by their crops, you should avoid GMOs. Why risk it? Now, if the level is reported and below the limits set prior to Monsanto’s manipulation (0.1 mg/kg – 0.2 mg/kg) then you can decide whether the food is worth consuming. If you have young children, consider switching over to organic, or doing research on the pesticide levels at your local grocery store!

Feel free to comment or contact us with any questions you may have!

Your’s Truly,

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