What do you know about GMOs?

Every year, my mother in law buys us a subscription of Consumer Reports magazine. I know, she’s pretty awesome…and practical! Besides product reviews, CR also highlights a few health related topics. I sometimes find these articles frustrating because they seem to echo the opinions of the mainstream medical juggernaut without even mentioning what is happening at the leading edge of science. What I do get from CR (besides awesome reviews of vacuum cleaners) is the awareness of the type of information that most of my patients are consuming and accepting as fact. Usually this informs me of the myths I will need to bust in the treatment room! You can imagine my delight when I finally found an article in the March 2015 edition of CR acknowledging some of the questions and concerns regarding Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) and their role in our food supply.  Does this mean that the tides are turning and the American collective consciousness is ready to do what millions of Europeans have already done and force our government to require the labeling of Genetically Modified Organisms in our food supply?

Are GMOs really dangerous?

You may hear that GMO crops need fewer pesticides than non-GMO crops. This is true by technicality. What they do require is an enormous amount of herbicide (weed killer) and not pesticide (bug killer). Either way, poison is poison and we are using almost 10 times the volume of herbicides than what we used in the mid-nineties. Guess where those chemicals end up? That’s right. In our food. Yet another reason to buy organic!

The World Health Organization and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations seem to think that new toxins and allergens may be added to our food, as well.  Anyone curious about all of these new childhood allergies? I don’t know about you, but in my day there were no such things as peanut-free schools. I never even knew a kid with a peanut allergy. It was some kind of an urban legend back then. There are also studies out there that suggest GMOs could cause organ and immune system damage in animals. Of course, none of this is conclusive. We still do not know the long term effects of GMOs on humans. I would just like to know for sure if something I am going to eat contains GMOs. That way I can decide if I want to risk it or not. I certainly eat things I know are not healthy. I live in Buffalo, New York for goodness sake. We invented the Buffalo wing!

Why don’t we just label the stuff like the 60 plus other countries that do?

To put it in simple terms: It’s because the big seed and food companies (Big Agra) have a lot more money than we do! If it’s labeled, people may think it’s not healthy and may choose other products. Perhaps we start buying food from a trusted local farmer or maybe we even grow it in our own backyard.

How can I avoid GMOs? 

According to a representative sample of 1004 Americans done by the Consumer Reports National Research Center, 92% of Americans want any food containing GMOs to be labeled as such. As of Feb 2015, the best you can do is to buy:

  • Certified Organic” products.  This label cannot be used on foods containing GMOs, so Certified Organic is safe.
  • Non-GMO Product Verified” products. This is an independent third party company that verifies a product is GMO free.

What about everything else we buy, do we assume it contains GMOs? Well maybe, but definitely avoid the foods below (except when organic) because the majority of the crop out there contains GMOs:

  • non-organic canola
  • non-organic corn
  • non-organic soy
  • non-organic sugar beets
  • non-organic sugar (which is made from sugar beets)
  • non-organic meats (the animals were probably fed all of the above)

Unfortunately this includes almost anything you buy in a bag or a box. Another great reason to eat real, unprocessed, whole foods.