Genetically Modified Organisms, or GMOs, are plants and animals that have been created by splicing the genes of two different species together in a way that cannot happen naturally. Possible combinations include moths and apples, spiders and potatoes, cows and soybeans, and rats and lettuce. The result is a new product that is intended to have a certain characteristic (such as a longer shelf-life or a resistance to herbicides), but that may have a whole host of unintended and harmful consequences as well.
GMOs typically work in one of two ways: Either they are resistant to herbicides, so farmers can spray tons of chemicals all over their crops in order to kill the weeds but not the plants. Or the plants themselves emit an insecticide, so that when certain types of pests try to eat them, the pests die.
A Brief History of GMOs – Expectations and Realities
First invented in the 1970s, GMO-technology was originally presented as a way to create more nutritious foods and to produce higher yields in order to help solve world hunger. With the invention of GMOs, plants could now be engineered to be pest resistant or to have a longer shelf life, and animals could be engineered to grow bigger and faster or to resist certain types of diseases.
While the idea might sound like a positive one, this is a far cry from what actually happened. The vast majority of today’s crops aren’t more nutritious (today’s food is actually LESS nutritious than it was 30 years ago), and we haven’t even begun to eliminate world hunger. Instead, the companies behind this movement, namely Monsanto, have grown rich and powerful off of these questionable GMOs and their corresponding herbicides and insecticides, all while executing suspicious business practices.
And what role has the government played in all of this? Well, wanting to be the forerunner on this new technology, the US government has allowed this new technology to advance with no safety studies, no labels and pretty much no restrictions. Basically, they stepped back and let the GMO manufacturers regulate themselves. In other words, nothing is stopping GMO manufacturers from developing a new and dangerous combination today and putting it on supermarket shelves tomorrow–all without consumers being aware that the new food is any different. Because the U.S. government claims that it isn’t.
With no restrictions to hamper their growth, GMOs have exploded in the U.S., all without the average consumer realizing what was going on. Sources estimate that as much as 80% of our country’s food supply contains ingredients that have been genetically modified. This includes the obvious junk foods like Twinkies and frozen pizzas, but also many foods that most people think of as healthy, such as yogurt, bread and zucchini. And none of these foods are labeled as being genetically modified.
Currently, nearly 90% of the world’s GMO cultivation occurs in the Americas, with the United States being responsible for over 50% of it. Think about this: We require our mattresses to be labeled, but our food is engineered by a major pesticide company and sold without testing or labeling. In fact, major companies such as Monstanto, Pepsi and Kraft are even working hard to prevent GMO labeling. By contrast, over 60 countries worldwide have strict regulations or outright bans on GMOs. Hungary even destroyed over 1,000 acres of corn that were found to be genetically modified.
What Foods Contain GMOs?
When it comes to GMOs to avoid, there is good news and bad news. The good news is that only a handful of food products are currently being genetically modified commercially. The bad news is that these foods are in almost EVERYTHING you buy in the conventional grocery store.
List of Foods that are Commonly Genetically Engineered
- 88% of Corn
- 90% of Canola
- 90% of Cottonseed
- 94% of Soy
- 95% of Sugar Beets
Unfortunately, avoiding GMOs isn’t as simple as checking the list for these ingredients, either. Other ingredients, including ascorbic acid, high-fructose corn syrup, vitamin C, xanthan gum, vitamins, and natural and artificial flavorings, can all be derived from genetically modified sources.
Genetically modified organisms aren’t just some freaky food products that are being produced in some secret lab somewhere. They are all around us, in our food and in the food we feed our children. And many Americans have no idea.
Did you already know about GMOs? Or did any of this information come as a surprise to you?