Part of living authentically and simply is learning to sift through all the chaff and get to the real wheat of the matter. Part of the problem with living the best life you can is that there is so much smoke and mirrors to cut through to get to the truth of most things. This is either intentional as in the case of large companies like Coca Cola sponsoring the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics which then goes on to suggest that there are ‘no bad foods’. AND by the way is the main organization representing dietitians.
Or it’s unintentional but still as damaging like the USDA being put in charge of both agriculture and human health.
An additional problem with searching for the truth of any idea is that it is very difficult to find civilized and reasonable discussions on most topics. This is probably even more true when it comes to our diet and foods. These are oftentimes very emotional discussions for a variety of reasons not the least of which is that our diets and foods are associated with our families and how we were nurtured.
In truth, the title of this post is hyperbolic. So you could argue that I am not contributing to a reasoned discussion of the GMO food debate. But I hope that by the end of this you’ll change your mind. The title is to draw you in, the body of the text is to offer my thoughts on why GMO foods are not the Frankenstein monsters they’re made out to be.
I’m not going to try and convince you about why GMO foods are specifically good, but I will point you to a few resources where you can go and read up more about them. You see, like with many controversial issues, you’ll find science that supports the facts that genetically modified organisms are safe and some science that suggests that GM foods are not safe. But you have to look at what the bulk of the science suggests. And the bulk suggests that GMOs are perfectly safe.
For a well written objective look at GM organisms and GM foods, take a look at this Scientific American article. There is another good discussion about GMOs on Dr. McDougall’s website that is worth a read.
With those sources out of the way, I’m going to offer you my thoughts on why I’m not adverse to eating GMO foods and why we might actually need to eat them.
My first argument is that nature has been genetically modifying organism for millions of years, and we’ve been doing the same for millennia. Really, since we’ve been farming we’ve been manipulating the genes of livestock and crops. Since Mendel, we’ve been trying to more accurately manipulate the genes of plants and animals. But even before this of course, we grew plants and saved those with the more desirable traits whatever those were at the time we were doing it. The thing we can do now, is that we can manipulate the genes at the individual level where we couldn’t before. We can insert individual genes and we can insert them from different species too.
Though as the articles above have hinted at, nature has done this before as well.
Another reason I am content with genetically modified foods is that they help us to use less pesticides. In fact, pesticide use in the US has dropped by 66% since 1998, and part of those benefits have come from GMOs.
Additionally, GM crops have a greater yield over both conventional farming as well as organic. In fact, compared to organic crops, GM crops have a yield that is up to 45% greater. This is an important issue when we’re thinking of feeding a growing population.
Another concern I have about the fear mongering around GMO foods and products is the cost to our health. And here I use ‘our’ collectively. If the poorer amongst us think that GMOs are harmful they won’t eat enough vegetables and fruits. And we all know that veggies and fruits are super important to our health. Conventional and GM foods are cheaper. I’d much rather see folks eating more whole plant foods than less, even if those foods were GMO.
And lastly, along with this idea that we need to get folks to eat more fruits and veggies, we’re making a mountain out of a mole hill. GMOs account for very little of our overall food. In fact, very few fresh vegetables and fruits are actually genetically modified. The top GM foods are alfalfa, canola, corn, Hawaiian papaya, sugar beets, zucchini and yellow squash. Avoiding those foods or buying organic versions, will limit your GM exposure if you are concerned.
This is not to say that GM foods don’t have their problems or issues. I have concerns about patenting life and this is what is happening with genetically modified crops. I believe that seeds, and foods generally are part of our collective bounty and shouldn’t be owned by anyone.
So don’t misunderstand me. I’m not suggesting that Monsanto is benevolent company. What I am saying is that we need to look at GMO foods more objectively. They have proven safe so far, over the past twenty years and over billions of foods served and eaten. There is likely a place for them especially if we needing to feed a growing population.