By Christine M. Surrey, DO, CFMP
The safety of GMO (genetically modified organism) foods has been a hot topic of discussion lately, so let's begin with some basic facts. DNA is the material in cells that contains the genetic code of the organism in which it resides. Scientists spend a great deal of time unraveling the science of DNA because of the exciting potential it holds to eradicate certain illnesses. If we were to figure out how to "erase" cancer genes or heart disease genes, we would save a countless number of lives. When it comes to our food supply, what if we could make rice that contains complete protein and vitamins? How many people could we rescue from starvation and disease who rely predominantly on this food source for their survival? What if we could produce crops that thrive in frost and drought conditions alike? We would have more food for those in need; we could help famers' crop production and lower the cost of food. Sounds great, right? Well, let's examine the facts behind GMO foods and then you can decide what is right for you and your family.
The Monsanto Company was the first producer of GMO crops and is currently the leading producer to date. This company has been so successful in genetically modifying plants that they are even resistant to Roundup weed killer. Coincidently, or not, Monsanto is also the producer of Roundup. At this time, Monsanto has successfully genetically engineered corn, soybean, cotton, canola, wheat, sugar beets, and alfalfa so that their crops survive even when Roundup is applied; leaving only the weeds to wither and die. Monsanto's reach is so pervasive that a shocking 80% of packaged food in this country contains genetically modified organisms.
Those who are concerned about consuming GMO products have a great reason to be fearful. Altering our food supply can introduce new allergens that were previously nonexistent. The soybean is a perfect example. It used to be that children allergic to peanuts could safely consume soy nuts; this is no longer the case. Genetically modifying the soybean has now made it unsafe for those with peanut allergies. We have also observed that the pests that eat GMO crops have themselves become genetically mutated to be more resistant to Roundup chemicals. This has resulted in the need to use larger quantities and stronger pesticides on GMO crops. Ultimately, these chemicals are consumed by humans. They can also be transmitted to us when we eat animals that are fed GMO food, such as corn and soybean. Remember, "We are what we eat." We also know that DNA from the food we eat can actually be transferred to the DNA of the microorganisms that normally reside in our bowels. It is actually possible, and the AMA (American Medical Association) concurs, that pesticide resistant DNA can be transmitted into our gut DNA. This opens up a vast potential for health problems that we are just beginning to comprehend.
In deciphering the papers put out by the AMA, it appears that their position is "innocent until proven guilty". They agree that there are many concerns and documents that GMO's have not been studied as far as the long-term effect on humans is concerned. However, they note that engineered food has been around for many years without proven significant problems in humans and that animal studies show that it is safe. Despite this position, many Americans remain fearful. Autism, cancer, and infertility are inexplicably on the rise, while sperm counts in men are decreasing at a remarkable rate. We don't know exactly why. Other countries who share similar concerns have regulations against or full bans on GMO products. Such countries include: Italy, France, Germany, Austria, Greece, Spain, the UK, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Thailand, and Switzerland.
So, how do you avoid GMO's, if you choose to do so?
1. Buy 100% organic food with "NON- GMO" labeling.
2. Find the time to cook food from scratch at home. Don't use the foods on Monsanto's list unless you know that they are organic.
3. Check out websites such as http://www.nongmoproject.org. You can find lists of proven GMO-free foods that you can carry with you.
4. Get politically involved and demand that genetically modified food be labeled, giving people the option to avoid it. As of now, labeling is not mandatory.
Personally speaking, I choose to be safe rather than sorry. I avoid having GMO food in my home and I strongly recommend the same.
Dr. Surrey is a certified Functional Medicine Doctor who brings multiple perspectives of health care to Tao Integrative Medicine