The issue of GMO has been a raging debate for quite some time now.
More recently though, the subject is back on our dinner tables as the headliner, and largely to thank is the significant shift towards healthy living that we have witnessed over the last decade or so, and double so since circa 2011.
There is no denying the world has grown more health-conscious lately. As the wellness and healthy living movement continues apace, eating healthy seems to be on everyone’s lips right now.
And it is the in-thing right now, as everyone waxes lyrical about smoothies and jumping rope, with a dash of yoga and meditation thrown in for added effect.
It would have been hard to imagine healthy eating would become so cool at one point, let alone grow into a fad.
Irony is, as we continue to advance, the stronger the need for the natural lifestyle we left behind. Natural food. Natural living. Natural-infused workspaces. Natural everything.
It is in the wake of this health consciousness that the GMO debate has been triggered again, and this time, it is a debate that’s not going away anytime soon.
Considering October is non-GMO month, we thought this would be an opportune time to stoke the embers and share some awareness concerning the foods we eat.
So, without much ado…
What is GMO?
The acronym stands for genetically modified organisms.
What this essentially means is that GMO products have had their genetic makeup shaken up through genetic engineering, forcing DNA from one species into another one.
This results in unbalanced combinations of plant, animal, viral and bacterial genes that can neither occur in nature, nor traditional breeding.
Tests on GMO products on humans have been inadequate, and the studies conducted don’t sound so convincing.
Hence the fiery debate.
Here is more of what you need to know about non-GMO foods.
Non-GMO is not organic
There is a lot of confusion surrounding non-GMO and organic products, and many seem to be of the view that these are interchangeable terms.
This is not the case, though.
It is true that non-GMO and organic products both prohibit GMOs in all aspects of farming and processing. What is also true is that both labels are trustworthy ways to avoid GMOs.
But organic is pure natural in that it prohibits anything that can be considered “artificial” – artificial pesticides, petroleum-based fertilizers and herbicides (same case as sewage sludge-based ones), as well as artificial preservatives, flavoring and coloring.
Organic also prohibits the use of antibiotics, growth hormones or animal byproducts for animals, and that the animals be organic-fed and have outdoor access.
In short, organic means 100% natural.
This is not the case with non-GMO foods.
Non-GMO can or cannot be organic; but organic is always non-GMO.
Health effects of consuming GMO are largely unknown
As briefly alluded to earlier, the health consequences of eating genetically modified organisms remain largely unknown.
GE foods have not been proven safe to eat and could have unpredictable consequences. When we were first introduced to trans-fats, corporations scuttled to place them onto your grocery shelves. But it is not until decades later that what was once considered a novel food was proven to be highly unhealthful.
There is a perturbing concern in the scientific community that genetically-altered foods could, once consumed, pass on their mutant genes to the digestive system bacterium, and there is no telling what effect these new strains of bacteria could have on our body systems’ balance.
Learn your labels
Unlike most other industrialized nations, there is no mandatory labeling of GMO products in the United States.
President Obama did sign a law in July 2016 making labeling mandatory but the program, whose specifics were left to the USDA, is not expected to come into effect until after two years of signing the bill into law.
Small food producers – those with 500 employees or less – will have an additional year to label their products. Tiny food companies, on the other hand – those with less than one million in annual sales – will be totally exempt, unless, of course, they choose to out of their own volition.
Moreover, this law has been called a DARK Act, DARK meaning Denying Americans the Right to Know, because the labeling will be done digitally through QR codes which is set to lock out millions of consumers, especially rural and low-income populations.
As of now, your safest bet to picking out non-GMO foods is to look for products with labels from the Non-GMO Project (more of this shortly), A Greener World’s Certified Non-GE, or USDA organic label.
Non-GMO Project Verified Products
It is the vacuum in the non-GMO space in the U.S. that led to the founding of the Non-GMO Project, a private body whose mission is to safeguard consumer choice while preserving and rebuilding the nation’s non-GMO food supply.
Products bearing the Non-GMO Project mark are your best assurance that the food you are consuming is non-GMO. These products have undergone a rigorous verification program aimed at curbing the risk of GMO contamination.
You can find the initiative here.
It’s Impossible to tell apart
The lack of mandatory labeling of GMO foods in the U.S. has put consumers in a conundrum.
If the products you purchase are not labeled non-GMO, it is virtually impossible to tell whether they are genetically modified organisms or not.
Suffice to say this is not fair to the consumer who is entitled to a choice, as is happening in almost 50 other countries, including most European nations, Brazil and even China.
GMO foods to be aware of: The infamous 11
As we speak, there are 11 GMO seeds approved to be grown in the United States: corn (field and sweet), canola, alfalfa, papaya, sugar beets, squash, “Innate” potato, soybeans, cotton, zucchini and more recently, “Arctic” apple.
If you want to avoid consuming GMO foods, keep away from processed foods that contain any of these ingredients, UNLESS they have been clearly labeled non-GMO.
It is good to note that over 70% of processed foods in restaurants and retail stores have ingredients derived from GE (genetically engineered) corn, canola, soybeans and cotton. As well, half the sugar used in food products is extracted from GM (genetically modified) sugar beets.
Check supplement and vitamin labels
Genetically modified corn and soy are the chief sources of many coatings and fillers. You can spot them under the guise of such labels as maltodextrin and citric acid.
GM bacteria and fungi is also used to produce some pills.
The nongmoproject.org can help in your quest for verified brands.
Organic products may be costly, true, but if you can swing it, they are the best foods you can get into your body.
The thing with nonorganic products is that there is a high likelihood they might be housing ingredients that are mostly genetically modified. Think corn, cottonseed oil, canola oil, soy and sugar – unless, of course, it is clearly indicated “pure cane sugar”.
GMO is not unique to plants and plant products, as previously mentioned. Animal products like meat, milk, eggs, seafood and honey could also be GMO, thanks to GE ingredients present in animal feeds.
Herbal Papaya is a strong believer and an active supporter of the non-GMO movement. We are a proud member of the Natural Products Association, and our products are sourced from organic, non-GMO papayas cultivated in a sustainable, socially responsible manner.