In Support of GM Food Labels

Wanna hear something ironic? I’ll tell you anyway. ;) I was putting the final touches on a post about controversial blog topics when I realized that a petition regarding a highly controversial issue—genetically modified foods—is about to wrap up. And once again, I can’t keep my mouth shut  feel compelled to speak up.

The GM food debate is raging, with intriguing arguments on both sides. The World Health Organization defines GM foods as “organisms in which the genetic material (DNA) has been altered in a way that does not occur naturally.” It’s done for numerous reasons, including supply and demand, financial gain and, believe or not, health. Corn, cotton and soy are the current biggies; they’ve been genetically modified since the mid-90s to make a variety of foods and products, including high-fructose corn syrup and loads of other processed foods.

Supporters of GM foods believe they can benefit consumers by creating more nutritious, abundant crops and plants more resistant to disease. Opponents fear various health risks, including allergic reactions and resistance to antibiotics. Though we’re lacking evidence that GM foods pose health risks—at least so far—and some research points to benefits, I believe that we should have the right to choose whether or not our foods have been genetically altered. (So do most Americans, according to ABC News.)

Do you prefer to know what you’re eating?

GE food labels are required by many countries worldwide, including 15 European countries, China, Japan and Russia. If you feel that the U.S. should follow suit, please visit the Center for Food and sign the petition by Tuesday, March 27th. And please pass it on.

Regardless of the outcome of the labeling law, here are some ways to help ensure that your foods are nutrient-rich and contain little, if any, genetically modified ingredients:

1. Buy organic. Yes, I know it’s pricey. But if you can swing it, I believe it’s worth it. To save money, opt for seasonal and frozen items, cook rather than dine out more often and… see #2. ;)

2. Shop at your local farmers market. Not only will you save money, most likely, you’ll support your local farms. You may also gain appreciation for food by connecting with the growers. We don’t think enough about where our food comes from, IMHO.

3. Eat more fruits and vegetables. Even non-organic produce is a great option as far as genetic engineering goes. (So far attempts at altering potatoes and tomatoes both flopped.) To save money, stock up on frozen produce. Because frozen fruits and veggies are flash frozen at their nutritional prime, they are at least as nutritious as fresh produce that’s been around for days or weeks.

4. Cut back on meat and/or choose grass-fed beef. Many other cows consume genetically modified corn. As Michael Pollan pointed out in an NPR interview, many of the GM foods we consume, come to use indirectly—through animals that eat them. And by eating less animal protein, we have more room our diets and funds in our banks for those fabulous plants. ;) Super nutritious plant protein sources include beans, lentils, nuts, seeds and whole grains. Opting for fish instead of meat is another great option.

5. Emphasize whole foods. Most GM foods consumed in the U.S. come in the form of processed foods. By filling our grocery carts, kitchens and plates with primarily whole foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fish, nuts, legumes and seeds, we eat fewer GM ingredients and reap a broad range additional benefits, from improved cardiovascular health and weight control to better sleep quality, energy and moods.

For more information, check out these fantastic links:
U.S. Health News: 10 Ways to Save Money on Organic Food
New York Times: Michael Pollan Answers Readers’ Questions
One Green Generation: Gardening 101: My Top 12 Easy Vegetables to Grow From Seed
MayoClinic.com: Organic Foods: Are They Safer? More Nutritious? 

What are your thoughts on GM foods? When given a choice, do you opt for organic? What steps do you take to ensure that your diet is nutritious and delicious? I love hearing your thoughts.

Leave a comment

55 Comments

  1. Like you, I don’t know the potential impact of GM foods and I can’t see a problem with having notifications to consumers.

    Thank you again for the summary with your cogent recommendations :D

    Reply
  2. drjeff7

     /  March 25, 2012

    Very Nice Post. Check out Dr. Don Huber on Youtube for some information that he has discovered about GM foods and an organism that is present. The other part of the debate is not merely the GMO itself, but the glyhposate that is applied to the ground.

    http://www.heritagebreedfarms.wordpress.com

    Reply
  3. In most of the post the foods are called “GM” ( genetically modified foods) in another place they are referred to as “GE” foods (genetically engineered) not sure what’s what but either way it’s making road kill more attractive..

    Reply
  4. Wonderful post, August! We try to avoid anything political on our blog, but this subject is just too freaky to be silent about. And it really is our human right to choose what food we want to eat. Once again, big corporations want to be able to do whatever they please and whine about regulations if people dare to stand up for that right.

    Reply
  5. I am going to send this link to my son who is doing a term paper on GMO’s. We live in very scary times.
    Great article August!

    Reply
  6. Great article August. As always full of good information that is valuable for me to know. I’d sure like my food to be labeled correctly. it would give me the choice of what I eat. I don’t trust most of modern business,so I don’t trust these products but that’s just because I’m cynical.

    Reply
    • You hit the nail on the head, Louise. It’s about having choices about what we put in our bodies. I’d say a little cynicism is a good thing!

      Reply
  7. I’d much rather know ALL about my food, thank you very much. I have THREE friends in their 40′s who have just been diagnosed with various forms of cancer and I don’t think that’s a happy accident. I think a lot of the wigginess happening in people’s cells is coming from our food.

    Reply
  8. Hats off for acknowledging the complexity of this issue. It is huge. Are reading the same stuff I am? Glyphosate, the active ingredient in Round-up, which is sprayed on “Round-up Ready” GM crops, and the chemical it degrades into are being found in high concentrations in the water and air in several agricultural communities. While it’s too soon for long-term studies on the effect on human health, there is frightening data coming out, like this: http://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/tx1001749

    And now we are seeing Glyphosate resistant weeds. Dow chemical’s solution is to put 2,4-D resistant crops on the market. Yep, good old agent orange.

    The least we can demand is transparency. Labeling seems like such a sensible thing to do.

    You’re right, it’s hard to write about issues that send people ballistic (like this one). Still, your courage will inspire other people to ask questions, educate themselves and speak up.

    Reply
    • Thanks for the wonderful encouragement. I’ve too been reading up on glyphosates—aka Roundup. The potential risks are daunting, to say the least. Thank goodness researchers are analyzing these risks, and people like you take their findings to heart.

      I’m optimistic that the labeling law will pass. That transparency you mentioned will at least give consumers the freedom to choose.

      Reply
  9. I agree that you should be able to choose whether or not to eat GM foods, just as you should have the choice whether to eat battery-hen or free-range eggs.

    I don’t particularly think one is better or worse than the other though. As I see it, we’ve been ‘genetically influencing’ everything we eat, from whet to bananas, pigs to cows for as long as we’ve been farming them. Picking the biggest, healthiest varieties and breeding them together over generations is a slower method of what labs do in one step.

    Cross species genes (eg. jellyfish -> wheat rather than barley -> wheat), well, I’m unsure of. I mean, I know we share lots of genes between species already but it still makes me a little uneasy. I’m just not sure whether it’s an emotional response or a rational one, as I’ve not got any real evidence against it.

    Reply
    • You bring up some valuable points, Jim. Cross breeding has been going on for a long time, and certainly some of the research on GM foods involves ways to make foods more nutritious.

      For anyone who’s interested, cross breeding involves gene exchange between closely related species—oranges + tangerines = tangelos, for example. Genetic engineering (aka modification) involves two entirely different species, such as inserting cow genes into potatoes, or squid into pigs.

      The latter is what’s concerning, both because of the dramatic change in DNA structure and because we don’t know the long-term effects yet. It’s a very new field.

      Reply
  10. Another great and informative article. Very nicely written advice on a topic we all need to know more about it and give serious thought. Somethings just cannot be improved.

    Reply
  11. Fantastic post August. You know, so timely because I’ve been thinking more and more about what I put into my body. The other day, I got into a huge snitch when I realized my body cream is full of carcinogens and now I am hunting for a great, organic body moisturiser. It weirds me out to think about how foods are processed so that they “keep” for so long. And I to wonder about what that chicken or cow was fed…it’s definitely something that is more at the fore front. And I have no issues spending more money to buy local and to know that what I am eating is safe and natural….Tks for the fab reminder and GREAT tips!

    Reply
    • Kudos to you for thinking more about your food and where it comes from, Natalie. So many benefits in that! We live in an instant gratification society, but we don’t have to apply the same principles in our homes.

      Here’s a lotion/cosmetics brand to add to your hunt: Cleure. ;) Stay well, lovely, and thanks for the support!

      Reply
  12. Great post August! This is an important topic–I try to buy organic whenever I can. That and focusing on whole foods. :)

    Reply
  13. Shannon Esposito

     /  March 26, 2012

    Signed the petition, thanks for bringing it to our attention! We really do enjoy playing God, don’t we? ;-)

    Reply
  14. Sometimes, it is the most obvious that escapes our notice. I’ve been a whole food eater for years, and am surrounded by farmer’s markets all summer-yet I rarely go. I need food, I go to supermarket.

    That’s about to change.

    Reply
  15. Karen McFarland

     /  March 26, 2012

    Well my cyber and new L.A. friend, I think you know how I feel about food and chemical companies. It/They are the reason why my family now has certain health issues. We were exposed to agent orange at one time. Not sure when. But it’s in our blood and it does change you genetically and has now been passed down to our children. Lovely.

    So yes, thank you for these posts. It’s important that we know what is in our foods. It’s unfortunate that we cannot trust anymore. We have to be on the lookout constantly. But we do the best that we can. :)

    Reply
    • Wow, Karen. I’m so sorry to hear that you and your family have been sorely affected by agent orange. You are a prime example of someone who not only does her best, but carries on with gusto. (Go, kale! ;))

      Reply
  16. I’m very hesitant about GM foods (or as we call them at my house franken-foods). I live in farm country so when things are in season we buy predominantly from farmer’s markets and roadside stands. It’s so much better than what you can get in the grocery store and I love shopping local. Organic isn’t really an option for us here. Not only is the selection slim and the quality low, but we simply can’t afford to pay almost double the cost. (Again, I’m in a rural area so we don’t have the same demand for organic foods in the grocery store as a bigger city would.)

    Reply
    • Franken-foods. Now there is a work that should be in progress! ;)

      I’m so glad you have access to farm fresh fare, Marcy. My parents always had fruit and vegetable gardens and took our family to the farmers market on weekends. As an adult, I’m continually more grateful for these gifts.

      Reply
  17. I think it probably sounds much worse than it is. Genetically modified conjurs up all sorts of weird ideas. And don’t forget just because something is organic doesn’t mean no sprays have been used on them. Let’s all just grow our own ;0)

    Reply
    • Ooh, I wish I could grow my own! Seeing as I couldn’t even keep my chia pet alive, I’ll turn to local growers instead. ;)

      The term ‘genetically modified’ certainly can conjure up frightening images, and many people have little idea as to what it means. I’m grateful that so much research is being done.

      Reply
  18. I definitely agree we should the choice. I haven’t looked into the subject enough to have a firm opinion either way on the health risks/benefits. As to diet: I read labels, avoid pre-package and convenience foods, cook from scratch (in fact have started making my own bread again), only use real butter and olive oil, and with the the exception of Truvia don’t use artificial sweeteners. Since #3 was put on a restrictive diet we’ve done away with probably 70% of refined foods and increased our fiber intake.

    Off to sign the petition. Great post August!

    Reply
    • Sounds like you have some great practices in place, Raelyn. I respect you so much for making healthy changes for your whole family, rather than just for #3—great for your child’s emotional wellbeing and your whole family’s wellness.

      I love baking own whole grain bread! It’s ruined me for other kinds. :) And I love stevia—the plant Truvia stems from.

      Reply
  19. Great post, August. I know I read, somewhere, there are European countries who will not import our wheat because of GM, which started me thinking about gluten. I have the heard argument that some gluten sensitive people have been able to eat the bread in France. Sorry I can’t substantiate the sources but I honestly don’t believe I made them up (grin).

    I am not in favor of GM or cross-breeding. Just don’t think an apple should ever be an orange (yes, an exaggerated example), and nature knows better than we do–always.

    Karen

    Reply
    • Hi Karen, I bet you’re thinking of corn gluten, which is genetically modified in the U.S. (Wheat hasn’t been approved for modification as of yet.) Europe stopped importing American corn gluten last year.

      “…nature knows better than we do”— Love that!

      Reply
      • Of course, August! It was silly of me to muse, even lightly, on such a serious subject. It’s just that you make your readers feel comfortable enough to do so. Thanks!
        Karen

      • Please, muse away! :) You brought up a great point. So glad you feel comfortable sharing.

  20. EllieAnn

     /  March 26, 2012

    Brilliant. I just signed the petition, thanks so much for letting me know about it!
    This is something so close to my heart. My dad owns a soybean plant factory in Iowa, and he’s one of the only farmers/producers who mills non-GMO and organic products. And he’s been doing it since the very beginning of his company (more than 10 yrs ago) because he just believes it’s not going to be good for our environment if we mess up genes like that.
    I’ve posted on this issue a few times, and I really appreciate your insight and practical tips. We’re pretty conscious of the issues listed, but it’s a great reminder for when those Cosmic Browners (Little Debbies) are looking you in the face. ;)

    Reply
  21. August, this has been an issue up here in Canada, too. I’m afraid that as long a GMO products make mega-bucks, it will continue to be pushed under the table and the health risks ignored. It’s up to the consumer — up to us — to ensure we pick only products that are healthy for us. I love your posts because it brings issues like this to light.

    Reply
  22. Love that you are talking about this. We try to be careful about what we purchase (searching for that “non-GMO” on packaged products) since I am not too keen on eating the stuff.

    I agree wholeheartedly that people should have a right to know what they are eating – I know there are plenty of people that will still eat it, but those of us who don’t want to shouldn’t have to.

    I’m not exactly a conspiracy theorist, but I certainly don’t have much faith in a food being good for us in the long term just because it has a gov’t stamp of approval on it. (e.g. aspartame, sucralose, etc) I like to be able to decide for myself what goes in my body.

    Reply
  23. August, you always bring things to my attention in a concise, helpful manner. You provide tools to help me make better decisions. Thank you!

    Reply
  24. The title of this post was cut off at “GM” on the summary page on my iphone so I was pleasantly surprised to read (upon clicking on the full post)that you’re not, in fact, supportive of GM =) This is all very useful information and its nice of you to try to provide a complete picture by saying that some genetic modification is intended to improve nutritional content. Though I doubt that this would be the prevailant reason. I’m definitly with you on letting consumers be aware of what they are purchasing. I’m just completely confused by what is natural and what is not these days. For the first time in my life I saw a Kiwi Berry in the supermarket and assumed it was some mutilated version of kiwies and/or one of the berries. Turns out it is naturally occurring! Its very sad that we are living like that, needing to be suspecious of everything we put into our mouth.

    Reply
  25. I wasn’t aware there was a petition, so thank you for giving us the link. I absolutely believe we should have labels. It’s interesting that there isn’t enough data yet to tell us GM foods are bad for us, but there is evidence to suggest the opposite. I’m curious who paid for the research. Some digging of my own might be in order… I’ll let you know what I find out.

    Reply
  26. I am against GM foods. Period. Thank you for writing about this issue and including a link to the Center for Food. I’m off to sign the petition and pass the information along to my friends.

    Reply
  27. Thanks for bringing this to our attention August because I wasn’t aware this was coming up. I’m glad you can’t shut your mouth, LOL. I’m going to go sign the petition. Great tips too!

    Reply
  28. inkspeare

     /  March 27, 2012

    Yes, I just want to have the information needed so I can make the best decision about the foods I eat. I don’t want to consume genetically modified foods, but since I can’t tell for sure, I want labels to tell me which is which. I was talking to my sister the other day about how the fruits and veggies that I buy at the local supermarkets do not have any taste and it feels like eating watery flavored fruits or veggies. Now, I don’t know if this has anything to do with it, but I certainly would love to have a juicy fruit or veggie, the way the ones grown at home or by local farmers taste. I find a huge difference between the taste of the stuff I buy at supermarkets and the taste of stuff I buy from farmers. I’m not sure what GM foods will do to us in the long run, but I know that I don’t want them in my diet and labeling is the right thing to do so the people who don’t want them can avoid them. As always, you bring us beautifully written and very informative posts, thanks.

    Reply
  29. Hi August. Its a difficult thing to balance the food needs of a country, or the world, with the concerns of tampering with the food chain. Changes in the human diet has traditionally taken tens of years, and now we can effect changes in a matter of weeks. Humans have grown taller (and winder!) of the past couple of hundred years. And that was with “natural” changes to their diet. Have to wonder what the massive changes GM foods could (and already are) bringing about. Far from feeding the masses, these foods could create more, larger people with even greater food needs. A great subject, August. Now I’m off to drink some organic tea, eat a homegrown carrot and listen to some sock music.

    Cheers!

    Reply
  30. I love your range, August!
    Nice work.

    Reply
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