By Anita Wong, CFJC Intern
The concept of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) was first introduced to me in a nutrition class several years ago. The promises of GMO foods were to increase resistance to disease, food production and food security. Today, over 85 percent of corn and soy crops are genetically modified by biotech companies like Monsanto and Syngenta. Another fact I found interesting from the Non-GMO Project – about 80 percent of packaged food items in the average grocery store contain a genetically modified ingredient!
Back then, I did not perceive the existence of GMOs negatively as I do today. It’s difficult not to question if GMO foods are safe when they are created by the same companies who once told us that Agent Orange and DDT were safe. Many of us are still uncertain of the health effects of GMOs on humans and our environment. Some studies say GMOs are harmful to us because they have not fulfilled their promises since their introduction over a decade ago. Pests have become resistant to the pesticides produced by genes in GMOs, making biotech companies develop new and potentially dangerous insertions of altered genes into crops. Although biotech companies have been successful in food production, malnutrition is still an issue because a majority of the GMO crops are either corn or soy. These aren’t crops that make it to the top of the list of being most nutritious. Most farmers who grow GMO crops practice monoculture – planting only one crop on their land that is in high demand by companies like Tyson and Hormel. Monoculture does not create greater food security for all because it decreases agricultural diversity and has farmers using heavy applications of pesticides to upkeep production.
One might think to avoid GMOs by growing your own crops, but even seeds that can be purchased at your local nursery and hardware store can be patented and genetically modified by biotech companies as well. This was surprising since I had just sowed a bunch of seeds. It makes you wonder how anything can be truly non-GMO. The Just Label It campaign recently announced they collected over a million signatures from Americans who want the FDA to label GMO products. Though there is no solid evidence GMOs damage environmental and human health, we still have a right to know what’s in our food so we can choose what to put in our bodies.