GMOs vs Selective Breeding - Know the difference.
With so much controversy revolving around GMOs my family has had a couple of dinner conversations on the topic with some big questions. “Are GMOs bad, good or indifferent?” “Can world hunger be eliminated?” “Farmers have been modifying crops for centuries, whats the big deal?”
So what’s the difference between Selective Breeding and GMOs?
Selective breeding is the process in which organisms with desired traits (and thus with the desired genes) are used to breed the next generation and organisms lacking the trait are not bred. Plants and animals have been domesticated for thousands of years using selective breeding. Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) are plants or animals that have undergone a process where scientists alter their genes with DNA from different species of living organisms, bacteria, or viruses to get desired traits such as resistance to disease or tolerance of pesticides. Genetic modification began about 30 years ago and really only got speed in the last 20 years. Being in it’s infancy, we have yet to see long term effects both good and bad.
So what? Modify… Breed… does it matter?
Genetically modifying species with same species is probably not going to cause hazardous issues. And will most likely work well to bring out the desired characteristics of a plant and lessen the undesired characteristics.
However some genetic engineering can create dangerous side effects. Mixing genes from totally unrelated species can result in new toxins, allergens, carcinogens, and nutritional deficiencies. I think of it like this, if the intent is to repel bugs from eating a plant and the plant is genetically modified with a pesticide, it will repel the bugs. However, is that safe for me to eat?
To determine what is safe and unsafe for human consumption is the FDA’s job…. right? Most of the health and environmental risks of GMOs are being ignored by the government agencys. The reason for this tragedy is largely political. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), doesn't require a single safety study, does not mandate labeling of GMOs, and allows companies to put their GM foods onto the market without even notifying the agency.
Their justification was the claim that they had no information showing that GM foods were substantially different. But this was a lie. Secret agency memos made public by a lawsuit show that the overwhelming consensus even among the FDA's own scientists was that GMOs can create unpredictable, hard-to-detect side effects. They urged long-term safety studies.
But the White House had instructed the FDA to promote biotechnology. The agency official in charge of policy was Michael Taylor, Monsanto's former attorney, later their vice president. He's now the US Food Safety Czar.
Am I eating GMOs?
Most likely. Without labels and mandates against GMOs, they are in our foods and there is no way to know which foods contain GMO ingredients.
Dairy products have been infiltrated with GMOs. Much of our milk contains RGBH, or recombinant bovine growth hormone. RGBH is a GE variation on a naturally occurring hormone injected into dairy cows to increase milk production. It is banned for milk destined for human consumption in the European Union, Canada, New Zealand, and Australia. Many milk brands that are rGBH-free label their milk as such, but as much as 40% of our dairy products, including ice cream and cheese, contains the hormone.
90% of corn grown in the United States is genetically modified. And many more vegetables are in the beginning stages of being modified.
Even foods labeled as ”All natural" might be GE due to non labeling.
Right now there is no strict definition of what constitutes a natural food. This could be changing soon as federal court judges recently requested the Food and Drug Administration to determine whether the term can be used to describe foods containing GMOs.
It is safest to stick with organic foods when possible. Since the late '90s, USDA organic standards have prohibited any genetically modified ingredients.
Lastly, we need to take a serious look at how GMOs affect the environment.
One word: Pesticides. Hundreds of millions of extra pounds of pesticides! The six biggest producers of GE seeds—Monsanto, Syngenta, Dow Agrosciences, BASF, Bayer, and Pioneer (DuPont)—are also the biggest producers of chemical herbicides and insecticides… Coincidence?
Monsanto's Roundup Ready crops, for example, are genetically engineered to be immune to herbicide so that farmers can destroy weeds without killing their cash crops. But the process has spawned Roundup resistant weeds, leading farmers to apply greater and greater doses of the chemical or even resort to more toxic methods to battle back the superweeds. Win/win for Monsanto and big chemical companies, create and sell the GMO seeds, then sell the herbicides and pesticides. But is it a lose/lose for humanity? Time will tell. In the mean time, be aware, pressure your representatives to mandate labeling and stay informed.