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Before you take another bite, have you ever stopped to consider what you are really eating? Lately, there has been growing concern across the nation in regard to where our food comes from and how it is produced. It would be nice to believe that when we go into our local grocery store the items we buy are completely natural and geared to maximizing our overall health; however, this is not entirely the case.
The rise of GMO, or genetically modified foods, has taken place rapidly in America, and does not appear to be a passing fad. According to the Chicago Tribune, genetically modified crops comprise 93 percent of soy, 86 percent of corn, and 93 percent of canola seeds planted in the United States and are used in approximately 70 percent of American processed food. What this means is we are consuming foods that have been genetically altered. DNA from one species is inserted into the DNA of another species which creates a new combination that does not naturally occur. In the US, there has been much debate about the health implications of genetically modified foods, and Monsanto, an American multinational chemical, agricultural biotechnology corporation that is the leading producer of genetically engineered seed, is at the forefront of the controversy. In his column for Dow Jones Newswires, business columnist Al Lewis explains that Monsanto is responsible for bringing us products that are more dangerous than advertised, products such as insecticide DDT, the toxic industrial chemicals known as PCBs, growth hormones, and the defoliant Agent Orange, known to the Vietnam era, which poisoned our own soldiers with dioxins. Monsanto also brought saccharine, the sweet yet artificial substitute for sugar that is known to cause cancer in laboratory rats. Monsanto has put many farmers out of business across the nation and they are now the number one US and global farm supplier, with almost all seeds shipped to Africa and India, being GMO seeds.
In recent years, many have rallied and protested against GMO but our government seems steadfast in supporting Monsanto and the like. The Obama administration has deregulated more genetically modified foods than ever. Currently, there are more than 30 countries that have banned or put restrictions on GMO crop and seed importation, but there are none in the United States and up to 70 percent of processed foods contain one or more genetically modified ingredient. Only a small selection of food companies place labels on their products to inform consumers that their product is natural with no GMO. Otherwise, if GMO ingredients are not indicated on a label, few Americans truly realize what they are eating. In the same way that consumers choose which products to buy, they should be granted the right to choose whether or not to consume GMO foods or organic food.
Monsanto asserts that there is no hard evidence to defend the claim that GMO food is directly linked to health complications but a study conducted by the Medical Daily states that 104 studies around the world conveyed that plant exposure to pesticides, insecticides, weed killers, fungicides, solvents, and more, increased the risk of developing Parkinson’s disease by 30 to 80 percent. This blatantly raises health concerns since vast acres of farmland and weeds are developing resistances to the pesticides used. This may result in genetically modified plants needing stronger pesticides to defeat greater strains of diseases. In terms of human health, who knows what GMO will do to us or future generations as it becomes part of the bacteria in our digestive tract.
According to Reuters, Congress introduced a new bill that bans states from implementing their own labeling laws in regards to food that contains genetically engineered ingredients. If GMO is not harmful the way Monsanto declares, then why not place labels on food? Concurrently, if GMO is not harmful, then why did Japanese authorities cancel a tender offer to buy wheat from the US after unapproved genetically modified wheat was found in an Oregon field? South Korea, China, and the Philippines were also cautious after concerns circulated that the modified wheat could have entered the marketplace. According to Reuters, the US Department of Agriculture conducted a genetic test on the wheat and found that it was an experimental type produced by Monsanto that hadn't been approved for sale. We are continuously told GMO is safe, yet research proves otherwise. It is one thing for our country to back the dispensation of GMO, but it is something much more ominous when other countries are backing away from exposing their populations to the threat.
In making a conscious effort to avoid GMO products in the grocery store, choose products labeled “certified non-GM product” or “certified organic” products and research farmers markets and natural food stores around your area. Additionally, one-fifth of all dairy cows in America are pumped with growth hormones, so it is safer to buy organic. Although some research attests that GMO foods may have benefits over organic foods by preventing damaging insects and contributing to the longevity of a fruit or vegetable, in the long run, we are consuming foods that are undoubtedly harmful to our health. So the next time you make your way to the store, be prepared because you may end up biting off more than you are willing to chew.