Why Go Non-GMO in 2016?
Why Go Non-GMO in 2016?
Happy New Year from all of here at Living Health Integrative Medicine. As we ring in the New Year, many resolutions revolve around food, in particular eating “right”. Eating “right” can have so many different meanings dependant upon the person – clean eating, paleo, vegan, vegetarian, pescatarian, flexitarian, and so on. But, one thing is consistent in eating “right” and that is to make sure you are consuming high quality foods such as being organic, wild fish, free-range poultry and grass-fed beef. These terms are all self-explanatory. Also included in the list of high quality foods are foods that are non-GMO. This term is a little bit more complicated to understand. What is a GMO food and why should we stay away from them? Where did they come from? What is all the hype about them? And, why would a Functional Nutritionist (me) be so opposed to them? Well, read on…
GMO stands for “genetically modified foods” which means that genes from one species have been spliced into an entirely different species.
Another way to describe it is when animals or plants have been altered with genetic material that would not occur naturally by mating and/or recombination. For example, strawberries and tomatoes are injected with fish genes to protect the fruit from freezing and salmon injected with growth hormones that allow them to grow larger. The most concerning example of a GMO food is corn and soy since they are contained in so many foods. GMO corn and soy is used in almost 90% of processed food for humans and in 100% of the grain fed to non-organic animals raised for meat. Many producers modify corn and soy so they are resistant to the herbicide glyphosate which is used to kill weeds. Corn plus DNA from soil bacteria that is immune to RoundUp herbicide plus e.coli bacteria plus soil bacteria (that allows penetration into the plant’s cell wall) becomes RoundUp Ready Corn. RoundUp Ready Corn is just one example of a crop engineered by Monsanto.
GMOs are currently labeled, restricted or banned in 64 countries
The list is changing all the time but some of the countries are: Australia, New Zealand, UK, Norway, Luxembourg, Austria, Germany, France, Hungary, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Greece and Ireland. Guess what? It’s an ongoing debate in America. For now, the FDA has deemed many of the GMOs safe based off of the makers of the foods. If the makers of the GMO food claims the food is safe, then it is safe. Let that sink in…. GMO foods are not required to undergo specific safety tests prior to entering the market. And, no studies have been conducted on the human safety of GMO products. Ok, so, then shouldn’t we know which foods are genetically modified so we can make our own decision about consuming them? Unfortunately, that is not happening in the near future. In July of 2015, the House of Representatives passed a bill to prevent mandatory GMO food labeling.
To be fair, there are arguments for GMOs which are basically economic reasons. Increased crop yields would help feed the expanding population is one pro. And, reduced pesticide use would benefit the farmers is another argument for GMOs.
As a functional nutritionist, what concerns me the most is the impact of consuming these foods on your digestive system or commonly known as your gut. Your gut is your core and the foundation to your “house”. The health of your gut is tied to your immune system and your brain. That is why the gut is commonly referred to as your second brain. Your gut is the barrier between food and the rest of your body. The gut wall protects you from damaging particles entering your bloodstream. Think of it like a finely meshed fence only allowing beneficial particles to enter the bloodstream keeping the harmful ones out. The integrity of the gut can be compromised by many things – food intolerances, antibiotics, toxins, and stress to name a few. You can also add to the list GMO foods. When the integrity of the gut is compromised that finely meshed fence is now more “holey” allowing the harmful particles to enter the bloodstream. When this happens, the body attacks these unrecognizable particles and inflammation develops. Inflammation in the gut is the cornerstone to not only digestive disorders but also diabetes, allergies, heart disease, autoimmune disorders and kidney disease.
Since there are not requirements to label GMO foods, the non-GMO Project, a nonprofit organization, is your best bet for information. The seal verifies that the food has gone through an extensive verification process. An image of the seal is below.
It is also helpful to be aware of the most common genetically modified foods. The top seven in order are: corn, soy, yellow squash and zucchini, alfalfa, canola, sugar beets and milk. If you are interested in learning more about GMOs, this link, lists movies, books, scientific research and organizations on the topic.