Genetically modified foods, even those three words alone sound a bit daunting. If that wasn’t scary enough try these two words: DNA modification. Genetically modified foods are foods that have been engineered, taking traits from one plant or animal and inserting them into another in order to produce a superior, more robust and disease-resistant plant.
The idea is to have a plant that can take more abuse, that doesn’t get sick and that requires less care than what naturally grows in the wild. Healthychild.org gave an interesting example : …genes from an arctic flounder (which has natural “anti-freezing” properties that protect it from the frigid waters) may be injected into tomato DNA to make a new breed that is more resistant to frost damage.
The problem is that, by genetically modifying foods, scientists are producing that which does not occur in nature. Those who are against this process will argue that it’s not healthy to consume them based upon the fact that there is no way to replicate in a lab what Mother Nature produces naturally.
One major concern is our inability to control the impact GMO foods have on our food supply. Just last month GMO wheat, which is not currently approved by the USDA was found in a farmer’s field in Oregon (read full article here). YIKES that’s frightening! How do we put control mechanisms on Mother Nature? And that is just the tip of the iceberg.
One of the biggest concerns is for our children. Children are more susceptible to allergens and are more likely to have/develop food allergens. When scientists create GM plants they actually introduce allergens into the process with the intent of creating a plant that is resistant to them.
The impact of this is that the allergens are actually in the plant thus exposing children to them in higher quantities than normal. Children, especially under the age of two when the body has not yet developed an immuno-response to allergens, are more likely to consume GM foods.
They eat lots of corn-based foods, drink soy-based formula and lots of dairy, even have products used on their skin made from cornstarch, all the foods that are most popular with the GM-developing set. Not only are the most popular foods used to develop the largest portion of baby foods and products – such as corn, soybeans, cotton and potatoes – animals consume the GM plants.
Cows eat the genetically modified corn so their meat and milk are completely saturated with it. According to babycenter.com, “Other GM crops currently allowed in the U.S. food and feed supply are alfalfa, canola, chicory, corn, cotton, flax, papaya, potato, rice, soybean, squash, sugar beet, and tomato.” Taking that one step further, healthychild.org has published <href=”http: healthychild.org=”” live-healthy=”” checklist=”” top_ten_genetically_engineered_food_crops=”” “=””>an article with the top ten most dangerous GM foods containing basically everything our kids are consuming:
1. Corn: The number 1 most modified plant with over 25% of the output being genetically modified.
2. Soy: Approximately 60% of processed foods contain soy with over 50% of the output being GM’ed.
3. Potato: Only one potato is genetically modified, Burbank Russet, however it is lethal to the Colorado potato beetle and possible other beneficial insects.
6. Cottonseed Oil: Over 60% of the cotton grown in the US is GM.
7. Papaya: Over 1/3rd of the Hawaiian papayas are GM’ed and organic growers are increasingly concerned that their crops will be contaminated by the genetically modified varieties.
9. Squash: Scientists worry that the virus-resistant GM varieties could lead to invasive superweeds.
10. Salmon: The biggest worry is that the GM fish could escape into the environment. The larger, more aggressive fish could lead to extinction of those that occur naturally in the wild.
Interestingly enough, even rats don’t want to eat genetically modified foods, and rats will eat anything. In the 90’s there was a study where rats were fed GM tomatoes and they refused to eat them. Other studies showed where animals, when given a choice between GM foods and natural ones, always chose non-GM foods.
Allergens aren’t the only worry. GM foods are high in growth hormone, which can cause premature growth stimulation leading to earlier puberty and even breast development in males. Additionally, some of the agents used in the GM process can lead to cancer.
Obviously this discussion is only the tip of the iceberg. The effects of consuming genetically modified foods are just being discovered. Of one thing we can be certain: it’s not a natural process therefore we shouldn’t expose our children to it. The genetic modification process may be complex but what we feed our children doesn’t have to be.