Let’s face it – we live in a world of information overload and vast contradictions. Having been a part of the health industry for almost 20 years, I have learned and also taught what I’ve learned under an ‘evidence-based model.’ However, I have to say, after bearing witness to ‘good clinical evidence’ later being contradicted by more up-to-date research, I have to also rely on my instinct and common sense, as much as ‘evidence’. For this reason, I repeatedly come back to my food philosophy; to eat food as close to nature as possible.
Which brings me to Genetically Modified (GM) foods. Now I’m certainly no expert on this hotly debated topic. But what I understand about the basic mechanisms of genetic modification is more than enough for me to avoid consuming GM food. Let me explain.
What is GM food?
“Genetically modified (GM) foods are foods derived from organisms whose genetic material (DNA) has been modified in a way that does not occur naturally, e.g. through the introduction of a gene from a different organism. Currently, available GM foods stem mostly from plants, but in the future foods derived from GM microorganisms or GM, animals are likely to be introduced on the market. Most existing genetically modified crops have been developed to improve yield, through the introduction of resistance to plant diseases or of increased tolerance of herbicides” World Health Organisation (WHO).
Why I choose to avoid GM foods
So what happens to make a plant genetically modified? The main objective of developing plants based on GM organisms is to improve crop protection by developing resistance to disease and pests (therefore increasing yield and profit). Here are some of the ways this is achieved (in very basic terms)…
1. The plant is genetically modified to include a toxic bacteria so that when a pest eats it, their stomach literally explodes. So what happens when we ingest this GM plant/toxin? What exactly are the impact and cumulative effect on our guts having done so? Given the importance of our gut (flora) on our overall health, I’m not willing to risk ingesting anything designed to interfere with its proper functioning.
2. Food is genetically modified so it is resistant to the commonly used herbicide in Roundup (a glyco-phosphate based product). This means that crops can be sprayed en-mass without dying. So GM crops are typically far more contaminated with glyphosate than conventional crops. But not only does the Roundup kill the weeds surrounding the crop but the bacteria, bugs, worms and everything living around the crop. At the very least, when we are ingesting food that has been sprayed with glyco-phosphates, our gut (microflora) is adversely impacted.
At the end of March this year, based on studies by 17 oncologists, the WHO has re-assessed its position on glyphosates and called it a ‘probable’ human carcinogen. Monsanto is demanding the World Health Organisation retract their ground-breaking report (RoundUp, is the chemical cornerstone of Monsanto’s Genetically Modified empire). You can read more about this latest development in GM research here. This link also shares a paediatricians concerns re the increase in allergy, poor gut function and the impact of GM on the health of children.
3. Genetic promoters are injected into the plants to increase the desirable genes, for example, to increase the colour or fruit yield of tomatoes. But then when we ingest these plants, are we waking up genes we might not necessarily be wanting activated in our own bodies? We cannot deny that rates of cancer are increasing more rapidly than ever before. So many questions!
I’ve recently read a report that claims “genetically modified foods are as safe or safer than conventional or organically grown foods.” Based on the mechanisms of action I have just described, I just can’t accept that we can tamper with food at it’s most basic biological being, without it affecting us adversely. At the end of the day, I trust nature more than big profit driven corporations.
Ways to avoid ingesting GM food (in a nutshell).
In Australia, our labelling laws do not inform us. So, it always comes back to these key points…
1. Just eat real food. Processed food is where you will find GM in Australia. GM ingredients are estimated to be in 70% of processed items on the shelves, especially in products containing ‘vegetable oil’ like bread, dips, margarine, chips, crackers, cereals and bakery products like cakes and muffins.
2. The good news is that all Australian grown fruit and vegetables are not GM. So only eat seasonal, local, whole foods – another good reason to avoid ALL ’imported’ produce.
3. GM crops are however used to feed animals we eat. There is NO way to recognise animal products fed on GM – this includes milk, meat, eggs, fish. Until things improve, buying 100% grass-fed meat (be diligent in checking it is not only grass-fed but also grass-finished as many types of meat advertised as grass-fed, are in fact grain-finished) and organic dairy and poultry is the only way to be sure.
For more detail about shopping GM-free in Australia, click here.
So that’s my ideas and concerns about ignoring this developing change to our food chain. Feel free to add you thoughts and ideas by posting a comment below.