Companies that produce genetically modified organisms (GMOs) swear that genetically modified foods are safe and that swapping genes between species is the answer to the global hunger crisis. Agricultural biotechnology has led to produce that can withstand frost, require fewer pesticides, ripen more slowly to stay fresher on the long trip to your grocery store, and look prettier in the produce bin due to enhanced color and texture.
This certainly has led to increased profits for companies that do not mind mixing a little fish DNA in with their tomatoes, but the jury is still out regarding the safety of these technologically enhanced foods. Preliminary studies are showing that GMOs are bad for the environment, bad for regular farmers and bad for the consumers eating them.
To better understand the effects this type of farming can have on the environment, here is just one example of how farming is changing. Herbicide-resistant crops are now being designed in a laboratory and planted in fields around the world. Once a plant’s DNA has been mashed up with the DNA of other plants or animals to make it resistant to herbicides, fields can be doused in chemical-laden herbicides to kill everything but the new strain of corn or soybeans being planted. This makes it easy for factory farms to rid their fields of weeds without harming their crops, but it also means introducing more chemicals into the environment and affecting ecosystems even more significantly.
Unfortunately, it is not just the environment we need to be worried about: The United States does not require labeling of GMOs, which means regular consumers are unknowingly purchasing these modified foods every day, and we do not yet know just how bad the effects will be. We do know that studies have shown organ damage and infertility in animals fed genetically modified foods. We also know that the recent rise in food allergies and autism seem to coincide with the introduction of genetically modified foods.
Respected medical groups have issued warnings about consuming GMOs, and some countries are requiring genetically modified foods to be labeled or have banned them completely. Until the U.S. gets on board and requires companies to let consumers know which of their products are genetically modified, here are six tips for avoiding GMOs:
1. Buy organic whenever possible.
2. Look for labels that display the Non-GMO Project seal.
3. Avoid buying non-organic products containing soybeans, corn or canola oil.
4. When buying beef, choose grass-fed options.
5. Avoid processed foods, and learn to love cooking from scratch.
6. Purchase produce, dairy and meat from small, local farmers whenever possible.