by Dr. Richard Powers
More and more health risks continue to appear in the scientific research around genetically engineered seeds (i.e., GMOs), which makes sense given the Pandora’s box that was opened when scientists began manipulating the very DNA coding that defines the characteristics of each and every living creature. Altered DNA, as in GMO crops, may result in novel (i.e., new) protein formation, which can be toxic, allergenic, or both.
GMO (an acronym for genetically modified organisms) refers to food grown from seeds that have been genetically manipulated, whereby one or more genes are extracted from a virus, bacteria, plant, or even animal and recombined into the DNA of a plant seed.
GMO technology was developed so plants could tolerate higher quantities of herbicides (weed killers)—in particular, glyphosate (marketed as Roundup)—in order to continue to generate higher crop yields (as weeds developed resistance to the herbicide). However, GMO technology presented several health challenges.
First, the use of glyphosate (and now tenfold increase in use) and other pesticides have been shown to negatively impact our hormone balance (“hormone disruptors”) and increase our risk of cancer and brain degeneration.
Research has yet to demonstrate GMO technology as being the most efficient and eﬀective approach to increasing crop yields, yet the evidence is clear that it is detrimental to both human health and the environment.
Second, as one might expect, genetic manipulation inevitably results in unanticipated and potentially harmful outcomes. For example, altered DNA, as in GMO crops, may result in new protein formation, which can be toxic (potentially promote disease and/or accelerate aging), allergenic (create an allergic type of response), or both. This may in part explain the increasing prevalence of gluten and other food sensitivities.
Non-GMO refers to seeds that have not been genetically modified. When selecting non-GMO food products, you avoid the potential toxicity and allergenicity of these new proteins. And, since non-GMO food contains much lower quantities of harmful chemical toxins (like glyphosate), choosing non-GMO labeled products (when organic is not available) makes a lot of sense. However, it is important to know that:
Although safer than products not labeled as such, “non-GMO” food continues to contain the previously “normal” (pre-GMO technology) quantities of toxic herbicides, in addition to other synthetic chemicals, preservatives, flavorings, colorings, and more, as it always had before the advent of GMO technology.
Organic labeled food ensures that the food has not been treated with hormone-disrupting and potentially cancer-promoting synthetic chemicals such as herbicides and fertilizers. By law (state and/or federal) these foods also are supposed to be void of antibiotics and added hormones, both of which negatively impact our gut and immune system.
Unfortunately, organic food may still contain some of these substances as a result of cross-contamination from nearby fields that spray chemicals, but for the most part, organic food ensures low exposure to these harmful chemicals. Organic food is also prohibited from containing artificial preservatives, sweeteners, colors, and ﬂavors. And finally, organic seeds are non-GMO, which means they have not been genetically engineered. (Yet, again, cross-contamination of GMO seeds “blown over” from adjacent fields can and does occur.)
It is better for your health and well-being to opt for organically labeled food to help minimize your exposure to toxic chemicals that have been shown to disrupt hormones (which can potentially result in hormone-related challenges with thyroid, sex hormones, blood sugar regulation, and more), and have been shown to be carcinogenic (promote cancer growth).
Both organic and non-GMO food choices help avoid the known and potential risks of genetically engineered seeds—the negative impact on immune function and an increase of the body’s toxic burden. Avoiding the consumption of GMO foods also helps reduce the risk of diseases that develop over time (like cancer), as well as disease risks yet to be discovered.
When budget constraints are in play, opt for “organic” when shopping for food that is the most highly chemically treated (refer to www.EWG.org and their Dirty Dozen list). When organic is not available or not possible, non-GMO food is your next best bet—particularly for the most currently prevalent GMO food, e.g., corn/oil, soybeans/oil, zucchini, squash, canola oil, and sugar from sugar beets, potatoes, and apples. Although non-GMO choices are better than not, non-GMO food is still a far cry from organic food.
Tip: Any apple—be it organic, non-GMO, or not—is still a healthier choice than any bag of potato chips, whether organic, non-GMO, or otherwise! Try to focus on including more whole, unprocessed food in your diet, and reach for organic whenever possible.
Learn more about Key Diet and Guidelines that fundamentally promote health and healing from Dr. Powers’ guidebook, Foundations for Creating Optimal Health.
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