If you’ve even read a handful of healthy living blogs – you know for a fact that GMO’s are evil and that you should make every effort to buy strictly organic produce. But do you actually know anything about GMO’s or organic produce?
I have a huge pet peeve with blogs that preach about buying organic, but offer a lousy explanation of why you should spend more on organic produce when the non-organic alternative that you probably enjoyed for most of your childhood life (without killing anyone, mind you) is readily available at a discount.
Myth #1: If I eat genetically modified produce, my own genes might become modified and I’ll turn into a freak / have freaky babies.
- If you eat a plant, are you afraid that you’ll sprout leaves or give birth to trees? Probably not. If you eat chicken, do you think you’re going to sprout feather and start laying eggs? No. My point here is that eating something isn’t going to alter your genetic make-up. Your body absorbs nutrients (carbs, proteins, fats) from the food you eat – your body doesn’t take up DNA from what you eat and incorporate it into your own genome.
Myth #2: GMO’s only help farmers and offer no advantages to consumers.
- While many genetically modified crops were designed to help farmers (by either helping the produce grow faster, larger, or be resistant to pesticides / herbicides), GMO’s can offer a lot of advantages to consumers.
- Golden Rice: As you know, people in developing countries don’t have the same access to nutritious food as we do in America. There are millions of children that die every year from being malnourished. Golden rice is a form of genetically modified rice in which the rice produces β-carotene, a vitamin A derivative. The simple addition of 2 genes into the rice could potentially help lessen the incidence of vitamin-A deficiency-related diseases in developing countries.
- Banana-based Vaccines: Similar to the lack of accessibility to nutritious foods, people in developing countries also lack accessibility to vaccines. Scientists are researching ways to genetically alter bananas to express proteins that would elicit an immune response and therefore protect children from diseases largely eradicated in developed countries. Families could even grow these bananas themselves, cutting down on transportation and refrigeration costs associated with typical vaccines.
Myth #3: Scientists are making up new genes that have never been seen before!
- Truth is, science just isn’t that smart (for now at least). We have no idea how to create new, never-seen-before genes. What we do know is how to isolate pre-existing genes and transfer them into new organisms. For instance, the Golden Rice was modified to produce β-carotene – which is found naturally in carrots, among other things. Scientists didn’t make up a gene for β-carotene, they just isolated it from a carrot and inserted it into the rice!
Myth #4: Eating non-organic food is unsafe.
- Rest assured that the USDA has strict rules on both non-organic and organic food. With non-organic food, the risk lies in the residual pesticides / herbicides left on the produce after spraying in the fields (this can be remedied by washing or rinsing your produce before you eat it). Organic food also runs its risks in terms of safety. Due to strict rules on chemical use, organic farmers often rely on manure to fertilize their soil. Manure is associated with bacterial contamination (think E. coli). Essentially, there are risks with produce regardless of its organic quality.
Truth #1: Biotechnology has helped farmers keep up with the demands of a growing population
- Farmers have made great strides in being able to feed the growing population by utilizing genetically modified crops. It’s becoming increasingly important for farmers to be able to grow more crops, bigger crops, and crops that grow faster in order to meet the demands of a growing population (without skyrocketing prices). Biotechnology is essential in this aspect. If we can get twice as much corn from one ear by making a genetic adjustment, we can feed twice as many mouths without taking up twice as much farmland!
The point of this post isn’t to change anyone’s eating habits – but rather to provide a new perspective on a hot topic in the blogging community. I may do follow-ups later because there’s a million different directions I could take this topic. (Including environmental impacts, GMO animals, regulations, etc.) If you enjoy organic foods and can taste a difference, then you should obviously continue to buy food you love. But if you’re on the fence and can’t afford organic produce, don’t fret.