We are trying to eat healthier and live better, and for many of us that means passing up the frozen food aisle, ignoring the meat section of our neighborhood grocery stores, and simply saying no to the rows of prepackaged foods that clutter up the supermarket shelves. For most of us, eating healthier means fresh fruits and vegetables, and the safe haven of the produce section or local green grocer. But the healthy eater may find trouble here as well. Genetically modified fruits and vegetables are quickly gaining ground in supermarkets and grocery stores around the country. GMOs (genetically modified organisms/foods) are becoming more prevalent every day. Which begs the question, “Are genetically modified foods safe for you and your family, or do they increase your risk for cancer and other diseases?” It is a question which needs to be answered. Because if eating healthier and fighting cancer is our goal, than it is vitally important that we have a better understanding of the foods we eat.
What are GMOs
GMO stands for genetically modified organism, and refers to any living organism whose genetic material has been altered, or modified, through the use of genetic engineering. Genetically modified foods are not really new, and have been the goal of food scientists and large food corporations for many years. However, GMOs are becoming much more prevalent as genetic engineering techniques have become more sophisticated. The purpose of genetically modified foods is, according to the corporations and their food scientists, to increase yield, standardize production, and ensure a longer shelf life. This all sounds very good, even altruistic to some degree. But there is a problem, and it’s a big one.
The Trouble with Genetically Modified Foods
Scientists and corporations want us to believe that GMOs are no different than the age old practices of animal husbandry and cross pollination of plants. They argue that genetically modifying food is simply the next step in an ongoing process. But the scientists are being more than a little disingenuous here. The cross breeding of fruits and vegetables has been going on for thousands of years, and is a natural process – whether it is instigated by man or by the natural world itself. That is why there are so many different varieties of any given fruit or vegetable.
Take the tomato as an example. There are more than 80 different varieties of tomato, from heirlooms to the modern beefsteak. But genetically modified tomatoes are different. There basic genetic structure has been altered, far beyond the common considerations of hybridization, creating a food stuff that is alien to the human system. With a genetically modified tomato you may get a vegetable that will grow more plentifully, travel better, and survive longer on the store shelves; but you also get a vegetable that the human body was not designed to consume. The subtle, and sometimes not so subtle, genetic alterations make it difficult for the body to absorb the life giving nutrients it needs from the vegetables and grains we consume. More to the point, changing the natural genetic structure of the food we consume may lead to an unforeseen rise in diseases, not the least of which is cancer.
GMOs and Cancer
Recent studies in Europe and South America are indicating that there is a direct correlation between genetically modified crops and an increased risk for many chronic diseases. The causes for this are twofold. First, the genetic modification of the food itself presents a problem when it comes to digestion and the extraction of nutrients. Second, these genetically modified crops have been designed to withstand, and flourish under, the use of certain pesticides. These bio-toxic pesticides are known carcinogens, and while the scientists and corporations may insist that they pass harmlessly from the body, research is showing that that is simply untrue. A research study at the University of Caen in France found that mice fed on a steady of diet of GMO corn face an onslaught of serious health risks, including:
- Premature aging
- Liver damage
- Lung damage
- Immune deficiency
In fact, this study demonstrated that the test subjects fed on GMO corn were much more likely to suffer from premature death than those fed on wholly organic corn.
Protecting Yourself and Your Family
Genetically modified foods are already in the American food chain, and are difficult if not impossible to identify. Europe and South America strictly regulate GMOs, and all modified food stuffs must be clearly labeled. Unfortunately, in the United States GMOs can be sold right alongside natural healthy fruits and vegetables, with no indication of their inherent hazards. To protect yourself and your family from the potential dangers of genetically modified fruits and vegetables make it a point to buy only certified organic fruits and vegetables, and whenever possible from a local farm store or co-op. Make it a point to know where your food is grown, and the farming procedures used to produce those crops. Genetically modified foods present a very real health hazard, and until the USDA agrees to regulate and label GMOs it is important to always choose the certified organic option.