Published on October 22nd, 2012 | by Guest Contributor


Genetic Modification, Should You Care?

Quite recently, due to a Stanford University study, organic food has been on the tip of everyone’s lips. From those who believe so strongly in organic that they fill their fridges with nothing else to those who think that the organic trend is, just that, a trend. The organic argument has many branches, from pesticides to GMO’s; and while they are all a part of a larger equation, today I want to address GMO’S or genetically modified organisms.

Family wants GMO food labeled

Family wants GMO food labeled

Genetic Modification, What Are GMO’s?

Genetically Modified Organisms are life forms that have been modified through genetic engineering to produce a desired result. Now initially genetic modification began as a means to improve crop production, by taking the desired gene and injecting it into receiving cells, bombarding and permanently altering the cells inherent DNA, resulting in an organism that is genetically modified.

The most common genetically engineered ingredients used in food production are canola, corn, soy and flax; and while Canada planted 8.8 million hectares of GM crops in 2010, the United States took the cake with 66.8 million hectares, contributing to an overall global production of 148 million hectares. Now, genetic engineering is not to be confused with cross breeding, a method which farmers have used for thousands of years to improve crops. For instance, cross breeding mixes the pollen of flavorful potato varieties with that of a hardy potato variety, resulting in new varieties that boast both of those qualities. The dramatic difference between the ancient practice of plant breeding and that of genetic modification is that cross-pollination works within the same species whereas genetic engineering takes the DNA of any species and injects it into another. GM corn, canola oil and soy are common ingredients in many processed and packaged foods; and these products may be important between to US and Canada; to avoid GM products opt for organic.

So What’s The Big Deal?

Now you may still be wondering what the issue with GM products are, so consider this; would you like to be injected with antibodies from a dog to improve your sense of smell? Initially the lure of smelling anything within a square mile may be enticing, but altering your own DNA for short-term gain could present some very troublesome issues in the long-term; and this is why genetic modification is proving to be such a concern among foodies, agriculturalists and environmentalists alike. This isn’t to say that all foods must be organic, however there are some usual suspects that find themselves riddled with GM foods; when shopping be on alert for genetically modified ingredients in some these common North America’s food purchases.

The Usual Suspects

  • Corn
  • Corn flakes and corn chips
  • Corn syrup, cornstarch, and corn oil
  • Sweeteners such as glucose and fructose
  • Eggs, milk and meat (GM corn is fed to the animals and therefore entering your system)
  • Canola
  • Canola oil
  • Eggs, milk and meat (canola in the feed)
  • Soy
  • Soy oil, soy protein and soy lecithin
  • Tofu
  • Soy beverages and puddings
  • Eggs, milk, and meat
  • Sugar Beet
  • Sugar
  • Papaya
  • Fruit and juice
  • Processed foods
  • Squash
  • Some zucchini
  • Yellow crook neck and straight neck squash
  • Milk (may contain bovine growth hormone in the United States but not Canada)
  • Milk solids and powder
  • Frozen dairy desserts
  • Mixed drinks with milk ingredients

Whether you believe the organic hype or not, it is essential to be educated about what goes into your body; and this way you are armed with the knowledge to make the right choices about the food you eat.

{Family photo via MillionsAgainstMonsanto}

Bianca Osbourne is a natural foods chef and aspiring nutritionist, who took her very own leap into self-employed freedom two years ago. She works as a culinary consultant and brand ambassador; she shares her expertise through meal planning services online.

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