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Sustainable Next Step Blog

What is a GMO and How Does it Affect Our Food?

by Gob Greene

Consuming a balanced diet represents a significant tenet of good health and maintaining life itself. What we eat, however, also impacts our health and how we’re able to act in our daily lives. Natural and nutritious foods make the most sense for well-being. But, in addition to temptations from the dessert bar, we also find ourselves bombarded by packaged food that often contains significant amounts of GMOs. What exactly are GMOs? Are they bad for you?

What is a GMO?

GMO stands for genetically modified organism. GMOs occur when the genetic makeup of plants, animals, or microorganisms experience modifications in a laboratory. This process does not occur in nature or through a cross-breeding process.


How are GMOs administered and used?

Increasing yield for crops and maximizing the production of livestock calls for the usage of GMOs. Increased production of food means increased profits. These profits account for why major corporations lobby for the right to use not only GMOs but also minimize labeling.

GMOs show up in additives such as amino acid, citric acid, artificial flavoring, yeast products, and textured products. Commodity crops such as corn, soybeans, sugar, beets, papaya, potatoes, apples, and cotton all may legally contain GMOs.

You will readily find GMOs in packaged foods with multiple ingredients such as cereals, packaged dinners, snacks, and breakfast, and protein bars. 

An application for using GMOs in farm-raised salmon remains pending. Though livestock or poultry does not receive GMO injections directly, in a corporate farm atmosphere, the animals feed on GMO enhanced crops. The diet of the animals impacts the taste and nutritional value of the final product. 


Adverse side-effects of GMOs

Mass production of food at least potentially brings down the cost of food. The financial bottom line often represents the most critical consideration for the average shopper at the grocery store. But awareness of GMOs and additives in our foods also deserves our recognition and attention.

The science behind GMOs could take up pages of explanation, but involve toxins due to insecticides and resistance to herbicides linked to viral intestinal problems. 

Research also shows that over consumption of GMOs contributes to at least 22 diseases. Problems with infertility, diabetes, kidney, liver, and spleen all may occur from GMOs.


How to avoid GMOs

For most of us, the consumption of GMOs remains a choice. Steps exist to prevent or at least limit choosing foods containing GMOs:

  • Read the labels as you fill your grocery cart. Look for additives and flavorings, but more importantly, look for labels that state 'GMO-Free' or 'USDA Organic.'
  • Avoid processed and packaged food in general. Know that foods such as cereals, kinds of pasta, canned soups, and protein bars do come in organic and GMO-free options.
  • Grow as much of your own food as possible. Make sure to select seeds free of GMOs or starter plants.
  • Shop at Cooperatives and natural food stores whenever possible.
  • Buy produce and meat from family farmers.

You will also probably notice your food tastes better without additives and GMOs.

When you practice the suggestions above, not only will you improve your diet and subsequently your health, but it's also good for the planet. Especially when it comes to factory farms and infecting the soil, the use of GMOs contributes to environmental problems. 

The primary function of using genetically modified organisms involves the mass production of crops, livestock, and poultry for the purpose of profit. The good feeling advertisements claiming the desire to feed the world simply distract from the reality of the potential damage it does. 

In addition to making good personal food choices, more options exist to discourage the use of GMOs:

  • Communicate through calls and emails to your representatives and senators both at the State and Federal level your thoughts regarding GMOs and food safety. 
  • Talk to your grocery store manager about promoting food free of GMOs
  • Talk to your local schools about educating students about good food choices and avoiding additives and GMOs. 


Indeed, knowledge and education represent the key to understanding the effects of GMOs.

Your Next Step

The key to avoiding GMOs in the products you buy is to keep an eye out when shopping. Products containing GMOs should be labeled and easily avoided.

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