The Benefits of Non-GMO Food
There are a lot of reasons to eat healthier, but “healthy” can mean different things to different people. To some, it means reducing or eliminating their intake of animal products; to others, it means increasing their intake of animal products, especially those that are ethically produced, pasture raised, or grass fed. Some think a low fat diet is the way to go, and some swear by the consumption of healthy fats.
To many people, eating “healthy” means reducing or eliminating their consumption of foods containing GMOs (“genetically modified organisms”). In order to understand why this is an important dietary modification, it helps to first understand why GMOs are undesirable in the first place.
What Are GMOs, Exactly?
The Non-GMO Project, which is a non-profit organization dedicated to building and protecting a non-GMO food supply, defines GMOs as follows:
A GMO, or genetically modified organism, is a plant, animal, microorganism or other organism whose genetic makeup has been modified in a laboratory using genetic engineering or transgenic technology. This creates combinations of plant, animal, bacterial and virus genes that do not occur in nature or through traditional crossbreeding methods.
In layman’s terms, it means changing an organism on a cellular level, often to achieve a desired result that is not possible in nature. For example, creating a pest-resistant strain of a certain crop, or a strain that is more resistant to certain herbicides to make weed control easier.
GMOs are quite pervasive in our food supply, because not only are they prevalent in many of the monoculture food crops such as corn, soy, and wheat, but those crops are in turn used to produce a multitude of byproducts that we find in everything from condiments to alcohol.
When it comes to whether GMOs are safe, it depends on who you ask. Conventional farmers will tout the benefits of GMO seeds and crops, and many in the conventional medical field have gone on record that GMOs are safe for human consumption. The truth is, GMOs really haven’t been around very long, and therefore it’s hard to say what sort of effect they can have on the body long term. The first GMO crop, a tomato, wasn’t available for public consumption until 1994, less than 30 years ago. Is that really enough time to determine what sort of effects regular consumption of genetically modified foods can have on the body?
We prefer not to be a part of this experiment. This is pure hypothetical opinion, but the advent of GMO technology coincides with the rise of autoimmune diseases. The causes of this increase are unknown but there are many hypotheses, including our Western diet, and exposure to environmental toxins.
While GMOs are purportedly safe, it bears pointing out that at one point, cigarettes were considered safe as well, and this fallacy was aided in part by savvy tobacco company marketing campaigns…
How to Know Which Foods Contain GMOs, and How to Avoid Them
As we mentioned, GMOs are prevalent in so many of the foods we eat, and it can be tough to avoid them, But with a bit of education and paying attention to your food labels, it can be done! When it comes to crops, you know that we are huge proponents of getting to know your farmers, and buying local whenever possible. The more you know about where your food comes from and the better the line of communication between you and your farmer, the more you can learn about their practices.
While many small-scale farmers don’t pursue an “organic” certification due to the time and cost involved, they are happy to answer questions about how their crops are grown, including whether pesticides are used, and whether their crops are grown with non-GMO seeds.
According to The Cornucopia Institute, the 10 most common GMO-containing foods are:
- Canola Oil
- Yellow Squash
Obviously, we encourage the avoidance of “foods” such as aspartame and sugar entirely, but some of the foods on that list, such as zucchini and milk, may be surprising. Zucchini in particular offers a chilling look into the potential risks of eating non-GMO foods. According to research, there is a toxic protein in genetically modified zucchini, which makes the crop more resistant to insects. This insecticide has recently been found in human blood, including that of pregnant women and fetuses, which means that despite GMOs being touted as “safe for human consumption, these byproducts are making their way into our bodies and remaining there rather than being flushed out of our system.
Avoiding the foods on the list above is one way to help keep GMOs out of your diet. Another way is to look for The Non-GMO Project logo on the foods that you buy. Because GMO ingredients are so prevalent in many pre-packaged foods, looking for that logo when grocery shopping is a helpful way to ensure that you’re buying foods from brands who take care not to include these potentially harmful ingredients.
Avoiding GMOs in Meat
Since corn and soy are monoculture crops produced heavily with GMOs, and corn and soy are also fed on a large scale to livestock and poultry, conventionally grown dairy and meat are huge sources of GMOs.
It’s important to know where your meat comes from, and to learn about how it is raised. Buying pasture-raised chicken and grass fed beef is helpful, because generally companies that put the time and effort into raising their animals in this way also take measures to ensure they are being provided with high quality feed. But do your research. If there’s one thing we’ve learned both as consumers and as farmers, is that you can’t always trust the grocery store labels or the clever marketing tactics used to sell food.
At Pasturebird, we supplement our chicken’s pasture diet with a high-quality, non-GMO chicken feed to ensure that all of their nutritional needs are met. Many ethical farmers do the same to ensure that the meat or dairy they provide to their consumers is of the highest quality. While the jury is still out on the long-term effects of GMO foods, many of us feel that it’s best just not to mess with nature, and we choose to use regenerative farming practices and sustainable agriculture rather than relying on genetically modified organisms to curtail pests, weeds, and disease.