I’ve been reading a great book for my course called Winning the Food Fight by Dr. Joey Shulman, which brought to my attention the issue of Genetically Modified (GM) Foods.
For those of you who don’t know, GM foods “involve the introduction of a gene or genes from one species to another unrelated species” and “artificial mutagenesis, which involves treating cells or an organism with external agents (e.g. UV light, certain chemicals) in order to produce changes in its genetic material.” (1)
Sounds like something from the Hunger Games doesn’t it?
This all started in 1996, and “permits food developers to add a desired trait in a more precise manner.” A.K.A. adding DNA and chemicals to our food so that:
- it’s resistant to certain bugs = lower pesticide use, higher crop yields
- doesn’t soften when ripe = more appealing to the consumer
- the ripening is delayed after picking = larger distribution range
Not only do the process and idea of GM foods concern me (uh, genetic modification is unnatural, and nobody really knows the long-term impact it could have on our health and environment), but the US and Canada don’t have laws in place that require them to label GM foods!
You could be eating a GM tomato right now and not know it. After doing some research it seems like GM foods aren’t going away anytime soon (too many benefits for the food industry). But at least we should be given the choice to decide if we want to eat a genetically modified tomato or not.
In my opinion it seems like the only way to avoid GM foods is to eat certified organic foods or local, seasonal produce from farmers’ markets. I know organic food can be expensive, so here is a list of foods that are most commonly modified that you could consider switching to organic or avoiding all together.
- Soybeans (93% are GM in U.S., 77% in the world. This is concerning because have you ever looked at the ingredient list in your cereal or granola bars? Soy products are in everything!)
- Corn (86% is GM in U.S., 26% in world)
- Cottonseed Oil (93% GM in U.S., 49% in world)
- Canola (93% GM in U.S., 21% in world)
Visit Health Canada to see the list of GM products in Canada, and Wikipedia for a complete list of common GM foods.
I don’t want to make you paranoid, because I find there is already so much fear mongering out there when it comes to food. I sometimes feel like I can’t eat anything without some sort of health risk!
The point of this post is to simply inform you about GM foods, and encourage you to do some reading about it. At least then you can make an informed decision when buying your food, and do everything possible to protect yourself and the health of your family.
Health Canada has a four-part FAQ section on the website, which is a good source of information on GM foods.
Health Canada’s list of GM foods: www.hc-sc.gc.ca/fn-an/gmf-agm/appro/index-eng.php
-Health Canada FAQ: www.hc-sc.gc.ca/fn-an/gmf-agm/fs-if/faq_1-eng.php