You’ve surely seen the USDA Organic label on a lot of things, but there’s a new logo that’s appearing on more and more products: a short, and catchy, “NO GMO.” The documentary Food Inc. touched on this classification a bit, but most consumers remain in the dark about what Genetically Modified Organisms actually are. And even less people have been informed about what they do to the human body and the environment. It’s a tricky issue, but as more and more research surfaces, it should be clear that it’s a frightening thing. As non-profits and lobbyists begin to clash about GMOs, everyday citizens need to know that old seeds are becoming the new green products.
The term GMO refers to any organism that’s undergone genetic engineering to achieve a more “favorable” attribute. Just about any crop can have its genes spliced to become more resistant to herbicides, more rugged to undergo shipments, or simply more quick to mature for harvest. It may sound like an ingenious scientific discovery, but these plants have already proven to possess significant dangers. They’re relatively new (the first GMO products appeared in grocery stores in 1996), and very little research has been conducted to see if they’re safe for long term human consumption. What studies have appeared indicate a link to weaker immune systems, and many nutritionists have GM foods are toxic to animals. Ecologically, they’re damaging because, being so resilient, they stifle biodiversity and often contaminate non-GMO fields. All new green products advertise their natural and sustainable methods of production, but GMOs are neither natural nor sustainable.
Many other countries have rejected or severely limited the prevalence of genetically engineered plants and animals. In America, GMOs remain in grocery stores—without a label—because major biotechnology giants have the funding to lobby and pressure Congress to pass bills. They’re not just present, though. Estimates from the “Non GMO” non-profit predict that as many as 80% of packaged goods in the grocery store contain a GMO; even “healthy” companies like Kashi can’t promise their cereals avoid GMO ingredients. This number is striking. It seems absurd that such a new development would already reach this huge majority of products, but it’s frightening that it’s happened with so little supportive medical evidence. People looking for new green products should be concerned—because most of the newest foods are becoming less and less green.
Monsanto and other biotech companies have patents on their GMO crops, which allows them to circulate and control most of the seeds in use. That means that the surviving descendents of the seeds used fifteen years ago are now the building blocks of the new green products. By its definition, all organic crops must avoid GMO seeds, but fortunately a few non-organic companies avoid them too. The United States and Canada are two of the only nations who don’t require a label distinguishing GMO food products, so non-profits have emerged to educate and support people who still want to eat new green products. Because GMOs manipulate the natural state of life, they’re not just environmentally dangerous, they’re likely to prove more hazardous to health, which is why Japan, Australia, and the entire EU has restrictions on these crops. For anyone concerned about their own health and the biodiversity of the planet, seeking out foods grown from old seeds is a worthy green endeavor.