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GMOs 101

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What Is A GMO?

GMOs or genetically modified organisms are plants, bacteria, viruses or animals whose genetic make-up (DNA) has been altered in a way that does not occur naturally. These genetically modified (GM) crops are created to have a better resistance to weeds, pests, and other diseases. Many of these genetically foods are also made to have a longer shelf life and a stronger make-up for easier shipping. Because of this, genetically modified foods are typically used in mass production. Some have adopted this way of farming because it saves money that would have otherwise been spent on insecticide along with fuel and labor needed to apply it. Farmers and producers can also earn more money for an acre of GM corn compared with a conventional variety because fewer kernels are damaged during harvesting.


Are GMOs Safe?

The FDA is responsible for ensuring that all the foods we eat are “generally recognized as safe.” However, most developed nations do not consider GMOs to be safe. In more than 50 countries around the world, including Australia, Japan, and all of the countries in the European Union, there are significant restrictions or outright bans on the production and sale of GMOs.


In the United States, the government has approved GMOs based on studies conducted by the same corporations that created them and profit from their sale. The American Academy of Environmental Medicine reported that, “several animal studies indicate serious health risks associated with GM food including infertility, immune problems, allergies, accelerated aging, faulty insulin regulation, and changes in major organs and GI system.” What we do know for sure is that more research is needed to determine the long-term effects of GMOs.

Yes, you will find articles stating that, “there is not a single documented case of anyone being hurt by genetically modified food” but does that really say much? Of course we won’t die if we eat a GM kernel of corn. That’s ridiculous. But, the same can be said of a processed candy bar. Sugar here and there won’t kill us, but it is the over-consumption and long-term effects that we know are deadly. Because GMOs are foods that you will not find in nature—how can our body truly recognize these foods? What will the long-term effects of GMOs be on our digestion, gut health, and immunity, among other things?

Hydrogenated oils were introduced to the marketplace to improve taste and increase shelf life. They were also used to replace saturated fats, which were said to cause heart disease (And we no longer know this to be true). Saturated fats give structure to our cells and can actually be quite healthy for us. Just as you need a variety of fruits and vegetables to fill many of your nutrient requirements for fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, the same is true when consuming healthy fats. But, it all depends on the quality of the fats we are consuming.

We now know that there are absolutely no health benefits with hydrogenated oils and in fact, they will be banned from the entire food supply within the next two years because of how harmful they are. Think about a jar of JIF peanut butter (More like a jar of hydrogenated oil). That peanut butter will never go bad no matter how long it sits on the shelf. The truth is, that jar of Peanut Butter may out live every single one of us. Imagine what that kind of thing does in our body.


It seems that most of our food supply is genetically modified, which means we are consuming a lot of GMOs on a daily basis, whether we know it or not. Anything made from corn, soy, canola, wheat, and sugar will be genetically modified—which is pretty much everything on the store shelves!

80% of all processed foods in the United States contain GMOs.

And we will soon have our first genetically altered “animal”—salmon. Ahh! Yuk! Really?! Click here to learn more and watch a video on just how this salmon is made. It is quite scary.

Although labeling of GMOs in the marketplace is required in many countries, it is not required in the United States or Canada. Our best bet if consuming these foods is to choose items that are specifically labeled with an Organic or Non-GMO Project Verified seal.


If choosing salmon—make sure to choose wild caught to ensure you are not consuming a genetically modified “frankenfish.” And yes, frankenfish is a real word with a real definition: a genetically modified fish.

The “benefits” of GM salmon is that they grow twice as fast as regular salmon and they can help to replace the dwindling salmon population. But is this really a good thing? I think not!

To me, there are far more cons than pros of genetically modified salmon.


Source from: http://frankenfish.com

Here Are 3 Tips for Avoiding GMOs

  1. Buy Organic. Organic = Non-GMO. Certified organic products cannot contain any GM ingredients.
  2. Look for the Non-GMO Project Verified Seal. This guide features brands enrolled in the Non-GMO Project, a non-profit organization committed to providing consumers with clearly labeled non-GMO choices.
  3. Avoid At-Risk Ingredients. If it’s not labeled organic or non-GMO verified, avoid products made with ingredients that tend to be derived from GMOs. The most common genetically modified crops include:
  • Alfalfa
  • Canola
  • Corn
  • Wheat
  • Cotton
  • Papaya
  • Soy
  • Zucchini and Yellow Summer Squash
  • Sugar Beets
    • If a product made in North America lists “sugar” as an ingredient (and not pure cane sugar), then it is almost certainly a combination of sugar from both sugar cane and genetically modified sugar beets.

Some other genetically modified foods/ingredients include:

  • Dairy: Products may be from cows injected with GM bovine growth hormone. If it’s not labeled organic, or Non- GMO Project Verified, look for labels stating no rbGH, rbST, or artificial hormones.
    • Choose organic animal products whenever possible as most animals are fed GM feed from corn and soy.
  • Aspartame: Phenylalanine, a building block of aspartame, may be manufactured with the aid of genetically modified microorganisms such as E. coli. Eww is right!
  • MSG: Monosodium Glutamate is usually made from the fermentation of genetically modified sugar beets.


It may be argued that GMOs do more good then harm considering they are mainly used to feed our entire human population. This may be another subject in itself but I think we should at least be able to choose whether we want to consume GMOs or not. If we can’t ban GMOs completely, they should at least be labeled. Ultimately, we have the right to know what we are putting in our body, don’t you think?

Article written by: Kristen Johnson, Registered Dietitian for On Target Living