There’s huge controversy over genetically modified foods that’s been raging for years. These foods are being created by inserting genes from one type of living organism into another. For example, a gene from a fish might be inserted into soybean plants to make them more resistant to cold temperatures. As you might expect, the big corporations that have been pushing for the adoption of GMO foods claim that they are not harmful and are just as healthy for as non-GMO foods.
The battle over GMOs is not likely to end any time soon and for those who would prefer to avoid these high-tech food items, it may be best to stay away from the following foods or ensure that you are able to get your hands on a non-GMO variety.
The majority of corn produced in the United States is now genetically modified. It’s corn has been modified so that it produces its own insecticide as it grows and is supposed to be resistant to certain pests. The big question revolves around what that internally-produced insecticide does to people who eat it. Some scientific studies have indicated that GMO corn may cause fertility problems and offspring with reduced birth weight.
Soy is used by food manufacturers in a dizzying array of products and is found in many food products you would probably not expect. Soy has been modified so that it can resist herbicides that are used by farmers to control weeds. When hamsters were fed GMO soy as part of an experiment it was discovered that they experienced serious problems reproducing.
While we normally may think of cotton only as something used to manufacture clothing or other non-edible products, it is also used to make cottonseed oil, which is used in cooking and food manufacturing. Scientists have modified cotton so that it can resist pesticides. Use of GMO crops has been heavily promoted in countries like India and thousands of farmers who were exposed to GMO cotton in that country suffered from serious rashes.
This tropical fruit was engineered so it would be able to resist a virus that it is often susceptible to. It was first introduced in Hawaii during 1999 and is estimated to comprise around three-quarters of the state’s papaya production. In India, scientists with help from Monsanto are working to develop papaya that is resistant to the ringspot virus.
As most people are aware, rice makes up an enormous portion of the diet for the people of Asia, due it’s many health benefits of the brown variety. Researchers are modifying rice so that it contains more vitamin A. The goal is to help reduce the incidence of infant diarrhea in developing countries. In China there are concerns that genetically modified rice could cause health problems and environmental damage due to the possibility of allergic reactions and possible gene transfers.
Anyone who knows a little about tomato farming is familiar with one of the biggest problems farmers and retailers face, and that’s keeping them fresh long enough to be picked, packed, shipped and offered to consumers on store shelves. GMO tomatoes are supposed to help solve that problem by making them last much longer. One scientific study involved feeding GMO tomatoes to animals and found that some of them died within weeks of consuming them.
This crop, that is better-known to many as canola is used to make cooking oils and margarine. GMO rapeseed has been used extensively by commercial farmers in Canada and concern is growing over the discovery that honey bees there were using GMO rapeseed pollen to make honey. It is estimated that as much as a third of the all the pollen present in Canadian honey may come from pollen produced by GMO rapeseed crops.
In addition to the work corporations like Monsanto have been doing to modify food crops, they have also developed ways to modify animal genes to boost productivity and profits. A product that Monsanto developed called recombinant (genetically modified) bovine growth hormone or rbGH is injected into dairy cows in order to artificially increase their milk production. A side effect of injecting cows with rbGH is that they produce milk that has higher levels of something called Insulin Growth Factor 1 or IGF-1. Some doctors and scientists believe that increased levels of IGF-1 could be linked to cancers of the colon and breast.
Potatoes have been modified similar to the way corn has been modified so that it would produce its own insecticide. With potatoes it’s the Bacillus thuringiensis bacteria that was used with the hopes of it acting as a biological pesticide for potato pests. While the companies that create these GMO crops are quick to claim that the bacteria produced by the plant is simply eliminated by the digestive process, testing done with mice showed that toxins associated with the bacteria were still present in the digestive tract after they were supposed to be eliminated.
With peas, scientists used a gene from kidney beans that is supposed to function as a pesticide inside the growing peas. Mice that were fed the genetically modified peas demonstrated an immune response which may indicate that humans would have a similar response.