The increased reliance on genetically modified foods is a growing concern in the United States. Currently, it is estimated that genetically modified foods, or GMOs, are found in at least 75% of the processed foods sold in the United States. Given the fact that nearly 60% of the population has little to no understanding of what GMOs are, and the use of GMOs is closely connected to the significant increases observed in rates of food allergies, obesity, diabetes and heart disease, consumers should be aware of the health concerns associated with GMOs.
The fact that GMOs are restricted or banned in Europe, Australia and Japan, should raise alarm as to their use and function in foods produced and sold in the United States. However, to date, the Food and Drug Administration does not require labeling or indication of the inclusion of GMOs in foods, leading many to believe that they are nothing more than harmless ingredients in their favorite foods. While many view and promote GMOs as an advance in technology aimed at feeding more people at a lower cost, the long-term health implications of GMOs are starting to emerge – and so far, the news is not good.
What Are GMOs?
According to the National Institute of Health, genetically modified organisms are any source of food, including plants, animals and microorganisms, that have had foreign genes manually inserted into their genetic code. While this may sound similar to cross-pollination and selective breeding, the difference is that the creation of GMOs remove the role of natural development, speeding up a process that once took hundreds, even thousands, of years to complete.
Assumed Benefits of GMOs
On their surface, GMOs may seem to offer tremendous benefits to a rapidly-growing world population, including:
Producing large quantities of more nutritious foods;
Creating plants and animals that are resistant to disease and require less food and water;
Lowering the cost of food
Health Concerns of GMO
While the thought of more nutritious food at lower costs certainly seems promising, there appears to be significant and growing health concerns associated with the production and consumption of GMOs, these concerns include:
Increased Resistance to Pesticides and Herbicides
According to information from the Organic Consumers Association, the top four produced GM crops, corn, cotton, canola and soy are created to better withstand commercial pesticides and herbicides; leading to higher levels of toxins contained in the plants and consumed by humans.
Increased Food Allergies
Reports indicate that GM foods, including soy and corn, have been associated with up to a 50% increase in the reported allergies to these foods. Scientists have found that GM soy contains over 7 times the amount of a known allergen than soy produced in traditional methods.
Other reports indicate that the GM bacterial spray used to protect GM crops has resulted in significant immune system response and led to intestinal damage. Further study found that the GM bacterial spray is designed to be more potent than natural comparable products, and is found to be over 1000 times more concentrated in GM foods.
Immune and Digestive Issues
Proteins, whether natural or genetically modified, digest as a slower rate in the body. GMOs, especially GM soy, has demonstrated to reduce digestive enzyme production and increase allergies to several foods.
GMOs have also been linked to liver damage, weight gain, reproductive issues and cell damage.
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