What is GMO/Genetically Modified Food?

“GM”, “GMO” and “genetically modified” is the result of a laboratory process of taking genes from one species and inserting them into another in an attempt to obtain a desired trait or characteristic, hence they are also known as transgenic organisms. This process may be called either Genetic Engineering (GE) or Genetic Modification (GM); they are one and the same. In reference to food, it usually refers to crops that have had their DNA modified in such a way as to make them resistant to the systemic herbicide RoundUp or to create their own pesticide. This is not the same as hybridizing or selective breeding. Another phrase for the technology used to create GMO food is “recombinant DNA technology.”

Is GM an extension of natural plant breeding?

No. Natural reproduction or breeding can only occur between closely related forms of life (cats with cats, not cats with dogs; wheat with wheat, not wheat with tomatoes or fish). In this way, the genes that offspring inherit from parents, which carry information for all parts of the body, are passed down the generations in an orderly way. GM is not like natural plant breeding. GM uses laboratory techniques to insert artificial gene units to re-programme the DNA blueprint of the plant with completely new properties. This process would never happen in nature. The artificial gene units are created in the laboratory by joining fragments of DNA, usually derived from multiple organisms, including viruses, bacteria, plants and animals. For example, the GM gene in the most common herbicide resistant soya beans was pieced together from a plant virus, a soil bacterium and a petunia plant. The GM transformation process of plants is crude, imprecise, and causes widespread mutations, resulting in major changes to the plant’s DNA blueprint1. These mutations unnaturally alter the genes’ functioning in unpredictable and potentially harmful ways. Adverse effects include poorer crop performance, toxic effects, allergic reactions, and damage to the environment.

Some things that have been done are:gmo

  • Spider genes were inserted into goat DNA, in hopes that the goat milk would contain spider web protein for use in bulletproof vests.
  • Cow genes turned pigskins into cowhides.
  • Jellyfish genes lit up pigs’ noses in the dark.
  • Arctic fish genes gave tomatoes and strawberries tolerance to frost.
  • Potatoes that glowed in the dark when they needed watering.
  • Human genes were inserted into corn to produce spermicide.
  • Corn engineered with human genes (Dow)
  • Sugarcane engineered with human genes (Hawaii Agriculture Research Center)
  • Corn engineered with jellyfish genes (Stanford University)
  • Tobacco engineered with lettuce genes (University of Hawaii)
  • Rice engineered with human genes (Applied Phytologics)
  • Corn engineered with hepatitis virus genes (Prodigene)

Are GMOs safe?

Proponents of GM food continue to claim they are safe but virtually all labratory testing has shown evidence of serious health problems resulting from consuming GM food. Emails have just recently been discovered showing Monsanto leaning hard on scientists and involving money to get the scientists to report favorably on GM foods. No testing on humans has really been done. The American Academy of Environmental Medicine (AAEM) released its position paper on Genetically Modified foods stating that “GM foods pose a serious health risk” and calling for a moratorium on GM foods. Genetic engineers continually encounter unintended side effects – GM plants create toxins, react to weather differently, contain too much or too little nutrients, become diseased or malfunction and die. When foreign genes are inserted, dormant genes may be activated or the functioning of genes altered, creating new or unknown proteins, or increasing or decreasing the output of existing proteins inside the plant. The effects of consuming these new combinations of proteins are unknown. Some known effects of consuming GM foods have been consistent. Several animal studies indicate serious health risks associated with GM food consumption including infertility, immune dysregulation, accelerated aging, dysregulation of genes associated with cholesterol synthesis, insulin regulation, cell signaling, and protein formation, and changes in the liver, kidney, spleen and gastrointestinal system.

Multiple animal studies show significant immune dysregulation, including upregulation of cytokines associated with asthma, allergy, and inflammation. Animal studies also show altered structure and function of the liver, including altered lipid and carbohydrate metabolism as well as cellular changes that could lead to accelerated aging and possibly lead to the accumulation of reactive oxygen species. Changes in the kidney, pancreas and spleen have also been documented. A recent 2008 study links GM corn with infertility, showing a significant decrease in offspring over time and significantly lower litter weight in mice fed GM corn. This study also found that over 400 genes were found to be expressed differently in the mice fed GM corn. These are genes known to control protein synthesis and modification, cell signaling, cholesterol synthesis, and insulin regulation. Studies also show intestinal damage in animals fed GM foods, including proliferative cell growth and disruption of the intestinal immune system.

So the answer is no. GMOs are not safe.

What foods are GMO?

GM crops in the U.S. include soy (94%), cotton (90%), canola (90%), sugar beets (95%), corn (88%), Hawaiian papaya (more than 50%), zucchini and yellow squash (over 24,000 acres). Soy, corn, canola and cotton are in almost all processed foods. Products derived from the above, including oils from all four, soy protein, soy lecithin, cornstarch, corn syrup and high fructose corn syrup among others. If it does not say “cane sugar” on the label, chances are it was made from sugar beets, which are GMO. Also meat, eggs, and dairy products from animals that have eaten GM feed (and the majority of the GM corn and soy is used for feed), dairy products from cows injected with rbGH (a GM hormone), food additives, enzymes, flavorings, and processing agents, including the sweetener aspartame (NutraSweet®), rennet used to make hard cheeses, and honey and bee pollen that may have GM sources of pollen.

Non-food items that may contain GM ingredients include cosmetics, soaps, detergents, shampoo and bubble bath. Pharmaceutical companies use Aspartame in some laxatives, supplements and children’s vitamins. Children’s vitamins also may contain GMO soy.

Why won’t they label GMO foods?

The companies that make GMO foods know that people don’t want to eat them. They know that if a label says something is GMO, people will not buy it. They resist labeling because they realize that once people see the food is GMO, they won’t want it anymore. The government has unbelievably sided with these companies over this and has not required them to label food as GMO. They also built a deregulation rider into some recent legislation which has in effect given these companies immunity from any government action should their GMO foods prove to be toxic or somehow dangerous. This is ridiculous and unfair to all the people who are eating these biological wildcards without even knowing it. Part of the reason for this is that many people who worked at Monsanto are now employees of the federal government.

 How can I avoid GMO foods?

Buy local. Eat organic. 100% organic. The USDA allows the label of “organic” for foods containing up to 30% GMO, but the label “100% organic” can only apply to foods that are 100% organic. Grow a garden using heirloom seeds. You want beef that has been “pasture raised” and “pasture finished.” Chicken, pork and other meats should be fed soy-free feed or non-GMO feed. Remember, most soy and corn that is GMO is used in animal feed. Spread the word. Barter or trade if you have to. GMO foods are essentially poison for the poor and the ignorant. The rich people – including our government – do not eat GMO food. The cafeterias at Monsanto facilities do not serve GMO food. There is a reason for that. You may not be rich but you can be smart. Check labels. Your health depends on it.

There are also many websites that list companies which carry/produce non-GMO products.

Are GMO foods safe? More reading:





OK, now you got it. Now what? For starters, visit this page for more info about the differences between kinds of organic food. That is a great starting point. Good luck & happy eating!

For more information on food in general, check out Shaman Sister Sin’s e-book series, “What The F@#$%! Am I Eating?!