GMO Foods and Concerns for Health, the Environment and Economy
Controversy surrounding the use of genetically modified organisms, or GMO foods, and their impact upon the body, the environment and the local food movement has been generating a lot of buzz lately. However, at this point, the full effect that the GMOs in the food supply will have upon the healthy eating community has yet to be seen and the nutritional consequences associated with their consumption is highly speculative.
However, in response to movements like the March Against Monsanto that scorn their proliferation, six of the world’s largest crop biotechnology and agricultural chemical companies have joined forces to form The Council for Biotechnology Information to increase industry transparency and, “do a better job answering…[our]…questions – no matter what they are – about GMOs.”
But, before we get to the nuts and bolts of what GMOanswers.com is all about, let’s take a moment to review GMOs and a few of the pertinent points about their production and consumption.
Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs)
Genetically modified organisms are organisms whose genetic material has been altered in a way that does not occur naturally that may be used in biological and medical research, production of pharmaceutical drugs, experimental medicine or agricultural production. This process, also known as “biotechnology”, “gene technology”, “recombinant DNA technology”, or simply “genetic engineering” involves the mutation, insertion or deletion of specific genes to study the mechanisms of human disease and fundamental biological processes, in addition the widely publicized production of commercial crops that possess desirable traits like pesticide resistance, specific environmental adaptations, improved shelf life, or increased nutritional value.
GMOs and Health
According to the World Health Organization, the three main concerns are the tendency for GMOs to provoke allergic reactions, gene transfer and outcrossing. Let’s look at each of these in turn:
- According to the Organic Consumer Association, the dramatic rise in food allergies is largely attributable to the rise in genetic modification of staple crops like corn, soybeans, cottonseed and canola.
- Gene transfer, the primary process in GMO production, swaps genetic material between species to increase their resilience against the environment and man-made chemical, can result in antibiotic resistance and may interfere with the treatment of viral infection.
- Outcrossing is the genetic transmission of defined, heritable characteristics from one group of individuals to another, a common result of cross pollination, has the potential to limit bio-diversity while increasing the homogenization of our food supply.
The American Academy of Environmental Medicine provides a few more health specific and highly concerning risks associated with the consumption of GM foods, which include: infertility, immune deregulation, accelerated aging, the deregulation of genes associated with cholesterol synthesis, insulin regulation, cell signaling, protein formation, and changes in the liver, kidney, spleen and gastrointestinal system. Which, according to the scientific journal Entropy, are attributable to the majority of diseases (obesity, diabetes, heart disease, depression, autism, cancer and Alzheimer’s disease) associated with the Western diet.
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