Until 2011, I was feeding myself and my family whatever was featured at the grocery store. I paid no attention to whether my vegetables were organic or whether my grains were genetically modified organisms (GMO). In fact, I had never heard of these issues. The idea that the seemingly healthy food I was consuming might be a danger to me and my family did not even cross my mind. That was until I saw a TED talk from Robyn O’Brien (2011), through which she explained, in alarming detail, the increase in life-threatening food allergies as a result of something foreign being introduced into our food and our bodies.
Beginning sometime in the early 1990s, scientists began manufacturing new proteins that the food industry could use to enhance production and yield greater profit. 1994 marked the advent of introducing a synthetic growth hormone in cows meant to increase milk production (O’Brien, 2011). Following the dairy industry’s success at increasing their profit margins from GMO milk, the corn industry sought to increase profits by reducing the number of crops lost to insect infestation. The industry leaders paired with scientists to genetically engineer corn to produce its own insecticide within the corn seed, which would then be released as it grows. Has anyone checked to see what effect this might have on the human body upon consumption? At the time, these modifications had not been tested in people. Nevertheless, the United States seemed to be the largest proponent of GMO foods. Meanwhile, across the pond, all 27 European countries, as well as Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom did not allow the introduction of GMO processes into their industry or imports (O’Brien, 2011). Additionally, major US brands like Kraft, Coca Cola and Walmart do not use GMO products when manufacturing goods for export to these countries (O’Brien, 2011). These other countries are getting the good stuff! So why are we being fed these dangerously modified strains? Well, profit. These GMO products generate greater profit, plain and simple.
The worst of these GMO products, in my opinion, is soy. According to the Oregon Physicians for Social Responsibility (n.d.), 93% of the soybean crops in the United States are GMO. And we can find it in almost everything, from soy flour to soy milk, and even soy lecithin in your favorite chocolate bar. It is marketed as a legitimate source of protein, when it is actually incomplete, lacking methionine, an essential amino acid (American Nutrition Association, 2010). Even more surprising is that soy actually interferes with the digestion of protein (American Nutrition Association, 2010), acting as an anti-nutrient. The soy industry is doing very well, inserting this product into an unbelievable number of our food products. It is an inexpensive crop that flourishes due to the GMO modifications created to withstand very high doses of weed killer (O’Brien, 2011). Yet another GMO product that should not be used for human consumption.
After seeing this TED talk, I started paying very close attention to the food I purchase. I started looking for “non-GMO” on my produce labels. But my journey to eating healthier, more organic foods would not have happened if I hadn’t stumbled across this information. There are countless others who are blindly purchasing these GMO products, harming themselves and their families, simply because they do not have the information. Positive social change initiatives, like the efforts of Robyn O’Brien, have joined the battle against GMO, and are beneficial to educating the consumer about the dangers of the GMO foods that are being pushed to Americans for profit. Many of the countless illnesses and allergies related to these scientifically engineered food products may be avoided if we could just raise awareness and stand up to tell the major food industry leaders that enough is enough. We should be demanding healthier alternatives without the added cost. Some states have mandated the labeling of GMO foods, but others are still in the pockets of the big corporations driving this problem. Until we can change awareness and demand action, like the mandatory labeling laws in Europe, which will “likely drive these controversial foods and crops off the market (Cummins, 2013)”, we either find ourselves at the mercy of big business, or paying exorbitant amounts for safer alternatives.
American Nutrition Association. (2010). The whole soy story. Nutrition Digest. Retrieved from http://americannutritionassociation.org/newsletter/whole-soy-story
Cummins, R. (2013). Millions against Monsanto: Five lessons from the battle against GMOs. Retrieved from https://www.organicconsumers.org/essays/millions-against-monsanto-five-lessons-battle-against-gmos
O’Brien, R. (2011). Robyn O’Brien: TEDxAustin 2011. Speech. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rixyrCNVVGA
Oregon Physicians for Social Responsibility. (n.d.). Fact sheet: Genetically engineered foods. Retrieved from http://www.allergykids.com/defining-food-allergies/fact-sheet-what-are-genetically-engineered-foods/