The Dangers of Genetically Modified Foods
Remember pink slime? We’d all been eating the lean beef additive for years before the controversy erupted last year about the health and safety concerns of eating beef cleansed with ammonia. The FDA and beef producers didn’t think adding pink slime to meat is a nutrition mistake – but consumers disagreed, and many grocery stores and school districts have stopped carrying it.
The pink slime debate pulled back the curtain on a part of the food production industry that we’d previously known little about. When we eat beef, we assume it's beef; not a little beef with some extras thrown in. And now a similar food production controversy is brewing: the inclusion of genetically modified foods in the American diet.
Genetically modified foods are products that have had their DNA altered or crossbred to:
- Increase crop yield
- Increase resistance to industrial pesticides
- Lower price
Unfortunately, some scientists and doctors are concerned about the unknown health and wellness consequences related to increased consumption of what critics have labeled “frankenfoods.”
One of the primary concerns consumers have with GM foods is that they may carry an increased possibility of allergic reaction. In the 1990s, soybeans containing genetic material from Brazil nuts were a huge health and nutrition mistake, causing reactions – not surprisingly – in people with nut allergies. Plus, doctors are concerned that our immune systems may be developing antibiotic resistant genes in response to “gene transfer,” which is the introduction of genes from GM Foods that are bad for human health.
The FDA catalogues GM foods with the designation “generally regarded as safe,” arguing that there is no evidence that GM foods are any worse than the regularly processed foods that line grocery shelves. Still, if you’re trying to eat a healthy, natural diet – and if you’re reading this, I assume you are – you’ll be well served avoiding genetically modified foods that the human body never had to contend with before 20 years ago.
Some researchers believe that between 70-80% of the food available in American grocery stores is genetically modified, and the FDA doesn’t require producers to label their food as genetically modified. There are, however, a few tips to keep in mind to make sure you’re avoiding common nutrition mistakes and eating food that’s as natural as possible.
- Eat organic: One of the biggest nutrition mistakes people make it thinking all organic is equal. Because the strict rules the USDA sets forth for the “organic” label, you can be sure that any food stamped USDA Organic isn’t genetically modified.
- Know this: No GM meat products are currently certified for human consumption. Pink slime wasn’t actually genetically modified, and the FDA and USDA do not allow genetically modified meat on the market. However, they do allow cattle to be fed with grain or feed that is genetically modified.
- Go for Non-GMO foods: While the FDA doesn’t require labeling on GM foods, they don’t bar labeling foods that aren’t GM. Since lying on a nutrition label or food product is a big no-no, you can avoid costly nutrition mistakes by eating foods labeled non-GMO.
- Avoid processed corn and soybeans: Upwards of 80% of corn and soybeans are cultivated with genetically modified seeds. Ditto for canola. If you want to cut GM foods from your diet, be especially careful when purchasing these products.