Are GMOs dangerous or not? Contrary to popular belief, there is no clear consensus about the safety of GMOs, especially among scientists. Although certain GMO crops are steadily flooding our markets, many scientists continue to skeptically study their molecular structure and long-term health effects.
With the ongoing debate as to whether GMO crops are nutritionally equivalent to their non-GMO counterparts, there had been no firm evidence to suggest that the composition of GMO crops would be much different from non-GMO counterparts. That is, until the recent release of a study published in Nature regarding the Roundup-resistant GMO corn variety, NK603.
When it was originally released, NK603 was tested, deemed “substantially equivalent” to its non-GM parent (and therefore safe for consumption), and approved for market sale. However, the original testing to determine its nutritional and molecular equivalency was quite vague, comparing generalities like total proteins rather than the types of proteins present.
Using a more encompassing molecular breakdown, the data from the recently published study forced researchers to deem that NK603 is not substantially equivalent to its parent variety. When comparing the GMO to the non-GMO varieties, there was disturbing evidence of high oxidative stress and imbalanced energy utilization on a molecular level, along with a worrisome increase in polyamides.
Polyamides, including putrescine and cadaverine, are toxic substances in large doses. They can also potentially enhance the effects of histamines, thereby escalating allergic reactions. These structures could feasibly have an effect on human health if consumed long-term. Suffice to say, the study deemed NK603 “non-substantially equivalent“. Researchers have made it clear that more long-term, independent studies are needed to thoroughly determine the safety of this strain of GMO corn, and others.
The study followed NK603 crops and its parent crops over two growing seasons. Efforts were made to ensure there was no cross-contamination between the GM crops and the non-GM crops. One batch of each was treated with the herbicide glyphosate, while one was not. This was done to ensure that the genetic modification itself was being tested, rather than the effect of the herbicide application.
Much of the scientific literature that has been used to demonstrate the innocuous nature of GMO crops has been funded by the big money of biotech companies. In order to further understand the true nature of GM crops, more independent research is sorely needed.
What is most concerning is that, although the scientific stance on GMOs is still officially inconclusive, many of us already consume amounts of GMO corn and soy on a daily basis. GMOs are fairly ubiquitous, yet well hidden, in the American supermarket. In order to avoid hidden GMOs, follow these 3 tips:
Buy organic. In order for a food to be labeled as ‘organic’ it cannot be genetically engineered. So going organic is a safe bet for produce and other foods.
Reduce consumption of processed food. High-fructose corn syrup, corn starch, soy products; these are all likely born out of GM crops. And processed foods are loaded with them. Stop shopping the middle aisles of the grocery store and stick to the outskirts. Crackers, cookies, cereals, pre-packaged noodle dishes, commercial peanut butters—these are all highly processed, often sugary foods. Limiting them will not only limit GMOs, but also improve your diet.
Look for the Non-GMO Project label. When you do buy packaged goods, look for the Non-GMO Project seal. If the seal in on a package, you can trust that it was throughly vetted and verified to contain no GMO-derived ingredients. Non-GMO Project is a nonprofit organization dedicated to GMO transparency and consumer education.
Educate yourself about what you are eating and become involved in your local food community. Get to know and understand your food and you’ll feel healthier in the long run.
Where do you stand on GMOs? Share your thoughts in the comments section below…