First, everyone’s probably heard of GMO foods, but what are they, really? GMO foods are foods derived, either completely or just parts of the food you buy, from Genetically Modified Organisms. These are often confused with Genetically Engineered (GE)foods, and while some of the processes are similar between the two, they are not entirely the same. GE foods are new foods that didn’t really exist before, and they are much rarer than GMO foods.
GMO foods, on the other hand, are changed, modified, at the genetic level, where DNA is found. The DNA of any living organism contains the genetic code. This code, just like any other code, can be changed so that the final result is different from what it would h ave been if the code has stayed the same.
The genetics in a cell tell it what to do, how to do it, when to start and stop, and many other things. But genes don’t stop there. Genes can also help protect the organism, or set it up to fail when attacked by something external. Even heat can harm organisms, or too much or too little water, or poor soil, or high salt levels. The environment always plays a role in how well any organism can survive.
GMO foods are those foods that have had some of their genetic code changed to help them grow better in different environments, or in many cases, to provide better nutritional values for those who will eventually consume them. Some of these environments are naturally occurring ones, and others are affected by direct input from humans. Others are a combination. What is true is that there is no such thing as a perfect environment that is completely under control at all times.
What was the First GMO?
The first GMO wasn’t a food, though. Instead, it was bacteria. This was also given by the United States Supreme Court the right to be patented. This bacteria was special. It was changed from a normal bacteria into one that loved to eat crude oil. Its designers wanted something that would be able to help clean up oil spills in the ocean so that the sea-life would not be affected so badly if an accident were to happen.
The First GMO Food
One of the first foods to be a GMO was the Flav’r Sav’r tomato, which was slower to ripen than normal tomatoes. This extended the shelf life, meaning that there was less waste. When a tomato ripens more slowly, and then can stay ripe longer before starting to go bad, more of them can be consumed. It wasn’t just the flavor that was saved by the small genetic change. It was a great deal of food, as well.
The Pros and Cons
Now, there is a great disagreement that is often in the media. Websites are everywhere about the dangers of GMO foods. Much of the information centers on health effects caused by what many assume is from GMO foods. Part of the problem, though, is t hat there is no proof. This may change in the future, but for not, results from studies fail to show any correlation between GMO food consumption and the many increases in bad health experienced by many people.
While it is true that cancer incidences have risen, as have other diseases, and in all age groups, this could have another cause, or causes. Vitamins and minerals in foods have not been genetically or chemically changed just because the food itself is now a GMO food. The fiber content in plants will also remain the fairly the same, as that is part of the plants’ structural system. What is often changed is how quickly a plant will grow, or how large, and changes in the taste are also an aspect that can be altered. Conversion of starches into sugars before consumption can make a corn type sweeter to the taste.
But the main reason there are GMO plants is that weeds can strangle a crop of any type. But putting weedkiller on plants we want to grow for food can be affected by those same weedkillers. When many people hear of GMOs, they also think Monsanto, the maker of RoundUp.
RoundUp is a weed killer that works the way it was intended – it kills weeds. But sometimes, it would affect good plants. So Monsanto created seeds that were genetically altered to be more resilient and stronger when RoundUp was used. This way, the food plants would not be affected, and there would also be no weeds.
How to Stay Healthy by Eating
Some of the complaints about ill health and disease, including cancer, could be caused by RoundUp not being washed off of the food before being consumed. Many people neglect to wash their fruits and vegetables. Even rice should be rinsed off before it is cooked. While many people will do this for dried beans, they fail to do this when it comes to rice.
There is more to eating a balanced diet. Foods used in salads and other non-cooked dishes must be clean and parasite-free. Soaking salad ingredients in plain vinegar can help reduce the number of pathogens, such as bacteria and viruses, that adhere to fruits and vegetables, and without changing the taste. Washing removes the dirt, if present, and soaking kills off the remaining contaminants. Then a final rinse. This will also eliminate any pesticides and herbicides present.
Herbicides and pesticides are often left on foods grown agriculturally because to wash them would cause the moisture level to rise astronomically on them and affect storage, shipping, and shelf life to extreme levels, causing huge amounts of wasted food. But consumers need to know how to make foods ready for consumption, not just how to cook the food.
Much of the rise in diseases might be found in the future to be attributed to GMO foods, but these health problems that affect so many of us today may also be found to be caused by levels of chemicals that we could have reduced ourselves if we had known. Some believe that cancer is caused by a bacteria or virus, and while t his also is still only a theory, it too could prove to be true. If only washing the pathogen away could have prevented a case of cancer, that alone would reduce much of the lost lives experienced today.