How important is it to eat organic and non-GMO products?
I'll start by discussing the GMO topic. As all of you likely know, it stands for genetically modified organism. There are a couple of GMO techniques to creating such plants but that is likely less important than how the outcome of the plant is impacted. The process is not always very precise in a couple of ways: 1) many of the plants modified can not regenerate to healthy plants, and 2) sometimes the new gene is placed into a part of the plant not intended which can affect things like crop yield and resistance (or lack thereof) to pests, weeds, etc. which is quite the opposite of the goal. One of the reasons for genetic modification is to improve plants' resistance to certain pests or weeds making them less vulnerable. Unfortunately, this results in these plants being very resistant to herbicides, therefore more can be applied to kill a variety of other things, some beneficial, such as helpful microorganisms in the soil as the herbicides used are not plant specific. And who is benefitting a great deal from the over use of the herbicides and often the ones creating these modified plants? The herbicide companies themselves (not a huge surprise). The herbicides we ingest also harm our own gut bacteria in addition to being linked to cancer, endocrine disruption, and Parkinson's disease to name a few. The herbicides end up in water run off in streams and rivers and ultimately in the ocean where they adversely impact fish. Two of the most genetically modified plants are soybeans and corn, but rice (called Golden Rice - not currently available in the US) has also been genetically modified as have potatoes. A concerning fact is that many governments are allowing increased amounts on produce, not based on amounts acceptable by scientific studies, but rather out of convenience so they can continue to allow the import and export of the produce.
How does one avoid GMO products?
1. Purchase organic produce as GMO foods are not allowed to be labeled organic.
2. Avoid processed foods as they often contain some genetically modified foods.
3. Avoid the foods that are often genetically modified such soybeans, corn, oil seed (rape, canola), and potatoes. I prefer the approach of making sure that any corn, soy, and potato products I purchase are labeled as "non-GMO" and, preferably, organic to avoid pesticide content. And I do not use canola or corn oil at all anymore. I have also read that some rice is being genetically modified so I also buy organic (brown basmati) rice.
Yesterday I was at Whole Foods and learned, upon speaking to the produce guy, that everything in Whole Foods is non-GMO. As a company, they will not sell anything genetically modified. That was comforting to learn as I do some, not all, of my shopping there.
On to the topic of organic produce. We all know that buying organic produce is generally more expensive and not everyone has access to it. Whenever possible, it is important to make the choice to buy organic for avoidance of harmful pesticides and herbicides and the impact on long term health. I generally try to buy organic from the dirty dozen list whenever I can. https://www.ewg.org/foodnews/summary.php I also garden organically. An excellent way to get a variety of organic produce at anytime of the year at most stores, is to by frozen fruits and vegetables. A benefit of frozen produce is that they are (hopefully) flash frozen shortly after harvest and then packaged. They can sometimes contain more nutrients than fresh produce depending on where the fresh produce was harvested, trucking time, storage time, etc.
I invite questions, comments, and thoughts anytime!
In good health, Mary
De Roos AJ, Blair A, Rusiecki JA, Hoppin JA, et al. Cancer incidence among glyphosate-exposed pesticide applicators in the agricultural health study. Environ Health Persp. 2005; 113(1): 49-54
Gasnier C, Dumont C, Benachour N, Clair E, et al. Glyphosate-based herbicides are toxic and endocrine disruptors in human cell lines. Toxicology. 2009; 262(3): 184-191.
Wilson, AK, PhD. (Center For Nutritional Studies). GMOs: What are they and how are they created? ECornell Plant Based Nutrition Course. (Video webinar). Retrieved November 2017.
Wilson AK, Latham JR, Steinbrecher RA. Transformation-induced mutations in transgenic plants: Analysis and biosafety implications. Biotech & Genet Engin Rev. 2006; 23: 209-34.