The GMO Debate

This is a big one. This topic is REAL controversial. Having done a bit of reading and research in the field I felt the need to share it. It’s hard not to let one’s own opinion heat up and boil over in a conversation like this, but I’ll try my best.

Let’s start with the basics. What is a GMO? It is a Genetically Modified Organism. Ready for a surprise? Almost all the foods you consume are GMOs. When people think of harmful GMOs they are likely actually thinking of foods that are Genetically Engineered or GE. I won’t compare these two too much because I found this amazing article that explains everything you need to know about GE foods and I highly recommend you go check it out.

A GMO, however, is simply any fruit, vegetable, or other food that has been genetically changed in some way. This happens all the time in nature. For example, you have a patch of strawberry plants that produce normal-sized strawberries. Then you have a patch a little ways from there of strawberry plants that that are a totally different breed which produce very large strawberries. Bees do their work and cross-pollination occurs between these two different breeds of strawberries and you end up with a new breed or a genetically modified organism. This happens in nature and also intentionally by farmers who breed plants to achieve more desirable traits. The best example I can think of is a seedless watermelon. Pretty much every seedless watermelon is a GMO. They’ve been bred to be seedless. They have been genetically altered to delay the growth of their seeds, which makes them more desirable for us to eat. Does this make them bad? No. Does this make them cancer-causing foods? No. If this is all it takes for something to be a GMO then that means that bio, eco, and organic foods can also be GMOs. And that isn’t necessarily a bad thing (see explanation of seedless watermelon).

Something else people don’t think about, have you ever tried to plant your own garden? Try to have your own organic garden and then don’t use any pesticides, natural or not. When the snails and bugs come, you must not use salt on the plants or soil because this disrupts the soil’s mineral balance, which harms the soil ecologically. The only thing you can use are eggs shells, but when it rains or if it’s windy they’re gone and you’ll need to replace them every few days. Do you know what happens? About 50-70% of whatever you raise gets eaten by bugs. You do the work for 100% and you only get about 30-50% of that just because of the bugs. I’m telling you, when you see your lettuce shredded to pieces time and time again you will begin to think that pesticides aren’t such a bad idea. I know because when I planted a garden with my sister-in-law most of the lettuce plants were completely eaten before they were even big enough to harvest. And, bless her, she would pick off slugs every day! When we did harvest the lettuce leaves they were full of holes. But what if we could breed a lettuce that the snails wouldn’t find tasty, but humans would still love? Then we don’t need the harmful chemicals and humans are happy! Oh wait… I get where the idea for GMOs came in and it might just be a good idea.

With all this positivity, where’s the real truth on GMOs? I believe the harm is mostly from where we are not looking. We cannot know the long-term effect of changing these plants genetically. Perhaps not even on us, but on the eco-systems and environment. In this interview Bill Nye gives a pretty simple, straight-forward explanation on all this. I really like the way he says it as GMOs are not “inherently bad” however we don’t know the long-term consequences and we need to be mindful as we go about this. 

Partially, we are to blame for this. As I mentioned above, when you have your own garden, if you really go all natural, you have a crop full of holes and half-eaten by intruders. What is left over is, by our standards, ugly. It may sound like a great idea to have totally natural, healthy food, but I can guarantee if you went to the organic section in your grocery store and saw veggies looking like this you would never buy them. I know I wouldn’t! In order to appeal to us, sellers have to make it all look perfect because that is what we, the consumers, demand. Can they be throwing away 50% of their crops just because we won’t eat it based on appearances? We are kind of wusses, when you think about it. Having a garden has taught me to toughen up a bit. Also, living outside of the U.S. has helped too. If you really want to eat, live, and be GMO/GE free and utterly organic while making a positive impact on our environment, then start your own garden! Learn about what it takes and what it means to raise your own healthy food! Don’t take a backseat in your life and just complain about how awful produce is, go out and grow it yourself! You will have 100% control over what you put into your body and you will learn something new.

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