GMO's: The Top 10 Myths

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By Shannon Keirnan

Last night, I attended the screening of "GMO OMG" held by Veg Lakeshore at the Herrick District Library, followed by a discussion with Ryan Kelly of No GMO 4 Michigan. The movie was lovely and informative - if you haven't seen it yet, I recommend checking it out!

In his talk after the film, Ryan talked further about GMO's, and what we can do to educate ourselves and others on the issue, especially in regards to Monsanto-specific products. He also mentioned the top ten myths he encounters about GMO's, which I thought were worth discussing below.

1) No one has proven that GMO's are harmful. 

That may be true, but there are several issues with this. The studies done surrounding GMO's are short-term studies (3 months), run by the companies that produce the product. They are not peer reviewed, and the research is not released to the public. Other studies on the matter are shut down, or are forced to retract their findings (as was the case of a 2-year study done in France).

2) GMO's are the only way to solve world hunger. 

While GMO and pesticide-treated crops initially perform better than organic, over time, organic yield proves equal to, or in some cases higher, than conventionally grown crops, as long as proper management techniques are practiced.

Besides, the world is proving that is doesn't want GMO crops. Even places like China and Russia are rejecting GMO imports. After a major earthquake damaged poverty-torn Haiti, Monsanto send them thousands of tons of seeds - Haitians burned the seeds in protest.

3) GMO crops use less pesticides. 

Initially, this was true, but the sales of pesticides are now skyrocketing. Insects and weeds are adapting to the pesticides implanted in genetically modified corn, and are becoming harder and harder to destroy. Read more about the increasing sales of pesticides here.  

4) GMO is comparable to cross-breeding and selective breeding 

Humans have been crossbreeding and using selective breeding for thousands of years, to produce stronger, hardier, or even just different-looking plants and animals. People often confuse hybridization with GMO's. Even Neil deGrasse Tyson pointed out that we should "chill out" regarding GMO's, because people have been practicing artificial selection for tens of thousands of years.

And that's true. However, genetically modified organisms are not selectively bred. This isn't just a matter of moving pollen from one plant to another, or re-breeding a few good specimens. This is a laboratory process, which splices and inserts genes or DNA from entirely different organisms - like bacteria and viruses - that would have no natural business being combined on an intrinsic level.

For example, certain corn from Monsanto (BT) has been genetically altered with the insertion of a bacteria which causes the plant to produce its own pesticide. The corn itself is labeled with the EPA as a pesticide.

5) GMO's are approved by the FDA and USDA, so they must be safe. 

I'll just assume that, as an informed individual, you have an idea of the many failings associated with the FDA and USDA when it comes to product safety, with food and medicine. If not, just do a quick Google search and you'll see the pitfalls are obvious. 

6) There is no nutritional difference between GMO products and organic ones.

Studies are showing without doubt that organic foods are better for us. Higher in nutrients, vitamins and antioxidants (almost 30% higher!), organic products pack significantly more nutrition than those genetically modified and treated with pesticides. Often genetic modifications are designed to make the product grow larger, faster, which results in a higher water content but lower nutrition.

Animals fed their natural diet (unlike factory-farm animals, which are fed GMO corn, hormones, and antibiotics) are also higher in nutrition and much lower in fat - obviously this is especially true if they are allowed to roam, and grow at a normal rate.

7) GMO's are impossible to avoid, so just give in!

Yes, GMO's are everywhere, and odds are you'll be eating them now and again (especially if you go out to restaurants). However, you can be an informed buyer, "vote with your dollars," and make sure you are purchasing organic products, or products that have been non-GMO verified. If you have a question, call the company! They may be difficult to avoid, but by being a smart consumer you can still minimize them in your diet, or eliminate them entirely.

8) Monsanto has our best interest at heart.

Oh, please.

9) GMO's don't harm the environment!

Increased pesticide use? The disappearance of our bees? Monoculture and soil depletion? The degradation of our water supply? It's all tied together here, folks. This is a ripple effect we can't afford to let continue.

10) GMO's are here to stay!

Though it's a slow movement, most especially in the U.S., people are beginning to fight back against GMO's. Education is key - many people don't have any idea what GMO's are, and how prevalent they are in our food system, because the companies producing them want to keep it quiet.

The U.S. is behind over 60 counties in demanding the labeling of GMO's, which can make it much more difficult to make informed decisions when purchasing, if one is not paying attention.

Promote labeling, buy non-GMO verified products, and remember that the market is consumer-driven. Original Cheerio's made the switch to using non-GMO ingredients based on consumer demand, and others will too. But first, we have to demand!

What other questions or concerns do you have about Genetically Modified Organisms? Feel free to comment and discuss!