[GET LIFE] Genetically Modified Foods: Whatâs the Big Deal?

What is the food industry hiding?

When you think of your vegetables, you think “fountain of nourishment,” “best way to grow long, healthy hair.” You might even think “that stuff I eat, though I can’t stand it” or even “most reliable weight loss tool ever.”

What you don't think of are the words: “genetically modified organisms,” do you?

That's because tons of money has been spent to ensure that the public never knows the extent to which their food has been genetically modified. From the nearly $50 million budget spent on blocking California’s Proposition 37, which required GMOs to be labeled, to the court cases where lobbyists are on camera admitting they believe the public wouldn’t purchase genetically modified foods if they knew the truth, the writing has been on the wall for years.

But will you, dear consumer, ever get to see it?

Without our knowledge, genetically modified foods have snuck into our fridges, to the point where well over 90% of all soy in the United States is genetically modified. Well over 80% of all the corn, 93% of all cotton, and over 90% of all canola and rapeseed oils produced in the United States are GMO.  If you looked in your pantry right now, it’d probably be loaded with GMOs.

And, what’s wrong with that? In an industry where the marketers were once proud to notify you of how their forward-thinking, technological-savvy was creating advances in food production and agriculture, why now would we keep these details so hush-hush?

Here's what we know: 

We know that genetically modified corn was engineered to need less pesticide to allow it to grow without insect and rodent interference; that has since been in question, as it has been found these stalks of corn wind up requiring more pesticides than their organic counterparts. This means that we, the public, are ingesting more of the pesticide than we would otherwise. Because GMO corn is in so many processed foods – cornstarch, high fructose corn syrup, caramel color, sorbitol, xanthan gum – it is an unavoidable prospect.

We also know that GMOs are literally food whose genetics have been modified. It’s not as simple as raising watermelons on special vines so that they naturally grow seedless. Corn, for example, is modified by having the bug-killing protein in soil genetically added to it. Do we know if corn is fully receptive to the genetic addition? Are all the vitamins, minerals, and phytobacteria able to continue on, in sync, to nourish its consumer?

In an industry where the marketers were once proud to notify you of how their forward-thinking, technological-savvy was creating advances in food production and agriculture, why now would we keep these details so hush-hush?

We are unable to say for sure, thanks to the determination of the genetically-modified food industry and its cohorts.

It wasn’t just those who make GMO foods, like Monsanto, who want to protect them. Hershey, Pepsi, Kraft, Nestle, Mars were all on the long list of companies pouring dollars into the campaign to prevent us from even being able to have foods containing GMOs labeled. They want to ensure their most precious resource – that cheap, GMO corn – is protected, and remains cheap. And now, since President Obama signed a sweeping bill that allows Monsanto to progress forward on GMO development without regulation, we may literally never know what’s going on.

What about those of us who, instead of playing the “does this contain genetically modified foods?” guessing game, would simply prefer to buy an unadulterated product? What do we do?

First and foremost, make processed foods a rarity, not regularity. Because so many of the derivatives of GMOs are found in processed food – sugar often comes from GMO sugar beets; baking soda, from corn; high fructose corn syrup and its many other chemical sweeteners, from corn; vegetable oils and shortenings are derived from a hydrogenated combination of GMO canola, soy and corn oils – you’d be hard pressed to find a non-organic processed food that wasn’t touched by one of these ingredients. 

Your absolute best bet, however, is to stick to the wholesome stuff – the fruits and vegetables that we all know and love… or love to hate. Organic versions of those notorious for being GMOs – corn, soy, canola oils – may be a bit on the pricey side, but they’re your safest options. Buy organic whenever you can. As I always say, your body will thank you for it!

Erika Nicole Kendall is the writer behind the award winning blog, A Black Girl’s Guide to Weight Loss, where she blogs everything from fitness to food, weight loss to wellness, body image and more. A trainer certified in women’s fitness, fitness nutrition and weight loss coaching, she can be found taking over your Internet on YoutubeFacebookInstagram and Twitter