gmoIn an effort to stay relevant, it’s not uncommon for people to follow the latest health trend, or jump on a dietary bandwagon, and not even know where it’s going. To illustrate this, a late night talk show host recently did a man-on-the-street segment looking for people who claimed to be gluten free. When asked why they had gone “gluten-free,” most didn’t even know what gluten was, much less why they may (or may not) need to eliminate it from their diets.

The same can be said for GMOs. They are in the news so much lately that many people are now actively avoiding them without ever knowing why.

So what are they? GMOs (genetically modified organisms) are living organisms, generally plants, whose cells have been injected with a gene from another unrelated species in order to take on certain characteristics, or modifications.  The genetic material of a species is artificially manipulated in a lab creating combinations of genes that do not occur in nature or through traditional cross-breeding methods.

Proponents of GMOs tout the supposed benefits, such as crops with a higher resistance to pesticides and greater yield, drought tolerance and nutrition.  While GMO crops have proven more able to withstand direct application of herbicides and pesticides — which doesn’t even address the issue that consuming produce that has had toxic chemicals “directly applied” is probably not such a good idea — there is so far no proof of increased yield, drought tolerance, or nutritional benefit, and the safety of long-term consumption of GMO-laden foods remains unknown.

In fact, the long-term effects are so in question that most developed countries — including Japan, Australia and all the countries in the European Union — severely restrict their use or ban them all together.  The US government has deemed them safe for human consumption based on studies provided by the biotech companies like Monsanto that make them — the same companies that profit from their use.  It’s this conflict of interest and the fact that they are not in wide use in other countries that has US consumers taking notice.

As a result, health-conscious Americans have begun buying more organic produce in an effort to steer clear of foods grown with GMOs, but this change alone will not keep them out of your pantry.  That’s because as much as 80% of conventional processed foods contain them as many preservatives and artificial additives such as Aspartame, Ascorbic Acid, High Fructose Corn Syrup, MSG and Xanthan Gum (among others) in these foods are derived from crops at high risk for GMOs. High risk crops include corn, soy, alfalfa, canola and squash among others.

What’s worse is these products are not required to list GMOs on their labels.  While you may have noticed an increased number of “GMO Free” labeled items lining grocery store shelves, this is a voluntary effort by companies hoping to appeal to nutrition-minded buyers.  Products with GMOs will not say so unless mandated for reasons that are becoming more and more obvious.

If you want to avoid GMOs, it’s best to stay away from boxed/processed foods and their additives all together, but for the occasional convenience food, look for products labeled “GMO-free.” Stick with organic fruits and veggies (at least for those in the “dirty dozen”) as well as organic meat and poultry when possible.  It’s best to know where your family’s food comes from and exactly what’s in it.

Here at Whole Body Health we believe in a holistic approach to health and wellness. If you are looking to avoid GMO’s and lead a healthier lifestyle, we offer nutritional consultation as well as other natural, holistic services.