We find ourselves at a crucial moment in time. This is a moment where many of the policies that regulate our food and its future are being decided. It is key that we not only as consumers but most importantly as residents and stewards of the planet be educated on this subject, so we can be active and effective participants in these decisions. Otherwise the decision will be taken from us and will most certainly not be in our interest. – Mathieu Asselin
A New Year
It’s the time of year where many of us reflect on our lives & some consider taking a more active stance in our own well being. It may be exercising more, quitting tobacco use, eating healthier, or maybe even making financial changes in our 401K or household budgets.
One thing for sure is that it is difficult to discover which foods contain GMO ingredients here in the US. Since food companies are not required to disclose the inclusion of GMOs in their products, we are forced to stick with organic items to even have an idea that we are eating healthy. In an environment such as this, having a garden is self defense.
Although gardening can fill an important part of our food consumption, most of us will have to continue to eat what we buy, here’s some tips on how to avoid GMOs:
Tips for Avoiding GMOs
Besides having a garden, committing to buying only organic foods is the only sure way to avoid GMOs in your food supply:
Certified organic products cannot intentionally include any GMO ingredients. Buy products labeled “100% organic,” “organic,” or “made with organic ingredients.” You can be doubly sure if the product also has a Non-GMO Project Verified Seal.
Peel labels off fruits and vegetables after you shop. One example of a highly modified food is corn, where an estimated 60 percent of all corn comes from crops is genetically altered. To determine whether your food is genetically modified, look at what is known as the PLU code on the label, a numeric system created by the Produce Electronic Identification Board. If the code is:
a) a four-digit number, it is grown through conventional means
b) a five-digit number starting with 9, it is organic
c) a five digit number starting with 8, it is genetically modified.
Stay away from oils or margarines (soy, corn, canola, cottonseed), unless they contain the words “non-GMO” or “organic.” Other nonmodified choices include olive oil, sunflower, safflower or butter.
The US is notorious for rushing GMO crops through the approval process without first testing them to determine their long-term health and environmental impacts. The government also does not require foods containing GMOs to be labeled, making it harder for consumers to figure out whether they’re eating them. (GMOs have been linked to food allergies, gastrointestinal disease, and all sorts of other health problems.)
That’s problematic for many public health experts because the most common type of pesticide used on GMO crops is glyphosate, a component of Roundup (the crops are modified to be “Roundup Ready,” meaning they can tolerate heavy dousings of the pesticide). Glyphosate is a systemic pesticide that’s taken up inside the plant. Because weeds are outsmarting such GMO crops, farmers often use more and heavier sprayings, thus higher residue levels of glyphosate are turning up in the food supply.
Use of Roundup Linked to Autism, Alzheimers
Glyphosate impairs the cytochrome P450 (CYP) gene pathway, which creates enzymes that help to form and also break down molecules in cells. There are myriad important CYP enzymes, including aromatase (the enzyme that converts androgen into estrogen) and 21-Hydroxylase, which creates cortisol (stress hormone) and aldosterone (regulates blood pressure). One function of these CYP enzymes is also to detoxify xenobiotics, which are foreign chemicals like drugs, carcinogens or pesticides. Glyphosate inhibits these CYP enzymes, which has rippling effects throughout our body.
Because the CYP pathway is essential for normal functioning of various systems in our bodies, any small change in its expression can lead to disruptions. For example, humans exposed to glyphosate have decreased levels of the amino acid tryptophan, which is necessary for active signaling of the neurotransmitter serotonin. Suppressed serotonin levels have been associated with weight gain, depression and Alzheimer’s disease.
As I mentioned earlier, a garden now has become a self defense mechanism in the desire to eat healthily & avoid GMOs. Seek out heirloom (non hybrid) seeds, and of course don’t use pesticides, but rather focus on natural methods of pest control. As we’ve previously mentioned on this site (Peruvian Heirloom Seeds Arrive in the US,) one company leading the way is Baker Creek Heirloom seeds. We can’t say enough about their work to fight against contamination of seed stocks via GMOs, and we hope that you will support them as well.
So as you ponder on what parts of your daily life to improve for the new year 2015, think about improving your personal food supply. Good stuff in, good stuff out – may you have a great 2015!
©2015 Ben Gangloff
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