Organic vs. genetically modified food

This has been a hot topic for a number of years now.  The question is, is organic food really the healthiest option?  Does the price tag for organic food really reflect its value?  Is genetically modified food safe for human consumption?

Despite the simplicity of these questions, the answers are not so obvious.  At this point in time, there is very little data out there on the long term health effects of eating genetically modified food.  Some studies have shown a correlation between genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and inflammation of the intestines. Going further, some researchers have even speculated that GMOs can cause cancer and a whole host of other medical ailments, however this is not the focus of this article.  The real purpose of this post is to explain what genetic modification is, and how we as consumers effect its prevalence in the marketplace.

What exactly is genetic modification?

Genetic modification is simply the “modification” or altering of the DNA of an organism in order to improve it, or correct its “defects”.

GMOs made their first appearance in the marketplace less than thirty years ago.  Certainly this is not enough time to conduct long-term testing on the safety of eating these crops.  However, despite the lack of evidence proving their safety, they were still approved for human consumption, and now dominate the market place.  GMOs are everywhere you look in grocery stores, restaurants, and packaged foods.

Scientists have been manipulating the DNA of plants for a number of years now.  They commonly use a device called a gene gun to literally blast foreign DNA into plant cells so that the plant will assimilate the new DNA into itself.  Through this process, bio-engineers have been able to put specific “desirable” genes and traits into crops in order to help them grow bigger, be more colorful, repel insects, delay ripening, be resistant to pesticides, etc.

Back in the 90’s, one of the largest bio-engineering companies in the world, Monsanto, came out with its first batch of Round-up Ready crops.  These crops have a genetic modification that allows them to be sprayed with weed killer herbicide without dying.  Basically, this modification allows farmers to literally douse their entire field with plant poison, including the crops they plan on selling as food, killing everything in the field but their GMO crops.

Does this sound like a good idea to anybody?  Do you want to be eating food that had been bathed in chemicals since it was just a sprout?

Of course large bio-tech companies claim that these types of crops are 100% safe for human consumption.

Even worse, a few bio-tech companies have decided that making their crops resistant to pesticides and weed killer simply was not enough.  Some genius working for one of these companies determined that it would be far more effective to have the plants  produce THEIR OWN pesticides.  In this case, the genetic modification causes the plants to produce their own version of an insect neurotoxin which, of course, kills any insect that eats it.  How awesome is this?  Giant corporately controlled farmers can now lower their expenses by saving money on pesticides because the plants themselves are full of them.  Awesome!

Ohh but don’t worry, the plants are safe for YOU to eat…

Organic crops, on the other hand, are supposed to be grown without the use of pesticides, fertilizers, or GMOs.  Organic crops are naturally grown without the use of many modern farming techniques that could prove to be dangerous later down the road.

Do whatever you wanna do

There is a saying that every time you buy something you are voting with your money.  As consumers, we literally give our financial support to the companies we buy from.  Buying products from a company helps it to grow bigger, and become more dominant.

Even though big bio-tech companies promise “our crops are safe!”, there is simply no proof one way or the other due to lack of data.  Human beings have only recently started messing with the DNA of our food, and we’re not quite sure where it will take us.

I can say that it is not natural for apples, oranges, and potatoes to be three times the size they were 50 years ago.  It is not natural for a plant to be able to withstand a chemical onslaught of herbicide and come out on the other end just fine.  It is not natural for a plant to be poisonous to the insects that evolved over thousands of years while feeding off of plants just like it.

If consumers continue to support GMOs by buying them at the super market then they are actually increasing the demand for GMOs which only furthers their prevalence in the marketplace.  Pretty soon we will start seeing the animals we eat undergo genetic modification.  Oh wait, that already happened.

In the end, it is up to us, the consumers.  We always have a choice.  We can choose to eat organic food from a local farmer’s market or grocery store, or we can buy the GMO alternative,

I suggest that whenever you are faced with the choice, choose organic!

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