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GMO Foods: Friend or Foe?

I?m originally from MN and one cold winter day several years ago I was perusing produce at the local grocery store.? My eyes were drawn to a display boasting luscious red tomatoes, round and plump and a shade of red that even fire engines could not aspire to.? As I reached for one, I mentioned to the elderly man shopping near me how lovely the tomatoes looked.? He responded, ?They?re really green tomatoes, just dyed red.?? Excuse me?? He went on to explain that, as part of a farming community, he was well aware of the modern practice of taking less-ripe or alternate-colored foods and having them injected with chemicals to produce more desirable color.? ?Tomatoes are out of season,? he reasoned aloud, ?and who wants only green ones??? He walked away leaving me mental mystery, wondering if the tomato I?d lusted over moments before was really an unripe green tomato in cherry-red disguise.? I thought I was purchasing a vegetable.? Apparently I was in the market for chemicals as well.?

This experience lead me to ponder the changes in our nation?s food industry and through research I found that genetically modified (GM) foods (term most commonly used to refer to crop plants created for consumption using the latest molecular biology techniques) are prevalent, on the rise and the center of food and health centered controversy.? Are these advances in modern science beneficial? Are we interfering with nature in a way that could potentially harm us? These are questions have become common place as the issues of GM or GMO (genetically-modified organisms) are splashed about the media lately.

European environmental organizations and public interest groups have actively protested the use of GM foods for some time.?European consumers also have less heart disease, obesity and diabetes.?Many reasonably question the correlation between these notions.? Controversial studies showed highly negative effects of genetically-modified corn pollen on monarch butterfly caterpillars which stirred angst regarding these issues further.

So what do we do as consumers?? First, we need to be educated.? Then we need to make our own decisions as to how to react to what we know, what we don?t know and all of the potential benefits and risks of GM foods.

Below are some of the factors that deserve consideration

Potential Benefits/Arguments For Genetic Modification of Foods:

– Better resistance to weeds, pests, disease.
– Better texture, flavor, nutritional value.
– Longer shelf life, easier shipment.
– Better yield, more efficient use of land.
– Less herbicides and other chemicals.
– Essential if we are to feed the ever-growing world.

Potential Risks/Arguments Against Genetic Modifications of Foods:

– It is “playing God” or unnatural.
– It is risky to mix genes from radically different organisms.
– Religious and vegetarian groups object to genes from some species.
– We do not know enough regarding long-term effects of GM foods.
– It is just going to provide luxuries for those who can afford to purchase the foods and won?t help people in need.
– Agriculture is already too technological. This will only make it worse.
– There better ways to improve resistance and reduce chemicals on the land.
– Labeling measures are inadequate, and unjust towards those who object.
– Big business is imposing on our freedom under the guise of free trade

Where to Go From Here

Do we buy the green turned red tomatoes and enjoy the fact they are beautifully red and perhaps nutritionally enhanced?? Or do we turn away from such foods, purchase only organic or self-produced foods to avoid potential risks?? I personally feel that though there may be benefits to GM of foods, we do not know enough to conclude that they are more beneficial than harmful.? In response, I purchase organic foods when I can.?(Since foods are not generally labeled adequately to state that foods have indeed been genetically modified, purchasing organic foods or foods labeled ?Non-GMO? or growing your own produce are perhaps the only way to completely avoid them.)? These foods are more expensive, however, and when eating socially eating in such a way is challenging to say the least.? As with most food and life principles I feel that moderation is key.? Eating a variety of foods will decrease the chance of over consuming a particular food additive and allows for greater variety and intake of nutrients.? Additionally, creating a healthy kitchen and eating environment at home allows for a clean and healthy base from which to thrive on.

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Though there are proven benefits of GM foods, there are also a great deal of potential risks. Stay educated and aware of current research and do your best to make wise health related decisions for yourself and for your family .?

Sources:? Transgenic pollen harms monarch larvae (Nature, Vol 399, No 6733, p 214, May 20, 2005); Society, Religion and Technology Project , Church of Scotland, 2007.

August Johnson is a certified nutritionist (AFPA), author and public speaker with a background and specialties in weight management, sugar sensitivity, heart health, fitness and eating disorders.? For additional information or to order her cookbook (FEED YOUR STARVING ARTIST COOKBOOK) visit her website: www.lahealthworks.com?

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