I eat GMO's and other things we're told not to
Genetically Modified Organism (an organism that has been modified by gene technology or inherited a particular trait)
It’s all over our food labels, we’re avoiding it but are we aware of what it is and what exactly we are avoiding? I get it, why mess with nature? Isn’t natural a better and safer option?
As I’m writing this I’m patting my dog Ramsey. He’s a Cairn Terrier which I guess means I have a GMO dog! His parents have been selected because of their traits and they’ve produced a desirable (and adorable) offspring.
In nature, species including animals and plants will always evolve and the fittest will always remain top dog. It’s called natural selection, in the same way dogs are bred or plants reproduce, but did you know this can be a form of Genetic Modification?
Once again things are not as straight forward as they seem and a balanced look at both organic and GM needs to be considered.
I’m not going to go into detail about the scientific processes and methods as you will most likely click off this page the minute I start blabbering along trying to sound like a science professor. As our good old mate Albert Einstein once said, “if you can’t explain it simply, you don’t know it enough”. Or something along those lines and that is why I’m going to do my best to keep it short and snappy.
The breakdown of GM – how and why
There are 3 main types of GM method
1. Conventional breeding
Selective breeding or hybridization: similar to breeding dogs. Choosing the parents with good traits to produce desirable offspring. Our dogs are GMO! Same with Broccoli or Kale
Genome manipulation: expresses recessive traits such as your good old seedless watermelon which happens to be classed as a sterile fruit. Poor watermelon
Mutation breeding: also produce desirable traits e.g. large yield, disease/pest resistant. But this method is unpredictable
2. Genome editing – the editing of DNA or simply put turning some switches on and others off e.g. turning on the switch that improves the plants defence mechanism or enhance nutrients
3. Transgenic methods: basically it is the swapping over of genes and I’m not talking about jeans. However, a good example would be your favourite jeans that has a hole or rip. So to repair or improve your jeans, you take new jean material and sew it to your original jeans. GENEius
Weighing up GMO
"But what about that doco I watched?"
It’s easy to watch a documentary and side with it. It’s very pervasive but there’s things you need to consider
1. Is this relatable to the Country I live in
2. What are the laws and regulations in my Country
3. Is this an unbiased documentary that has considered both sides of the story, is not provoking Food Fear and has a substantial amount of high quality evidence.
GM crops in Australia
In Australia, we have strict regulations and controls in place for human and environmental safety. I will not list them but rest assured everything needs to be approved and undergoes many hurdles before it is passed. For more information, there is a list of GM foods approved in Australia and New Zealand (http://www.foodstandards.gov.au/publications/Pages/GMFoodsSafety-Assessment-of-Genetically-Modified-Foods.aspx).
Organic has more nutrients – studies show that the nutrients are pretty much the same, the anioxidants may be slightly higher but this varies in different foods
GMO is harmful to our health – this is not true as it is tightly regulated and always undergoing studies and monitoring, and in fact nutrients can be higher
Organic is better because GMO is sprayed with pesticide – Plants produce their own natural pesticide to fight against bugs and diseases. Plants that have been genetically modified for the traits of a strong defence mechanism will require less pesticides
Organic plants do not use pesticide – False, organic pesticide can be used, which does not necessarily mean safer e.g. derris dust (rotenone)
GMO causes cancer – ~2000 cancer cases could be avoided by increasing consumption by 1 serve each of fruit and vegetables. No more than 10 cases would be caused by increased pesticide residue consumption. You are better off eating more fruit and veg than avoiding it
Organic – worldwide meaning farming without the addition artificial chemicals, no GM techniques
GMO – Genetically Modified Organism (an organism that has been modified by gene technology or inherited a particular trait)