I’m sure most of you have heard about Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs), but as I was myself up until recently, not many know what exactly are GMOs and how harmful they really are. My dearest friend from way back in the day, Salma, who recently started her own blog: Coconuts and Cocoa (all about eating healthy, clean and keeping fit), asked me if I was familiar with GMOs and I only knew the very basics. She was doing research for her next blog series dedicated to GMOs, and I was interested in learning more about them so we decided to collaborate together through posts on each of our blogs. Salma’s first post of the series will introduce GMOs in detail while I will cover their impacts on the environment and the different initiatives from around the world to get GMOs banned/labelled. So here goes!
First of all, what exactly are GMOs? For a simple answer, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), GMOs are “Organisms in which the genetic material (DNA) has been altered in a way that does not occur naturally”. But for more details and a thorough (and beautifully-written) explanation, I suggest you read Salma’s informative post here.
Now onto the negative impacts of GMOs... How bad are they? And what exactly are their environmental impacts?
Here’s a rather short but informative video that summarises the ugly truth about GMOs...
The ecological impacts of GMOs still remain vague and the least understood, even though ironically their impacts on the environment are the most consequential to our plants, crops and generally our health and well-being.
However, what is certain and confirmed is that the overuse of herbicide-tolerant GMO crops has led to an increase in herbicide use (use of toxic herbicides like RoundUp has increased 15 times since the introduction of GMOs) and resulted in an outbreak of herbicide resistant “superweeds” and “superbugs”. Superweeds and superbugs basically are those that adapt to resist herbicides, and can only be killed with even more toxic poisons like 2,4-D (a major ingredient in Agent Orange). This results in an overall more aggressive and increased use of herbicides.
Greenpeace explain the impacts of GMOs brilliantly in this short and sweet video below.
Another serious environmental impact of GMOs is cross-contamination. This is a problem especially noted in the United States, where engineered crops covering around half of all harvested cropland. With seed or pollen from those GMO cropland drifting onto neighbouring plots, organic farmers are struggling to prevent cross-contamination. Unfortunately, current industry standards for separating GMO fields from organic cropland have proven to be inadequate as insects, wind, floods and machinery spread seed and pollen over extensive distances. This is especially problematic for farmers who aim to sell their crops to countries that strictly regulate or ban GMO foods, as it harms their exports and profits.
Efforts to Get GMOs Labelled and Banned
The topic of GMOs has been a controversial one worldwide, especially in the United States. The reason for that is that all industrial countries besides Canada and the US legally require that a food item is labelled if it contains genetically modified ingredients. The European Union, for example, has very stringent GMO regulations. In fact, France, Germany, Austria, Hungary, Greece, Luxembourg and Bulgaria have placed bans on the cultivation and sale of GMOs. In contrast, in the US, the food industry claims that GMO foods are not harmful and insists they are perfectly safe. However, 92% of Americans think GMO should be labelled and about 1.4m Americans have signed petitions to get GMOs labelled or banned.
The most notable effort to get GMOs labelled is “Just Label It”. Watch the campaign video below, which features celebrities like Michael J Fox, Ziggy Marley and many others voicing their support for GMO labelling.
If you're a US resident, make sure you check out Just Label It for more information on how you can donate to the cause and take action.
More general petitions and worldwide initiatives:
Make sure you all are more aware of the food you consume; find out exactly where it comes from, how it was cultivated and what toxins it may contain. Remember, all that glitters is not gold! If it looks too good to be true, too unnaturally appealing then don’t go near it. Your health is most precious, guard it well and maintain it with naturally nutritious food. And that right there is your stairway to the fountain of youth; natural all the way!
P.S. keep checking Coconuts and Cocoa for more of Salma’s GMO-related posts!