In North America, many of us have a wide range of food related choices. We are often influenced by television and other media to choose “healthy” options. But the truth is whether you choose to eat corn flakes for breakfast or perhaps a slice of Canadian bacon on the side of waffles and scrambled eggs, or go “healthy” with a glass of milk or sugar free yogurt, what most people don’t realize is that the breakfast they eat could end up being the cause of multiple illnesses associated with genetically modified foods. We are a nation of misinformed consumers who are eating our way to allergies and illness.
Genetically modified foods or GM foods are bioengineered foods whereby the DNA and composition of foods are genetically manipulated. Additionally, these products lack a history of safe use as food and are produced by processes not previously used for anything that is edible. Most people unknowingly consume a bounty of genetically modified foods every day. In fact, most food products in a kitchen such as bagels, and bread to fruits and vegetables, contain altered food organisms. According to the CBC, “some estimates peg as many as 30,000 different products on grocery store shelves as modified”. Genetically modified foods pose a variety of issues including allergies, arthritis, accelerated aging, immune dysfunction, diabetes, organ damage, and even cancer. Long-term impacts are unknown due to a lack of research and investigation. In addition, since their introduction genetically modified foods have led to an increase in food allergies.
The process of genetically modifying foods is threatening the majority of our food supply. The problem lies with the greed of big corporations utilizing science to increase their revenues and the lack of enforcement on the part of the government. Science is trying to conquer nature and the battle is with the very food that we eat. Through science, our food supply is consistently tampered with and tainted with on a daily basis. The government is not doing its job of regulating the industry properly and corporations are taking advantage of the opportunity.
The American Academy of Environmental Medicine has warned, “There is more than a causal association between Genetically Modified Foods and Adverse health effects. There is causation”. A report conducted by Dr. Doug Gurian-Sherman stated that FDA policy does not assure the safety of genetically engineered foods. Moreover, multiple studies conducted by the National Academy of Sciences has confirmed that genetically modified foods do pose “the potential to introduce new toxins or allergens into our food and environment” What is perhaps most frightening is that though these are the foods Canadians eat every day the safety evaluation process varies dramatically from the process new drugs must go through to ensure they are safe for human consumption. This means that there are no mandatory clinical trials of these foods, no tests for carcinogens, and there are no long term tests that have been conducted to assess human health risks and implications associated with genetically modified foods.
In the 1990s, new proteins, which are used to enhance the size of crops or cattle, began to be engineered into the food supply. The reason that our food began to be tampered with and tainted was to maximize profits in the food industry. These large corporations, motivated by their bottom lines, failed to introduce foods that had been tested on humans prior to their release to market. According to the food allergy and anaphylaxis network, from 1997-2002, there was a doubling of the prevalence of peanut allergies. A 2007 study showed that fewer and fewer children are growing out of their milk allergies, so much so that within the study only 19% had outgrown their allergy by the age of 4 and 79% by the age of 16. A similar study with parallel findings was also conducted in the UK in 1999, following the study John Graham, a spokesman for the York laboratory that the study was conducted in stated that, "We believe this raises serious new questions about the safety of GM foods.”
If we can’t stop corporations from making foods that are genetically modified, then we have to at the very least become informed consumers. A research study produced by Angus Reid showed that though 79% of Canadians have heard of genetically modified foods, only 5% feel that they have an understanding of the issue. What’s most important however is that 68% of Canadians want to know more about genetically modified foods, and the technology of genetic modification. Governments should mandate that manufacturers of genetically modified foods explicitly state on their food labels and packaging that their products are genetically modified or bioengineered. This will allow consumers to make accurate and informed choices.
There are many things that individuals can do in their daily life to help protect them from the dangers of genetically modified foods. Firstly, eating fresh is always the best route to go when trying to avoid these hazardous foods. Though many items in the produce aisle may contain GMOs, most GMOs are found in processed foods, therefore eating fresh foods as opposed to processed assists in decreasing daily intake of GMO. The four most common genetically modified foods are corn, soy, canola and sugar. By working to avoid these products consumers can reduce their daily intake of toxins from GMOs. Purchasing organic foods and foods that explicitly state that they are not genetically modified also provides consumers with an ensured way of knowing what their body is consuming. Finally, if consumers are unsure about whether a product is genetically modified simply call the manufacturer and obtain the correct information.