A Crash Course on GMOs
The number of GMOs available for commercial use is on the rise. Today, many of the consumable products we use on a daily basis have GMOs. This includes the food we eat as well as health and beauty products.
While advocates claim GMOs are safe for people and the planet, evidence suggests otherwise. The science is tangled up with political and business interests, and the ramifications of GMOs are complex.
At The Oven Door, we are passionate about avoiding GMOs and all our products are Non-GMO Project Verified. We strongly believe in food labeling and want to help you make informed decisions about what you eat.
In this guide, we’ll not only cover what GMOs are but the impact they’re having on our world. We’ll also show you how to avoid GMOs and give you the scoop on what Non-GMO labeling really means.
If you want to hop around in this article, you can use these quick links:
- What is a GMO?
- Examples of Common GMOs
- Why You Should Avoid GMOs in Food
- Why GMOs are Bad for the Environment
- Why Food Labeling Matters
- What Non-GMO Project Verified Means
- The Difference Between Organic and Non-GMO
GMO stands for “genetically modified organism.” This includes plants, animals, and microorganisms that have been genetically modified in a lab.1
Genetic modification is not the same as cross-breeding. Cross-breeding can occur naturally between compatible organisms, but genetic engineering and transgenic technology create organisms that would otherwise not occur naturally.
Genetic engineering is a process by which scientists insert genes from one living organism into another, and the DNA does not need to come from a closely related species.2
Corn, soy, canola, and sugar beets are some of the most commonly genetically modified crops.3 Animal products are also considered high-risk by the Non-GMO Project. You can view their full list here along with associated risk levels and clear definitions.
There are several common types of GMOs, including those modified for:
- Herbicide and pesticide resistance
- Insect resistance
- Disease resistance
- Drought resistance
While there are a number of reasons a crop might be genetically modified, over 80% of all GMOs worldwide are engineered for herbicide resistance. This has led to a significant increase in the use of herbicides, especially Roundup (glyphosate).4
We really don’t know the potential effects that GMOs in food have on human health. Most research used to advocate for the safety of GMOs does not come without bias. The field of plant molecular biology is largely funded by companies that sell genetically engineered seeds.5
In other words, the science behind GMOs is tangled up with politics and business interests. This makes getting a clear picture challenging.
What we do know without a doubt: GMOs raise major environmental concerns. As consumers, our choices strongly influence the market. Avoiding GMOs in food can help move the food industry in a more environmentally friendly direction for our future.
GMOs are not helping with one of the biggest environmental problems we face in the food supply chain today: agrobiodiversity loss.
Agricultural biodiversity, or agrobiodiversity, impacts what we eat, the quality of nutrients in the soil, the fate of pollinators (like bees), our ability to grow and gather food, and a slew of socioeconomic and cultural issues.
And over the past century, we have lost 75% of plant genetic diversity. This is largely due to genetically uniform high-yielding crops.6
For example, corn and soy crops genetically engineered to be resistant to Roundup, a glyphosate-containing herbicide, have contributed to habitat loss for monarch butterflies in North America.7
As we mentioned earlier, genetically modified crops have actually led to an increase in the use of herbicides. Not only has this resulted in superbugs and superweeds that require even more toxic chemicals to control, but these chemicals also end up where they shouldn’t. Crop drift and runoff carry pesticides into our water supply, neighboring organic crops, and already threatened ecosystems.
Food labeling gives us the power of choice over what we put into our bodies. It also helps us make educated decisions about the brands we choose to support.
Currently, GMOs are not labeled in the United States.8 Despite legislation being put in place to require labeling for all products containing GMO ingredients by 2022, there are categorical exemptions in place that undermine the impact of this law. This means third-party verification for Non-GMO products will continue to be important when it comes to keeping GMOs off your table.
The Non-GMO Project is America’s only third-party verification program for Non-GMO food and products. It’s an independent, non-profit organization focused solely on GMOs. You’ve likely seen their butterfly seal on products at the grocery store. When you see this label, it means the product is compliant with the Non-GMO Project Standard.
Non-GMO products are made without genetic engineering or ingredients derived from GMOs. The Non-GMO Project also monitors and evaluates risk levels for different types of commercial crops.
Products must be reviewed annually by independent Technical Administrators to ensure they meet the organization’s Non-GMO standards in order to use the label. The evaluation process includes testing, traceability, and segregation.
Organic certifications like USDA Organic are run by the government rather than an independent, non-profit organization. Canadian and U.S. organic certification programs regulate standards for how crops are grown, how livestock is raised, and how pests are treated.
While organic certification programs prohibit the use of synthetic pesticides or GMOs, they do not require ongoing testing for genetically modified ingredients. But you can get extra assurance that what you’re eating is GMO-free by selecting products with the Non-GMO Project Verified label.
GMOs are a large part of everyday life, from the food we eat to the soap we use to wash our hands. Research on the impact and safety of GMOs is largely funded by the same people who sell genetically engineered seeds, meaning much of the information we have is skewed in their favor.
However, the environmental impact of GMO crops cannot and should not be ignored. There are huge concerns about biodiversity and the safety of GMO-related herbicides for human health.
At The Oven Door, we believe you deserve the power of choice when it comes to your food. That’s why we ensure all our products are Non-GMO Project Verified and clearly labeled.
1. What is a GMO? – The Non-GMO Project. (n.d.). Non-GMO Project. https://www.nongmoproject.org/gmo-facts/what-is-gmo/
2. Museum of Science. (2015). What is Synthetic Biology? https://www.mos.org/buildingwithbiology/images/what_is_syn_bio_small.pdf
3. GMO Facts – The Non-GMO Project. (n.d.). Non-GMO Project. https://www.nongmoproject.org/gmo-facts/
4. Non-GMO Project Verified – The Non-GMO Project. (n.d.). Non-GMO Project. https://www.nongmoproject.org/gmo-facts/non-gmo-project-verified-faq/#21
5. The Truth About Genetically Modified Food. (2013, September 13). Scientific American. https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/the-truth-about-genetically-modified-food/
6. What is Agrobiodiversity? (2004). Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. http://www.fao.org/3/y5609e/y5609e02.htm
7. Environmental Impacts. (2019, June 18). CBAN. https://cban.ca/gmos/issues/environmental-impacts/
8. GMO Facts – The Non-GMO Project. (n.d.-b). Non-GMO Project. https://www.nongmoproject.org/gmo-facts/