Let’s end the war on GMO! 1.GMO concerns

This post is the first one of my new educational series “Let’s end the war on GMO” where I will be explaining different aspects of Genetically Modified Organisms, their usage and hopefully clarify some of the uncertainties which arose online.

This week, let’s end the war on… GM foods!

Recently, I’ve seen a water bottle labelled with three signs – safe for babies, vegan and non-GMO. I could probably agree with the first one. But I laughed out loud when I noticed the other two symbols. Vegan water – as far as I am concerned, you can’t water a cow (correct me if I’m wrong). Finally, the Non-GMO sign made me (cry) think – if marketing specialist use NON-GMO signs on water, it means, that people have no clue what GMOs are. I’m here to talk to you about it!

GMO:

  • Gives you cancer
  • Induces allergy
  • Is contaminated with viruses
  • Causes autism
  • Accelerates ageing

These are only some of the ‘reasons to avoid GM foods’ freely floating between google searches.  It is worth noting, that none of these so-called reasons are backed up by scientific publications or any references. As a scientist, I have an obligation to educate the general public about controversial or unpopular topics, so that informed people can make their own responsible choices regarding their diet.

Let’s have a deal. I will show you the facts about GMO, and you will decide what to believe yourself, alright?

What are Genetically Modified Organisms?

Nothing ‘gives you cancer’, something can only increase your risk of cancer. But it is not GMO. WHO has a really good definition of GMO:

GMO can be defined as organisms (i.e. plants, animals or microorganisms) in which the genetic material (DNA) has been altered in a way that does not occur naturally by mating and/or natural recombination. The technology is often called “modern biotechnology” or “gene technology”, sometimes also “recombinant DNA technology” or “genetic engineering”. It allows selected individual genes to be transferred from one organism into another, also between nonrelated species. Foods produced from or using GM organisms are often referred to as GM foods.

Nowadays scientists are able to manipulate DNA in a very specific way, thus a process which would take 1000 years through the natural breeding techniques is achievable within one generation of the living organism. Also, some valuable features (genes) may be suitable to transfer from one species to another. However scary it sounds, it does only because science sounds complicated. Complicated does not mean bad for you. It means – you need to make an effort to understand it. Please, do not take media as your main source of scientific information – question what you hear or read.

  1. GMO and cancer.

People say, that DNA from a GM tomato binds with our DNA and ‘gives us cancer’. It is simply impossible. We eat DNA of plants and animals (and bacteria!) every day. DNA is a fairly weak (deoxyribonucleic) acid, which gets broken into small pieces very quickly. Those pieces are not able to mutate our DNA. Different molecules obtained from digested foods do build our DNA strands, but only in an ordered way, not invading it. GM vegetables will have altered DNA but it does not change the fact, that its genetic material is broken down in our guts as non-modified ones (1 and 2)

  1. GMO and allergies

There is a concern, that the additional or altered genes within GM crops may induce immune responses in human bodies (ie. allergy). All GM foods are tested backwards and forwards thousand times before they enter the market. Researchers make sure, the plant is as safe as possible before it lands on your plate.

  1. GMO and antibiotic resistance

Many years ago, there was a risk that GM crops could be bearing antibiotic resistance genes within their DNA, which could potentially (but very unlikely) be transferred into our gut bacteria and (maybe) in result affect our health (3 and 4). Now, the approved GM foods do not have antibiotic resistance genes as their markers, thus it is impossible to make little X-mens from our little gastrointestinal guests.

  1. GMO and pollution

The word ‘pollution’ is very unfortunate in here. It makes people think GM seeds are negatively impacting their health as air or water pollutants. Generally, the farmers want to avoid mixing non-GM crops with GM ones from obvious reasons – food needs to be appropriately labelled and any possible side-effects of cultivating new crops identified. Studies show there is a very low risk of mixing genes between GM and non-GM species, since countries developed strategies to reduce outcrossing (and 6)Any old-style GM crops which were responsible for heavy metal ions aggregation were identified years ago, destroyed and the soil was cleaned from all ‘contamination’. (7)

  1. Ordinary vs GM foods

GM foods are as nutritious as the ordinary ones. Moreover, some of them (like soybeans) were modified to increase their nutritional value. Plants were genetically engineered so they are easier (and cheaper) to grow by farmers, to make them resistant to herbicides, pests or to even their size. A good example of this is a freeze-resistant and insect-resistant maize. It used to be frost sensitive but now can be grown in the cooler climates. (8) The livestock is fed with a lot of corn; thus, the GM maize can sustain the agricultural demands for crops. More examples of GMO saving lives in the next post, so stay tuned!

And remember: Do not get fooled by the pictures of apples with needles stuck in them.

Image result for apple needle

These pictures meant to manipulate you to think, that GMO are treated with large amounts of some chemical substances before they are given to you – the customers. This is not how scientists modify plants! It happens on the cellular level – at the nucleus of the cell within a seed, not a fully-grown apple. Modern techniques (such as CRISPR-Cas9) allow the changes to be done in a very specific, subtle way, so there is no need for a syringe or any dodgy substances to be added.

To conclude, nowadays the scientists are able to tackle the problems and issues regarding long-term effects of GM crops. (9) Each seed coming from a laboratory is checked backwards and forwards multiple times and we know about them more than we probably ever will about the ‘organic’ foods. To finish off, I have got for you a great quotation from James Watson’s book called ‘DNA The Secret of Life’ (click the title to check it out)

“There are more rodent carcinogens in one cup of coffee than pesticide residues you get in a year. (…) So it just shows our double standard: If it’s synthetic we really freak out, and if it’s natural we forget about it.”

~ James Watson

In the next post of this series, Motivelina will show you the most interesting examples of GM foods and their impact on the environment and the society.

What are your thoughts about GMO after reading this post? Share your thoughts with me!

Ewelina

  • http://cherishingsecrets.wordpress.com/ CherishingFLo

    Now this is a unique view on this topic I’ve never seen before and I loved reading about it! I’m not gonna lie, I’ve never paid attention to rather or not what I eat is GMO-free or not but I do have some friends that are so anti genetically modified foods that theyd slap it out of my hand. This is very informational! Great post!

    • Motivelina

      Thank you so much for taking your time to read the post an comment on it! 🙂 these are the people I’m aiming at with my educational series, please feel free to share it and spread the word! 🙂

  • http://cherishingsecrets.wordpress.com/ CherishingFLo

    Now this is a unique view on this topic I’ve never seen before and I loved reading about it! I’m not gonna lie, I’ve never paid attention to rather or not what I eat is GMO-free or not but I do have some friends that are so anti genetically modified foods that theyd slap it out of my hand. This is very informational! Great post!

    • Motivelina

      Thank you so much for taking your time to read the post an comment on it! 🙂 these are the people I’m aiming at with my educational series, please feel free to share it and spread the word! 🙂

  • https://slodko-slonee.blogspot.com/ Słodko-slone

    Impresing!
    This post is so smart and goodwrtiting 🙂

    • Motivelina

      Thank you so much! xx

  • https://slodko-slonee.blogspot.com/ Słodko-slone

    Impresing!
    This post is so smart and goodwrtiting 🙂

    • Motivelina

      Thank you so much! xx

  • http://kosmetykaipiekno.wordpress.com/ Kosmetyka i piękno

    this post makes us very aware of how few natural not modified plants are now.

    • Motivelina

      Thank you for taking your time to comment:) There are plenty of plants which are not modified:) The post shows that there is nothing to worry about GM ones 🙂

  • http://kosmetykaipiekno.wordpress.com/ Kosmetyka i piękno

    this post makes us very aware of how few natural not modified plants are now.

    • Motivelina

      Thank you for taking your time to comment:) There are plenty of plants which are not modified:) The post shows that there is nothing to worry about GM ones 🙂

  • http://cherishingsecrets.wordpress.com CherishingFLo

    Now this is a unique view on this topic I’ve never seen before and I loved reading about it! I’m not gonna lie, I’ve never paid attention to rather or not what I eat is GMO-free or not but I do have some friends that are so anti genetically modified foods that theyd slap it out of my hand. This is very informational! Great post!

    • Motivelina

      Thank you so much for taking your time to read the post an comment on it! 🙂 these are the people I’m aiming at with my educational series, please feel free to share it and spread the word! 🙂

  • https://slodko-slonee.blogspot.com Słodko-slone

    Impresing!
    This post is so smart and goodwrtiting 🙂

    • Motivelina

      Thank you so much! xx

  • http://kosmetykaipiekno.wordpress.com Kosmetyka i piękno

    this post makes us very aware of how few natural not modified plants are now.

    • Motivelina

      Thank you for taking your time to comment:) There are plenty of plants which are not modified:) The post shows that there is nothing to worry about GM ones 🙂

  • https://plus.google.com/105271701341094769906 Michał Kucharski

    Very interesting!
    best regards

    • Motivelina

      Thank you 🙂

  • https://plus.google.com/105271701341094769906 Michał Kucharski

    Very interesting!
    best regards

    • Motivelina

      Thank you 🙂

  • https://plus.google.com/105271701341094769906 Michał Kucharski

    Very interesting!
    best regards

    • Motivelina

      Thank you 🙂

  • Viviane Saleh

    Thank you for this post! I learned alot!

    • http://motivelina.com motivelna.com

      My pleasure! Thank you so much for taking your time to read the post and comment! 🙂

  • Michelle Churchman

    Finally! The voice of reason. Thank you!

    • http://motivelina.com motivelna.com

      Thank you for your nice comment 🙂

    • motivelina.com

      Thank you for such a nice comment! 🙂

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  • https://www.learningfromstrangers.com Jess Pacheco

    Wow – I learned so much from this post (while I also knew about some) but my biggest question is HOW in the world does it become popular knowledge and practice to fear GMO in the first place if it indeed does not cause any of the issues people claim it does? Again, why I HATE sensationalism in the media.

    Jess || https://www.learningfromstrangers.com

    • motivelina.com

      This is a very valid point. Media are more likely to publish the negative information rather than positive claims. The whole unpopularity of GMO started in the US when some companies wanting to release GMO vegetables into the market did not clearly label their foods as genetically modified. Someone found out about it and fall into a trap of ‘conspiracy theory’ as the scientists wanted to ‘poison the population’ with mutated food. Since then all GM food has been neglected and hated by general public, while there is no proof for it being harmful in any way. What annoys me the most is – criticising ‘unhealthy’ GMOs, while eating McDonald’s or other highly processed foods for dinner, drinking Coke and smoking cigarettes on daily basis (so basically consuming all the things which were scientifically proven to be bad for you).

      • https://www.learningfromstrangers.com Jess Pacheco

        10000000% I live in LA and I am always amazed with how folks who are 100% vegan buy their vegan peeled oranges in prepackaging. Talk about not really considering all areas of downsizing your economic footprint and just being trendy. I can’t do that. BTW you might have changed you Disqus SN because I replied to your comment on my page but your handle disappeared.

        Jess || https://www.learningfromstrangers.com

      • motivelina.com

        Great example! Yes this is exactly what I was talking about. Trends vs common sense is always a problem.
        Yes I had a rather hard time with Disqus so I had to reinstall it and the old account was making all my settings collapse so I was forced to do everything all over again. But I am back and all set now, managed to follow you on there too 🙂

        PS. I envy you for the amount of sun you are getting in LA! I’m not so lucky in the UK, especially in winter 😉

      • https://www.learningfromstrangers.com Jess Pacheco

        Come to LA! I would definitely give you a tour for a day here 🙂

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