There isn’t a week that goes by when I’m told the problem with the rise in food sensitivities is from all the GM (genetically modified) wheat. Currently, we don’t grow GM wheat in Canada, so where is this idea coming from? Is it the media, the misinformed health professionals or the ‘nutrition expert’ aka as your real estate agent/blogger.

I first wrote about GMO in my three part Grow with Nutrition Food Labelling series. This was over a year ago, however the debate is still very evident and contentious. I’ve decided to post points (some not conclusive to spark further debate!) under two headings ‘Helpful vs. Harmful’ for you to keep in mind as you make your decisions.

First, let’s start with the definitions from Health Canada:

  • Genetically Modified Foods

An organism that has some of its traits changed by crossbreeding or genetic mutations by radiation, chemicals or specialized engineering. The result is a genetically modified organism (GMO).

  • Genetically Engineered Foods

An organism changed by techniques such as recombinant DNA or rDNA that allow for the direct elimination or insertion in the organism.

Helpful?

  • Positive economic benefits debate…Nationally and globally there are larger gross margins from using GMO crops in part from the lower pesticide, insecticide and herbicide costs producing a pest-free, disease-free seed or food for an economical price (1).
  • Greater yields debate…There is a decreased amount of tillage which results in lower labour and machine costs. Greater yields are resulting from the use of these specialized crops (1).
  • The safety debate…They are generally safe since they undergo stringent government protocols and testing prior to coming into the market. There are also various laws  nationally and internationally mandating that the products undergo testing (2).

Harmful?

  • Anti-nutrient debate…There is much debate around this one as there is very little information comparing the same food via GMO, Conventional and Organic routes within the same growing season with similar conditions to determine if this idea is indeed fact (3).
  • The food allergen debate…There is the idea that an allergen of one source could have been inserted into the genome of another source that does not have any known allergens (3, 4). Ideally, if the companies in the food value chain are practicing best standards this should not happen.
  • Negative effects of long-term consumption of these foods…Currently, we don’t have long-term human health studies to determine if there are any negative effects of consuming these foods as part a balanced diet and active lifestyle.

What about the GMO Labelling Debate?

If a consumer is aware of which products contain GMO ingredients, then they are able to make a choice at point of purchase. However, in a recent survey, only 3% of Americans noted that they wanted to see GMO labelling on their packaging (5).

Bottom Line

If consumers want to continue to eat processed foods, plus pest-free and disease-free whole foods for an economical price, then GMO foods will be part of our food supply. In terms of full disclosure of GMO labelling, it comes down to the information should be clear, accurate and obvious for consumers to make their own decisions.

References:

  1. Carpenter J E. Peer-reviewed surveys indicate positive impact of commercialized GM crops. Nat Biotechnol. 2012; 28 (4): 319-321.
  2. Bruhn C, Earl R. Position of the American Dietetic Association: Agricultural and Food Biotechnology. J Am Diet Assoc. 2006; 106 (2):285-293.
  3. Prusak A, Schlegel-Zawadzka M. Food health quality of genetically modified crops – review of risks and benefits. MilPharMed. 2013; 2: 13-18.
  4. Kramkowska M, Grzelak T, Czyżewska K. Benefits and risks associated with genetically modified food products. Ann Agric Environ Med. 2013; 20(3): 413– 419.
  5. William Reed Business Media. IFIC Food & Health survey 2013: What consumers really think about GMOs, calories, fructose, probiotics, and losing weight. 2014 [cited 2014 Jan 8]. Available from: http://www.foodnavigator-usa.com/Markets/IFIC-Food-Health-survey-2013-What-consumers-really-think-about-GMOs-calories-fructose-probiotics-and-losing-weight