With the push towards developing more healthful habits and living a more active lifestyle, more and more people continue to try to figure out how to create this reality in their own lives. Making the transition into a healthier lifestyle is made even more difficult with the plethora of information that is available, especially considering that it’s not always easy to tell what information is trustworthy. Furthermore, a person may think they are making healthier choices, but may not realize that the grain products they are eating are genetically modified (or GMOs).
The problem lies with the fact that these food products don’t necessarily have to point out that they are GMOs. While movements towards organic foods and the push towards local produce has been gaining more traction recently, there has never been a true push against big food corporations until this last election cycle. In California, Proposition 37 was on the ballot, but was defeated by a relatively small margin: 46.9% to 53.1%. Had it passed, it would have genetically modified foods to have a mandatory label explaining that it is modified.
Why is this relevant to health and why are foods genetically modified in the first place? Big Food corporations like Kraft, Coca Cola, Con-Agra, and Monsanto among many others genetically alter food and seeds in agriculture to make it cheaper to produce, create more nutritional value and to make easier to produce a bigger crop (by making more protected against insects and viruses). Nearly 80% of the processed food in the United States and many of the subsidized grains grown nationally are GMOs.
Part of the dangers of GMOs lie in the fact that they aren’t regulated so it’s hard to gauge what the end effects on both humans and the environment will be. While research into the effects of GMOs hasn’t been done widely in humans yet, independent research by UC Berkeley’s Ignacio Chapela and former Scotland Rowett Research Institute researcher (and one the world’s leading plant genetic modification expert), Arpad Pusztai conducted research of rats and GMOs. They found that these rats had smaller livers, brains, hearts and testicles. They also had damaged immune systems and their white blood cells were weakened (causing them to be more apt to illness and infection).
Going head to head in support of Proposition 37, supporters of the initiative managed to raise $9 million to get the issue out there and inform voters. This money was dwarfed by Big Food companies who spent five times as much money on ad space against Prop 37. Yet, with such a close battle, the fact that many people want more transparency in the food industry is apparent. Consumers can do a lot to protect themselves: buy local produce from farmers who stay away from pesticides and herbicides, grow gardens or plant window boxes with your favorite herbs and vegetables and research which companies are big proponents of GMO’s. Creating a policy of transparency might not be a reality yet, but education is the easiest way to get on the path to knowing what’s on your plate.
By Alexandra Morbitzer @FitLatina