GMOs: Myth and Reality

It’s time to get serious about GMOs. You’re probably thinking that I mean you shouldn’t be eating any. Well, no. Remember, this is a blog about Chinese Medicine and everything is about balance. I’ve had several conversations in the past few months that went something like this:

Other Person - “I can’t eat that and you shouldn’t either, it has GMOs!”

Me - “Right, it was produced by GMOs, but this doesn’t have any GMO material in it. Your organic apple is technically GMO too.”

Other Person - blank look…. “But that has GMOs!”

Me - “I see we need to do some education….”

I’m going to give you some clarity on GMOs, what they are and are not, what is considered GMO and what is not, and how to think critically about what you’re eating. All in less than 1000 words (even YOU have time to read that).

Genetically Modified Organism…. what is that? In modern times it means an animal or plant that has recombinant DNA. For example, in GMO sugar beets some scientists found a way to take the gene in soil bacteria that made it resistant to Round Up and inserted it into the genome of the lowly sugar beet. *presto* Round Up resistant sugar beet. The same principle applies to all plants and animals carrying the title ‘GMO’ but it isn’t as insidious as you think. Sometimes they are resistant to pesticides and herbicides (not great for the environment but fantastic for Monsanto’s bank account). Sometimes they produce more produce per square foot of dedicated soil or are a little more drought resistant. Sometimes they’re resistant to a specific type of insect or mold. Sometimes they have shorter harvest cycles.

Earlier I said ‘modern’ because smart people in lab coats with pipettes and test tubes figured out how to do this. Who is the most famous GMO producer of all time? Gregor Mendel. Yep, that guy who is the father of genetics. The guy crossing peas to breed desired traits. Same principle. This is why your green beans have edible pods, why your yippy chihuhua doesn’t look or sound much like a wolf, and why your organic broccoli isn’t composed almost exclusively of leaves and stem. To be clear, the modern technique is why we now have algae that will produce biofuel and bioplastic starting the trend toward eliminating fossil fuel reliance.

What does a gene in the DNA produce? Protein. DNA is only capable of producing three things: proteins, more DNA, and a version of DNA called RNA. That is it. No carbohydrates, no lipids - so no sugar, no starch, no fat, no oil. So right there if we are talking about sugar beets, from which we extract and refine pure sucrose, we have eliminated the presence of GMOs in those particular foods. Same goes for your canola oil produced from GMO rapeseed. I am absolutely not condoning you eating much if any refined sugar or canola oil, but there is molecularly exactly zero difference between sucrose extracted from GMO sugar beets and sucrose extracted from organic sugar cane.

At this point the only substance in your food that is GMO is protein. Lots and lots of GMOs are protein based and yeah, some are really bad for you. But the reason we have what seems like about a billion different heirloom tomato varieties is completely attributable to genetic modification. Just because scientists do it in a couple generations while farmers do it in 100 generations does not make it necessarily better or worse. Just different.

Is the GMO the bad part? Truth is, we don’t really know. There is good news and bad news - the good news is that if there are issues with the proteins produced by your food they’ll likely never hurt you directly unless you’re allergic. The bad news is that you’ll have innumerable issues from all of the other things they do with GMO crops, like drenching them in herb/pesticides, the unnatural corn they force feed animals in CAFOs to produce the lipid-abomination trans-fats, and the biodiversity that we are losing and the subsequent unchecked pestilential outbreaks of bugs like E.Coli and listeria.

The fact that you’re eating so much animal protein to begin with will cause more health issues than any GMO that ever passes your lips. That and the fact that you’re using that protein to supplant the fiber and anti-oxidant rich produce that you should be eating. If you change your diet to one low in animal protein and monoculture grains and high in vegetables, legumes, nuts, seeds, and moderate fruit you’ll see immense gains in your health. Americans love a magic bullet, and while we may have found one Dallas in November of ‘63, we have never, ever even come close to finding one in nutrition. I’d more than wager that you could eat nothing but GMO vegetables and legumes (remember what is considered genetically modified) exclusively and lose weight, lower your blood pressure, eliminate your autoimmune issues, anxiety, depression, allergies, afternoon malaise, sleep issues, and ultimately live longer without getting cancer than someone who eats a diet high in organic, grass-fed, free-range animal protein. And I’m not the only medical professional making that claim.

Do not eat more modern GMOs. There are lots and lots of socio-ecomonic, political, and environmental issues with the way we currently raise our food. I’m asking you to take some responsibility for your health, to be an informed consumer, and to be an advocate for an integration of science and health (i.e. reality). The root of the problem is heavily skewed to what you’re eating, not where it is coming from. Imagine what we could do as consumers if we changed our buying habits so that companies like Monsanto have some incentive to eliminate hunger in this country, to decrease spending on reactive healthcare, and to elevate the health of our citizens?

If I’ve sparked your interest in what you’re eating and why please contact me for more resources.