This is a guest post by Seren Wechsler, who is a graduate student of nutrition at the CUNY School of Public Health. Having successfully defeated a decade long bout of morbid obesity during his first year of film school, he had no choice but to drop out, go to Israel to farm for a bit, then return to New York for an education in nutritional science. Seren’s personal experiences drew him into public health but the transformations our food system and environment are currently going through will keep him here.
GMOs (genetically modified organisms) are something everyone has at least heard about. Unfortunately, hearing about something like GMOs is often associated with hearing someone’s opinion about GMOs. Myths flourish; that’s what they do, they’ll never stop. Genetically modified food however, is something we really need to be accurate about.
Whenever a new product is created that’s intended for human consumption, and we end up buying that product in a store, we buy it thinking it’s safe. One of the inherent reasons behind why we assume a product is safe is because we assume the workers at the factory, the minds behind the creation, know what they’re doing. One very important myth about GMOs that desperately needs correcting is that genetic modification (the process of manipulating a cell’s DNA, either by inserting a segment from another, usually unrelated species, or by adding wholly artificial properties like insecticide producing corn) is precise. Precision equals ‘workers knowing what they’re doing’ and so, this myth also likely serves as the single common forethought for anyone believing in the safety of GMOs; it’s only logical.
The first step in the process, the cutting/splicing of genes, is indeed precise. Every step afterward though, is completely the opposite. The theory behind the practice is that a single change in DNA will bring about a single consequence. This thinking truly does conflict with everything genetics has taught us. One need only to look at their health effects for evidence, such as the study published in The Food and Chemical Toxicology Journal which found that rats developed massive tumors and widespread organ damage after being fed GM corn and trace amount of the chemical fertilizer, Roundup or the study on pigs fed GM corn and soy. A 267% increase in severe stomach inflammation compared to controls was observed and because, among the males, a 400% increase was observed, health professionals are now investigating possible connections GMO consumption has with autism (most autistic children are male and nearly all have severe intestinal inflammation).
What our bodies are literally composed of is a direct result of the foods we eat. Among all the GMO research, the demographic studied least is humans. If the non-human animal experiments show these types of results, we must now look to ourselves. Until evidence that conclusively proves otherwise, please, err on the side of caution.
Written by Seren Wechsler