How much do you know about GMOs? GMO food crops have been making headlines for many years now, and as more and more countries ban these genetically modified crops and as more concern is raised as to the safety of these food crops, questions undoubtedly will come up when you talk with clients about food. How important is it for us to address the subject of GMO food with our clients and how do we go about having that conversation?
What are GMOs?
First, we have to address what GMO’s are, because there can be some confusion, and although most people have heard of GMO crops, they don’t have a basic understanding of what they are. Many people do not recognize that genetic modification of plants is different than hybridization or natural breeding of plants.
Natural breeding with plants involves open pollination and reproduction of plants across the same species so that over time plants survive best in certain conditions. These hardier plants will reproduce and create crops that are best suited to that environment. This process can take a significant amount of time and is a slow and natural process. Hybridization is selecting organisms within a species that have desirable traits and breeding those with other plants within the same species that have desirable traits as well and producing offspring with those traits as well.
GMOs have been genetically altered using bio technology to transfer genetic material from one species quite often to a completely different species. These alterations would never occur naturally. One goal of GMO crops is to create plants that can produce their own proteins designed to kill insects that try to eat the crops. An additional goal is to create genes that help to foster plant tolerance to herbicides which would allow industrial farmers to use larger amounts of herbicides without damaging the plant.
In the book Organic Revolution, author Grace Gershuny defines GMOs this way:
“The central concept of genetic engineering is that by cutting and splicing the dna of an organism, new functions, characteristics or traits can be introduced into that organism. The assumption is that the resulting organism will be identical to the non-genetically modified original except that it will have the new traits that is conferred by the new gene introduced by that genetic engineer.”
What are the concerns about GMOs?
One concern that many now have about GMOs is that new protein structures that are created by the creation of these genetically modified plants may not be recognized by our bodies, and could create an allergic and autoimmune response in the body. And as much as the scientific community would like for the public to believe that consuming genetically modified food is safe, we simply don’t know long term just how these GMOs may affect our health. GMO products have been in the market since the 1990’s and since that time, food allergies among children has increased 50%. Although the scientific and medical community don’t recognize the connection, there is a strong correlation between GMOs and food allergies, as well as other health issues such as autoimmune diseases and autism. The process creates gene mutations that we cannot control. There is no way to anticipate how this is going to affect the body and that is a concern for our health.
One of the biggest concerns comes from BT toxins that are found in pest resistant GMO crops such as corn and soy. These plants have been genetically engineered to produce their own pesticide. But these crops and their ability to produce their own internal pesticides are now creating concern that they may be contributing to health issues such as liver and kidney toxicity, elevated blood sugar, increased infertility and gut permeability. There is also evidence that suggests that the BT toxin can transfer to the gut biome making it a mini BT toxin factory.
It is very important to discuss GMOs with clients. As a functional health coach, we are asking them to make large dietary changes, often asking them to avoid GMO foods, particularly if they have food allergies, and gut dysbiosis problems. So it is vital for clients to understand how GMOs are created, what their purpose is and what the potential health risks are. This means that you need to be sure to educate yourself as well.
A great time to talk about this type of food is when you are discussing diet with your clients. Educate them so that they can make educated decisions for their own health.
One great resource for you and for your clients is the Non-GMO Project. That is the non-profit organization that independently verified that products are non-GMO.
Photo credit: Freeimages.com/Laurent Renault