I’ve talked before in social media posts about the importance of choosing foods that are as close to their natural state as possible in an effort to obtain optimal health. If you think about it, any food that we consume that is closest its most natural, primal form is going to be the best option for us. Why? Well, for starters, foods that are in their most primal form are higher in micronutrients (vitamins and minerals), free from pesticides and herbicides, and genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

Obviously vitamins and minerals are good for us and we get those on some level in most types of food, whether they be whole foods or processed foods ‘enriched’ with those micronutrients. But it’s when we start to mess with the food we consume that the quality of the micronutrients starts to deteriorate. A lot of people assume they can simply wash off pesticides from their produce and the food is fine but, like human skin, a lot of our produce skin/shells/peels absorb those chemicals and you still end up consuming them. Add to that a fruit or vegetable grown from a GMO seed, and the actual quality of the food you’re consuming (even though it’s a fruit or vegetable and automatically assumed to be healthy) begins to further diminish.

A typical roadside produce stand

A beautiful country produce stand. <3

GMOs have become accepted in society today because they are so widely used and certainly do have ‘benefits’ (albeit not benefits for your health, more so for the business side of the agricultural world). Like the name states, GMOs are modified to be able to withstand a multitude of environmental factors so that they can continue to grow and be plentiful in an effort to mitigate any crop loss and in turn, lost profits. GMO crop seeds can be altered so that the crop will be able to grow with less water if a farmer is in an area of the country that’s drier, GMO crop seeds can be altered to grow faster if a growing season is shorter in a certain area of the country, a GMO seed can be altered to deter certain pests and bugs that would be a natural threat to a crop… now, clearly there are a lot of advantages, from a business perspective, for using GMO seeds for crops as they can help mitigate uncontrollable situations that can have harmful and adverse effects on a farmers crop and livelihood. BUT, would we as a society be OK if we decided we wanted to alter human genetics and find a way to ‘grow a baby’ in its mothers womb in any timeframe shorter than 9 months? Or find a way to ensure that a baby had blue eyes or would grow to reach a height of at least 5’8”? No. We would NOT be OK with that, so why are we OK with modifications to our food chain that exists to nourish and support our health and well-being?

There are greater costs than crop production

Environmental: GMO crops and their associated herbicides can harm birds, insects, amphibians, marine ecosystems and soil organisms. They reduce bio-diversity, pollute water resources, and are unsustainable due to their detrimental impact on natural habitats and species.

Human Health Implications: GMOs were introduced in 1996, so we are really only scratching the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the long-term implications of GMOs in our food chain. Animal (unfortunately) studies have shown GMOs to cause organ damage, gastrointestinal and immune system disorders, accelerated aging, and infertility. Human studies have shown that GMO foods leave material behind inside us and a great example of that is the toxic insecticide of GMO corn being found in the blood of pregnant women and their unborn fetuses. Beyond that, numerous health problems have increased since 1996. More Americans suffer from chronic illnesses more than ever before, food allergies have skyrocketed (in my kindergarten class we actually could eat peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, cough cough) in addition to autism, reproductive disorders, and digestive problems being on the rise since GMO introduction. To top if off, our cows are treated with GMO Growth Hormone, which in turn has shown that cows milk from treated cows contain higher amounts of hormone IGF-1 (insulin-like growth factor 1)- which has been linked to cancer.

Who is going to protect us against harmful GMOs?

You. You are who is most going to protect you from GMOs. Each of us is responsible for our own health, safety, wellbeing, and happiness. Educate and empower yourself about where your food comes from, how it’s grown, how it can impact your health. Unfortunately, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) doesn’t require a single safety study, nor do they require the labeling of GMOs, and they allow companies to put their GMO foods in to marketing without even notifying the agency. They claim they have no solid information showing that GMO foods are any more harmful or different than, say, organic foods. Even though the science is there to show and prove the harmful effects on our population, and that as a nation we are sicker than ever, our government does not see food quality and safety as a priority (even when healthcare is truly a national crisis at this point).

You CAN shop wisely! Lists like the Clean 15 and the Dirty Dozen were created to help you navigate a produce department and get the biggest nutritional bang for your buck. The Clean 15 is comprised of the ‘cleanest’, least-contaminated conventional produce items that are deemed safe to eat in their conventional state. The Dirty Dozen is comprised of fruits and vegetables that should be purchased in their organic state, as they are either likely GMO or highly permeable and susceptible to herbicides and pesticides that we can end up ingesting.

My pie in the sky dream is for one day the conversation to not be about GMOs at all. I recognize the ‘benefit’ (from a business standpoint) to the American farmer as I have farmers in my family and I know how incredibly hard they work every single day. (Talk about a profession that doesn’t allow for much, if any vacation!) Their livelihood depends on the ability to farm in a way that ensures crop safety and durability, I get it. Small family farming operations are the heart of this country and it’s very near and dear to my heart. I just hope that one day we get to a point where our health as a society is a priority again, and sustainable, organic farming is the expected norm, not the exception. We as consumers can vote with our dollars by choosing safer food options for ourselves and the environment. When we do that, you increase the demand for those products and over time, can actually normalize an industry. We can also encourage our lawmakers to value people over profits, and to drive the food (and pharmaceutical industry) to overhaul our system so that it truly benefits the citizens, and not the large corporations who ultimately profit from our illness.

We deserve better for us, our children, our children’s children. We know better, now let’s do better.

Family farming operation in Annville, Pennsylvania.

A hot summer morning overlooking my hometown of Annville, Pennsylvania.