Making GMOs, or genetically modified organisms, involves altering genetic material in plants and animals to get results that you might not get naturally. Scientists genetically modify food items to make them last longer, to deter pests and even to make them taste better.
This genetic manipulation can cause a lot of concern and raise questions. They want to know if this process has side effects that they should be aware of, what foods are genetically modified and how to identify them.
Eating organic foods and knowing where they’re coming from will give you peace of mind because you’ll know you’re getting nutritious foods. At Yalla Mediterranean, , we make sure our foods are non-GMO, local and delicious. Our healthy meals draw inspiration from Mediterranean cultures and fresh ingredients that are bursting with flavor.
GMOs, or genetically modified organisms, involve altering genetic material in plants and animals to get results that don’t happen in nature. They’re intended to help make the crops last longer or deter pests.
Which Foods Are Genetically Modified?
The U.S. has many approved GMO foods. GMOs can be crops, animals and processed foods.
GMO crops include:
- Sugar Beets
GM Animal Products:
GMOs can also show up in other common pantry items. Soybeans might appear as additives in processed foods like cornstarch, corn meal, glucose, dextrose, soy flour and soy oil. Sugar beets might be used to make high fructose corn syrup. Flavorings, sweeteners and vitamins can also contain GMOs.
What Are the Concerns With GM Foods? GMO Foods and Health Risks
When people discuss GMOs, you might wonder what they’re worried about. The concerns around GMOs usually involve food safety and if there are health resiks of eating genetically modified foods, because people, of course, want to know if their food is healthy and safe to eat.
- Antibiotic Resistance. It’s common for bacteria to develop a resistance to antibiotics over time naturally. However, antibiotic-resistant genes are part of the GM process. They are used as markers when biotechnologists add a new gene to a plant. If the new gene is accepted, the plant now carries that antibiotic-resistant gene. A risk of eathing GMO foods it that now a human or animal could ingest this plant and the bacteria that live in the gut will react to the gene.
- People are concerned that introducing new genes to plants could make it produce higher levels of toxins. While plants already produce toxins, they’re usually not at a level that’s high enough to harm humans. A new gene could potentially be the catalyst for the plant to produce enough toxins to make it harmful to humans who eat them.
- Decreased Nutritional Value. GM plants might have lower nutritional values than their non-GM counterparts. When new genes interact with the plant, a side effect could be the new gene making some nutrients unavailable or indigestible to humans. While you might think you’re eating something healthy, you could be missing out on some of the nutrition and not even know it.
- Food Allergies. Humans with food allergies experience an immune response something they’re susceptible to enters their system. Food allergies can cause gastrointestinal distress, cramping or could cause skin reactions like hives or rashes. Once people know their food allergy, they can avoid the food through careful attention to ingredients lists. GM foods could potentially carry genes that elicit these allergic responses that wouldn’t normally show up on an ingredients list. The person wouldn’t have a way of knowing to avoid this food.
Before choosing to eating these foods it is important to evaluate the GMO foods health risks.
How Do GM Foods Affect the Environment?
Another concern about GM foods involves our environment. Farmers will spray chemicals to deter pests and weeds, but those methods might have some adverse environmental effects.
- GM crops are sometimes herbicide resistant. This allows agricultural giants like Monsanto to spray chemicals on the crops without worrying about them getting into the crop. However, this practice still makes residue and run off that disrupts the ecosystem around it. Pollinating insects pick up the residues in the soil, and the runoff gets into water sources. Too many chemicals in freshwater can affect aquatic life by reducing oxygen in the water or killing a food source.
- Weed Resistance. Over time, weeds are developing resistance to the chemicals. The chemicals no longer affect the weeds and they start to grow and overtake the crops. If farmers try to make stronger chemicals to kill the weeds, it might solve the short-term problem but doesn’t fix the entire issue of weed resistance.
- New Consequences. When people alter DNA, there are new consequences because of the cell’s composition. This is called Pleiotropy. An organism’s genes interact with one another in a complex process, and when it interacts with new genes, it can be difficult to predict all of the outcomes that could occur. Some negative consequences could be lowered nutritional value, higher toxicity or new allergic reactions.
- Cross-Contamination. GM crops can contaminate non-GM crops. Farm machinery and mixing seeds can cause this contamination. GM crops can also compromise the genetic makeup of wild plants. GM and non-GM crops are difficult to keep separate and uncontaminated.
How Do I Spot GM Foods?
If someone placed a non-GM tomato next to a GM tomato, you probably wouldn’t be able to tell which was which. You’ll have to depend on labels and the ingredients list to check if the product is non-GMO. Labels can be tricky. While you’re trying to determine if a food item is genetically modified, pay attention to these words or phrases that often appear on labels.
- Be Wary of Natural. The label “natural” or “all-natural” doesn’t have a strictly defined meaning because this term isn’t regulated. Foods with a natural label on them could still contain GMOs.
- Produce Label Numbers. The stickers on your produce can help you identify their origin. Foods that have a four-digit number on the label are conventionally produced and could have GMOs. Five-digit labels that start with 8 are GMOs. If the five-digit label begins with a 9, the product is organic and doesn’t contain GMOs.
- Look for 100%. Labels that say 100% organic help indicate non-GM foods. Also look for 100% grass-fed beef. Other terms could be pasture-fed or pasture-finished as well. Meats like pork and chicken need more than grass to survive. In these cases, look for 100% certified organic labels. Make sure your fish are wild caught and not raised on a farm. Farm-raised fish usually eat genetically modified grains.
How to Stay Away from GM Foods?
Because GM foods are relatively common, you might want a few tips on how to make sure you get non-GM foods. Paying attention to ingredient lists, markers and changing the way you get produce will help you avoid GMOs.
- Avoid Processed Foods. Processed foods contain ingredients from the list above. If you see corn, soy, canola, sugar beets or cotton, the product could be a GMO.
- Avoid Fast Food. Fast food can contain GMOs to help preserve the food. You also can’t tell what fast food uses fresh ingredients vs. prepared or packaged ingredients.
- Look for Non-GMO Markers. Some companies mark non-GM foods as such. Look for labels or stickers that say non-GMO. These food products have to undergo a strict and controlled process to make sure they don’t come in contact with GMOs.
- Find Non-GMO Shops. There could be a non-GMO section at your grocery store, or you could even check online.
- Use Shopping Guides. Download apps on to your phone so you can check if the food contains GMOs or not. This is a quick and easy way to check, so you don’t have to scour the ingredients list and make guesses about the terms listed.
- Buy Organic Foods. Organic foods don’t undergo genetic engineering and won’t have any GMOs.
- Buy Whole Foods. If you tend to purchase foods that you can cook yourself, you will have an easier time avoiding GMOs.
- Eat Local. Check out your local farmer’s market when shopping for fruits and vegetables. Not only are you getting fresh, non-GM foods, you’re also supporting farmers and getting involved in the community.
- Start Your Own Garden. Try your hand at growing produce and have a garden in the backyard. You’ll know exactly where the food is coming from and you’ll be proud to have grown your own food.
What Are the Benefits of Organic Foods?
Buying organic foods is your best bet to eating GMO-free.
- Non-organic foods are often sprayed with pesticides to kill bugs and yield a larger crop. Organic foods are never sprayed with chemicals and are toxin-free.
- When non-organic foods come in contact with pesticides, the chemicals can inhibit some of the compounds that make the food so healthy. Organic foods don’t have anything combating its vitamins and minerals. You get all of the health benefits associated with the food. Antioxidants help prevent disease and keep your brain functioning strongly.
- Heart Health. Animals that are 100% grass-fed have higher amounts of conjugated linoleic acid or CLA. This fatty acid is healthy for your heart and boosts your cardiovascular system.
- Organic foods are typically fresher because they don’t contain preservatives that make crops last longer. Farmers usually produce these crops on smaller farms and then sell to surrounding areas. Check your organic produce to see where it’s coming from.
- Antibiotic-Free. Organic livestock do not take antibiotics. Using them can lead to antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria.
Organic vs. Non-Organic
While you hear the terms organic and non-organic, you might not be sure what defines these terms. Organic products are grown under specific conditions to make them as healthy and chemical-free as possible.
- Organic Produce: Farmers use natural fertilizers like manure or compost to grow organic produce. They control weeds through crop rotation, mulching, tilling and weeding by hand. They handle pests without synthetic chemicals. Natural methods of pest control are birds, insects and traps. Farmers also use naturally derived pesticides. This might surprise you, but organic farmers can use these pesticides and still be organic. The difference between the pesticides is that natural ones use substances that are less toxic than the ones used in conventional pesticides.
- Non-Organic Produce: When farmers use conventional methods to grow crops, they can use synthetic or chemical fertilizers. They kill weeds with chemical herbicides. Synthetic pesticides control the pests.
- Organic Meat, Dairy and Eggs: Organic livestock eat feed that is hormone and GMO-free. So for the livestock to be organic, they have to eat organic too. Livestock are also not fed animal byproducts. Farmers prevent disease through regularly cleaning living areas, rotational grazing and feeding their livestock nutritional meals. Their livestock have access to the outdoors.
- Non-Organic Meat, Dairy and Eggs: This livestock can eat GM feed and farmers can give them growth hormones to make them mature more quickly. The livestock take antibiotics and medication to prevent disease. They might not have access to the outdoors.
What Produce Should You Buy Organic?
Some fruits and vegetables have higher amounts of pesticides than others. If you’re going to buy organic, you might want to prioritize these foods.
- Fruits: Apples, grapes, imported nectarines, peaches and strawberries.
- Vegetables: Sweet bell peppers, cucumbers, celery, cherry tomatoes, potatoes, collard greens, summer squash, spinach and hot peppers.
Additionally, some produce has typically low levels of pesticides.
- Fruits: Avocados, kiwis, mangos, papayas, pineapples, grapefruit and cantaloupes
- Vegetables: Asparagus, cabbages, sweet corn, eggplants, onions, imported sweet peas, and sweet potatoes
What Are the Benefits of Locally Grown Foods?
Locally grown food drives home the farm-to-table concept in which your food products could have come from a garden one day ago. Locally grown food helps the community, your nutrition and helps you stay away from preservatives.
- Financial Support. Purchasing goods from local farmers means the money goes right to them. It cuts out the need for marketing and distribution. The farmers can continue to grow healthy foods and you can continue to have access to the produce.
- Local farmers harvest their crops when they’re ripe, meaning the produce will be fresh and taste delicious.
- When you’re not buying produce from local farmers, you might not know how fresh your produce is. It can travel for miles before getting to your dinner table. Sometimes, produce has to be picked before it’s ripe or else it will spoil before it gets to you. After it’s transported, the produce could be sprayed with chemicals to make it ripen. Other foods could be processed and filled with preservatives so that they don’t rot in transit.
There are a few things to remember about organic foods. You should note that local farmers might not always use organic methods. Talk to them at farmers’ markets so you can learn more about how they grow their food or raise their livestock. Also, just because something in a grocery store is labeled organic does not make it healthy. An organically baked good still contains sugar, salt and fat.
See What We’re All About
We want to share our passion for food with you. Our name means, “Let’s Go,” and we’re always ready to grill up something fresh and tasty. We also carry local craft brews and wines.
Yalla Mediterranean has four locations in Northern California and three locations in Southern California. Can’t make it to a restaurant? No worries, we also do delivery and cater.
Give us a call and learn more about our delicious food.