People choose to follow plant-based diets for a variety of reasons, including standing up for animal rights, protecting the environment and leading a healthier lifestyle.
While eliminating animal protein and consuming more fruits, vegetables, herbs and nuts does bring endless health benefits, it’s not a guarantee that we’ve cut out all toxins from our diets. In today’s marketplace, it’s increasingly important that health-conscious consumers pay attention to labels and know what foods have been genetically modified.
Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are plants or animals that have been altered through genetic engineering techniques. This happens when a gene from one type of plant or animal is placed into another, giving it new genes that change its genetic makeup.
Genetically modified foods include anything grown for consumption using genetic engineering and food products produced using genetically engineered crops. Common genetically modified foods include potatoes, corn, tomatoes, squash, rice, soybeans and salmon.
Seed companies like Monsanto will tell you that they use genetic engineering to create crops that can stand up to harsh weather, pests and other environmental conditions and to help farmers produce greater yields.
Those who argue for the use of GMOs claim that they help us produce greater amounts of food at lower costs. When plants have been altered to serve as their own pesticide, this reduces the amount of capital that farmers must invest in traditional pest and weed control methods.
However, as smart, health-conscious consumers, we must stop to ask about the potential risks of genetic engineering.
While genetically modified foods have been in the American market for around 20 years, it’s interesting to note that we’re one of the only developed countries that does not require special labeling for foods that use GMOs. The fact that every country in the European Union, and several countries in Asia, require labels on genetically modified foods is a revealing piece of information in and of itself.
Even more concerning, however, is the fact that the American Academy of Environmental Medicine called on doctors to encourage their patients to eliminate GMOs from their diets. In studies performed on animals, GMOs caused organ damage, gastrointestinal distress and problems with fertility.
Foods that have been engineered to produce their own pesticides can mess with our immune systems. Even worse, the genes present in GMOs can transfer to our intestinal bacteria and remain indefinitely.
The good news is that you’ve already given up animal products, which can serve as a hidden source of GMOs, since they’re often given genetically modified feed.
But what about your plant-based foods? The best way to make sure you’re not consuming genetically modified food is to look for the Non-GMO Product seal. While foods containing GMOs don’t require labels, there are responsible producers making products that are safe for consumption. Purchasing foods with this seal will give you peace of mind that you’re eating healthy, safe foods. When you’re unable to find the foods you need with this labeling, the next best thing is to go organic. Organic standards restrict genetic engineering, so if your fruits, veggies and other plant-based products are labeled “organic,” you should be safe!