GMO Foods Safe To Eat? New Report

IMG_7748I woke up yesterday morning, falling into my usual routine (heading straight to the coffee pot) and found an open magazine, folded over to a page entitled “The Verdict on GMO Foods: Safe to Eat””.Once in awhile my husband will come across an article on nutrition in one of his financial magazines he likes to read. He then will leave it out for me to read (in this case, it was Kiplinger’s Personal Finance Magazine). It was a short but informative article on a very recent and important report that was just released after a “2 year review of 900 research publications” by 20 scientists (according to the one page article). In addition to reviewing the research studies, the committee of scientists also looked at the incidence of certain conditions (cancer, obesity, autism,food allergy, diabetes, celiac disease, kidney disease) in Western Europe (where GMO’s are restricted) and North America (where they are not). They found no differences in the incidence of these diseases and conditions (suggesting that differences would be expected if GMO’s played a role). I don’t give much credit to “associations”……just because they didn’t find any is somewhat meaningless to me, but that is just my opinion.

The third point mentioned in this article was the fact that we really can’t distinguish differences between plants that are “conventionally bred” to be herbicide-resistant and plants that are genetically engineered to be. Apparently, it is difficult to tell the difference between the two, so it may be more important to look at the “product, not the process”. This appears to be the bottom line: experts call for an approach to regulation “that uses trait novelty, potential hazard and exposure as criteria” instead of making “sweeping, generalized statements about the benefits or adverse effects” of GMO foods. This makes sense to me. The process may be less important than the final product. The article even mentioned the fact that in the future, genetic engineering may enable us to make foods even healthier…hhhmmmm. My brain is having a hard time wrapping around that one.

When it comes to the push to label GMO foods, the controversy is that if they are considered safe, why do we need to label them? On the other hand, consumers have a right to know what they are eating. Just because this review states (for now) they appear to be safe, even the reports states “that doesn’t mean there will never be a risk”. I, for one, like knowing what I am buying. Also, as will saccharin and nicotine, it takes time to learn about these things. Hopefully, this report won’t hamper efforts towards labeling GMO ingredients.

For those of you interested in the details of the report (you can scroll around to the sections you are interested in), see the NAS website link at:

National Academy of Science Website

As with anything, and despite whatever scientific findings, we can make our own decisions regarding what we feel good about eating. I will continue to prefer cooking my own meals, with lots of colors and natural ingredients, herbs from my own garden, thrown together randomly as usual….I won’t freak if I find out something I ate was genetically modified, but to be honest, if it says “non-GMO” on the label, I am happy. Yes, although I prefer the flavor of home cooked foods, I will eat processed food if that’s what there is (nothing wrong with an occasional can of Progresso Minestrone Soup). Or a ritz cracker. The bottom line is healthy eating means being informed but then, making up your own mind. My cardinal apparently has made up his mind to eat non-GMO berries….and appears to be thriving.

The War on “Big Food”-should you eat “organic”?

more natural foodsEarly this morning my husband handed me his Fortune Magazine (June 1st issue) opened up to an article entitled “The War on Big Food” and said “you should write about this!” So I read the article and thought “wow”. Just as in the world of “weight management” and “dieting”, the world of big food manufacturers is undergoing a paradigm shift.

The article goes on to describe how big food industries are “like a melting iceberg…every year they become a little less relevant”. Who are they referring to? Think Smuckers, Campbell’s, Hershey, The article points out that the idea of “processing” started with the ancient idea of salting and curing to the “modern arsenal of artificial preservatives”  which arose to make sure the food we ate did not make us sick. Now we worry that it is the processed food itself that is making us unhealthy. Consumers are responding and big food industries are losing out, or forced to make changes.

In fact, big food companies are paying attention and making changes since organic food sales has more than tripled over the past decade with an increase of 11% in the last decade alone. Consumers want to buy foods with ingredients they can understand (flour, wheat, yeast, sugar, etc) instead of words they can’t even pronounce. The simpler the label, the better. The article describes a “new language” around health that has emerged which includes terms such as “natural”, “organic” and gluten-free”. Interestingly, anything having to do with “dieting” is out! Products with the words “diet”, “light”, “low” or “reduced” experienced an 11% drop in sales in 2013.  Even Lean Cuisine is rolling out a new product called “Marketplace” line which will offer gluten-free, organic, high-protein or extra-veggie options.

What does this mean to you? Well, I admit to feeling conflicted. I believe in a non-diet and intuitive approach to eating which involves “listening” to your body, and working toward honoring and respecting your body’s signals of hunger and fullness. This also involves truly enjoying the food you eat. At the same time, taking care of your health and your body by getting the nutrition that your body needs to feel good and have energy. We are all different in that we all need to learn what we like and how much we need to feel good and have energy. Is it too restrictive to read every label and avoid any artificial ingredients altogether? I can only speak for myself and feel everyone has to make their own decisions about what to eat. I may not have the energy to worry about every single item that crosses my lips however may prefer to make all my own foods from fresh ingredients because I love food that way (but yes, I will eat whatever anyone serves me and not really worry about it).

I think it is smart to educate yourself and use the freshest and least processed foods you can afford. However, if you find yourself expending too much time and energy reading labels, and use it as an excuse NOT to eat foods on a regular basis, then it could mean you may be focusing on eating “natural” and “organic” as a way to distract yourself from something else. Remember, eating healthy most of the time and having a mostly healthy lifestyle will promote health. Having a “perfect” diet or striving for a “perfect” lifestyle is kind of stressful! And that is not healthy at all!!! For more information, check out the article yourself- Fortune Magazine, June 1,2015, Volume 171 Number 7.