The next time you plan a little trip to your favorite grocery store, and you see that little “Non-GMO” sticker (looking at you, Whole Foods) on the bottom right portion of your product, ask yourself this, “Do I really want to buy a product that’s specifically misleading all its customers?”
What is genetic modification?
All organisms breed by genetic replication. It is a mechanism that copies genetic information from the parent to the off-spring during reproduction. This mechanism is used every moment during cellular replication (before your cells die, or when your body needs healing, or when you are growing, cells make copies of themselves), but it’s not as foolproof as the simple copy-paste mechanism in computers (well, technically it’s more foolproof, but an average person doesn’t do over a billion copy-paste to notice the difference). During replication, there is less than a billion-to-one chance that something goes “wrong”, and the genetic code is changed forever. This change is passed down to the next generation, and this genetic modification is the basis of ALL lives we see today. The first life on earth were prokaryotic microbes, and only through genetic modification through billions of years, humans came into existence. If you think genetically modified organisms are bad, you shouldn’t trust anything that’s genotypically older than those prokaryotic microbes (although the way US is handling the Coronavirus pandemic, I wouldn’t blame you for disliking humans).
Artificial genetic modification
While genetic modification occurs naturally in the environment, sometimes, manual intervention is necessary.
1. Dogs from Wolves: Modern domesticated dogs were selectively bred from their common ancestor, grey wolf; it’s one of the oldest examples of artificial genetic modification. If you think GMO is bad for you, you shouldn’t love dogs either, after all, how can a genetically modified organism be good for humanity, right?
2. Domesticated crops: Almost anything that you buy today as a part of a healthy diet (from Apples to Quinoa), is the result of artificial genetic modification. The wheat that’s part of your staple diet? GMO. Almost every single produce that’s available with a “Non-GMO” sticker stuck on it is the result of artificial genetic modification through selective breeding. It’s your choice now to call the sticker ironic or a straight-up lie.
When the secret of life was discovered in 1953, we got to know about the gene codes. Since then, researchers have been trying to make better, high yielding crops. High-yielding crops mean higher produce with lesser land area. High volume of production would give us a way to fight world hunger. With diminishing cultivable area, since humans are reproducing at an alarming rate, there is an increasing need to make the crops yield better with lesser land area, otherwise the cost of food is going to get higher and higher until the market forces eliminate all low earning families with starvation.
Do you have a self-diagnosed gluten allergy? You can get gluten free wheat products through GMO. Do you want pesticide-free crops? Scientists have developed bug resistant crops that don’t require pesticides through gene engineering. Anything and everything can be done through proper use of gene engineering. GMOs are not bad, because without them we would still be living with hunter-gatherer methodology in today’s world.
How can one be on non-GMO-only diet in today’s world?
When a person chooses a Non-GMO product, they are buying into a falsehood perpetrated by “Big Non-GMO” (a vernacular that should ring with the buyers, they do love calling everything “Big Something”) because non-GMO food cannot exist in earth today unless they are specifically bred to contain wild alleles (something that ironically contradicts the claim of non-genetically-modified-organism). True non-GMO diet is possible, if they are sourced directly from forests and genetically tested to only contain wild-type alleles. Interested parties are welcome to buy a gene testing lab, to stay true to their principles, because the organizations that exist today e.g, Non-GMO Project, NSF International (not to be confused with National Science Foundation, because NSF International is far from being scientific), etc. are increasingly vague about their testing standards, and none contains the magic words: “wild-type”, or any other variation of that (NSF International doesn’t even have a publicly accessible standards paper).
P.S.: I tried to look for a good featured image to go with this post, they are hilariously funny, and outright bad. The stock images are very much targeted to look alarming with biohazard and radioactive stickers on fruits and vegetables. Moreover, there are thousands of stock photos with chemicals being injected into the fruits directly, that’s not how genetic modification works, but it sure does make people afraid; reminded me of my least favorite Cheetos’ saying: