Paleo? Whole 30? Goji berries? As a registered dietitian nutritionist, it’s my job to cut past the latest superfood hype, dieting craze and food blog trends to uncover the science about our food for myself. I recently took an in-depth look at GMOs, and want to share with you what I learned. It’s important for me to review the peer-reviewed research directly and form an educated stance, not only for my clients but for myself and my own family.
My four grandchildren – three of whom are age 4 and one who is age 2 – are the joy of my life. So this search for truth is personal. I have a vested interest in the long term health and well-being of these precious tykes, not to mention my clients.
In my professional life, I get asked about GMOs all the time – especially when I do educational presentations. Between questions from the audience and individuals asking me privately after my talk, it’s on the minds of parents and non-parents alike.
This made me want to investigate the facts for myself. I had a solid, if fundamental, grasp on GMOs, but never felt like I knew the full story until I started working with A Fresh Look—a coalition of family farmers from across the U.S. that came together to help answer the questions and concerns more and more people are asking about how their food is grown—and took a deeper look at the research.
Moms (and dads) want to do the right thing for their children. They also desire to make informed decisions about their food choices.
While the majority of my fellow RDNs have read the scientific literature and understand that crops grown with GMO Farming are safe and healthy, plenty of our clients still have questions and concerns. And no surprise! Between the various sensationalized news reports and headlines, questions long settled by the scientific community continue to fuel the public debate.
One piece of advice we RDNs give is to enjoy plenty of fruits and veggies, no matter how they were grown. That’s the most important thing!
Unfortunately, it seems you can’t escape the fear-based marketing manipulation that is fueling a lot of the anti-GMO concerns I hear about.
What I Learned
- What “GMO” actually means: While there is no single, universal definition of GMO Farming – there are so many variations that scientists and researchers rarely use the term with each other – here’s a simplified definition: “GMO” stands for an efficient and precise process of cultivating beneficial, naturally occurring traits in the seeds farmers need to grow our food. These seeds allow farmers to produce delicious and nutritious crops with fewer natural resources, less pollution, fewer pesticides – or any number of other benefits – enabling a set of sustainable farming practices known as GMO Farming.
- Foods grown using GMO Farming methods are just as safe and nutritious as anything else: Thirty years of scientific evidence overwhelmingly supports the safety of food produced through GMO Farming methods. Virtually every regulatory, scientific and health organization that’s evaluated GMOs has concluded foods produced with GMO Farming are safe to eat, including the European Commission; World Health Organization; National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine; and the American Medical Association. These independent organizations overwhelmingly agree that food grown with GMO Farming methods is not only safe to feed our families, it’s just as nutritious as anything else you can eat.
- GMO Farming decreases pesticide use: I’ve always known that all types of farming use pesticides, including organic. But what I didn’t realize is how GMO Farming methods let growers spray less often, and actually use fewer pesticides than other types of farming. Take corn production. According to this USDA study, by 2010, only 9 percent of U.S. corn farmers still used insecticides at all — in large part because of increased GMO Farming.
- GMO Farming methods are about sustainability: Sustainable farming methods promote environmental stewardship and enhanced quality of life for farm families and communities. While my primary focus is on nutrition, many of my clients want to know their food is good for the planet too—which they often assume means spending more at the grocery store. But GMO Farming offers a more efficient, economical and safe way to produce food that’s still environmentally friendly. One example: crops grown with GMO Farming produce a greater yield per acre. According to a study in PLOS, there’s an average 22 percent increase in yield, therefore producing 22 percent more food on the same amount of land. That helps keep food costs down while sparing more natural habitats from being converted into farmland. After doing a deep dive on the subject, not only do I feel much more confident in reassuring my clients about the safety of crops grown with GMO Farming, I also don’t hesitate in selecting those foods for my family. GMO Farming methods are not only safe, they’re good for the planet.
While I would be happy to receive comments here, I also encourage you to follow and ask questions on the A Fresh Look social channels such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
This post is sponsored by A Fresh Look, a 501(c) (6) organization, whose mission is to provide trustworthy research-based info to consumers about the benefits of GMO Farming methods.