Organic, Conventionally Grown, and Genetically Modified Foods

by Brian on March 6, 2011 in Paleo Diet

This post is a continuation of my What and Why to Eat for Optimal Health series that explores optimal eating habits and compares the pros and cons of different diets including vegan, vegetarian, raw food, and the paleo diet.

This topic merits a slight digression from the examination of specific diets.

Conventionally farmed food relies heavily on petroleum based fertilizers and insecticides. Basically this means oil is being turned into food and poisons are being dumped on that food. Not so healthy.

Genetically modified foods have also quietly taken over most farms. The vast fields of corn and soy across the midwest are nearly all genetically modified varieties created by companies like Monsanto to be resistant to pesticides.

Chemical companies sell pesticides such as “Roundup,” then sell farmers “Roundup Ready” seeds that have been genetically modified to not be killed by the pesticide. While there are a lack of medical studies about the long term effects of these types of products, I can’t say they sound good for us.

Genetically modified, conventionally farmed corn in particular shows up in a lot of places. In addition to high fructose corn syrup, this corn also shows up in our diets indirectly through meat since it is used for cattle feed.

One of the reasons the McDonald’s meal has been so vilified is that you are essentially eating an entire meal of genetically modified corn. Soda derives its calories from corn syrup, the beef in the burger is corn fed, and corn syrup even makes its way into the fries somehow.

Though it has no impact on your health, you should be aware as an informed consumer that genetically modified foods also give large corporations potentially unfair leverage over farmers. Traditionally farmers saved their seed from harvest to harvest, but genetically modified seeds are patented and must be paid for every year thus increasing their costs.

If a farmer chooses to buy genetically modified seed that is their prerogative. However, there are allegations that underhanded tactics such as infiltrating a farmer’s crop with a genetically modified strain have been used to force farmers to buy the genetically modified seeds or be put out of business through a patent infringement law suit.

Though pricier, it is generally preferable to get organic, non-genetically modified foods. It’s easier to do if you have a local health store, Whole Foods, or farmer’s market (though be sure to ask about their farming practices).

A bonus to following The Paleo Diet described in the previous post is that you largely avoid genetically modified foods by cutting grains out of your diet.

In the next post I will explore whether or not a Vegetarian Diet is a nutritionally viable alternative to eating meat.

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