Is organic food actually better for you than “regular” food?
And what about GMOs (genetically modified organisms)? Are they really that big of a deal?
These are some of the most common questions people ask when they first begin working with me.
I’m Dana Kay, a board-certified holistic health practitioner and CEO and founder of the ADHD Thrive Institute. I work with families all across the United States, helping them to reduce ADHD symptoms through food and natural strategies.
There’s a lot of controversy surrounding GMOs and organic foods, so when Katie asked me to jump on and share with her readers about this topic, I was thrilled to clear up some of the confusion.
Let’s start by explaining exactly what makes a food item “organic.”
What Does Organic Mean?
In order for a product to be “organic,” it must be grown or raised on farms that don’t use any prohibited substances. That means, for instance, that organic products are not grown or raised with pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, genetic engineering, etc.
We can be confident when we buy organic products that we are not eating GMOs or toxic chemicals.
To learn more about what makes a product organic, check out this factsheet from the USDA.
What are GMOs?
GMO stands for Genetically Modified Organism. These organisms have been manipulated in a lab setting through genetic engineering.
Farmers have been modifying plants for thousands of years through selective breeding and cross-breeding. This is not the same thing as genetically modifying a plant or animal in a lab.
GMOs have only been around since the 1980s when the first GMO product entered the market: insulin for diabetes.
Since that first product, many other GMO products have entered the food chain: tomatoes, summer squash, soybeans, cotton, corn, papayas, potatoes, canola, alfalfa, sugar beets, and salmon.
So the question is, are GMOs a good thing or a bad thing?
A scientific advancement or a danger to our health?
In my opinion, the negatives far outweigh the positives.
Want to Dig into Gardening?
I want you to imagine increasing your harvest with proven techniques that won’t consume your time.
I also want you to imagine decreasing disease and pests with time-honored crop rotation and companion planting.
Check out my dear friend Melissa’s Organic Gardening Workshop. Melissa is a 5th generation homesteader with 20 years of experience growing her own food. In fact, she raises more than half of her family’s fruits and vegetables with a day job and on only a half-acre.
She has got an amazing special going on to help you learn:
- how to naturally build healthy and organic soil at home with composting and/or cover crops
- vertical gardening to grow MORE in the same amount of space
- natural pest and disease treatment options that WORK
- how to easily work permaculture techniques into your property to take advantage of nature’s design for your food
- how to use cold frames in the spring and fall to increase your ability to grow food longer & extend your growing season (if not all year long)
- easy seed starting with vigorous seedlings that not only sprout but thrive when you plant them outdoors
- how to evaluate YOUR property and growing space to its best advantage so you don’t waste precious time, resources, and energy having to replant or move beds
The Positives of GMOs
Most GMOs are created to be either herbicide-tolerant or pesticide-producing.
One benefit of pesticide-producing GMO plants is that farmers can use fewer chemical pesticides. I think we would all agree that fewer chemical pesticides are a good thing!
GMOs also are convenient and help farmers produce more plants with fewer resources. Again, a definite benefit of GMOs.
But there are even more negatives than these few positives.
The Negatives of GMOs
GMOs were non-existent before the 1980s, so we really have no way of knowing the long-term effects of their consumption.
We don’t know how these plants will affect our health, our animals, and our planet long-term.
How could we, when they haven’t been around for much more than 30 years?!
When we eat GMO products, we are – quite literally – participating in the ONLY long-term study on GMOs.
I don’t know about you, but I don’t really want to be a part of this study!
Another consequence of GMOs is that many farmers use MORE herbicides on their herbicide-tolerant GMO plants.
As I already mentioned, when GMOs are pesticide-producing, farmers are able to reduce or even eliminate their usage of pesticides. BUT, when plants are herbicide-tolerant, some farmers actually use MORE herbicides because the herbicides no longer hurt their crops.
That means that though we might be reducing the number of insecticides because of GMOs, we are actually increasing the number of herbicides.1
Have you ever heard of Glyphosate? Glyphosate is a potentially carcinogenic herbicide.
Because of herbicide-tolerant GMOs, our country is now flooded with this weed killer that contaminates much of our food supply.
GMOs are also linked to the creation of “superweeds” that require even stronger chemicals to kill. It scares me to think about what might happen in our country if these superweeds continue to adapt and grow stronger.
GMOs are potentially linked to health concerns in both humans and animals.
In my opinion, they’re just not worth it.
Though there are a couple of benefits to GMOs, the negatives far outweigh the positives.
If you’d like to learn more about GMOs, check out this post on my blog: 7 Must-Know Facts About GMOs.
How Can We Avoid GMOs?
First of all, we can buy organic.
When we buy organic, we guarantee that we are NOT eating GMO foods.
If your budget allows you to buy all organic, this is definitely the best option.
But let’s be honest. Most of us can’t afford to buy EVERYTHING organic.
In that case, I have some good news!
Every year, the EWG releases two lists: one for the Dirty Dozen (products that are the MOST contaminated with pesticides) and one for the Clean 15 (products that are the least contaminated).
If you can’t afford to buy all organic, then use these lists to help you determine which foods to buy organic and which ones are okay to buy regular.
If an item is on the dirty dozen list, choose organic.
If it’s on the clean 15, you can feel more confident buying regular produce.
I also suggest that families buy organic corn, papaya, and summer squash since these are very heavily genetically modified in the United States.
A second thing we can do to protect ourselves and our families from GMOs is to eat less processed foods.
Most processed foods are chock-full of GMOs. By avoiding these (or at least eating them less or eating cleaner versions), we lower our exposure to GMOs.
Now you have the information on GMOs and organic produce. I hope you’ll join me in slowly switching over to foods that are NOT genetically modified.
If there’s one thing I know about our food industry, it’s that money talks. Hopefully, enough of us will begin speaking with our wallets that the industry will begin to change.
Do you avoid GMOs by buying organic produce?
Dana Kay is a Board-Certified Holistic Health Practitioner. She is the founder of Our Road to Thrive and the creator of the ADHD Thrive Method 4 Kids program. She is also the mother of a son with ADHD and has walked in the same shoes as the families that she helps. By the time her son’s doctor was suggesting the 4th medication (basically to treat the symptoms of the other 3 medications) she was done. She knew she could not continue on the same path and that there had to be a better way. So she embarked on a journey to find other more natural alternatives to help reduce her son’s ADHD symptoms. Today her son is thriving and completely off his medications. Through her long hard journey and years of education, Dana has developed a passion to help other families struggling with the same issues that she went through. In her own words, “I do what I do because it was so extremely difficult for me. It just doesn’t need to be that hard for other people.”
- Hsaio, J. (2015, August 10). GMOs and Pesticides: Helpful or Harmful?. Sourced from https://sitn.hms.harvard.edu/flash/2015/gmos-and-pesticides/