Genetically Modified Organisms: Harmless or Harmful For Your Baby?
Every mother wants to choose the best foods for her and her baby. However, GMOs, or GM foods, are popping up in everything from baby food to formula and everything in between. Almost out of nowhere, the term “GMO” has become part of everyday lingo. What is a GMO? GMO, or genetically modified organism, is “an organism whose genetic material has been altered using genetic engineering techniques”. More simply put, it means that scientists have altered a plant in some way using.
It seems that as your baby grow, so does technology. Our world is constantly changing and adapting to new technologies. Believe it or not, science and technology also applies to the growing and consumption of foods. It’s hard to imagine why scientists are suddenly so interested in altering foods that have been consumed for thousands of years.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), GM foods are often modified to increase nutritional benefit. If scientists can genetically modify a food, they can also modify how much nutrition is in, say, an apple or infant’s formula. In this way they can make foods healthier for the consumer, which is the goal of any mother in regards to her baby.
Another significant reason to use GMOs and GM foods, according to WHO, is crop protection. Every organism has a natural predator; for plants, it’s pests. Through genetic modification, plants can build up resistance to pests, meaning less plant loss due to insect infestation. This in turn creates more crops to sell, which means more foods for you to buy at the grocery store to feed yourself and your baby.
With any kind of genetic modification comes concern for human health. One large health concern is regarding allergens, something you as an expectant or new mother most likely worry about, too. In 1996, the genes from a Brazil nuts were added to genetically engineered soybeans. The soybeans were altered to become more nutritious, and were to be used as feed for poultry. However, after a series of tests, the soybean caused the same reaction as a brazil-nut allergy. Fortunately, the particular strain of soybeans was never intended for human consumption. Nonetheless, development was cancelled. It is alarming to think what would’ve happened if the soy beans were to be used for human’s consumption, especially for mothers or babies who might have that particular nut allergy.
On the other spectrum, genetic modification can also remove allergens from foods. By examining the genes that make up a specific strain of plant, scientists can properly identify the allergen within the organism, and subsequently remove said allergen. This can be seen as a benefit for babies; the fewer allergens in a food, the less chance that a baby will have an adverse reaction to a food.
As an expecting mother, the choices you make regarding food consumption are at an all-time importance. You want the best for yourself and for your baby when it comes to nutrition and nourishment. With GMOs appearing in so many foods, it is important to know if these genetic modifications can have a negative effect on your baby.
There are two sides to this argument. According to researchers from the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of Sherbrooke Hospital Centre in Quebec, Canada, “[Bt Toxin, frequently used in GM corn] was found in the bloodstreams of 93 percent of pregnant women tested”. Women don’t just have to ingest GM corn to have the toxin in their bloodstream; it can be transmitted through the consumption of livestock that has been fed GM corn. It is scary to think that you can be digesting something without even knowing it. According to Dr. Amy Dean, PR chair and Board Member of AAEM, “[m]ultiple animal studies have shown that GM foods cause damage to various organ systems in the body”. Additionally, “most of the studies that have been used to validate the safety of GMOs have been conducted by the companies that created them in the first place”, which leaves room for concern regarding the validity and reliability of these studies, making it even harder to make an educated decision regarding GMOs as a mother.
On the other hand, some believe that GMOs pose no threat to developing fetuses. According to the Academics Review, “[f]etal development is sensitive to diet but there is no reason to believe that transgenic crops would have any effect on fetal health”. The Academics Review states that anti-GMO groups are simply “speculating against all odds in the total absence of evidence”. This should come as a relief to mothers and their baby.
With so much information surrounding genetically modified organisms, foods, and crops, it’s difficult to know how to make educated choices about the foods you eat. The Non GMO Shopping Guide is a website that educates consumers about non-GMO products in markets and restaurants, with an especially helpful category for non-GMO baby food. Another tip is to look for the non-GMO seal on products you buy in the market. It does not guarantee that the product is completely free of GMOs, but it guarantees less than 0.9 % of the ingredients are made from GMOs, making your quest to find non-GMO foods that much easier.
When it comes to buying produce, which is a staple in both mother’s and baby’s food, be sure to check the numbers on the label. If it is a 4-digit number, the food is conventionally produced; if it is a 5-digit number beginning with an 8, it is genetically modified; if it is a 5-digit number beginning with a 9, it is organic.
While this information may seem overwhelming and difficult to remember, remembering to focus on buying non-processed and organic foods will help you avoid GMOs. If you can, shop at markets such as Whole Foods, which specializes in “private label products [that] are made with ingredients that have not been genetically modified”.
Buying locally from your farmer’s market can also make the search for non-GM foods a little easier. If you find you have a green thumb, you can grow your own crops in the comfort of your own backyard. This really allows you to know exactly what you are eating. Although it is not the easiest or the most practical solution, it is certainly a relief to know where the plants you and your baby are eating come from.
When it comes to GMOs and GM foods, you should be educated so that you can make the best choice for you and your baby. The best you can do is remain informed on this controversial topic and continue to make healthy decisions for you and your baby!