Today, food is everywhere – front and centre. At this point, during the pandemic, we have stocked up food in our homes and are constantly planning a healthy diet. It’s a great time to consider what process your food undergoes before it is on your plate. This means understanding what organic food and GMOs (Genetically Modifies Organisms) are. Questions that we are bound to have is: whether organic is equal to non-GMO, or if GMO is healthier. The quality of food that we consume affects our health. We need to understand what we are feeding ourselves and our loved ones. Here is a helpful guide to help you make informed nutritional choices.
The World Health Organisation defined GMOs as the organisms whose DNA has been altered. For example, when you see an abnormally large and sweet strawberry, it is often genetically modified. It does not occur like that naturally. This is done by transferring individual genes from one organism to the other. It is practised in crops like corn, canola and soybeans. GMOs not only increase the nutritional value of food but also protect the crops against insects and pests. However, it harms the environment.
On the other hand, organic foods don’t have pesticides or additives. It is grown and processed according to federal guidelines. The soil quality, pest control as well as the animals used are closely monitored. Organic livestock is raised for meat, dairy products and eggs. These are given organic feed. Antibiotics, growth hormones and other artificial products are banned from being given to the livestock.
Is organic equal to non-GMO?
This has been a continuous debate. To avoid any chemical fertilizers, along with the expense of organic food, one can opt for non-GMO products. Non-GMO products do not contain any GMO requirements. But that doesn’t mean they are organically made. Organic food is non-GMO, but non-GMO is not always organic.
Why opt for GMO?
- Inexpensive for consumers
- Low production costs
- High nutritional value and health benefits
- Resistance to plant diseases caused by pests and insects
Why opt for organic?
- No usage of pesticides or additives
- No usage of genetically modified organisms
- Healthier practices of farming like mulch and crop rotation
- Organic livestock doesn’t contain growth hormones or antibiotics
- Helps conserve biodiversity and combats erosion
Common arguments against GMOs have been centred around harmful bacteria, increased risk of allergy and the possibility of an indirect effect on food safety (due to the mixing of crops). However, organic food is comparatively more expensive and has a shorter shelf life. It may also contain bacteria and insects due to the limited use of pesticides.
Apples, celery, carrots, cherries, grapes, lettuce, pears and strawberries have a high level of pesticide on an average. Hence, when grown commercially, it is better to opt for organic produced fruits and vegetables. However, asparagus, avocado, broccoli, cabbage, corn and mango are conventionally peeled to remove their thick skin. Their production also does not require high levels of pesticides. Hence, there is no need to opt for organic produced fruits and vegetables in terms of these.
Making the right choice
All categories of food have guidelines and verification processes. It is necessary to shop smart. Buy in bulk whenever possible to reduce costs. Healthy eating is a top priority regardless of whether one prefers GMO, non-GMO or Organic. To go for organic in terms of junk food and condiments doesn’t make them healthy. Today, more and more countries are opting for compulsory GMO labeling. Several countries have partially banned GMOs. The most important thing for us to practice sustainability – in terms of agriculture and in the purchase of food.