Why using GM free and additive free food is good

Reports about potential health concerns related to genetically modified (GM) foods and processed foods that contain additives, have encouraged consumers to be more aware of what’s in the foods they eat.The deluge of advice however on what consumables should be avoided for optimum health could leave some confused about why it’s actually good to have a diet that is both GM and additive free.

Genetically modified foods

GM foods, also known as GMO’s or genetically modified organisms are biologically altered by isolating a gene in one organism and splicing it into another. This is done to improvement of a crop’s resistance to disease; herbicides or pesticides to enhance the nutritional value of different types of food and enable the growth of crops in varying climatic conditions.

GM foods include soy, corn, and papaya. Animal derived products like meat, milk and eggs often contain GM foods because the animals have been fed with GM crops.

GM foods were only introduced in the mid-90s and there is no long-term research into how they affect human health. Studies done on rats however show a reduction in liver, kidney, heart, and adrenal and spleen health problems.

While the genes in GM foods may prove a health risk to humans, some of the pesticides and herbicides used on GM crops have already been linked to skin irritations, endocrine and nervous system problems. Soybeans, for instance, have been engineered to be resistant to herbicides that kill all the weeds and other plants on a field.

In the UK, although producing GM foods is illegal, more than a million tonnes of GM crops are imported annually to feed livestock and make their way into pork products like bacon and dairy products.

Foods with additives

Additives or man-made preservatives extend the shelf-life of foods and are used to also preserve flavour and colour. Reliance on more natural food preservatives like salt, vinegar and herbs has almost completely disappeared in favour of man-made chemical additives.

There are more than 300 additives used in the modern food industry, and these include benzoates, nitrites, and sulphites, which prevent the growth of mould and yeast. The bleaching agent sulphur dioxide is the most commonly used food additive.

Like with GM foods, there is no way to predict the long term effects of a diet with additives. It isn’t uncommon for an additive to be considered safe, only for it to later be discovered as toxic. Some research has linked additives to headaches, nausea, muscle weakness and breathing difficulties.

A GM and additive free diet

The only way to really ensure that your diet is GM and additive free is to eat foods that are 100% organic. One recent study by the British Journal of Nutrition showed that organic foods have higher levels of beneficial omega-3 fatty acids, iron, vitamin E and some carotenoids and lower concentrations of the saturated fats linked to heart disease. Foods that are certified organic are cultivated without artificial chemical fertilisers and pesticide-use is heavily restricted. Mixed farming is used to reduce pests and disease. Organic meat comes from animals that are often grass-fed and free range, to prevent the need for drugs and antibiotics

With more than 70% of supermarket foods containing GM ingredients and additives, making the right choices can be like navigating a landmine. A rule of thumb is to avoid processed foods like soda and cookies and go for fresh organic produce to use in home-cooked meals.