Almost 60% of the world’s soybean crop is genetically modified. In the US, it’s over 91%. The world’s most widely planted GM crop, transgenic soybeans carry genetic material from petunias, viruses and bacteria that enable them to survive repeated dousings of Monsanto’s controversial herbicide, Roundup.
A 2009 study in the journal Toxicology has shown that glyphosate-based herbicides such as Roundup are toxic to human reproductive cells, even at levels that are currently legal on our food. Some studies on the effects of GM food on the human system are just as bleak — finding problems such as organ damage, precancerous conditions and enhanced food allergies.
Proponents of genetic engineering claim it results in increased yields, and provides a solution to help feed the world’s growing population. However, genetically modified soybeans have consistently lower yields than conventional soy, and increasing weed resistance has seen the re-emergence of old school defoliants such as 2,4-D (a component of Agent Orange). In the US, the use of 2,4-D on soybeans more than doubled from 2002 to 2006.
In North America, approximately 70% of the processed food on supermarket shelves contains at least some genetically modified ingredients. Soybeans are used to produce numerous food ingredients and additives, many of which do not contain soy in their name. For example, Lecithin is a soy-based emulsifier used widely in chocolate, ice cream, margarine, and baked goods.
Other possible hidden sources of soy include hydrolyzed vegetable or plant protein, textured vegetable protein, vegetable gum, vegetable broth, isolates, methylcellulose, mono- and diglycerides, vegetable broth, vegetable oil, vegetable protein, vegetable starch, vegetable fat and natural flavouring.
I try to avoid GM foods wherever I can. I buy only organic non-GMO tofu, edamame, miso, etc. — like this beautiful smoked tofu from neighbouring Saltspring Island, and I limit the number of processed foods in my cart. I don’t claim to be anywhere near perfect though – one of my bads is soy sauce – Yamasa is my hands-down favourite, you see – and they don’t have an organic option. That said, all this talk about DNA damage has me thinking that I should give Kikkoman’s non-GMO offering a try… I’ll let you know what I think.
For more information:
- The World Health Organization – an excellent resource page with easy-to-understand answers to 20 commonly asked questions about genetic modification. A good place to start if you want to learn more about the topic in general.
- Organic Consumers Association
- Mother Earth News
- GMO Compass
- Monsanto Corporation – I always try to look at both sides…There is a lot of corporate dogma/denial/double-speak going on here though. Definitely worth a look, if only so you know what they’re saying.