GMOs: The Pesticide Connection

This blog is part of a series that explores the themes and issues raised in Farmed and Dangerous, a 4-part satirical web series exploring issues related to the food system and industrial agriculture. If you're interested in joining the conversation, please contact us at

Is there a more controversial subject in the food world than GMOs? I don't think so. Labeling initiatives in California and Washington were narrowly defeated in the past two years. With Connecticut and Maine passing GMO labeling laws last year, and 20 more states considering them, it's time that we all knew the full story on Genetically Modified Organisms.

There are those who will argue that -- through grafting and other farming techniques --people have manipulated plants for centuries. But I think that GMOs are a whole different story.

My problem with GMOs in plants grown for food is that most manipulation involves making them able to better withstand high doses of pesticides. In fact, from 1996 to 2008 -- the first 13 years of commercial GMO crop production -- there were 318 million more pounds of pesticides applied to crops.

As a parent, pesticides concern me. They've been linked to decreased cognitive function, behavioral problems and cancer, which is now the leading cause of death by disease for children.

Pesticides have never been tested for safety in children -- or women, for that matter. And because children are small and their systems still developing, the impact of pesticides is far greater for kids. In fact, both the American Academy of Pediatrics and the 2008-2009 President's Cancer Panel strongly recommend reducing children's exposure to pesticides.

Which brings us back to GMOs. The two most common genetic modifications include increasing a plant's tolerance to high doses of herbicides, and introducing a bacteria gene that gives plants the ability to produce their own insecticides.

Do you really want your kids to be eating that?

Unfortunately, at this point it's hard to know what your family is eating: Despite the fact that 64 other nations label GMOs and 93% of Americans want GMO labeling , there is currently no way to know if our foods contain GMO ingredients.

What we do know is that 75% of the foods on supermarket shelves contain GMOs, which are also in 85% of our corn and 91% of our soybeans.

There's only one clear way to know what's in the food you're feeding your children: As much as possible, buy USDA Certified Organic. That little circular seal means that, at minimum, 95% of a product's ingredients are free of chemical fertilizers, artificial and synthetic ingredients, antibiotics, artificial growth hormones, sewage sludge and irradiated ingredients, as well as GMOs.

Especially when you're a parent, it's so important to know when GMOs are in our food. Even Kaiser Permanente, the largest managed healthcare organization in the United States, used its Fall 2012 newsletter as a forum to advise members to avoid GMOs.

Although Kaiser still has no official position on GMOs, the article recommended that people buy organic because, "despite what the biotech industry might say, there is little research on the long-term effects of GMOs on human health."


I believe we have a right to know what's in our food -- from calories to fat content to genetically modified ingredients -- so we can choose healthier foods for our families.

Don't you?

Farmed and Dangerous was produced by Chipotle and production company Piro. Chipotle is the sponsor for the Food For Thought initiative.