Live Well
January 2014

Avoiding Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs)

Let’s start at the very beginning. What is genetic modification and what are GMOs? Genetic modification is a process whereby the genes of one species of plant or animal are inserted into the genes of another in order to give that plant or animal specific beneficial traits. The process of manual genetic modification differs from the natural breeding process because it takes genes from different species and attempts to combine them. Genetically modified organisms – the organisms that are the product of genetic modification – can be created with genes from insects, animals, humans, plants, bacteria or viruses. In addition to creating genetically modified organisms from different species, large chemical companies, like Monsanto, have been treating genetically modified crops (in particular, corn, soy, and cotton) which have built-in pesticides.

According to the Center for Food Safety, currently about 85% of US corn, 91% of soybeans and 88% of cotton are genetically engineered to be resistant to pesticides. Many processed and packaged foods contain genetically modified corn, soy or cotton (or cottonseed oil). Foods containing wheat, canola/rapeseed, sugar, sugar beets and dairy are most likely genetically modified unless stated otherwise on the label. Produce that is usually genetically modified includes: papaya from Hawaii, some zucchini and yellow squash and some corn on the cob. Genetically modified products are also widely used in beauty products, such as cotton products, cosmetics, soaps, and shampoos.

Essentially, no one really knows what effect the insertion of new genetic material into a food can have, but it does raise many red flags. First and foremost, the insertion of new genetic material into a food could destabilize the food and possibly make it toxic. According to the Center for Food Safety, genetically engineered foods are inherently unstable. Their research has shown that “each insertion of a novel gene, and the accompanying cassette of promoters, antibiotic marker systems and vectors, is random. GE food producers simply do not know where their genetic cassette is being inserted in the food, nor do they know enough about the genetic/chemical makeup of foods to establish a safe place for such insertions. As a result, each gene insertion into a food amounts to playing food safety roulette, with the companies hoping that the new genetic material does not destabilize a safe food and make it hazardous. Each genetic insertion creates the added possibility that formerly nontoxic elements in the food could become toxic.” Similarly, the creation of new proteins, which occurs when genetic material is inserted into a food, can create new allergies, or could possibly transfer allergens from one food to another. Moreover, because antibiotic resistance markers are used to identify whether the genetic material has actually been transferred into a food, genetically modified foods can increase a bacteria’s resistance to antibiotics. Finally, studies show that some synthetic growth hormones, such as the ones used in milk production, have been shown to cause cancer in humans.

As Jeffrey Smith, author of Seeds of Deception: Exposing Industry and Government Lies about the Safety of the Genetically Engineered Foods You’re Eating, writes in his book, “The theory behind genetic engineering assumes that the DNA is a bunch of discrete genes, all working independently, which, when added together, produce a plant, animal, or human. But that’s not how the rest of the body functions and it’s not how the ecosystem works either. They both involve complex, interrelated systems that we do not fully understand. Dangerous side effects of medicine and environmental disasters are often the result when we ignore that complexity and attempt to make a single change in isolation. That’s where we get into trouble.” For that very reason, I prefer to keep genetically modified foods out of my shopping cart and my kitchen. I trust nature over science to provide my family and I the nutrients we need to nourish our bodies.

Check out the Non-GMO Shopper’s Guide created by the Center for Food Safety. I recommend that you take it with you on your next trip to the grocery store.




Lessons To Live By

About 18 months ago, I started horseback riding. My daughters had been riding for a few years and they encouraged me to give it a try. Initially, I was a little reluctant and fearful. After all, horses are large animals with their own moods and ideas about things. Slowly I became more and more enthralled with the animals and with riding itself. There is something special about working with and communicating with these large animals that are so kind and patient with us. While learning how to ride, I have also learned about the importance of non-verbal communication, teamwork, and courage, which help me in my interactions with people as well as horses.

Riding has now become a very important part of my daily routine. I recently attended a horse clinic taught by a 3-time gold medal winner, Joe Fargis. The clinic was great training for my horse and I, but I also learned some valuable lessons, which I thought I would share with you:


  1. Keep order when there is commotion under you.
  2. Go with commitment one-step after the other or, in other words, when you make a decision, go forth with confidence and steadfastness.
  3. In everything you do, don’t forget the period at the end of the sentence. Again, be confident in the decisions you make and bring full closure to your actions.
  4. Riding (and life) should be like water through a hose – smooth, even and uncomplicated.
  5. Nothing sudden, nothing exciting – life shouldn’t be that exciting.
  6. Never go from a standstill.
  7. The jump is the consequence of the approach.
  8. Be in the moment.
  9. Do the best you can with patience.
  10. Find your way in a gentle manner.

The jist of Joe Fargis’ message is to take the time to reflect before doing anything, and once you have made a decision, proceed with conviction and presence. And, in everything you do, maintain your composure and tranquility. These are some thoughts that I plan to apply to my non-riding life in the coming year!




Check out my website for some great new
recipes for winter, such as:

Pea Shoot, Watercress and
Endive Salad with Roquefort


Red Lentil Soup with
Butternut Squash and Kale