Hi Friends, how are you all? How was the week that went by?
On my Instagram story yesterday, I posted about my current fruit-addiction ‘Thai Guava’. Well, it’s a fruit that I got introduced to very recently. It is a guava grown throughout Southeast Asia but now, produced locally even in Maharashtra.
I generally prefer local, seasonal fresh produce as that tends to be less in wax and other preservatives and is…well, fresher. When I tried Thai guava, I was apprehensive initially as I though it’s an import. Later, when I researched more, I came to know that it’s produced locally. Thank God because I love them!
I also prefer my food to be non-GMO (Genetically Modified Organisms). And food/produce which is made to look better and made to last more on our plates/shelves, doesn’t appeal to me…despite the enhanced beauty.
And apparently there are more like me because on my Instagram story, I got a few queries if Thai guava was a non-GMO. And that is how this post came into being.
The truth is that a lot of fruits and vegetables that we eat are not nature-made. In fact, most of what we eat today is man-made. Oh yes, the orange carrots we love to munch on, were purple in the beginning. The kale and broccoli…the cauliflower…the Honeycrunch apples….all man-made. You won’t be able to eat most of the original versions!
So what exactly is a hybrid and what is a GMO produce?
A hybrid produce is man-made for sure, created either on a farm/plantation or in a lab…by cross-breeding two different but compatible fruits or vegetables. This creates a new variety which could be very different from the parents or just a better version, more suitable for human palette.
Many a times this happens naturally (evolved over a period of time) and sometimes its man-induced. Grapefruits for example is a cross between pomelo and sweet orange. It was a done on a plantation way back in 18th century.
And the banana that is equally loved today all over the world by all the classes…is a hybrid and I bet, you won’t like the original banana at all! A hybrid of two wild species, both unpalatable…our nutritious and humble banana as we know it today, was a natural accident, capitalized upon by human agriculturists however it hasn’t changed genetically.
In case of bananas in India, the popular varieties or ‘cultivars’ are Robusta, Monthan, Poovan, Dwarf Cavendish, Nendran, Red banana, Basrai, Ardhapuri, Nyali, Safed Velchi Rasthali, Karpurvalli, Chinia and many others.
Hybrid fruits/veggies need a lot of care as they are sensitive to their environment. They also don’t reproduce easily on their own and might not stay true to their parents if reproduce at all. They might eventually stabilize and survive on their own.
The hybrids are particularly profitable to the farmers/producers as it produces a consistent, higher yield and is predictable in terms of quality. They are maximized for human-desired traits. This could also make bigger-sized fruits/vegetables with a better taste.
As per WHO, foods produced using GMO (Genetically Modified Organisms) are called GM (Genetically Modified) foods.
This genetical engineering (genetic cloning, protein engineering and kinds) can be done through bacteria, viruses or other plants/animals. It is mostly done to ensure some sort of resistance or tolerance in the produce e.g. a resistance for pesticides that is used to kill the pesty weeds or making the crop resistant to insects. The saved harvest can be high on that pesticide or other ‘un-studied on humans’ chemicals…and this is why GMO is a controversial topic since ever.
For example, GMO corn has a pesticide Bt engineered into its genetic code and this insertion makes it resistant to the pests. Overuse of such corn with a pesticide built into its genes, over a period of time really raises a red flag! However, don’t worry, thatb corn is industrial and the whole sweet corn (including canned/frozen versions) that we eat is most likely not genetically modified. Almost all GM-corn is used as fuel (I am also not sure if ethanol really is environment-friendly to be honest but that’s for another day), livestock feed and processed foods.
Am waiting for the day when it would become compulsory for the producers to label the produce as GMO or otherwise. We deserve to know and make our informed choices on our own, don’t you think?
In The End
Not saying GMO is all bad. There is a reason why such a concept was even introduced and the resultant high-yield, disease free species help in maintaining food supplies all over the world. They are approved by top authorities as safe for human consumption before they reach us. So make sure, they are approved by authorities such as FDA, FSSAI etc
In the end, a few key-points are worth remembering:
- Hybrids are not genetically modified. They are guided/traditional/controlled cross-pollination in fact
- Hybrids can be both natural or man-made…in plantations or in labs
- Hybrids do not have an altered DNA
- Organic foods are only labeled organic if they do not in any way, use GM products so make sure you know how to identify truly organic products/produce
- Read your labels carefully as almost 50% of imported packaged food today have either wheat or corn in them, one way or other and…are also found to be GM positive
- India allows import of GM soyabean and canola oil however the only GM crop approved for cultivation in India is Bt Cotton (because of many crop failures in past in the cotton belt area, I believe)
- Cultivation of unapproved GM crops in India, is a punishable offence. Yey!
We are lucky that India still manufactures most of its produce non-GMO and many attempts to introduce them to Indian consumers in past, have been not allowed yet e.g. BT brinjal, Protato (protein rich potato) and GM mustard etc
However, let’s stay aware of what we consume and make a habit of reading the labels well. Till the time we have a definite answer to the question whether GM produce/crops are safe or not, better stay wary…and aware.
Do join me on Instagram on the link below for much more like this…on health, fitness, nutrition and awareness, on a regular basis.
Till next Friday
Love, Health & Peace