GMOs – the good, the bad, the ugly

All of you have seen or heard the term genetically modified organism by now. Whether it’s in the news, documentaries or your local grocery store. The term “GMO”, and more importantly “Non-GMO”, has definitely become a topic of conversation. The question is what does GMO actually mean?

I decided to tackle this subject when someone said to me “do you know that kale is GMO?” Confused by this, I decided to ask some basic questions, and then began to dig a little deeper. What I found was definitely concerning.  The fact was that most of my peers did not understand how most of our ‘natural’ food was created, let alone the difference between genetically engineered organisms, cross-hybridization and crossbreeding. And for the record, kale is not a “GMO”. It was created through cross-hybridization…just like almost every fruit and vegetable we eat today. Confused yet?

So what are the differences between simple cross-pollination, cross-hybridization, and GMO technology? Let me explain.


Cross-breeding (aka cross-pollination) is simply a process where two sexually compatible plants happen to cross by virtue of pollen, (the male contribution to this process) which is carried by wind or insects to fertilize another member of the same species. So, cross-pollination happens all the time in nature.

Cross-hybridization is when we deliberately select “parents” for their specific traits and then transfer the pollen from one plant to another closely related plant. This process dates back to the early days of agriculture and is nothing new. The idea is to create a plant, which has outstanding attributes of both parents. Although human intervention is involved, this is not considered genetic modifying.
·       Combining an orange with a pommelo created the grapefruit.
·       Broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, kale, collard greens and brussel sprouts are all hybrids of wild mustard. 
·       Brown and white rice are hybrids of wild rice.
·       ­All varieties of lettuce come from one plant — wild lettuce.
·       Onions, garlic, scallions, and leeks that we know today are all hybrids of the wild onion and garlic plants.
·       Seedless watermelons, broccolini, cherry tomatoes, boysenberries, apples varieties…etc.
·       The big, bright yellow bananas we all know and love were actually invented in 1836. This is a sterile, hybrid of the wild banana that is much smaller and filled with seeds. Meaning without human interaction the banana, as we know it, would become extinct!


In fact, the produce section of your local “Whole Foods” doesn’t contain much variety at all. In reality, it contains hybridizations of previous plants.  Almost none of which can be found in nature. And for all you meat eaters out there…cows, chickens and pigs are all hybrids of previous species of animals. Even the “organic” ones;)

This information made me ask the question – are hybrid plants safe? The answer is yes. There is no research showing harmful effects of hybrid plants on the market today. The only potential issue is whether the hybrid fruit/vegetable has the same nutritional value as its ancestors. If the were being created to proliferate outstanding traits (size, colour, taste) then some nutrients may have been left behind.

What is a GMO??
GMOs (or “genetically modified organisms”) are the ultimate idea of in human intervention. This is when organism’s genetic material has been artificially manipulated in a laboratory through genetic engineering. This relatively new science creates unstable combinations of plant, animal, bacteria and viral genes that do not occur in nature or through traditional crossbreeding methods.
Today the following plants are genetically modified…
  • Alfalfa
  • Canola (approx. 90%)
  • Corn (approx. 88%)
  • Cotton (approx. 90%)
  • Papaya (approx. 95%)
  • Soy (approx. 94%)
  • Sugar Beets (approx. 95%)
  •  Zucchini and Yellow Summer Squash (85%)


I read that 80% of processed foods in North America have GMOs in them. If that is the case then I’m sure we all have more questions such as:
Why were GMOs created?
What is the impact (if any) on our health?
Do they decrease pesticide use?
Are they helping to reduce world hunger?
How is Canada approaching the GMO issue compared to the rest of the world?

Let’s ‘digest’ this for now (funny right?) and we’ll go into the above questions and concerns around GMOs next month.

Stay tuned…

Dr. Craig McNamee
Co-founder Chiropractor
Strength & Conditioning Specialist
Active Release Techniques Provider
Medical Acupuncture Practitioner


World Health Organization (WHO). 20 questions on genetically modified foods. 2002. Available at

Uninformed and misinformed society and the GMO market. Trends in Biotechnology, Volume 33, Issue 1, January 2015, Pages 1-3

Kaskey J. Modified crop plantings fall in industrialized nations. Bloomberg

02-13/modified-crop-plantings-fall-in-industrialiez-nations.html. Published February 13, 2014.


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