What the Government Doesn’t Want You to Know about GMOs
These days, everyone is talking about genetically modified organisms, or GMOs.
These are foods that have had changes made to their DNA ostensibly for the purposes of faster growth, resistance to pathogens, or production of extra nutrients.
Controversy abounds between groups on whether GMOs are safe—not just for human consumption, but also for use in feeding animals that will then be sold as meat.
The dispute involves consumers, farmers, biotechnology companies, governmental regulators, non-governmental organizations and scientists.
The key areas of controversy related to genetically modified (GM) food are:
- Risk of harm from GM food
- Whether GM food should be labeled
- The role of government regulators
- The effect of GM crops on the environment
- The impact of GM crops for farmers, including farmers in developing countries
- The role of GM crops in feeding the growing world population
- GM crops as part of the industrial agriculture system (1).
Each side of the debate has their own opinion as to the safety of GMO food. Where do you stand?
Here is a list of some of the most commonly modified foods.
- Corn and milled corn products, including grits, corn meal, flour, and masa. Monsanto also recently introduced a GE sweet corn (3). Currently, up to 85% of U.S. corn is genetically engineered.
- Squash – One seed company is developing squash and cantaloupe varieties that resist viruses. A piece of a gene from the virus is transferred into the plant where it acts like a vaccine to protect the plants (2).
- Melons – A company is working to improve the flavor and sweetness in melons for year-round consumption. Its researchers believe the same technology can be applied to peaches produced during the main crop season.
- Papaya – Today, 80% of Hawaiian papaya is genetically engineered to resist the ringspot virus.
- Zucchini – As of 2005, about 13% of the zucchini grown in the US was genetically modified to resist viruses.
- Soy – including the vast array of foods made from soy products. Processed soy protein appears in foods mainly in three forms: soy flour, soy protein isolates, and soy protein concentrates. Look for these in your food. About 915 of soybeans in the US are genetically engineered (3).
- Oils – incuding soybean oil and canola oil
- Meat – Many consumers and organizations are concerned about the use of GMOs to feed cows that are then used for meat.
- Processed food - It has been estimated that upwards of 75% of processed foods on supermarket shelves contain genetically engineered ingredients (3).
Read up on these and decide for yourself if you’re okay with eating GMOs or if you’ll stick to strictly organic, unmodified foods.
One caveat, though: as of this writing, the US government does not require companies to label GMOs, so you may not always know what you’re eating. If you do go organic, don’t forget to seek out not just organic produce and animal products, but also packaged foods, which often contain GMO ingredients.
Are you concerned about GMOs in your food? How vigilant are you about eating organic? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.