Genetically modified or genetically engineered (GE) crops have been around since the mid-90’s, and still there’s a veil of uncertainty around them. What do you know about them? And why are we writing about the now?
Recently Whole Foods has come under scrutiny for carrying products containing genetically modified organisms (GMOs ). Whole Foods is one of the biggest suppliers of organic foods – the issue? By definition, organic foods can’t contain GMOs. The problem is GMOs are now so ubiquitous in our foods supply Whole Foods hasn’t been able to avoid keeping such products (including big names such as Boca Burgers and Kashi) in stock. Part of the reason is labeling – or lack thereof. The U.S. is one of the few industrialized nations that does not require such labeling or testing.
What are they? When you a bit know about the trajectory of agriculture and food preparation, it’s known that humans have been altering and cross-breeding crops to produce the best, most robust food product. So how do GMOs differ? The plants grow from seeds in which DNA splicing has been used to place genes from another source into a plant – this renders the crop strong enough to withstand a weed-killing pesticide, for example, or incorporate a bacterial toxin that can repel pests.
Where are they found? Soybeans and cotton have been the most widely adopted GE crops in the U.S., followed by corn. Keep in mind these crops are used in MANY foods we find at the grocery store. The biggest producer of GMO seeds is, Missouri-based Monsanto (who also happen to be at the heart of the GMO debate).
Are they safe? Those in industry would argue that GMOs are safe to eat and labeling is unnecessary, and so far no regulatory organization in the U.S. has opposed to the introduction of GMOs. GMO critics are not only concerned about possible health risks but also soil and plant nutrient losses and contamination of non-GMO crops and increased pesticide use.
If you turn your attention to research studies, you will find little assurance. This year, for instance, spinach researchers published an overview of all of the safety studies published– the results were split down the middle, health risks and no health risk associated with GMO in equal numbers. To further complicate the situation, many studies finding no risks were actually sponsored by biotech industries (another reason to check your sponsors!)
General consensus? It’s hard to say. Most would argue that experts in the field of food safety are content with the current approach to genetically modified crops and do not see a need for concern or to continue long-term tests in humans or animals to establish food safety.”
How about labeling, do you feel consumers should know which foods contain GMOs? Keep your eyes and ears peeled for the future of the GMO argument.
Here’s a reputable source (and check out that graph): http://www.ers.usda.gov/Data/BiotechCrops/
Oh one hand, people are worried about GMOs and yet, on the other hand, people hope that by modifying the GNOME we can solve human problems–aren’t those two views contradicting?