We’re used to seeing labels such as Organic or USDA Approved on our grocery products, but we have yet to see a product labeled as Genetically Modified. Since there is no labeling, it must mean we have been eating only natural fruits and veggies, right?
Think again. Currently genetically modified foods do not have to be labeled for consumers in the American market. As a result, you have probably eaten your fair share of genetically modified items in the form of corn, soy, canola and cottonseed (oil) since these items are mostly used in processed foods and fed to animals. The GM sugar beet is also around, but on hold in a court case. (There were some on the market before the injunction.)
To date, the FDA has also approved production of GM varieties of plums, cantaloupe, Hawaiian papaya, squash, radicchio, tomatoes, and potatoes. *Note: sweet corn – the kind you eat off the cob – is not on the list.
Here’s the basic scoop about GMOs: Genetically modified organisms — also called genetically engineered organisms are plants or animals where portions of the DNA from one organism are introduced into and made part of the DNA of another. There are a number of GMO crops currently grown in the U.S. as stated above. GMO crops grown today may be insect-resistant (they grow their own insecticides) or herbicide-resistant (they withstand spraying by commercial herbicides).
So are GMOs good, or are they bad? It seems the debate has raged for almost a decade and still policy makers have not come to an agreement. This is actually a topic that I had not heard of before last week. I had no idea that “super seeds” were being created by a company named Monsanto. It wasn’t until I watch a documentary called “Food Inc.” that I learned of this practice. I then went on a spree of documentary watching (Fed Up!, Deconstructing Supper, The World According to Monsanto) and web searching to find out more about these GMOs.
According to the FDA, as much as 75 percent of processed food in the United States may contain components from genetically modified crops. In 30 other countries around the world, including Australia, Japan and all of the nations in the European Union, there are significant restrictions or outright bans on the production of GMOs, due to environmental impact and concerns about GMO safety.
So what about average people like us? Don’t you think it would be nice if we could decide at the grocery store whether or not we want to buy a natural item or a genetically modified one?
I think it would be nice and that it should be our right. Unfortunately, even labeling of the products has turned into a debate. There are people like myself, who feel that consumers have a right to know what they are purchasing and in turn ingesting. Then there are the corporate and political backers as well as the creators of these GMOs, like Monsanto’s, who feel that people will think GMOs are unhealthy and will avoid purchasing them if they are labeled.
To me, the real question here is “Are these GMO items safe?”. I don’t think enough testing has been done before thrusting them into our lives. These companies have turned us into walking experiments and lab rats. Because there is not a lot of research on the side effects or long term effects of consuming these GMOs I feel there should be labeling so we can make our own decisions.
Consumers already know that processed products high in fat, hydrogenated oils and sugar are not good for them, yet those are some of the highest purchased items in markets today. Consumers also know that non-organic produce has a lot of pesticides and chemicals on them, yet they are still the most commonly purchased produce in the our society. Yes, some consumers may choose not to purchase products that contain GMOs, but that is a decision that should be left to the individual, not the food industry.
I have read that PLU stickers are in place for GM produce, although I have never seen them. Here is what I found regarding these:
- PLU stickers that have 4 digits and begin with a “3″ or “4″: produce is conventionally grown. This means that this produce was sprayed with weed killers and chemical pesticides.
- PLU stickers that have 5-digits and start with “8″: produce was genetically engineered (man intervened by manipulating the genes to produce a larger or brighter colored food). This produce may have been chemically treated.
- PLU stickers that have 5-digits and start with “9″: produce was raised organically. You can be sure that this produce was not treated with any chemicals.
Until more information is released about the GMOs and the long term safety of them, I will be sticking to local, organic produce and whole foods. To find a local, organic farm near you click here.
In case we are ever allowed to make our own decisions concerning GMOs, here are a few websites representing each side of the debate, so you can make your own educated decision.
GMO Food for Thought
The Institute for Responsible Technology
The True Food Network
Monsanto According to Monsanto
I hope you will take some time to review the websites above as well as the documentaries. It is time that we take our nutrition into our hands and make educated decisions about what we put into our bodies.
**Even if approved, the GM varieties may not be in your supermarket in whole form. GM varieties are primarily used as feed for animals and used in processed foods, especially in the form of HFCS (high fructose corn syrup.)