I mailed off my absentee ballot today. This reminded me I needed to write part two of this post because GMO labeling is on the ballot in two states. [Ed. note: for part one of this series, go here].
So by now, you’re an expert at food labels, yes? You know the difference between organic, conventional, and natural? Now it’s time to add the much-debated GMOs, or genetically modified organisms, into the mix.
GMOs are what they sound like.
A GMO occurs when plants or animals have cells inserted with a gene. This gene is from an unrelated species to take on specific characteristics. For example, plants become genetically engineered to develop a resistance against insects or to increase nutrients.
Here’s some info I found from USA Today, which says one of the supposed benefits of GMOs is they should result in less herbicide spraying because some plants have been modified to become herbicide resistant.
“However, over-reliance on these crops has led to the emergence of ‘superweeds’ that are also more resistant to herbicides, requiring increased spraying, according to a University of Washington study.”
Over at Mother Jones, they note that GMOs affect the environment by adding hundreds of millions of extra pounds of pesticides.
Monsanto’s Roundup Ready crops… are genetically engineered to be immune to herbicide… Farmers can destroy weeds without killing their cash crops. But the process has spawned Roundup resistant weeds, leading farmers to apply greater and greater doses of the chemical or even resort to more toxic methods to battle back the superweeds.
The six biggest producers of genetically engineered seeds are Monsanto, Syngenta, Dow AgroSciences, BASF, Bayer, and Pioneer (DuPont). They are also the biggest producers of chemical herbicides and insecticides.
Organic food, on the other hand, does not naturally become genetically modified.
From the USDA’s blog:
[A]n organic farmer can’t plant GMO seeds. An organic cow can’t eat GMO alfalfa or corn. And an organic soup producer can’t use any GMO ingredients. To meet the USDA organic regulations, farmers and processors must show they aren’t using GMOs. They are protecting their products from contact with prohibited substances, such as GMOs, from farm to table.
Another reason critics don’t like GMOs is because of its effect on nutritional value. This includes allergens or toxins present in the food. The FDA, who regulate GMOs, disputes these claims, however.
In my experience with GMOs, whenever I eat something genetically modified, my skin breaks out.
USA Today says more than 40 types of plants have been genetically modified worldwide and a much smaller number are commercially grown. The most common genetically modified plants are corn, canola, soybean, and cotton, and Hawaiian papaya. Also, Monsanto said it wants to introduce genetically engineered wheat.
At the moment, food manufacturers do not have to label whether their products contain GMOs. The FDA only requires that labels are “truthful and not misleading.” (But Colorado and Oregon have GMO labeling on the ballot for this election!)
Monsanto, DuPont, Dow, and other agrochemical companies have spent more than $30 million to keep mandatory labeling from passing in Colorado and Oregon, according to Food Democracy Now! Why? Because these are the corporations that benefit from not labeling GMOs.
Even if GMO labeling doesn’t pass, there are organizations, like the Non-GMO Project, that list the products verified to be GMO-free. There is also the Non-GMO Shopping Guide app. Plus, Whole Foods Market said by 2018 it will label all GMO products at its U.S. and Canadian stores.
So never fear, if you don’t want to eat GMOs there are ways to ensure you don’t!