Have you ever heard of a GMO before? Did you know you’re probably eating it?
GMO’s are genetically modified organisms. They are plants or animals created through the gene splicing techniques of biotechnology (also called genetic engineering, or GE).
What GMOs do it take crop plants created for human or animal consumption and altering them using the latest molecular biology techniques. Why? So that the crop might stand up better to droughts, and/or to try and increase a products nutritional content.
In the United States of America, nearly 80% of our conventional processed foods contain GMOs. According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the FDA, there are over 40 plant varieties that have completed all of the federal requirements for commercialization.
Produce that commonly contains GMOs include corn, tomatoes, soybeans, cantaloupes, and cotton plants among others. The most common place we’re currently consuming GMOs are in our oils (soybean oil, vegetable oil) and our breakfast cereals.
What are the concerns of GMOs and are GMOs safe?
The largest areas for concern over GMOs are:
Allergies: In our children we’re finding more and more food allergies and sensitivities. It’s a fear that we’d be adding an allergic gene to a non-suspecting food, where someone could unknowingly have an adverse reaction.
Environmental Hazards: It’s a concern that nature would grab the reigns with this genetically altered produce and would breed out crops of unwanted plants, like a “super weed” (a weed that has a high tolerance to herbicides). Worry also exists that these modifications could cause unintentional harm to nature. For example, if the pollen from B.t. (a genetically modified organism found in corn) were to land on milkweed plants, there could be a rise in deaths of the monarch caterpillar (since they feed off of milkweed plants).
But as far as safety to humans is concerned, the USA does not view GMOs as a concern.
Other countries, including Austria, Japan, Hungary, Greece, Bulgaria, Luxembourg, New Zealand, Germany, Southern Australia, France, Switzerland, Thailand and India, have banned GMOs or have severely limited the use of it.
If I wanted to, how do I stay away from GMO’s?
Many companies have started packaging their foods saying they are a “NON-GMO” product. There are also other third party website that will do company audits to make sure that the food you’re consuming has not been genetically altered in any way.
So next time you buy your fruit or veggies, ask your grocer where the non-GMO products are!