What are GMOs? The term GMO is an abbreviation for genetically modified organisms, referring to food products that have had their genetic makeup altered in a laboratory setting. Though there are certain benefits that these items have, to a larger extent this technology creates unstable conditions that can cause health problems for people and pollute the environment in general. For everyday consumers, it can sometimes be challenging to stay updated on food ingredients that pose a high risk of being genetically altered, given that the list of potentially harmful substances keeps changing frequently.
What are GMOs?
Genetically modified agricultural products can basically be divided into two categories:
- High-risk foods that are currently in commercial circulation.
- Monitored risk foods with suspected or known cases of contamination that could have happened during the processing stage. The first category is largely composed of crops like alfalfa, corn, cotton, canola, soy, sugar, beets, papaya and zucchini. While the latter consists of flax, wheat, potato and rice.
Are They Safe for Consumption?
Most people ask themselves whether genetically modified organisms are safe for eating or not. The truth is that many of them are not, especially in meals that are popular among children such as cereals, cookies, snack bars, and processed meat bites. They all contain large portions of high-risk ingredients that can cause complications. In North America alone, an estimated 80% of all foods in circulation are believed to be contaminated. These substances are most likely present in your breakfast, lunch, or dinner. However, not all hope is lost and there’s still a chance to lead a healthy lifestyle despite the challenges.
Buying fresh produce from the stores is an effective way of staying healthy and avoiding unnecessary contamination. Standard food laws prohibit the use of GMOs in any organic products, which simply means that a farmer specializing in this line of crops cannot plant genetically engineered seeds, nor give his cattle contaminated corn or alfalfa as fodder.
In fact, to meet USDA guidelines, food producers must clearly show that they aren’t using modified crops, and that proper measures have been put in place to protect their items from direct contact with banned substances. Such rigorous requirements by the National Organic Program can help prevent pollution of otherwise organic foods, by making use of a detailed process-based approach that checks each stage of production, including testing of suspected GM contamination where necessary. Regulatory bodies also ensure that ongoing tests are performed regularly, which are critical in identifying and eliminating impurity whenever it emerges.
Always go for products that have been certified organic as this is the surest way to protect yourself and your family from the negative effects of these substances. Remember that all consumers have a right of whether to choose altered foods or not. Apart from mainstream rations, these substances may also be hidden in typical processed ingredients like Vitamin C, Citric Acid, Aspartame, Hydrolyzed Vegetable Protein, Sucrose and Lactic Acid just to name a few. Therefore, be careful when taking them as well.
The first genetically altered tomatoes were produced in 1994, going by the name of Flavr Savr, they were also the foremost artificial organisms approved for human consumption within the United States. They got sold out of production in a few years’ time, with the company forced to close in 1997 due to complaints about flavor and the inability to sustain shipping demands. Since then, there have been no other scientifically modified tomatoes sold for mass consumption, with this product still being considered low-risk by relevant standardization authorities even today.
Nevertheless, farmers across America have still been using GMOs more frequently every year. In mid-2015, potatoes, which were previously considered a safe product were introduced into the monitored crops list. Simplot White Russet potatoes in particular have been identified to be scientifically modified and consumers should be careful when buying them. However, this is not the first time such a product has been seen in the market. Back in 1996, GMO NewLeaf potatoes were created by Monsanto but due to widespread consumer rejection by many fast-food restaurants, the project did not become successful and was officially discontinued by spring 2001.
This new technology is not only present in crops but animal products as well, for instance, there’s a company that’s currently petitioning the FDA to approve its GM canned salmon for human consumption. Something that has been met by sharp resistance from concerned consumer watch groups. Similarly, a genetically engineered pig variety dubbed Enviropig was recently launched by researchers from the University of Guelph. However, by June 2012 these flagship pigs were euthanized and the project came to an abrupt halt.
In America, individual states have tried to ban certain GM foods though high levels of misinformation in the public domain has resulted in very minimal progress. Colorado for instance banned all modified crops, while Maryland also did the same for engineered fish products. This trend has also been reiterated by the national body of the FDA, which denied approval of more than a million signatures in a nationwide petition to label certain GMOs. The action motivated some states like Maine and Connecticut to begin working on mandatory labeling measures, so as to protect consumers from potential harm caused by items that have not been marked.
Despite these measures, developments have not come without opposition from those who are against them. Some companies have successfully sued parent states for denying them rights to make clinically adjusted food products, with financial backing from large manufacturers who solely depend on genetically engineered soy and corn to generate sales. It recently emerged that nearly 70 million USD were spent by these corporations on marketing campaigns meant to confuse voters in Washington and California from passing certain GMO labeling proposals.
The practice of genetic food altering has come under intense scrutiny by activists concerned by increased public health concerns. They are worried about potential diseases such as cancer, which has been linked to these particular products. However, even if such actions are successful as per the moment, there’s no guarantee that their concerted efforts will be sustained for years down the line. Especially taking into account a recent motion by the U.S. Senate denying individual states the power to label foods that contain GMOs.