We’ve all been GMO’ed. Now What?

GMO foods are a hotly debated topic in the past few years, and especially in the last month. We haven’t addressed this issue and thought it might be time to share some thoughts.

GMO (Genetically modified organism) or GE (genetically engineered) foods were introduced into our food supply less than 20 years ago. Today, about 90% of soy, corn, cotton, and canola seeds are genetically modified. Which means that any food made from any of these ingredients is considered “genetically modified”.  That includes chocolate (contains soy lecithin), snacks (fried in oil), vegetarian dishes (tofu is made from soy), and most fast foods.

If you want to understand the science behind GMO, there are several good books to read. You can also find good points being argued by both sides online.

The current state of affairs: The US has decided to move full speed ahead with GMO crops. Europe still bans them.

“So are GMO foods good or bad for me?” you must be asking.

To be honest, the matter is very confusing. The promises to better feed the growing population of earth clash with apocalyptic warnings of doom to humanity.

Whether GMO is safe or not, we feel very strongly about about people’s right to know what they are buying. And what’s in it. It is inexcusable that food labels do not clearly state whether ingredients are sourced from GMO plants or not.

Today, you must assume that any processed food purchased in a supermarket has GMO ingredients.

But consumers who care enough about this matter have a choice. If we want to make sure we are getting no GMO ingredients, we can buy organic food. Organic growers are not allowed to use genetically modified seeds.

But all that is abut to change.

In late January, USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack decided to approve GMO alfalfa. To be more precise, he decided to completely deregulate genetically engineered alfalfa. Partial regulation, while still far from perfect, would at least have placed restrictions on growers of GMO alfalfa to decrease the risks of cross-pollination with non-GMO alfalfa.

According t0 Samuel Fromartz, an expert on the organic industry,

This move had been opposed by organic farmers and consumers because of the strong possibility that genetically modified alfalfa will cross-pollinate non-GM alfalfa. This has been recognized by the Supreme Court as potentially harmful to the organic sector, since organic foods cannot be produced with genetically modified crops. Once organic livestock are fed GM alfalfa, they can no longer be called organic. read more…

If genetically modified alfalfa, a staple of pastured livestock, finds its way to organic farms, the organic dairy and meat sectors are in danger of collapse. Which means that those of us who do pay the extra dollars for organic, will likely see prices rise even higher, very soon.

Unfortunately, once cross-pollination happens, there is no way back. Unlike an ingredient you can add to – or remove from – a processed food, if 100% of a crop will become modified, that’s it, no way to go back to the previous “version”.

And that’s exactly the fear of the organic sector. If you want to learn more about this and do something – take a look at the Non GMO Project.

This is certainly an important war to wage. Thankfully, there are many groups, severely underfunded, that are relentlessly battling the political / agricultural ties ($500M in lobbying efforts in the last 10 years) that have led to the alfalfa and other decisions.

Unfortunately, there are many more battles to wage for our health and nutrition. So with your permission, over here at Fooducate we’ll continue to focus mostly on nutrition, labeling and food processing.

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  • Lauren

    sad that “there are many wars to wage” with our friggin’ (so professional I know) food. Organic not GMO is at least one defense in this case. Would like to hear more fooducation on GMOs hope you don’t shy away.

  • http://www.awakenedwellness.com Rachel Assuncao

    If you care about having the right to choose non-GMO foods, you should take the time to sign one of the many petitions being circulated right now. Write to your government officials and let them know that this matters to you! Only if we raise enough of an outcry will there be any possibility of affecting change.

  • http://www.UrbanOrganicGardener.com Mike Lieberman

    I think we might need to look to Egypt for inspiration and ideas as to how to rectify the situation.

    Writing to politicians and continually electing a new one isn’t going to do anything. They are all the same and in the pockets of big business. Action needs to be taken.

    Obama promised all this change and nothing has changed. It’s the same ol tired story. Except his wife shills, smiles and takes a few photos for the media.

    We need sites like yours to educate us on what’s actually going on with our food, so we can make the choices based on having as much information as possible, not just the corporate BS.

    As consumers speak out by changing their actions, then true change will come about. Going into a booth and signing petitions ain’t gonna change a damned thing.

    Thanks for your inspiration and keep educating the masses.

  • http://www.spoonfedblog.net Christina @ Spoonfed

    The main problem with GMOs is that they’re a big experiment using our health and our food supply as test subjects. We simply don’t know all the effects GMOs could have on people or animals, so labeling is absolutely essential in order for consumers to make informed decisions. It’s also up for serious debate whether GMOs are needed to “feed the world” (as Big Ag likes to say). I addressed that in a recent blog post on GMOs, in which I also recount discussing GMOs with my 7-year-old: http://spoonfedblog.net/2011/02/05/the-abcs-of-gmos/ The post also includes non-GMO shopping guides and links to many articles/resources on the subject.

    Spoonfed: Raising kids to think about the food they eat

  • Jomiller11

    If cross pollination happens, there should be a sample of the original plant in a lab. These genetic libraries have been built up for years and as many genomes as possible are saved for future needs.

  • David Kanaszyc

    Genetic modification is an anomaly that has existed for over 20 years; in fact it has existed since the agricultural revolution. GMO critics do not understand the premises behind genetic modification, and therefore can not criticize it! Education is key… pick up a text book and gain insight into what is actually going on a biological level!

    • http://www.spoonfedblog.net Christina @ Spoonfed

      “GMO critics do not understand the premises behind genetic modification, and therefore can not criticize it!”

      Wow, that is one incredibly broad statement. I’ve researched the topic extensively and feel quite comfortable opposing GMOs. And I’d wager that all the scientists and agricultural experts who criticize GMOs (and know a lot more about the topic than most of us do) feel pretty darn comfortable in their assessments, too.

      Perhaps you’d like to enlighten us on what we “do not understand”?

      • David Kanaszyc

        I would like you to enlighten me on the breadth of my statement, as I would also like to see the sources of your research. I personally am a scientist myself (and yes I do have an above average insight into this topic); it is the naivety of people to take single statements out of context and base entire beliefs on it.

        I myself criticize aspects of genetic modification, but the technology has also been quite beneficial to mankind. It is necessary to find a balance, which can only be achieved through education on the topic (no I do not mean subjective sources by one sided people/organizations). If you want some info… google scholar some research papers (there you shall find some of most classic and contemporary research).

        • http://www.spoonfedblog.net Christina @ Spoonfed

          David, what was broad about your statement is that you lumped all GMO critics together, regardless of their backgrounds or the depth of their research into the issue. And now you’re presuming to know how and where other people have done their research (“take single statements out of context and base entire beliefs on it” and “subjective sources by one-sided people/organizations”). Those sorts of assumptions don’t help the cause or the conversation.

          • David Kanaszyc

            Christina, I am not lumping GMO critics together (as I am one myself). I am merely making a statement about the people that belong to the ever so narrow mean on the distribution of GMO critics. They are not assumptions, I am just concerned about the less blind leading the more blind!

  • http://www.livingitupcornfree.com/ kc

    The main problem with our lack of GMO policies in the US is that it takes away our ability to choose. It is simply impossible to make a stand against GMOs when you’re buying hidden ones in every section of the grocery store. Most consumers don’t know that those beautiful organic red peppers in the produce section are coated with GMO corn wax or that the baby carrots they buy are swimming in GMO corn-derived citric acid. What about the soaker pad soaked with citric acid under every chicken and piece of beef in the meat department? You buy grass fed beef online, you say? Well, did you know that the cryovac packages are dusted with GMO cornstarch before the grass fed beef is packaged and USDA regulations require the spraying of carcasses with lactic acid or another GMO corn-derived acidified salt? And did you know that those same GMO sprays are allowed by the USDA for use on organic meats and produce during processing, too? Do you buy any of the countless items made with white or distilled vinegar? If so, your pickles, ketchup, mustard and salad dressings are all full of GMO corn even if they contain no HFCS.

    The simple truth is that any substance used in the processing or packaging phase of our food is not considered an “ingredient”, therefore it need not be listed on the label. The way things stand in our country, to avoid GMO corn the informed consumer must seek out non-fortified milk (GMO corn oil is used a vitamin carrier), non-enriched wheat products (again the vitamin carrier is cornstarch), non-iodized salt, unwaxed peppers and cucumbers, grass fed beef that isn’t USDA certified (buy half a cow and have it processed to your specifications), and avoid any product by any major food corporation because all those multisyllabic additives are made from corn. Since our small meat processors are in danger of being run out of business by the giants in the industry and organic farmers have the deck stacked against them as well, the situation is already dire in America. Dairy, meat and produce sections of the grocery store should not be minefields of GMO corn. Let’s face it…..we expect fast food and processed foods to be full of GMO corn, but who knew a bell pepper is no longer just a bell pepper?

    I won’t even go into superweeds, increased need for petroleum based fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides, the REAL cost of growing these crops and the damage done to the soil. BigAg doesn’t like to mention that “feeding the world” requires tons and tons of petroleum which nobody can afford without government subsidies and military intervention. I don’t have time to mention all the GMO corn derivatives used in prescription and OTC drugs, but suffice it to say that pharmacies would have to shut down without GMOs. Do you even want to know how much corn is in your household products used for cleaning and personal hygiene? Even expensive perfumes contain corn alcohol just like all the other scented products (deodorant, hairspray, lotions, powders, etc). All of these things are full of GMOs: adhesive bandages, pedialyte, baby formula, envelopes, toilet tissue, antibacterial gels, baby wipes, fabric softener, detergent, toothpaste, glass cleaner, shampoo, air fresheners, cosmetics, supplements, printer ink, cat litter and pet food. We feed it to babies from day one, our preschoolers are surrounded by it in the form of craft supplies and snacks, school age children are eating it every day for lunch (and most of them for breakfast and dinner, too). This is one huge genetic experiment in which none of us chose to participate. Believe this corn allergic mom, it’s damn hard to avoid being a part of this experiment. No one can do it “casually” or “accidentally” – it takes tons of research and a lot of ingenuity and boatloads of hard work.

  • http://ithinkitneedsmoreturbinado.blogspot.com/ SL

    “Today, about 90% of soy, corn, cotton, and canola seeds are genetically modified. Which means that any food made from any of these ingredients is considered “genetically modified”. That includes chocolate (contains soy lecithin), snacks (fried in oil), vegetarian dishes (tofu is made from soy), and most fast foods.”

    I only eat organic (normally non-US) tofu, stay away from cotton seed and canola oils like the plague and MAKE most of our own junk food. In out house we read up on what suppliers to companies are GE things and avoid them like crazy. It IS possible.

    BTW I’ve also never set foot inside a Whole Foods. They aren’t really helping the cause if you ask me.

  • CR Masterson

    To anyone who thinks inserting bacteria, virus, or other genes into the foreign context of a PLANT’s DNA is ok, I refer you to Belinda Martineau, Ph.D, molecular geneticist and co-developer of the first commercialized genetically engineered for crop and author of First Fruit: The Creation of the Flavr Savr Tomato and the Birth of Biotech Food. SHE says this MUTAGENIC ENGINEERING PROCESS should be more thoroughly studied, and more thoroughly regulated-especailly by the FDA before they are ever released into commerce. Read I.M. Smith’s Genetic Roulette to get a full view of ag-biotech duplicity and just why GMO is a travesty. Also, if you do a bit of research, you find the claims of ag-biotech about increasing food yields are not accurate. I disagree with the author of the above article: this topic is not that hard to understand; further, if you focus mostly on nutrition, labeling and food processing, there is no more important issue than this one.

  • http://chefdesmond.blogspot.com Chefdesmond

    This is thanks to companies like Monsanto….Great article!!

  • Trisha Lynn

    As long as we have choices (and we still do) I vote for Non-GMO/Organics with my dollars whenever and wherever possible! Thank you for this informative article.

  • http://krilloil.mercola.com/krill-oil.html Kathy Minnich

    GMO foods are a hotly debated topic in the past few years, and
    especially in the last month. We haven’t addressed this issue and
    thought it might be time to share some thoughts.”

    For me, much better if government must ban all GMO related products in the market. We all know its health risk so why do we need to consume it?

  • http://twitter.com/genebernice genebernice

    Genetic modification food cause allergies to people. GMO food is not safe. Recently when I went to general stores, there is some discussion is going on GMO foods. Finally we concluded not to have GMO food. Benefits Of Lecithin