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GMOs-What are Genetically Modified Organisms and Why Do They Matter?

nutrition

GMOs-What are Genetically Modified Organisms and Why Do They Matter?

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I’d be surprised if by now you haven’t seen a news report or caught an article on the issues surrounding Genetically Modified Organism–or GMOs. Recently there’s been a media blitz the release of a 23-page executive report by Consumer Reports.In this article, I’m going to simplify what GMOs are and why we should all be concerned with their rampant prevalence in our food today.

The controversy regarding GMOs is a heated one. Here area few key points you need to know:

  • More and more studies report that genetically modified foods can cause damage to our health and possibly even cancer. Many people trying to eat healthier, buying organic products whenever possible and find out from Consumer Reports that,“the overwhelming majority of corn and soy planted in the United States is genetically engineered.” This is a serious concern for us all if we eat processed foods, since the vast majority of those foods contain genetically modified corn or soy.
  • Modifying the genetic structure of our food isn’t new, but significant advances have allowed scientists to actually breed corn or soy seeds with a built-in pesticide. This allows these genetically engineered seeds to survive pests, but then we unknowingly consume foods made from the genetically engineered products—including the pesticide. These heartier seed provided by technology could revolutionize how we produce food to feed a growing world population, but most would agree the cost far outweighs any benefit.
  • A recent French study found a certain type of genetically engineered corn, NK603, is modified to be less affected by a commonly used herbicide. This allows farmers to eliminate surrounding weeds, but then  we are left consuming small quantities of this herbicide in the corn. In this study, scientists fed rats this strand of corn that contained the herbicide and they found the rats eventually developed massive tumors after less than a year on this test diet versus the rats fed a “regular” diet. I don’t know about you, but I want the choice to know any food I consume could potentially contain the same herbicide that caused those tumors!

Consumer Reports also conducted a national telephone survey and 72% of consumers said they think it’s important to avoid GMOs when grocery shopping and 92% think all GE (genetically engineered) foods should be labeled as such. Unfortunately there are currently no government requirements and all GMO labeling is optional. What’s even more frightening is the extremely limited GMO safety testing required by our government.

Conglomerate food companies are putting all their vast financial and lobbying resources to use in the fight against labeling foods containing GMOs. In the United States the top three food companies (Monsanto, DuPont and Sygenta) control the vast majority of the genetically engineered soy and corn seed. In 2012 and 2013 corporations spent a combined $64 million to fight GMO labeling efforts!Currently, more than 60 countries around the world require GMO labeling or ban GMOs completely. Even more astounding is that agribusiness giant Monsanto supports labeling abroad, but not in the United States.

At present we are being left in the dark in this country concerning GMO labeling, but it is truly impressive the progress ground roots efforts have made to force our food manufacturers to label our products honestly. Oregon and Colorado are currently in the process of trying to pass legislation in November that would require labeling of products containing any genetically engineered ingredients.With only a few weeks until this proposition is voted on in Oregon, DuPont donated 2.5 million to the campaign against GMO labeling; this is the largest campaign donation in the state’s history.If you live in those states, please take action and cast your vote in favor of GMO labeling. If you live in other states, I urge you to contact your state legislators to tell them you are in favor of mandatory labeling of all food products containing GMOs. It’s up to us to find out what’s in our foods before they wind up in our bodies.

Suzanne Scribner, R.D.

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