A hotly-debated issue these days – and one we’ve raised in classes over the past week or so – is GMO’s, or genetically modified organisms.
I am by no means an expert in this, nor am I a scientist, so I rely on those who are, and other concerned people.
Here following are links and a few words about this key topic. Please do add your thoughts and reflections. It will take all of us to bring this issue to its healthy endpoint.
(1) What exactly are GMO’s? One definition put forth by the non-GMO project website is: “GMOs, or “genetically modified organisms,” are plants or animals created through the gene splicing techniques of biotechnology (also called genetic engineering, or GE). This experimental technology merges DNA from different species, creating unstable combinations of plant, animal, bacterial and viral genes that cannot occur in nature or in traditional crossbreeding.” (read more)
Here is another page from their site that offers more information.
In contrast, those in favor of GMO’s claim that not only does this process create plants / crops that are pest resistant and tolerant of herbicides, but through genetic engineering the resultant food will actually be more nutritious – here is this view.
There is a debate about the effects of GMO’s. Many feel there are are great risks and health hazards involved GMOs – that is certainly where I stand. The matter does not end there, however. There arises the issue of “the right to know.”
That is the second hotly contested issue: Should foods indicate on the ingredients list if they contain GMO’s. That is what proposition 37 is all about.
(2) Proposition 37: Thus far the FDA has ruled that companies need not state whether they are using GMO’s in your food – thus it need not be labeled as such on the ingredient list. While I am personally against the use of GMO’s, regardless of where one stands on this issue, it seems a basic consumer right that companies and producers clearly indicate if their foods contain GMO’s or not. And that is what proposition 37 is all about.
This November in the state of California they are encouraging residents to vote YES on prop 37 to mandate companies to list all GMO ingredients in their foods and farming practices. If prop 37 is passed, most likely it will, California would be the first and only state in the US to have such a mandate. In contrast, throughout Europe, companies must list GMO’s on the ingredients.
Here is an interesting article about heath-food companies and the prop 37 vote in California. Hint: Not all so-called health-food companies are for it – for reasons best known to them. Even if you do not reside in California, you can support the prop 37 initiative here.
Here is an article by the Environmental Working Group on the prop 37 vote.
(3) How to Avoid GMO’s: Okay, so now that we have a basic working definition of what GMO’s are and understand the health hazards and risks involved, not to mention the secrecy by not having to list GMO’s on the ingredients list. Then how do we ensure that we are not eating genetically modified foods?
The non-gmo shopping guide website gives four basic tips: buy organic, look for non-gmo labeling, avoid at-risk foods, and use their shopping guide. To get their shopping guide one must input personal info, which I did. And I have uploaded the shopping guide for you here so you can simply download it without sharing your info etc.
Another great way to avoid GMO’s which they did not mention is to grow your own food, which many do (as far as possible), but certainly there are limits to doing this for most of us.
Here is the non-gmo shopping guide website, which is a very comprehensive and wonderfully informative site. Just know that you can get their shopping guide, hassle-free, from my afore-noted link. Beyond that the site has lots of great info.
For those interested, here is another step-by-step checklist for avoiding genetically modified foods.
(4) This is a BIG topic: We live in an age where money can buy science, and where money can buy secrecy. At present, companies are doing all kinds of things to the foods we eat – without our knowing about it. At the very least, we should be aware of what is in our food. That is what prop 37 is all about – we need such a proposition here in Maryland and, for that matter, across the globe.
If companies are going to be given the choice to produce foods in ways that is easiest and most-profitable for them, then citizens and consumers must be empowered with the knowledge of what is in that food and how it was produced. To keep this under wraps is seemingly unthinkable, yet that is exactly what is going on all across the US.
At the very least, we should all know about this issue so we can begin to make educated choices and inform others. I certainly invite you to share your knowledge and thoughts below, as well as express your voice about this through other channels.
UPDATE ON OCT 12, 2012:
HOW TO IDENTIFY GENETICALLY MODIFIED PRODUCE
“Genetically Modified Fruits and vegetable have a 5 digit code that begins with an 8. Stores don’t have to reveal which fruits and vegetables are genetically modified, but they still need to keep track of the different types of foods they buy and sell.” Read more about this….
(I have yet to test this theory in the store – and I am not quite sure it is a fool-proof method, nonetheless it is interesting and a good thing to know about – of course if you are able to buy organic then it is a moot point.)