Genetically Modified Organisms and Food What you should know about Genetically modified organisms and food.

31Mar/120

The Non-GMO Shopping Guide

In further exploration of how to fight against Genetically Modified Organisms and what organizations to look into and possibly sponsor we are going to look at The Non-GMO Project. The Non-GMO Project is a non-profit organization that was thought up and implemented different groups of the organic/natural products industry in the United States and Canada.  Their goal is to create a non-GMO choice for food and that is created by using no genetically modified products or any modification processes.

Originally created by retailers who wanted to give their consumers healthy organic, and unmodified choices in the marketplace, the different retailers soon found that they needed to create a systemt that would identify products that were non GMO for consumers to buy. They also created a set of guidelines to help farmers and others avoid GMO contamination in crops. Their guide helps to illustrate different methods to be used in farming and other areas such as risk assessment, sampling techniques, and quality control for seeds and crops. After a rigorous evaluation process, the product is given the seal of approval by the organization and listed on their list of non-Genetically Modified products.

Not only is the organization taking drastic steps to help farmers and other companies avoid GMO contamination, they are also educating the public through their website. They allow website viewers to shop by name brands and already verified products. Adding non-GMOs to the list is not only restricted to companies, they allow all people to try and register a product for getting on the list. They’re not only educating the public on Genetically Modified Organisms, but they are also getting the public involved in ways to help. Since they are a non-profit they mostly take donations and volunteers.

Through their hard work in creating standards for non-GMO foods, other programs have started to follow their lead and add on to the list of verified products, including the website Non-GMO Shopping Guide. This website in particular is hosted by the Institute for Responsible Technology, a program which promotes the use of technology only after being rigorously tested and checked. The website is also linked with The Campaign for Healthier Eating in America, which besides promoting healthy eating, is an avid campaign against Genetically Modified Organisms.

Not only are organizations taking notice of the need for non-GMO alternatives in shopping, but they are also taking steps to help educate the public. Through getting the public involved in creating guides for alternative shopping they are not only educating but also benefiting more from people adding more and more products to the lists.

 

http://www.nongmoproject.org/

http://www.nongmoshoppingguide.com/

http://www.responsibletechnology.org/

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24Mar/120

What you can do to fight GMOs

With Genetically Modified Organisms becoming more and more popular you are probably wondering what you can do to avoid ingesting the chemical creations. There are mainly two ways you can fight these takeovers: you can join an initiative to fight against GMOs or you can support your local crop producers who do not partake in growing GMOs. You may also take more defined steps and, with a little research, avoid buying any products created by GMO conglomerates such as Monsanto, DuPont and Syngenta, which are the leading companies in producing and selling Genetically Modified Organisms.

First and foremost, you should become more educated on Genetically Modified Organisms, the scientific findings on them, research being done on them, and groups that have the same viewpoints as you. There are many groups petitioning to have GMOs labeled in food stores and also those that are fighting to have them removed all together. There are both extreme and realistic groups, its always up to the consumer to look into which group they identify with and decide whether they want to be apart of that group or simply show support. Some popular websites that host a different array of information pertaining to Genetically Modified Organisms are:

  • www.foei.org (Friends of the Earth)
  • http://www.greenpeace.org/international/en/campaigns/agriculture/problem/genetic-engineering/
  • www.organicconsumers.org (Organic Consumers Association)
  • www.i-sis.org.uk/ (Institute of Science in Society)
  • www.ucsusa.org (Union of Concerned Scientists)
  • www.gene-watch.org
  • www.biointegrity.org
  • www.safe-food.org

Many farmers in local areas buy seed from smaller companies; it is more likely that these would be organic. Nevertheless, if you wish to patronize your local farmers and wish to avoid Genetically Modified Organisms at the same time, you should talk with the farmers and find out where they get their seed from.  To completely avoid Genetically Modified Organisms the food you would want to purchase would have to be 100% organic. There are laws in the United States that allow foods, including GMOs, to be labeled as organic even though they can only be 95% organic. While the prices for 100% organic crops are usually higher, they are worth the price difference in many consumers’ eyes.

To fight Genetically Modified Organisms it is best to have a combine strategy of buying from local farmers and also being apart of a national organization to fight GMOs, if you so wish. Being apart of a campaign will keep you up to date on changes in GMO policies and other aspects of the fight.

Sources:

http://www.downtoearthnw.com/stories/2010/apr/07/saying-no-gmo/

http://truthinlabelingcoalition.org/

http://www.greenpeace.org/international/en/campaigns/agriculture/problem/genetic-engineering/

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3Mar/120

Monsanto

Monsanto

While GMOs are being stocked on grocery shelves many people can’t help but wonder which companies are engineering these products and which ones support them. Unsurprisingly, many of the companies that create GMOs are the same companies that use pesticides. One of the most well known companies that create genetically modified seeds and pesticides is called Monsanto.

Monsanto is a multinational agricultural biotechnology corporation that’s roots originate in chemical production. Monsanto is now the leading creator of Genetically Modified seeds. Some of these seeds include soybean seeds and canola seeds, they not only genetically modify these seeds, but they own the patent to these seeds and that is where a lot of issues come in to play. If by chance these seeds were to fall out during shipping or get into a farm field and grow in a farmer’s land, Monsanto can sue the farmer for illegally growing these patented seeds. This happens fairly recently. One of the most well known cases of this happening is to Gary Rinehart, a farmer who owns a small convenience store and a patch of land. He was ineffectively bullied by some of Monsanto’s ‘seed police’, private investigators whose jobs are to investigate whether or not the company’s seeds are being grown or used illegally, in order to try and sign his land of to the Genetic Giant.

Monsanto is a dangerous corporation that borderlines on an illegal monopoly. It already owns a vast majority of companies that genetically engineer seeds and those that it does not own It acquires. Recently “Monsanto paid $1.4 billion for Seminis, which controlled 40 percent of the U.S. market for lettuce, tomatoes, and other vegetable and fruit seeds” (Monsanto’s Harvest of Fear). It has acquired multiple other companies over the years and now Monsanto owns the patent to soybean seeds that make up 90% of the United States’ production of soybeans.  In essence, this company owns the American soybean industry, nothing short of a monopoly.

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Barlett, D., and J. Steele. "Monsantos Harvest of Fear." Vanity fair. N.p., 2008. Web. 2 Mar 2012. <http://www.vanityfair.com/politics/features/2008/05/monsanto200805>.

Guregian, Noreen. "Genetically Engineered Crops, It's What's For Dinner: Monsanto Co. V. Geertson Seed Farms." Loyola Of Los Angeles Law Review 44.3 (2011): 1249-1267. Academic Search Complete. Web. 2 Mar. 2012.

 

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25Feb/120

GMO regulations

While in the United States GMOs are not listed as so on products, there are many people trying to change the policy to get. There is a significantly higher amount of legislation in Europe on genetically modified foods. For instance, in the US GMOs are given a short time period of testing, but in Europe, there is an organization called the European Food Safety Authority, which demands that genetically modified foods go through a rigorous set of studies before it can be shelved for consumers.

The European Food Safety Authority has its assessments carried out by the GMO Panel, which is made up of scientists who are supported by a number of experts that study in fields such as allergenicity, ecology, microbiology, toxicology, plant physiology and molecular genetics. Working hand in hand with these scientists, the EFSA is able to draw conclusions on whether or not many of the foods passed through legislation are hazardous or can be potentially hazardous to consumers or the environment over time. While the European Union seems to be taking great lengths in order to protect consumers and the environment, the United States is more on the fence about its policies.

Recently, a type of salmon has been genetically altered to have a longer growth period during its life, resulting in bigger fish.  The United States is eager to push this genetically modified creature through tests quickly to allow selling to the consumer. If this salmon was to get through legislation it would be the first genetically modified animal that would be available to consumers to eat. Many people want there to be additional testing on the salmon before it is passed into grocery stores, as the long term side effects of consuming a genetically modified animal cannot be studied within such a short amount of time.

This is extremely dangerous and short sighted of the United States to push a product that was tested so rapidly onto consumers. There is a chance that there can be adverse allergic reactions to the fish by consumers and there could also be a chance for cross breeding between salmon. Even if they put the product on shelves quickly, if the government were to label as to what products are GMOs and which are not, that would at least give a healthy warning to consumers who do not wish to eat GMOs.

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http://www.efsa.europa.eu/en/topics/topic/gmo.htm

http://usfoodpolicy.blogspot.com/2010/10/gmo-proponents-should-call-for-stronger.html

Interesting youtube video on GM Salmon: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SDI1j2YR6Oo

 

 

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18Feb/120

The Dangers of GMOs

We’ve been over what a Genetically Modified Organism is, it’s an organism such as fruits, vegetables, or seeds, that has had its DNA changed through less then admirable means, including introducing viruses and bacteria into the plants genetic makeup, creating a super resistant, and unnatural plant.  That being said, the health risks of GMOs are significant, with multiple cases of extreme allergic reactions, being documented as well as a link to infertility, disruption of insulin regulation, gastrointestinal problems, immune system complications, and organ damage. Not only are the health risks an issue, but the agricultural fear that genetically modified plants will crossbreed with non-GM plants and create unforeseeable and genetically unsound byproducts.

Everyone has heard of food allergies, that kid who was in your first grade class who couldn’t get anywhere near peanut butter, remember him? A majority of the time, food allergies are the cause of some of the most deadly reactions in humans. Now imagine having an allergy to a certain type of food; you have gone out of your way in your life to avoid any sort of contact with this food, no byproducts or hidden ingredients for you. But, in the United States, how are you supposed to know if this food your reaching for, surprise, a genetically modified organism, has had any sort of genetic material related to the thing you are allergic to implanted into it? You won’t, bottom line. That’s why genetically modified organisms, which have only been on the market for two decades, yet have been forced into grocery stores at an alarming rate, are so dangerous.  Usually, when a new drug is developed, it goes through rigorous testing and the slightest sign that the drug may not be up to par will get it shelved, but GMOs are quite the opposite.

The alluring pull of creating more of a good and being able to sell it at a cheaper price, is sometimes too much for some companies, and with the rush to get the product on the market, quality is often overlooked.  When GMOs are as popular as they are, it’s not surprising that bad customer reviews are coming in. Increase in hormone levels, infertility, gastrointestinal issues and insulin issues are all being correlated to these rogue plants.  There has not been enough long term testing on GMOs and they have been advocated to quickly.  To genetically alter a food, there should be extreme testing of said food.

Pushing to plant and harvest GMOs has other possible downsides; if these genetically mutated organism were to cross pollinate with normal plants and then create a byproduct of which has not been tested in labs may cause agricultural issues. If these byproduct plants were to become the norm, there would be a possibility of a blithe. In other words, these organisms would be so genetically similar, that if a virus or pest were to come along that was immune to the plants defenses, there could be a possible huge percentage of crop failures, of which would have dire consequences for both animal and human.

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Contaminating the Wild (2006) Gene flow from experimental field trials of genetically engineered crops to related wild species. Click here to view

MITH, MELISSA DIANE. "SAY NO TO Gmos." Better Nutrition 73.3 (2011): 46-50. Alt HealthWatch. Web. 17 Feb. 2012.

http://responsibletechnology.org/article-gmo-soy-linked-to-sterility

 

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10Feb/120

What Exactly Is a Genetically Modified Organism?

The name Genetically Modified Organism sounds intimidating and it brings to mind images of sterile labs and scientists in white coats. You’re probably thinking about how this ‘organism’ sounds like some futuristic astronaut food, something you most certainly will go out of your way to avoid eating in the near future when these ‘things’ hit grocery store shelves. That sounds like a good plan, but the horrifying truth is, you’ve almost certainly already eaten some GMOs in some form…you may even have some sitting in your fridge or pantry as we speak.

First, let’s evaluate these organisms that have stealthily been introduced into our diets and grocery stores over the past decades. It’s a common fact that bugs like to eat fruits and vegetables. So, to avoid loss of crops, pesticides were created to help kill these bugs off, but unsurprisingly, the pesticides killed off many of the plants as well. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations defines pesticides as: “any substance or mixture of substances intended for preventing, destroying or controlling any pest, including vectors of human or animal disease, unwanted species of plants or animals causing harm during or otherwise interfering with the production, processing, storage, transport or marketing of food” (International Code of Conduct on the Distribution and Use of Pesticides, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations).  In essence, pesticides are and can be any cocktail recipe of viruses or bacteria that can manage to kill off any pests in order to save the crops affected from these bugs, ironically, killing the plants themselves. Something had to be done about that, cue genetically modifying the DNA of plants, making them stronger against these deadly pesticides, in order to have a higher crop yield.

Well, how do you make plants strong enough to fight off pesticides that are sometimes made up of chemicals such as organochlorine, organophosphorous, and inorganic compounds (Anwar, pg. 801)? Why, you simply modify the very genetic makeup of that vegetable or fruit, introducing viruses and bacteria into the DNA of the organism until the very genetic makeup of the fruit or vegetable is changed, unnaturally, into a sort of super organism that can fight off the deplorable conditions in which it is grown (Smith, Say No To Gmos). Well, that sounds promising, except, these super organisms, most commonly soybeans, corn, and canola, are already in your grocery store and in some of your favorite foods. In the United States, producers and manufacturers are not required to label whether or not their products contain GMOs. For example, in the United States almost “93 percent of all soybeans, 78 percent of all cotton, and 70 percent of all corn grown in the United States in 2010 were genetically modified” (Smith, Say No To Gmos). It goes without saying, that unless the product says otherwise, you’re most likely digesting some modified organisms. Soy sauce? If 93 percent of soybeans are genetically modified, you almost certainly just dipped your sushi into some good old GMOs, in liquid form.

These Genetically Modified Organisms are some intimidating products. Even more intimidating is the fact that you have most likely digested some of these products without your knowledge. Now, its time to think about which is more intimidating: the fact that you are eating an unnatural occurring plant that has been tampered with at the genetic level or the fact that GMOs have, somehow, found their way into your kitchen without your knowledge?

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Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (2002), International Code of Conduct on the Distribution and Use of Pesticides. Retrieved on 2012-2-9.

Anwar, Wagida A. “Biomarkers of Human Exposure to Pesticides.” Environmental Health Perspectives. Vol. 105, Supplement 4 (Jun., 1997), pp. 801-806

Smith, Melissa, Diane. "Say No To Gmos." Better Nutrition 73.3 (2011): 46-50. CINAHL Plus with Full Text. Web. 9 Feb. 2012.

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27Jan/120

Some beginners info on GMOs

Genetically modified foods, which are derived from genetically modified organisms, are a significant ecological, environmental, and ethical issue that is facing consumers today. The main issue against genetically modified foods is that they have had their DNA altered by genetic engineering; many of these alterations in their DNA having been with the help of introducing dangerous elements into the genetic sequencing of the plants.

Genetically modified foods sound like something out of a science fiction novel, but the united States has been at the forefront of integrating GMOs into food products for many years already. One of the most popular GMOs on the market: Soybeans.  Soybeans are the base for many products around the world, including, but not limited to, products such as soy milk, tofu, and soy sauce. That being said, over 93% of soy products have undergone genetic engineering in the US ("Adoption of Genetically Engineered Crops in the U.S."). You have most likely eaten genetically modified food and never known, seeing as how the United States does not list which products have genetically modified organisms in them.

United States. United States Department of Agriculture. Adoption of Genetically Engineered Crops in the U.S.. 2011. Web. <http://www.ers.usda.gov/Data/BiotechCrops/>.

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