The Importance of GMO Food Labeling
Unless you live under a rock, you’ve probably heard the term GMO (Genetically Modified Organisms), and have likely eaten foods that were genetically engineered in some form or fashion. But, do you know what this actually means and what it’s doing to your body?
What is a GMO?
A genetically engineered food is a plant or meat product that has had its DNA artificially altered in a laboratory by genes from other plants, animals, viruses, or bacteria, in order to produce foreign compounds in that food. This type of genetic alteration is not found in nature, and is experimental. The correct scientific term is "transgenics," and is also often referred to as (GE) genetically engineered.
Example: Genetically Modified corn has been engineered in a laboratory to produce pesticides in its own tissue. GMO Corn is regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency as an Insecticide, but is sold unlabeled.
64 countries, including the entire European Union and China, have jumped the non-GMO train, banning the use, or requiring the labeling, of all GMO products. Of all of the developed countries in the world, the United States and Canada have yet to jump ship. Why is this? Are we so concerned with money that we would jeopardize the welfare of our citizens. With some of the highest cancer rates (and other health issues) in the world, we should probably take note of the nutritional strategies other nations are implementing and align ourselves with those strategies. Besides, our people are demanding it.
But, instead of GMO labeling, what do we get? A Website funded by the likes of Monsanto, trying to shift the conversation about labeling and other issues. The site was launched by the agriculture biotech industry—specifically Monsanto, Dow Chemical, DuPont, Syngenta, Bayer CropScience and BASF—calling it a place where you and I can go and pose our most pressing GMO questions. I’m not going to say that every bit of information on the site is false, but would you visit RJR.com to learn about the health risks associated with smoking? I wouldn’t think so. However, the tobacco industry has been using this tactic for years.
What are the Health Risks?
Unfortunately, the demand for testing is not there yet. Unlike the strict safety evaluations required for the approval of new drugs, the safety of genetically engineered foods for human consumption is not adequately tested. It appears that we are more concerned with the drugs that treat illnesses than the foods causing them. We spend billions of dollars a year treating symptoms and rarely address the causes. Treating the cause would mean reducing illnesses. Reducing illnesses would mean less need for medications and doctor’s visits. And, less money into the medical industry would mean bad news for the economy. Painting this picture makes it pretty clear why our country is so sick.
The “Substantial Equivalence” Concept
The issue of GM food safety was first discussed at a meeting of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the World Health Organization (WHO) and biotech representatives in 1990. The "substantial equivalence" concept was proposed in early 1996. The adoption of the concept of substantial equivalence allowed permission to market and sell new foods without any safety or toxicology tests as long as they were not too different in chemical composition to foods already on the market.
To decide if a modified product is substantially equivalent, the product is tested by the manufacturer for unexpected changes in a limited set of variables such as toxins, nutrients or allergens that are known to be present in the unmodified food. If these tests show no significant difference between the modified and unmodified products, then no further food safety testing is required.
What Can You Do?
A recent poll, conducted earlier this year by The New York Times shows that three-quarters of Americans are concerned about the number of genetically modified or engineered foods. And a staggering 93 percent of them support mandatory labeling of GMO products. It is now the responsibility of policy writers and legislators to see that this public outcry makes its way to a bill.
You can help push your local and state representatives by telling the FDA that you wish to have your foods labeled as Genetically Modified. Visit this site to voice your opinion and protect your right to know what’s in your food.
Please take a moment to share your stance on Genetically Modified Foods. Do you believe that we deserve to know if our foods have been genetically modified?