A. GMO FACTS
What are GMOs?
- Genetically modified organisms are living organisms whose genetic material has been artificially manipulated in a laboratory through genetic engineering, or GE. - This relatively new science creates unstable combinations of plant, animal, bacteria and viral genes that do not occur in nature or through traditional crossbreeding methods. - To withstand direct application of herbicide and/or to produce an insecticide. - GMO is accompanied by health problems, environmental damage and violation of farmers’ and consumers’ rights. Are GMOs safe?
- Most developed nations do not consider GMOs to be safe.
- In more than 60 countries around the world, including Australia, Japan, and all of the countries in the European Union, there are significant restrictions or outright bans on the production and sale of GMOs. Are GMOs labeled?
- No, the lobby keep this info from the public.
- In the absence of mandatory labeling, the Non-GMO Project was created to give consumers the informed choice they deserve. Where does the Non-GMO Project come in?
- The Non-GMO Project is a non-profit organization with a mission of protecting the non-GMO food supply and giving consumers an informed choice. - If people stop buying GMOs, companies will stop using them and farmers will stop growing them. Do Americans want non-GMO foods and supplements?
- According to a recent CBS/New York Times poll, 53% of consumers said they would not buy food that has been genetically modified. How common are GMOs?
In the U.S., GMOs are in as much as 80% of conventional processed food. Why does the Non-GMO Project verify products that have a low risk of containing GMOs? - Some ingredients that seem low-risk may have less-visible high-risk ingredients. (Ex: dried food) - Contamination incidents have occurred with seemingly “low-risk” products (rice, starling corn, flax). - Verifying only high-risk products puts a heavy burden on consumers to know what products are at risk of containing GMOs. - Through verifying low-risk products, the Non-GMO Project’s work builds consumer interest and industry investment in Non-GMO, even for crops that aren’t genetically engineered yet. What are the impacts of GMOs on the environment?
- Over 80% of all GMOs grown worldwide are engineered for herbicide tolerance - As a result, use of toxic herbicides like Roundup has increased 15 times since GMOs were introduced. GMO crops are also responsible for the emergence of “super weeds” and “super bugs:’
B. Genetically Modified Foods
You are a tomato farmer whose crops are threatened by a persistent species of beetle. Each year, you spend large sums of money for pesticides to protect your crops. A biotechnology company introduces a new strain of tomato plant that produces a natural pesticide, making it resistant to the beetle. By switching to this new strain, you could avoid both the beetle and the chemical pesticides traditionally needed to fight it. Genetic engineering offers a time-saving method for producing larger, higher-quality crops with less effort and expense. Yet such benefits must be balanced against the risks of changing the genetic makeup of organisms. What are those risks, and how likely are they to occur?
- Genetically modified: what exactly are we talking about?
For example, the tomato plant's beetle resistance relies on a gene from a bacterium (Bacillus thuringiensis), which scientists inserted into the tomato plant's genome. This gene, called cry1Ac, encodes a protein that is poisonous to certain types of insects, including the beetle. How is this done? Gene transfer technology is simply a sophisticated version of a cut-and-paste operation. Once the desired gene is identified in the native organism's genome, it can be cut out, transferred to the target plant, and pasted into its genome. Once the new gene has been introduced, the plant can be bred to create a new strain that passes the gene from generation to generation. - Benefits versus risks of genetically modified plants
Cross-breeding with wild populations: For all of these examples, a primary concern is preventing genetically modified versions from mixing with the naturally existing populations of plants from which they're derived. Plants rely on the transfer of pollen, via insects or the air, to breed and produce offspring, and it's difficult to control how they cross-breed in the wild. In most cases, it's not yet clear how introduction of the non-native gene would affect wild populations. Critics of genetically modified plant technology cite the need to learn more about the potential long-term impacts of genetically modified plants on the environment before mass-producing them. Toxicity or allergic reactions: Many people suffer from allergies to various food items, including nuts, wheat, eggs, or dairy products. There is concern that the protein products of introduced genes may be toxic or allergenic to certain individuals. Losing old genes: When farmers start growing genetically modified crops, they stop growing the old varieties. These old varieties are important sources of diverse genes that give plants other desirable characteristics. For example, a new pest or disease could come along and destroy the genetically modified rice. If one of the old rice varieties has a gene that makes it resistant, it could be cross-bred to make the saltwater rice resistant as well. If we lose the old varieties, we also lose their useful genes. NOTE: 70% of all processed foods in the United States contain at least one genetically modified ingredient. Unlike countries such as Australia and Japan, the United States currently has no laws requiring companies to label products containing genetically modified ingredients. Despite the controversy surrounding them, genetically modified plants have taken root in our world. As with any new technology, members of society have the responsibility to become informed about genetically modified plants, in order to make decisions about their responsible use and regulation. C. The Truth About GMOs
If you’ve eaten today, chances are you’ve had a food that’s been touched by science as well as Mother Nature. This happens at a very basic level -- in the plant's genes. We say these are genetically modified (GM). Their number is growing by leaps and bounds. Key crops include corn, soybeans, and cotton. “What that means is, like it or not, genetically modified foods are almost impossible to avoid,” says Sheldon Krimsky, PhD, an adjunct professor of public health and community medicine at Tufts Medical School in Boston. The Pros
- The World Health Organization, the National Academy of Sciences, and the American Medical Association all say these crops are at least as safe as, and often safer than, foods changed the old-fashioned way, such as when a new plant is bred from two different types. - More food: These plants can help farmers boost their yield by making crops that can live through a drought or the cold and resist disease. - Less stress on the environment: Crops built to resist pests lower farmers’ need for toxic chemical pesticides. They also require less soil to be tilled, reduce runoff, and keep the soil in place. - Better products: Scientists can create crops that contain vital nutrients. Swiss researchers created a strain of “golden” rice with high amounts of beta-carotene. Monsanto produced soybeans with lots of heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids. Other crops, like papaya and cassava, can be made to withstand disease. Bradford says. “Why reject a technology that has the potential to benefit so many people worldwide?” The Cons
People concerned about the planet, public interest groups, and religious organizations hold that GM foods can cause allergies, make your body resist antibiotics, or even lead to cancer. Independent scientists without a stake on either side see pitfalls to these high-profit, high-tech products. The rise of superweeds: Crops built to withstand herbicides could breed with each other and transfer their genes to weeds. These “superweeds” would also beat the herbicides. On the other hand, GM fans say this is nothing new. “Even nonchemical technologies create superweeds,” Bradford says. Health problems: The process often mixes or adds proteins that don’t exist in the original plant. GMO foes fear these will create new allergic reactions. They also worry that foods made to resist disease and viruses will linger in your system after you eat them, and that could make antibiotics less effective. But no studies confirm this claim. "Frankenfood" fears: The long-term effects of adding new genes to common crops are still unclear. While the industry and health leaders cite hundreds of studies to support its safety, not to mention 20 years of animal data, experts like Krimsky say studies that show bad effects on animals -- like harm to the kidneys, liver, heart, or other organs -- should carry more weight. “The prominent scientists who say the controversy surrounding GMOs has been resolved are dismissing at least 23 studies showing ill effects,” he says. “It has to be a balancing act that weighs the benefits of GMOs against the risks, and that is driven by science, not political pressure or profits.” The FDA’s only litmus test for safety is based on a policy that says GM foods are close enough to natural foods that they don’t need regulation. “The question is, how can they make that determination?” Krimsky says. The Right to Know
- Countries that require labels for GM foods include China, Australia, and the European Union. But the U.S. doesn't make food companies mark products with GM ingredients. So it’s no surprise many Americans don’t realize they’re eating them. - The FDA says companies can label foods on their own to say they are or aren’t GM, provided they keep it truthful => burden on farmers to plant, harvest, and ship GM crops separately from non-GM crops. That creates extra cost, which is passed along to the consumer.