There has been a lot of discussion regarding genetically modified organisms (GMO). Most recently, the argument has focused on labeling foods to make the consumer aware of what they are buying (New York State). The question still remains, not whether we want our food labeled for GMO but whether we are pro or con regarding GMO altogether.
Definition: Genetically Modified Organisms, GMO, is food with ingredients created through gene splicing DNA from a variety of plants and animals. It is done in a laboratory setting and been in research and testing prior to 1974. *In 1972 Stanley Cohen and Herbert Boyer decided to pool their knowledge and in 1973 created a method of cloning predetermined DNA patterns. Their breakthrough not only earned them a Nobel Prize but paved the way to modern genetic engineering. source.
Confusion: There is no hard evidence over years of testing that indicates GMO is a direct cause of health issues (possible links TO, but causes, no). Too many other factors come into play that cannot be removed from the equation: stress, sedentary lifestyle, environmental toxins, processed/fast foods, hybridized wheat products NON-GMO consumption.
What we WANT but don't WANT: Consumers want variety when visiting the grocery store or market. Juicier tomatoes, large cuts of meat, sweeter, larger produce, and mixed/matched dog breeds, are the result of genetic modifications. When the gene transfer occurs in a laboratory environment, it speeds up the process rather than waiting for nature to produce the desired gene. In cases where popular produce is a result of GMO experimentation, the desired outcome is an engineered product resistant to pests and herbicides. This transfers into reduced usage of pesticide. That's a good thing, right?
The majority of research has found that genetically engineered food is safe which is why the FDA has not interfered. In fact, the FDA is investigating a modified fish, fast growing salmon, for human consumption. To this point, food tested has not been any more likely to cause allergic or toxic reaction than from traditionally bred plants. Labeling of GMO varieties will reveal the same nutritional content as NON GMO varieties. However, proponents of the labeling act proclaim it is "about transparency, not technology". Source.
Labeling: From a study "Costs of Labeling Genetically Modified Food Products in N.Y.State by Professors in Science and Business Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management at Cornell University, the following breakdown discusses possible results of GMO labeling:
- Labeling would apply to 40% of food and alcohol items. *Excluding restaurant food, livestock products, alcohol, organic products
- 50% of food in supermarkets would be affected. Due to the large number, it is impossible to predict what processors and stores might do.
- Compliance: (Based on a 4 person household, annually) To label existing products (warehouse, store cost, labeling) $68 - $64. Usage of NON GM ingredient would be higher costs $412 - $44. Usage of organic ingredients would be more costly to the consumer and stores to keep separated $1552 - $360. *Annual family of 4, $500 annually best estimate with full labeled/unlabeled product range. The costs would shift largely to the consumer.
The report from Cornell emphasized that the above are ONLY estimates because no one can predict how both consumer and food industry would react if labeling is mandated. Studies as well as experience in Europe show shoppers avoiding/paying less for labeled genetically modified foods. The reduction of choice (loss of variety in supermarkets) and raised food costs due to higher ingredient costs of NON GM inputs contributed to consumer opting for GM foods.
Benefits: Apart from decrease in pesticide use, proponents GMO site: source.
- More stress resistant crops (enduring effects from severe weather and pest).
- More nutritious foods by inserting genes to raise food value.
- More food from less land enabling food availability for less developed countries.
- Rehabilitating overworked, damaged land.
- Bio-fuel for energy production.
- For human health, there has been mention of genetic fingerprinting: This would allow scientists to know what an organism is by looking at it's "blueprint".
- Develop vaccines and medicines and identification of allergic genes. Molecular biology may be able to characterize allergens and remove them.
Still want to avoid GMOs?: By organic. Look at the PLU code on a label of corn, if it begins with a "9", it is organic. For packaged foods, look for USDA Certified Organic labeling. 70% organic ingredient are not permitted to contain GMOs. Finally, don't eat in restaurants.
Most Popular GMO Foods: Corn, Soy, Sugar, Aspartame, Papayas, Canola oil, Dairy, Summer Squash.
What is your view? For or Against GMO foods? For or Against Full Disclosure Labeling?