Tuesday, February 8, 2011
You may have read or heard about GMO or genetically modified organisms making their way into our food supply. GMO is the result of a laboratory process of taking genes from one species and inserting them into another in an attempt to obtain a desired trait or characteristic. This process may be called Genetic Engineering (GE) or Genetic Modification (GM); they are the same thing.
GM food goes beyond selective breeding and grafting. Some plants are combined with animal and even human genes to produce desired characteristics. Imagine a frost resistant strawberry. The plant was spliced with arctic fish genes, yummy. No such product exists in your grocery store…yet.
No long term studies have been done to show that GM food is safe. The tests that have been done are done by the very corporations who create the seeds. GM foods are showing up everywhere. According to the Grocery Manufacturers Association up to 75% of processed food in the US contains GM ingredients.
Most GM food is consumed when we eat processed food. Processed food containing GM ingredients include cereals, baby formula, bread, mayonnaise, hot dogs, salad dressings and corn chips. It is impossible to list them all because our government does not require labeling of food containing GM ingredients. Only certified organic foods are GM free.
Meat and dairy can be included as GM food because animals we eat or provide milk for us have been fed a diet consisting of GM crops.
Farmers who choose to grow organic or non-GMO crops are fearful of cross contamination because crops are pollinated by bees that can carry pollen for miles.
Many countries are saying no to GM foods. European nations oppose GM foods. Companies like Kellogg’s sell products in the US that contain GM ingredients but they manufacture non-GM products for their European customers who have spoken loudly and clearly about their desire to stay clear of untested, potentially hazardous food.
Opposition continues to grow about the safety of GM food. The key traits that have been added to commercial GM crops are herbicide tolerance, which allows farmers to spray GM crops with herbicide to kill weeds while not killing the crop itself, and insect resistance, particularly through the expression of Bt-toxin (a toxin produced by the bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis). Some crops possess both traits.
Growing your own food or purchasing it from a farmer you know will allow you to consume healthier, safer food. Cutting out processed food will virtually eliminate your chances of consuming GM food. These so called convenience foods are not necessarily so convenient when you consider the lack of testing on the ingredients and the potential dangers associated with eating food that is engineered to outsmart nature.
Nature provides what we need to grow food. She also gives us challenges that we overcome like too much rain, too little rain, too much heat, too little heat, insects and weeds. Herbicides and pesticides do not contribute to the health or delicate balance we need to raise plants or animals for food.
Humans have been farming for thousands of years without the use of herbicides and pesticides. One third of the world’s workers work in agriculture, but this giant workforce produces less than five percent of the gross world product. Our food system is broken.
Try growing some of your own food and if you can’t, buy some from a local farmer who can tell you how he did it. I can guarantee he wasn’t wearing a lab coat and a mask when he planted, nurtured and harvested his livelihood and your supper.
Photo courtesy of picedit.blogspot.com