Genetically-modified foods. Ever heard of them? They seem to be stirring up constant controversy and the more I learn about them, the more uneasy I become.
Genetically-modified (GM) foods are genetically engineered organisms (GEOs) whose genetic material has been altered using genetic engineering techniques. These techniques use DNA molecules from different sources, which are combined into one molecule to create a new set of genes. Freaky stuff.
The interesting thing that most Americans are probably in the dark on is that more than 40 other countries worldwide are now requiring labels for GM foods. But with the FDA showing no sign of budging on this issue, there’s a new group of about 20 states domestically that are considering their own legislation that would require food producers to label GM foods.
While others become increasingly concerned, The FDA holds strong saying that GM foods pose no safety risk. But isn’t that what they said about pink slime? And after that news came out about that, supermarkets, schools and people across the nation turned up their noses at the stuff and demanded better.
Beyond the fact that we don’t know exactly how genetically-modified foods are affecting our bodies, there’s the fact that genetically-modified and non-organic food is focused on high-yield monoculture, which is destroying biodiversity. And why is this important? Well, diversity is fundamental to life on this planet. And since organic food supports greater biodiversity, maybe going organic is more important than we thought.
Just Label It is a new organization fighting for the labeling of GM foods in the U.S. According to their website, “The U.S. government approved genetically-engineered (GE) crops nearly 20 years ago. And today, GE soy and corn make up more than 90% of the acres planted.” This video explains their core message.
Although Just Label It is gaining some momentum with more people joining the cause – including close to 500 partners – Stonyfield is the only food company partnered at the moment. But that’s likely because other food producers have their hands dirty. According to some estimates, close to 80% of packaged foods in the U.S. contain genetically-modified ingredients like transgenic corn – corn that has been genetically modified to have agronomically desirable traits, such as resistance to insect pests and pesticides. Think of it as a super-crop of sorts that probably isn’t the healthiest food we can put in our bodies.
The good news, however? Just Label It has filed a petition with the FDA that’s already received 1 million signatures. So it seems there is hope on the topic. We look forward to following this story to see if the FDA responds.
In the meantime, DietsInReview.com’s Registered Dietition Mary Hartley, RD, says GM foods are here to stay.
“I believe we should label genetically-modified foods and educate people on both sides of the argument so they can make an informed choice. Still, most people cannot afford to go entirely organic to avoid GM foods. It’s more important to eat wholesome foods in the correct amounts than it is to worry about whether they are GM or not.”
March 28th, 2012