We have been hearing a lot about GMO’s (genetically modified organism’s) lately and with good reason. Most Americans don’t believe that foods with GMO’s are safe. We actually don’t know what the long term effects of these organisms are for both our planet and our bodies. A decade ago, these were not part of our food supply. But today, about 30% of U.S. cropland is planted with genetically modified seeds.
You may say that you don’t eat foods with these organisms, but in fact, most Americans eat them everyday. They are mostly in processed foods in the form of ingredients derived from corn, soy, cottonseed and canola. Certified organic producers do NOT use genetically modified seeds or ingredients.
So, here’s what happens…scientists splice, or shoot in a desired foreign gene (which can come from a fish, petunia, and even a human) into a plant. This is intended to help the new organism resist pesticides, pests or freezing. At the same time they also insert a virus or bacteria, which helps the foreign gene invade the host cell. Yikes!
We do know that new proteins introduced into our food supply has raised concerns about new allergies, which comes from our immune system’s over-reaction to proteins. In fact, childhood allergies to peanuts (closely related to soy) have doubled between 1997 and 2002, according to research in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology (2003, vol. 112, no. 6). We don’t know if GMO’s are responsible or not.
In Europe and Japan, foods with GMO’s are labeled and consumer pressure has driven these products off the shelves. It would be a good idea for people in this country-especially children and pregnant women- to at least have the choice to know which foods have GMO’s and which ones don’t. Because the USDA has made a decision not to label genetically modified foods, the only way that U.S. consumers can avoid them is by eating organic.