When is corn not corn? When is a chicken not a chicken? What is a better egg? The answer is when it’s been genetically modified. We have been trying to produce better food forever. Farms modified food when they saved seeds of cream-of-the-crop plants to grow the next season. That's when we turned small bunches of tiny kernels on tall grass years ago into the big ears of corn on the cob we have today. We picked the best animals of the litter to breed "new-and-improved" animals. We grafted the branch of one orange tree to another orange tree to get a different tasting orange. What we do now is we alter the genetic code of the plant or animal. This alteration can be genetic coding is taken out or added to produce a product that is more desirable.
Today we alter the DNA of seeds with radiation or chemicals, and then choose which resulting plants to breed. Scientist can also just snip genes from another plant, virus or bacteria and attach it in to another plant or animal to create a desired plant or animal. This is called “genetic engineering.” This is how we create “Genetically Modified Foods” or “Genetically Modified Organisms” (GMOs).
For a few decades food manufacturers began to rely GMOs as a way to improve a plant’s resistance to pest, a tolerance to herbicides, making them more apt to survive weather changes and increase crop yield. We can even get bigger eggs, chickens with bigger wings, cows with more milk or animals that grow faster. We can do it but is it safe to eat? Do we know how our bodies will digest the “Genetically Modified Foods” (GMOs)? Will the GMOs cause genetic changes to our bodies?
In the US about 80% of our packaged foods contain GMOs. 90% of the corn, 93% of the soybean crop and 95% of the beets are genetically modified. Beets are used in making our sugar. Sugar is found in thousands of the products we eat everyday. We are exposed to GMOs every day weather we like it or not. Over 60 countries require food manufactures to label the fact that the food is a GMO. The US doesn’t require that type of labelling. Some states are considering GMO labelling legislation.
Food manufacturers insist that GMOs are safe because they have not been proven to cause harm or illness in humans. Are they right? No one knows for sure how safe GMOs are. It could take decades of scientific research to definitely prove GMOs are harmless in humans. Several animal studies suggest health risks such as infertility, immune problems and impaired insulin regulation. The FDA's is responsible to make sure all food is safe to eat. Soybeans enriched with a protein from a Brazil nut wasn't brought to market, even as animal feed, because tests showed that it might trigger a reaction for people with an allergy to those nuts. Animal viruses may be used in genetic engineering. Will this infect humans or other animals that eat meat produced this way.
The FDA issued guidance to help developers meet the high standards of the Codex Alimentarius and U.S. food safety regulations. The Center for Veterinary Medicine makes sure the animal is different in the way the developer says it is and that it's safe to eat. The FDA is required by the National Environmental Policy Act to consider the impacts of GMO animals on the environment. The FDA must also know how easily GMOs could spread disease.
Genetically engineered salmon that grows to full size in about half the time it normally takes. The FDA wanted to know if genetically engineered salmon would mix with salmon whose genes haven't been engineered and how likely they would be to survive and reproduce if they did. To lower the risks, developers have to raise the salmon in secure facilities in Canada and Panama. The tanks cannot connect to any outside body of water. These engineered salmon farms have to have barriers, screens and nets to prevent fish and eggs from getting out as well as birds and other predators from getting in. The GMO salmon are sterile.
In the produce section, only a few things might be GMOs:
• Papayas from Hawaii
• Summer squash
• Sweet corn
Today we would be hard pressed avoiding GMOs completely. Processed foods generally contain the highest percentage of GMO ingredients. Even some of our whole unprocessed foods may be affected by GMOs. Our milk, eggs and meats may contain ingredients and additives that were produced from GMOs. Animals may have been nourished with genetically modified feeds.
Some tips to help you avoid GMOs include:
• Purchase dairy that is labelled USDA organic
• Choose animal products that are labeled grass fed or free range
• Look for the USDA Organic seal to ensure that the animal did not receive GMO feed
• Buy wild caught fish
• Choose organic or GMO free grains