A GMO is a genetically modified organism (also called “genetically engineered”): a plant, animal, or microorganism that is created by means that overcome natural boundaries. Genetic engineering involves crossing species that could not breed in nature. For example, genes from a fish have been placed in strawberries and tomatoes.
Many people believe that GMOs will make food better tasting, more nutritious, and longer lasting. Others hope that they will help feed the developing world’s growing population. However many, like Mori-Nu, worry that neither the FDA, the Department of Agriculture (USDA), nor the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has done any long-term testing of GMOs in food or the environment. It could take years for the unhealthful effects of GMOs to develop. The government did not require any pre-market research; and we have been eating foods with GMOs since 1996. Without research, some experts conclude GMO foods could have new and different risks for you, your family, and the environment.
The most widely grown GMO crops include soybeans, corn, canola, and cotton. Most GMOs today are of two types: “insect resistant” and “herbicide tolerant.” Those that are insect resistant are regulated as a new insecticide. When you eat GMO insect resistant corn, for example, it may be like eating pesticides. With herbicide tolerant crops, farmers no longer have to limit herbicide use to avoid killing plants. Farmers can use larger amounts of herbicides sprayed directly on plants. The practice may lead to more chemicals in your food.
According to the World Health Organization:
What are genetically modified (GM) organisms and GM foods?
These questions and answers have been prepared by WHO in response to questions and concerns by a number of WHO Member State Governments with regard to the nature and safety of genetically modified food.
Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) can be defined as organisms in which the genetic material (DNA) has been altered in a way that does not occur naturally. The technology is often called “modern biotechnology” or “gene technology”, sometimes also “recombinant DNA technology” or “genetic engineering”. It allows selected individual genes to be transferred from one organism into another, also between non-related species.
Such methods are used to create GM plants – which are then used to grow GM food crops.
How are the potential risks to human health determined?
The safety assessment of GM foods generally investigates: (a) direct health effects (toxicity), (b) tendencies to provoke allergic reaction (allergenicity); (c) specific components thought to have nutritional or toxic properties; (d) the stability of the inserted gene; (e) nutritional effects associated with genetic modification; and (f) any unintended effects which could result from the gene insertion.
What are the main issues of concern for human health?
While theoretical discussions have covered a broad range of aspects, the three main issues debated are tendencies to provoke allergic reaction (allergenicity), gene transfer and outcrossing.
Allergenicity. As a matter of principle, the transfer of genes from commonly allergenic foods is discouraged unless it can be demonstrated that the protein product of the transferred gene is not allergenic. While traditionally developed foods are not generally tested for allergenicity, protocols for tests for GM foods have been evaluated by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and WHO. No allergic effects have been found relative to GM foods currently on the market.
Gene transfer. Gene transfer from GM foods to cells of the body or to bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract would cause concern if the transferred genetic material adversely affects human health. This would be particularly relevant if antibiotic resistance genes, used in creating GMOs, were to be transferred. Although the probability of transfer is low, the use of technology without antibiotic resistance genes has been encouraged by a recent FAO/WHO expert panel.
Outcrossing. The movement of genes from GM plants into conventional crops or related species in the wild (referred to as “outcrossing”), as well as the mixing of crops derived from conventional seeds with those grown using GM crops, may have an indirect effect on food safety and food security. This risk is real, as was shown when traces of a maize type which was only approved for feed use appeared in maize products for human consumption in the United States of America. Several countries have adopted strategies to reduce mixing, including a clear separation of the fields within which GM crops and conventional crops are grown.
Feasibility and methods for post-marketing monitoring of GM food products, for the continued surveillance of the safety of GM food products, are under discussion.
Are there implications for the rights of farmers to own their crops?
Yes, intellectual property rights are likely to be an element in the debate on GM foods, with an impact on the rights of farmers. Intellectual property rights (IPRs), especially patenting obligations of the TRIPS Agreement (an agreement under the World Trade Organization concerning trade-related aspects of intellectual property rights) have been discussed in the light of their consequences on the further availability of a diversity of crops. In the context of the related subject of the use of gene technology in medicine, WHO has reviewed the conflict between IPRs and an equal access to genetic resources and the sharing of benefits. The review has considered potential problems of monopolization and doubts about new patent regulations in the field of genetic sequences in human medicine. Such considerations are likely to also affect the debate on GM foods.
Where do we draw the line? How do we draw a line for a Safe and Real Food?
Answer: “Read the ingredient label.”
If you don’t understand the list of ingredients, put the item back and choose an alternative.
- The Shocking Reality About GMOs (real-agenda.com)
- Artificial Agriculture (occurrenceofopinion.wordpress.com)
- What Does “No GMO” Really Mean? (fitsugar.com)
- Deciphering genetically-modified-food labels (abclocal.go.com)