GMO means genetically modified organism, which is a novel organism created by scientists when they genetically modify or engineer food plants. Scientists have cited many health and environmental risks with genetically modified (GM) foods. As a result of these risks, many people in the United States, Canada, Europe, Japan, and other nations are demanding non-genetically modified (non-GMO) foods.
In genetic modification (or engineering) of food plants, scientists remove one or more genes from the DNA of another organism, such as a bacterium, virus, or animal, and “recombine” them into the DNA of the plant they want to alter. By adding these new genes, genetic engineers hope the plant will express the traits associated with the genes. For example, genetic engineers have transferred genes from a bacterium known as Bacillus thuringiensis or Bt into the DNA of corn. Bt genes express a protein that kills insects, and transferring the genes allows the corn to produce its own pesticide.
Genetic modification/engineering is a potentially dangerous technology
One of the main problems with genetic engineering is that the process of inserting genes into the DNA of a food plant is random; scientists have no idea where the genes go. This can disrupt the functioning of other genes and create novel proteins that have never been in the food supply and could create toxins and allergens in foods.
Genetic modification is a radical technology
Supporters of genetic modification say that the technology is simply an extension of traditional plant breeding. The reality is that genetic engineering is radically different. Traditional plant breeders work with plants of the same or related species to create new plant varieties. Genetic engineers break down nature’s genetic barriers by allowing transfers of genes from bacteria, viruses, and even animals—with unforeseen consequences.
Genetic modification is based on an obsolete scientific theory
Genetic modification is based on a theory called the Central Dogma, which asserts that one gene will express one protein. However, scientists working with the United States National Human Genome Research Institute discovered that this wasn’t true, that genes operate in a complex network in ways that are not fully understood. This finding undermines the entire basis for genetic engineering.
What genetically modified crops are currently grown?
The majority of corn, soybeans, cotton, canola, sugar beets grown in the United States are GM. Fifty percent of papaya grown in Hawaii is GM. Small amounts of yellow “crook neck” and zucchini squash are also GM.
As many as 15% of cows in the US are injected with a genetically modified bovine growth hormone called rBGH (rBST). rBGH is banned in many countries due to negative health impacts on cows.
Below are several documented findings showing health dangers from GM foods.
A genetically engineered form of an L-tryptophan food supplement was responsible for the deaths of thirty-seven people and disabling of several thousand more in 1989.
GM potatoes harm rats
In the late 1990s, Arpad Pusztai, Ph.D., a molecular biologist, conducted a study on genetically modified potatoes for the Rowett Research Institute in Scotland. Pusztai conducted feeding experiments on rats and found that the potatoes damaged the animals’ gut, other organs, and immune systems.
GM corn causes liver and kidney damage in rats
A study conducted by French scientists and published in Archives of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology found symptoms of poisoning and liver and kidney damage in rats fed a GM corn.
GM soy increased mortality in rats, reduced fertility in hamsters
A 2006 study conducted by Irina Ermikova of the Russian National Academy of Sciences found that more than half the babies from mother rats fed GM soy died within three weeks. In another Russian study scientists found that hamsters fed GM soy had lost their ability to reproduce by the third generation. The hamster pups also suffered slower growth and high mortality
GM corn harms aquatic insects
A 2007 published study by Indiana University environmental science professor found that GM corn produced increased mortality and reduced growth in caddisflies, aquatic insects that are a food resource for higher organisms like fish and amphibians.
GM corn threatens native corn in Mexico
In a 2001 paper published in Nature magazine, University of California at Berkeley researchers Ignacio Chapela and David Quist described how genes from GM corn contaminated native corn varieties in Oaxaca, Mexico. The finding was particularly disturbing because contamination was found thousands of miles from plantings of GM corn and because it threatened the center of biological diversity for corn
GM soy creating “superweeds”
The widespread use of glyphosate herbicide used with herbicide tolerant GM corn, soybeans, canola, and cotton has led to the creation of herbicide resistant weeds infesting millions of acres of farmland throughout the United States.
GM crops increase pesticide use
Genetically modified crops increased the use of herbicides by 383 million pounds in the United States from 1996 to 2008, according to a report by the Organic Center.
Avoid processed foods containing ingredients from corn, soy, canola, sugar beets, and cotton.
More than 70% of processed foods found in retail stores and restaurants contain ingredients derived from GE corn, soybeans, canola, and cotton. In addition, half the sugar used in food products comes from GM sugar beets.
Look for Non-GMO Project verified products.
These food products have gone through a rigorous verification program to minimize the risk of GMO contamination, giving you the best assurance they are non-GMO.
For more information visit www.nongmoproject.org.
Buying organic foods also offers assurance against the risks of genetic engineering because GM substances are prohibited in organic production.