by Wendy Lincoln
GMO stands for Genetically Modified Organism. It most commonly refers to foods such as crops and livestock that are genetically modified and intended for human consumption.
GMO is a hot topic of discussion because there was a fair amount of media coverage about GMO in 2012. California's prop 37, a measure that would have required GMO foods to be labeled, was a hot topic of debate. The measure ultimately failed due to heavy opposition funded by biotech companies, but it did succeed in stimulating conversation and raising awareness of GMO.
If you are wondering which foods contain GMO, the short answer is most foods in America contain GMO ingredients.
If you eat meat or dairy, you are eating GMO. Most livestock is fed GMO feed so most meats, milk, butter, eggs, cheese, and dairy products are GMO. Processed foods that contain ingredients like cornstarch, fructose, dextrose, and glucose, vegetable oil, cottonseed oil, corn, soy, canola, sugar and aspartame - are almost certainly GMO.
According to the Institute for Responsible Technology, the most highly commercialized GM (genetically modified) crops in the United States are:
» Soy - 94%
» Cotton - 90%
» Canola - 90%
» Sugar Beets - 95%
» Corn - 88%
» Hawaiian Papaya - at least 50%
» Zucchini And Yellow Squash - over 24,000 acres in cultivation
Monsanto also touts GM alfalfa crops heavily on its website, a major feed component.
Several more GM crops and foods are in development. One of the largest producers of GM crops is Monsanto. They have several new GM products in development including cucumber, tomato, pepper, broccoli, lettuce, and more corn.
Besides Monsanto, there are a plethora of biotech companies planning to release new GM foods to the market. Okanagan Specialty Fruits plans to release a non- browning apple and is developing GM peaches, cherries, and pears.
AquaBounty Technologies has already developed its own propriety breed of salmon, and are currently looking to cultivate the genetically modified fish in states such as Oregon. It is also developing trout, tilapia, and more salmon.
Choose foods that are free of soy, corn, canola, cottonseed, and ingredients that sound like chemicals. Throw away corn, soy, canola, and vegetable oils. Grow your own garden and choose these foods when possible:
» Organic Foods
» Grass Fed and Free-Range Meats, especially when organic
» Olive Oil, Coconut Oil, Grapeseed Oil, and Peanut Oil (though companies are trying to develop GM, allergy free peanuts)
» Cane Sugar (always listed as "cane sugar")
» "Heirloom" Produce
The biggest reason to be aware of GM foods is that the primary motivation behind the foods is profits, not the benefit of humanity. GM products are engineered, patented, protected by layers of laws, then marketed as a superior product. What it actually means is that companies generate enormous profits by monkeying around with genetics (playing god?).
Genetic modification is a new, untested science. That alone is a compelling reason to be aware of GMOs. Several studies conducted around the world have found alarming results when GMOs are tested. GMOs have been linked to infertility, organ failure, and even death. Many countries around the world have banned GMOs.
We simply do not have enough data to know what modifications are safe and which ones are not. When the motivation is profits, not human welfare, we should all be concerned about the modification of the foods we eat. In the meantime, it is a good idea to avoid GMO as much as possible.
Works CitedGMOs in food. (2010, May). Retrieved April 4, 2013, from Institute for Responsible Technology: http://www.responsibletechnology.org/gmo-basics/gmos-in-food