GMOs: Consumers should be informed of food ingredients

Stephanie Sokol for The Oakland Post

Genetically modified organisms are used in many foods to preserve freshness and make them “better.” But controversy is arising about whether or not products made with these ingredients should be labeled, as the scientific community discusses the use of GMOs beyond plants.

The FDA defines GMO as a change in plant genotype, with modification having “a broad context that means the alteration in the composition of food that results from adding, deleting, or changing hereditary traits, irrespective of the method,” and states that “most, if not all, cultivated food crops have been genetically modified.”

The process of genetic modification involves taking DNA from different species to make healthier, stronger plants. GMOs are now part of about 80 percent of processed foods, including corn, soybeans, sugar beets and canola crops, My Fox Detroitreported.

Farmers and scientists like the process, because they say it has positives. It rids plants of insects and can create better tasting, larger produce.

“We harvest more high quality crops with less fertilizer and less pesticide and less water than we ever could before,” said corn farmer Mark Lauwers in an article with My Fox Detroit.

Despite praise by growers, some studies reveal the negative side of GMOs.

The process can lead to “higher risks of toxicity, allergies, antibiotic resistance, immune-suppression and cancer” in humans, according to the Center for Food Safety.

Genetically modified foods can also pose environmental threats, with genetic engineering in agriculture leading to “uncontrolled biological pollution, threatening numerous microbial, plant and animal species with extinction, and the potential contamination of all non-genetically engineered life forms with novel and possibly hazardous genetic material.”

Some manufacturers and stores are labeling GMO foods, but the government does not require it. The FDA feels that labeling products GMO “may be misleading on most foods, because most foods do not contain organisms (seeds and foods like yogurt that contain microorganisms are exceptions). It would likely be misleading to suggest that a food that ordinarily would not contain entire ‘organisms’ is ‘organism free.’”

The problem arises because the genetic modification process will soon be applied to animals for the first time, in attempt to create a quicker growing, larger salmon.

Most countries don’t consider these foods safe, with about 50 countries around the world putting restrictions or bans on the products. The NON GMO Project aims to provide foods that haven’t gone through this process, encouraging labeling on foods that do.

In partnership with the project, Whole Foods announced last Friday that it would label all foods with genetically altered ingredients by 2018 in North American and Canadian stores for people who do not want altered products. Other stores are doing similar actions.

In a nation promoting health and fitness, the government should inform people about what’s in their food, so the consumer can make an educated decision.

If these foods are allowed to enter grocery stores and markets, the government needs to require labeling of genetically modified organisms in food, rather than keeping it a secret. Why put a nutrition label on food products, when the real genetic makeup is being hidden?

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