Saturday, January 4, 2014

GMO Labeling Debate

Should products that are genetically modified or are made with them be labeled?What about the food that an animal raised for human consumption ate? Do you want to know if your food is or contains GMO's? Should GMO's be labeled? There seems to be a lot of talk and controversy around labeling genetically modified organisms.

Before we get into labeling and such, let's talk about GMO's. GMO's or genetically modified organisms are organisms whose genetic material has been altered using genetic engineering techniques. The techniques, generally known as recombinant DNA technology, use DNA molecules from different sources, which are combined into one molecule to create a new set of genes. The DNA is then transferred into an organism, giving it modified or novel genes. You may have heard it called gene splicing. GMO's are the constituents of genetically modified or biotech foods. This process can only happen in a laboratory. It does not happen in nature. I am not talking about selective breeding, plant breeding and animal breeding.

The most common application of GMO's is to withstand herbicides or to produce an insecticide. No GMO traits are on the market for bigger yields, drought resistance, enhanced nutrition, or any other consumer benefit. You have probably heard of Round Up ready crops. They are plants that have been genetically engineered to be resistant to glyphosate. Glyphosate is a broad spectrum herbicide used to kill weeds. It inhibits an enzyme that plants need in order to grow. Without this enzyme plants are unable to produce other proteins essential for growth. Bt corn is another type of GMO. It is bioengineered to resist the European corn borer. The borer can cause significant damage to crops. The moth's larvae feed on maturing ears of corn. Bt, bacillus thuringiensis, is a live microorganism that kills certain insects. The GMO Bt corn includes part of the bacterium's DNA in its own genetic material. As the corn grows the poison builds up and destroys the digestive system of the moth and butterfly larvae. Susceptible larvae like the European corn borer eat fatal doses while feeding on the corn. The most common GMO crops right now are corn, soybeans, sweet corn, cotton, canola (rapeseed), and sugar beets.

The biggest controversy around GMO's is food safety. Are GMO's safe to eat? In the US the regulation of GMO's falls under the EPA, USDA, and the FDA. Those three agencies deal with different areas of regulation. The EPA evaluates for environmental safety. The USDA evaluates if something is safe to grow. The FDA decides if it is safe to eat. The EPA requires growers to have a license to grow GMO crops. The EPA regulates GMO's that contain a pesticide, like Bt. The USDA regulates pre-release field testing. The USDA has groups that assess and monitor GMO crops for safety. These groups can stop the production or movement of anything deemed unacceptable and can destroy the products. Under USDA regulation a genetically modified plant does not require a permit if it meets the following six criteria.

1. Is not a noxious weed.

2. Has whatever genetic material that was introduced stably integrated into the plants own genes.

3. The function of the introduced gene is known and does not cause plant disease.

4. Is not toxic to non-target organisms.

5. Will not cause the creation of new plant viruses.

6. Does not contain genetic material from animal or human pathogen (germ).

Once the plant is grown it is under FDA regulation. Agro-biotech companies may voluntarily ask the FDA for a consultation, including an evaluation of how eating the product affects people. The companies creating new GM foods do not have to consult the FDA, nor are required to follow the FDA's recommendations after the consultation. The FDA does not require nor test GMO's for safety. Since 1992, the FDA has claimed that each GMO brought to their attention is 'generally recognized as safe' (gras) and that no independent testing is needed.

Are GMO's the biggest scientific experiment on humans and largely without our knowledge? Should GMO's be labeled? The FDA does not demand special labeling of genetically modified foods. They contend that they are substantially equivalent to non GMO foods. Safety is the most controversial aspect of GMO production. There are concerns about allergic reactions, transfer of antibiotic resistant markers and other unknown effects. Is there a possibility of environmental effects on other organisms, a transfer of trans genes through cross pollination, loss of flora or fauna and biodiversity?

Simple question, what is the purpose? The purpose of Round Up ready plants is the application of more pesticides. Glyphosates harm grazing animals and infiltrate wells and ground water. There already are resistant super weeds to Round up. It removes minerals from the soil it is sprayed on. Might I also mention that glysophates create sterility and birth defects among animals and humans? Most of the honey bee die-off, or colony collapse, is attributed to glyphosates. If enough pollinating bees disappear, our food chain is endangered further. The purpose of Bt crops is food with the pesticide already in it. This may have created mutated insect species. Research has confirmed that at least 8 populations of insects have acquired resistance to Bt crops and spraying. Please refer to natural society dot com for information and links to studies. There is a French study in which rats were fed genetically modified corn and developed tumors. Seventy percent of females died prematurely and just about all had organ damage. The study is entitled, "A Comparison of the Effects of Three GM Corn Varieties on Mammalian Health." You can find links to the abstract at natural news dot com. To sum up, in my opinion, the purpose is more pesticides dumped in the environment. The result being resistant plants and insects and negative health effects on animals and humans. It's in the water! I'm really not feeling the benefit. How about you?

Let's get back to my original question. Should GMO's be labeled? I think they should be given the information that I have learned. I want to know if any part or whole of a product I am buying contains genetically modified organisms. Label them and let consumers decide. It will come down to supply and demand. I do not think GMO and non GMO are the same. One plant will die if dosed with an insecticide and the other will not. One plant has an insecticide in its cells and the other does not. These plants did not acquire these traits on their own.

The controversy surrounding GMO's is vast and it definitely goes beyond labeling. Personally, I don't wish to be involved in a scientific experiment against my will. Other countries are banning GMO's and performing longer studies on the effects of them, so I have hope. Unless and until labeling is required I will buy organic and look for GMO free labels.

Carol Burnham is a health and wellness coach and self-proclaimed health nut. She specializes in health coaching customized for anyone who has been or is in an alcohol recovery program. The primary focus is on nourishing and cleansing the body and becoming addicted to good, vibrant health. She also enjoys yoga, hiking and playing rock band with her family. To learn more please visit

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