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April Showers Bring May GMO-Laced Flora, Fauna, and Food

First off, lets get the obligatory ‘WTF-does-that-even-mean’ science out of the way; the acronym ‘GMO’ stands for ‘genetically modified organism’. The process of creating a GMO involves taking DNA from two different sources and combining them to create an entirely new set of genes.

Genetically modified foods (GM foods) are derived from GMO’s that have been modified in a lab to enhance desired traits such as increased resistance to herbicides or improved nutritional content. You may be thinking ’what’s the big deal?’

Environmental activists, religious organizations, public interest groups, professional associations, and other scientists and government officials have all raised concerns about GM foods, and criticized agribusiness for pursuing profit without concern for potential hazards and the government for failing to exercise adequate regulatory oversight. Most concerns about GM foods fall into two categories: environmental hazards and human health risks.

Environmental Hazards:

-       Harm to other animals – A recent study in Nature showed that pollen from a GMO crop nearly completely killed off a grove of Monarch butterflies.

-       Reduced effectiveness of pesticides – Some populations of mosquitoes developed resistance to the now-banned pesticide DDT, many people are concerned that insects will become resistant to GMO crops.

-       The creation of a ‘superweed’ – Uhha, sweet! No. The concern is that GM plants engineered for herbicide tolerance and weeds will cross-breed resulting in the transfer of the herbicide resistance genes from the crops into the weeds. These “superweeds” would then be herbicide tolerant as well. Bummer dude.

Human Health:

-       Allergens – Many children in the US and Europe have developed unexplainable life-threatening allergies to peanuts and other foods. There is a possibility that introducing a gene into a plant may create a new allergy in people.

-       Unknown effects on human health – There is a growing concern that introducing foreign genes into food plants may have an unexpected and negative impact on human health.

Regulation and Labeling:

So, environmental and human health is certainly a big deal; so how are GM foods being regulated and what is the government going to do about it? That kind of depends – and in the U.S., not really anything.

In the United States, the regulatory process is confused because there are three different government agencies that have jurisdiction over GM foods. This is more or less how it works: To put it very simply, the EPA evaluates GM plants for environmental safety, the USDA evaluates whether the plant is safe to grow, and the FDA evaluates whether the plant is safe to eat.

Agribusiness industries believe that labeling should be voluntary and influenced by the demands of the free market. On the other hand, consumer interest groups are demanding mandatory labeling. They argue that people have the right to know what they are eating, and historically the industry has proven itself to be unreliable at self-compliance with existing safety regulations. I mean, it is the Government…

So what can you do?

GM foods have the potential for a lot of good – but also a lot of bad as well. With the population of the world expected to hit 9 billion people by 2050, GM foods could cut down on hunger and malnutrition issues. Yet, governments are tasked with the issues of safety testing, regulation, international policy and food labeling. The best thing that anyone can do is to educate themselves, know where their food is coming from, pressure your local government for proper food labeling, and to keep abreast of the times.

To get involved sign this petition from Just Label It to get GMO’s labeled in America:

http://www.kabntr.org/videos/sign-the-petition-to-label-gmos/

For more information on GMO’s check out:

http://www.csa.com/discoveryguides/gmfood/overview.php

~Casey

 

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