Katie Skinner (The Mustard Seed) -- Many of us have become avid label readers in hopes to avoid the consumption of high fructose corn syrup, MSG and ingredients that sound like they belong in a science experiment. This public awareness has prompted many processed food manufacturers to trade out these artificial ingredients for a more natural alternative. Great strides have been made, but unfortunately, there are still flaws in ingredient labeling requirements. A wholesome, natural sounding ingredient like “corn,” can actually be laboratory created through genetic modification. Genetically modified corn would still be labeled on the package as simply, “corn.”
Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) are defined as plants or animals created through the gene splicing techniques of biotechnology. This experimental technology merges DNA from different species, creating unstable combinations of plant, animal, bacterial and viral genes that cannot occur in nature or in traditional crossbreeding. In simpler terms, this is like trying to get an almond to cross-pollinate with a tomato. It simply wouldn’t happen under normal conditions in nature. Through genetic modification, a scientist could create this scenario in a laboratory by inserting the desired genes from the almond into the tomato, resulting in a breed of tomatoes that would never occur in nature.
Why would scientists go through all this trouble when we have perfectly good tomatoes growing in gardens every day? According to the Non-GMO Project, a non-profit group committed to informing consumers about genetically modified organisms, proponents of GMOs make a number of claims as to why GMOs should be on the market. These claims include that GMOs will increase crop yields, create a more affluent economy, benefit the environment and are more nutritious than their conventional counterparts. However, a growing body of research indicates that GMOs fail to live up to these claims and instead can be allergenic, less nutritious than their conventional counterparts, can disrupt the ecosystem and deliver yields that are no-better and sometimes worse than conventional crops. GMO crops are also engineered to withstand direct application of herbicides and some are engineered to produce their own insecticide.
According to the Non-GMO Project, the most common genetically modified foods are soy, cotton, canola and corn. GMOs can also be hidden in common processed food ingredients like aspartame, high fructose corn syrup, hydrolyzed vegetable protein, molasses, monosodium glutamate (MSG), textured vegetable protein (TVP) and xanthan gum. These ingredients can all be found in foods that are popular with adults and children like cereals, snack bars, cookies, processed lunch meats and crackers.
One of the most controversial topics surrounding genetically modified foods is that the U.S government does not currently require labeling of genetically modified ingredients on product packaging. According to Just Label It, a group that advocates the labeling of GMO foods, studies show that more than 90% of Americans support mandatory labeling of GMOs. Whether one is a proponent or opponent of GMOs, just about everyone agrees that we have a right to know if we are consuming them.
Even though GMOs have made their way into our food supply there are still a number of things we can do to actively avoid them. The first places to start include buying organic whenever possible, avoiding processed foods with high-risk GMO ingredients and look for the Non-GMOProject Verified seal. Even though none of these approaches ensure 100% GMO avoidance, they do reduce GMO exposure.
At The Mustard Seed Natural and Organic Food Store, you can find hundreds of food items that are Non-GMO Project Verified and/or contain 100% organic ingredients. To learn more about GMOs visit www.nongmoproject.org and www.justlabelit.org. The Mustard Seed Natural and Organic Food Store is located at 969 Arsenal Street in Watertown.
This article is for educational purposes only. The topics mentioned in this article are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent disease. These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. Always consult with your doctor for dietary recommendations. The GMO tomato statement is for example only. We are not stating, nor do we have proof, that a GMO tomato exists with genes from an almond inserted into it.