If you want to know if the food you are about to eat has high levels of sugar, trans fat, or high fructose corn syrup, you can easily check the nutrition label. However, if you would like to know if it contains any genetically modified organisms (GMOs), you’re out of luck.
Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) can be defined as organisms in which the genetic material (DNA) has been altered in a way that does not occur naturally, according to the World Health Organization. The technology is often called genetic engineering (GE). It allows selected individual genes to be transferred from one organism into another, also between non-related species.
For centuries, gardeners and farmers have done selective breeding. However, modern genetic engineering is much different. Now, genes from an animal, plant, bacterium, or virus are inserted into a different organism. In crops, this changes the plants genetic code forever.
The most common argument for genetically modifying crop seeds is that modification will allow the plant to be tolerant of pesticides sprayed on crops to control weeds, or so that it can produce insecticides for itself.
However, rather than increasing crop yields, a study called “Failure to Yield” by Doug Gurian-Sherman, a molecular biologist with the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), shows that GE traits do not increase yields and only minimally improve insect resistance.
Instead, the use of GMOs has inadvertently created resistant “super” weeds, UCS experts report. This forces farmers to use even more herbicides—an increasing threat to the health of the environment and the public.
Currently, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) doesn’t require labels for foods with GE ingredients even though most other developed countries, including the 15 nations in the European Union, Japan, Australia, Brazil, Russia and China, have some GE labeling requirements.
This leaves consumers without any freedom to make an informed choice about whether or not they would like to consume GE foods. This is scary considering that the FDA is reviewing the first-ever proposed commercialization of salmon genetically engineered (GE) to mature more quickly.
The engineered salmon is produced by AquaBounty Technologies and is called AquAdvantage salmon. It contains a gene from another fish species, the Chinook salmon, to help it grow twice as fast.
If approved, AquAdvantage would be the first genetically altered animal for human consumption in the U.S.
Currently, there are three consumer groups petitioning the FDA to subject the salmon to a more rigorous review process. If the salmon is approved for the market, it would not be labeled until the FDA crafts some measure to do so.
At the grassroots level, more and more concerned citizens are fighting against GMOs, however, there has not been much promise.
The California Assembly recently shot down the Consumer Right to Know Act, AB 88, proposed by Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael—an act which would have required all Californian genetically modified foods to be labeled.
In New York during late January, protestors gathered at Foley Square to support family farmers of the Organic Seed Growers Trade Association during the first phase of their federal court case against Monsanto (a GMO seed producer with a bad history).
OSGATA argues that Monsanto’s genetically modified seeds can cause crop contamination for organic and non-GMO farmers.
Director of “Food, Inc.” Robert Kenner is helping to spread the word about a legal petition started by FixFood, a non-profit organization that uses social media to take action toward a more sustainable and democratic food system.
The petition calls on the FDA to label GE foods. Anyone can sign the petition, available online at. After the group gets 1 million signatures, they will send the petition to the FDA.
To watch and share a short video on the campaign by Kenner, click here.