There’s always a different way to look at a topic. There’s always another way to solve a problem. There’s always a different side to consider in an argument. That’s true for everything. They’re all sweeping statements, but FoodFacts.com knows that the world isn’t necessarily a black and white place. It’s why we try to stay neutral on most subjects – there may be a new point of view we have yet to discover and that might be important. So we do need to consider this … is there another side of the GMO debate? We have to admit, that’s a hard one for us, but there may be some points to consider. Here’s a view through a different lens.
Over the next two years, McDonald’s will stop buying chickens raised with antibiotics that are also used in humans These antibiotics are not used to treat disease in animals—rather, they are added to animal feed because they cause animals to grow more quickly using less feed.
Following McDonald’s lead, Costco, which sells 80 million rotisserie chickens per year, made the same announcement just a few days later. Then in April, Tyson Foods, one of McDonald’s major suppliers of chickens, announced they would phase out use of human antibiotics in its chickens by September 2017.
Chain Reaction, responding to growing public pressure, created a report card in September grading 25 restaurant chains on their policies of using meat from suppliers that use antibiotics. Only two restaurants, Chipotle and Panera, received an A. Chic-fil-A got a B, and McDonald’s and Dunkin Donuts got C’s. Everyone else, including Burger King, Subway, Wendy’s, Taco Bell, Pizza Hut, and Starbuck’s, failed because they have not publicized any antibiotic policy.
Around 80 percent of all antibiotics sold in the U.S. are used not to treat diseases in humans, but to add to animal feed to promote growth. Overuse of antibiotics has without a doubt contributed to the rise of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, and eliminating them from routine use makes perfect sense.
However, genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are a different story. Despite the fact that there is no evidence that any GMO has ever harmed a human ever, there is undeniably an aura of fear surrounding these so-called “frankenfoods”—a thoroughly unearned nickname.
In April, Chipotle announced their “G-M-Over It” campaign, claiming, “When it comes to our food, genetically-modified ingredients don’t make the cut.” In doing so, they became the first national restaurant chain to go non-GMO—though they admit their soft drinks still contain high fructose corn syrup, which is nearly all made with GMO corn.
Studies have been done in animals. Alison Van Eenennaam, an animal geneticist at the University of California Davis, studied the health of over 100 billion animals who consumed well over a trillion GMO meals over a 29-year period since GMOs were introduced into their feed. She and her team found no evidence of “unfavorable or perturbed trends in livestock health and productivity”
While Chipotle has been spending time and money eliminating GMOs from their food, there was an outbreak of E. coli at their restaurants, which sickened more than 50 people—20 of whom required hospitalization—in nine states since October. And the chain is currently still dealing with an outbreak of norovirus in one of their Boston franchises, which caused over 140 people to become acutely ill.
Just last month, after 20 years of evaluation, the FDA approved the sale of the AquAdvantage salmon, the first genetically-modified animal approved for human consumption. The salmon was created by taking a growth gene from Chinook salmon and a gene promoter from an ocean pout and adding them to the Atlantic salmon. These genes allow the fish to grow much more quickly without changing any other traits, meaning potentially more food to feed hungry people faster. No other “foreign” DNA was used, the fish are all female and nearly 99 percent are sterile, and they will only be raised in land-based aquaculture farms, so mixing and reproducing with wild salmon will be nearly impossible.
Costco, Kroger, Safeway, Trader Joe’s, and Aldi are among 60 supermarket chains that have all stated that they will not sell the AquAdvantage salmon.
FoodFacts.com is not a fan of GMOs. We don’t fall somewhere in the middle on this issue. But like we said, we do feel it’s important to look at every available side. It IS vitally important that human antibiotics aren’t used in animal feed because we’ve got a tremendous problem in in regard to antibiotic resistant superbugs. It IS vitally important for Chipotle to address the foodborne illness outbreak stemming from their restaurants because the more restaurants like Chipotle adopt safer food handling practices, the more other restaurants will follow suit. But we don’t think that makes Chipotle’s efforts to remove GMOs from their ingredients a smaller endeavor by comparison. We don’t think it’s any less important to remove GMOs from the food supply than it is to remove human antibiotics from animal feed. And we don’t think the absence of foreign DNA in AquAdvantage salmon will make us feel any more comfortable about eating it.
But these are reasonable, valid points to make … even if we don’t agree with them. Being an educated consumer means understanding as many sides of an issue as humanly possible. It help us solidify our position on an issue. In this case, it reminds us, yet again, that we don’t want to consume GMO ingredients and we think we have a right to refuse them in our foods.