Tag Archives: genetically modified ingredients

Why Aren’t G.M.O Foods Labeled?

genetically-modified-food
Foodfacts.com has been looking into G.M.O Labeling. If you want to avoid sugar, aspartame, trans-fats, MSG, or just about anything else, you read the label. If you want to avoid G.M.O.’s — genetically modified organisms — you’re out of luck. They’re not listed. You could, until now, simply buy organic foods, which by law can’t contain more than 5 percent G.M.O.’s. Now, however, even that may not work.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has approved three new kinds of genetically engineered (G.E.) foods: alfalfa (which becomes hay), a type of corn grown to produce ethanol), and sugar beets. And the approval by the Food and Drug Administration of a super-fast-growing salmon — the first genetically modified animal to be sold in the U.S., but probably not the last — may not be far behind.

It’s unlikely that these products’ potential benefits could possibly outweigh their potential for harm. But even more unbelievable is that the F.D.A.and the U.S.D.A. will not require any of these products, or foods containing them, to be labeled as genetically engineered, because they don’t want to “suggest or imply” that these foods are “different.” (Labels with half-truths about health benefits appear to be O.K., but that’s another story.)

They are arguably different, but more important, people are leery of them. Nearly an entire continent — it’s called Europe — is so wary that G.E. crops are barely grown there and there are strict bans on imports (that policy is in danger). Furthermore, most foods containing more than 0.9 percent G.M.O.’s must be labeled.

G.E. products may grow faster, require fewer pesticides, fertilizers and herbicides, and reduce stress on land, water and other resources; they may be more profitable to farmers. But many of these claims are in dispute, and advances in conventional agriculture, some as simple as drip irrigation, may achieve these same goals more simply. Certainly conventional agriculture is more affordable for poor farmers, and most of the worlds’ farmers are poor. (The surge in suicides among Indian farmers has been attributed by some, at least in part, to G.E. crops, and it’s entirely possible that what’s needed to feed the world’s hungry is not new technology but a better distribution system and a reduction of waste.)

To be fair, two of the biggest fears about G.E. crops and animals — their potential to provoke allergic reactions and the transfer to humans of antibiotic-resistant properties of G.M.O.’s — have not come to pass. (As far as I can tell, though, they remain real dangers.) But there has been cross-breeding of natural crops and species with those that have been genetically engineered, and when ethanol corn cross-pollinates feed corn, the results could degrade the feed corn; when G.E. alfalfa cross-pollinates organic alfalfa, that alfalfa is no longer organic; if a G.E. salmon egg is fertilized by a wild salmon, or a transgenic fish escapes into the wild and breeds with a wild fish … it’s not clear what will happen.

This last scenario is impossible, say the creators of the G.E. salmon — a biotech company called AquaBounty — whose interest in approval makes their judgment all but useless. (One Fish and Wildlife Service scientist wrote in material obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, “Maybe they should watch ‘Jurassic Park.’ “)

Also curious is that the salmon is being categorized as a “new animal drug” which means that the advisory committee in charge of evaluating it is composed mostly of veterinarians and animal scientists, instead of, say, fish ecologists or experts in food safety. Not surprisingly, the biotech industry has spent over half a billion dollars on G.M.O. lobbyists in the last decade, and Michael Taylor, the F.D.A. deputy commissioner for foods, was once vice president for public policy at Monsanto. Numerous groups of consumers, farmers, environmental advocates, scientists, supporters of organic food and now even congressmen — last week, a bill was introduced to ban G.E. salmon — believe that the approval process demonstrated a bias towards the industry.

Cross-breeding is guaranteed with alfalfa and likely with corn. (The U.S.D.A. claims to be figuring out ways to avoid this happening, but by then the damage may already be done.) And the organic dairy industry is going to suffer immediate and frightening losses when G.E. alfalfa is widely grown, since many dairy cows eat dried alfalfa (hay), and the contamination of organic alfalfa means the milk of animals fed with that hay can no longer be called organic. Likewise, when feed corn is contaminated by G.E. ethanol corn, the products produced from it won’t be organic. (On the one hand, U.S.D.A. joins the F.D.A. in not seeing G.E. foods as materially different; on the other it limits the amount found in organic foods. Hello? Guys? Could you at least pretend to be consistent?)

The subject is unquestionably complex. Few people outside of scientists working in the field — self included — understand much of anything about gene altering. Still, an older ABC poll found that a majority of Americans believe that G.M.O.’s are unsafe, even more say they’re less likely to buy them, and a more recent CBS/NYT poll found a whopping 87 percent — you don’t see a poll number like that too often — wants them labeled.

In the long run, genetic engineering may prove to be useful. Or not. The science is adolescent at best; not even its strongest advocates can guarantee that there aren’t hidden dangers. So consumers are understandably cautious, and whether that’s justified or paranoid, it would seem we have a right to know as much as Europeans do.

Even more than questionable approvals, it’s the unwillingness to label these products as such — even the G.E. salmon will be sold without distinction — that is demeaning and undemocratic, and the real reason is clear: producers and producer-friendly agencies correctly suspect that consumers will steer clear of G.E. products if they can identify them. Which may make them unprofitable. Where is the free market when we need it?

A majority of our food already contains G.M.O.’s, and there’s little reason to think more isn’t on the way. It seems our “regulators” are using us and the environment as guinea pigs, rather than demanding conclusive tests. And without labeling, we have no say in the matter whatsoever.

Article Provided by: Mark Bittman

Genetically Modified Ingredients: What’s The Real Deal?

Genetically Modified Food | Foodfacts.com

Genetically Modified Food | Foodfacts.com

Foodfacts.com observes that most food we eat may contain ingredients derived from genetically modified organisms (GMOs).  Everything from baby formula and food to our dairy and even our meat.

The most common applications of genetic modification and their derivatives are:

o Soybeans

o Corn – Present in high fructose corn syrup and glucose/fructose

o Rapeseed/Canola

o Sugar Beets

o Rice – not currently available for human consumption, but trace amounts of one GM long grain variety (LLRICE601) may have entered the food supply in both the USA and Europe.

o Cotton – These seeds are pressed to make cottonseed oil, which is a common ingredient in vegetable oil and margarine.

o Dairy – Cows injected with GE hormone (rBGH/rBST). Probably feed on GM grains and hay. For over 10 years, rBGH (recombinant bovine growth hormone), also known as rBST (recombinant bovine somatotropin), has been a staple in the dairy products consumed by Americans. Since these products are not labeled as containing rBGH / rBST, most consumers have no idea that a growth hormone intended to induce dairy cows to be more productive is in much of their milk, cheese, and yoghurt.In cows treated with rBGH, significant health problems often develop, including a 50 percent increase in the risk of lameness (leg and hoof problems), over a 25 percent increase in the frequency of udder infections (mastitis), and serious animal reproductive problems, i.e., infertility, cystic ovaries, fetal loss and birth defects.

Because rBGH use results in more cases of mastitis, dairy farmers tend to use more antibiotics to combat the infections, the residues of which also may end up in milk and dairy products. These residues can cause allergic reactions in sensitive individuals and contribute to the growth of antibiotic resistant bacteria, further undermining the efficacy of some antibiotics in fighting human infections.

Fish, fowl, or livestock has not been GM approved. Yet, there are plenty of non-organic foods that are produced from animals raised on GM feed such as grains. Look for wild, rather than farmed fish, to avoid fish raised on GM feed, and 100% grass-fed animals.

Milk or soy protein is the basis of most infant formulas. The secret ingredients in these products are often soy or milk from cows injected with rbGH. Many brands also add GMO-derived corn syrup, corn syrup solids, or soy lecithin.

Few fresh fruits and vegetables for sale in the US are genetically modified. Small amounts of zucchini, yellow crookneck squash and sweet corn may be GM.

Recognize fruit and vegetable label numbers:

o 4-digit number, the food is conventionally produced.

o 5-digit number beginning with an 8, it is GM. However, do not trust that genetically engineered food will have a PLU code identifying it as such, PLU labelling is optional.

o 5-digit number beginning with a 9, is organic.

Many frozen foods are highly processed. Read their labels and stay away from the above mentioned at-risk ingredients, unless they are marked organic or non-GM.

Whenever possible, choose preserves, jams, and jellies with cane sugar, not corn syrup. Most juices are made from GMO-free fruit. The only commercialized GM fruit is papaya from Hawaii.  Unfortunately, corn-based sweeteners, e.g. high fructose corn syrup in juices and many sodas is cause for concern.

The sweetener aspartame is derived from GM microorganisms and is found in over 6,000 products, including soft drinks, gum, candy, desserts, yogurt, tabletop sweeteners, and some pharmaceuticals such as vitamins and sugar-free cough drops.

Shop locally. Although more than half of all GM foods are produced in the US, most of it comes from large, industrial farms. By shopping at farmers’ markets, signing up for a subscription from a local Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farm, or patronizing a local co-op, you may be able to avoid GM products and possibly save money at the same time.

More and more small farms are offering grains and meat directly to customers, in addition to vegetables, fruit and herbs. Shopping locally may also give you the opportunity to speak to the farmer and find out how he or she feels about GMOs and whether or not they use them in their own operation.

Buy whole foods. Favor foods that you can cook and prepare yourself, rather than foods that are processed or prepared (e.g. anything that comes in a box or a bag, including fast food).

If you have the land, time, and resources, grow your own food. As long as you make sure you’re not buying GM seeds, and aren’t near any GM plants which could cross-pollinate, you’ll know for sure that the food which comes from your garden is not genetically modified.

Source:   ukprogressive.co.uk

From Theodora Filis.  Theodora is an Environmental Consultant who has worked with multinational corporations throughout Europe, The American Farm School, IFOAM, The Soil Association, United Nations, The Bishopic of Cyprus and St. Francis of Assisi Parish, Assisi, Italy. Implementation of  new policies and procedures dealing organic farming methods and certification. College Instructor, and co-author of “Living and Working in Greece”.