What are GMOs?
GMOs, or “genetically modified organisms,” are plants or animals created through the gene splicing techniques of biotechnology (also called genetic engineering, or GE). 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.
Virtually all commercial GMOs are engineered to withstand direct application of herbicide and/or to produce an insecticide. Despite biotech industry promises, none of the GMO traits currently on the market offer increased yield, drought tolerance, enhanced nutrition, or any other consumer benefit.
Meanwhile, a growing body of evidence connects GMOs with health problems, environmental damage and violation of farmers’ and consumers’ rights.
Are GMOs safe?
GMOs have not yet been properly tested for human safety. In nearly 50 countries around the world, including Australia, Japan, and all of the countries in the European Union, there are significant restrictions or outright bans on the production and sale of GMOs. In the U.S., the government has approved GMOs based on studies conducted by the same corporations that created them and profit from their sale. However, without conducting government-regulated controlled studies on large populations, the long-term effects GMOs may have on public health remain unclear. Increasingly, Americans are taking matters into their own hands and choosing to opt out of the GMO experiment.
Are GMOs labeled?
Polls consistently show that a significant majority of North Americans would like to be able to tell if the food they’re purchasing contains GMOs (a 2008 CBS News Poll found that 87% of consumers wanted GMOs labeled). And, according to a recent CBS/New York Times poll, 53% of consumers said they would not buy food that has been genetically modified. Unfortunately, even though polls consistently show that a significant majority of Americans want to know if the food they’re purchasing contains GMOs, the powerful biotech lobby has succeeded in keeping this information from the public.
At the moment, there are several grassroots campaigns taking place across the US as consumers fight for their Right to Know what's in their food. In California, over 1 million residents have successfully campaigned to get the California’s Right to Know Genetically Engineered Food Act will on November’s ballot as Proposition 37. Proposition 37 calls for mandatory labeling genetically engineered foods and if passed, would be the first law in North America requiring labeling of a wide range of genetically engineered foods.
How common are GMOs?
In the US and Canada, GMOs are in as much as 80% of conventional processed food. The annual June Agricultural Survey compiled by the United States Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service showed that between 2000 and 2011, 81–86% of all corn and 87–90% of all soybeans planted in the US were genetically modified crops. It can be difficult to stay up-to-date on food ingredients that are at-risk of being genetically modified, as the list of at-risk agricultural ingredients is frequently changing. As part of the Non-GMO Project’s commitment to informed consumer choice, they work diligently to maintain an accurate list of risk ingredients.
What are the impacts of GMOs on the environment?
Over 80% of all GMOs grown worldwide are engineered for herbicide tolerance. As a result, use of toxic herbicides like Roundup has increased 15 times since GMOs were introduced. GMO crops are also responsible for the emergence of “super weeds” and “super bugs:’ which can only be killed with ever more toxic poisons like 2,4-D (a major ingredient in Agent Orange). GMOs are a direct extension of chemical agriculture, and are developed and sold by the world’s biggest chemical companies. The long-term impacts of GMOs are unknown, and once released into the environment these novel organisms cannot be recalled.
How do GMOs affect farmers?
Because GMOs are novel life forms, biotechnology companies have been able to obtain patents with which to restrict their use. As a result, the companies that make GMOs now have the power to sue farmers whose fields are contaminated with GMOs, even when it is the result of inevitable drift from neighboring fields. GMOs therefore pose a serious threat to farmer sovereignty and to the national food security of any country where they are grown, including the United States.
How can I avoid GMOs?
There are steps to take for consumers who want to avoid GMOs. Eat organic foods. Organic regulations prohibit the use of genetic modification, so this is the best way to avoid foods that may have been genetically altered. Identify non-GMO foods by looking for the Non-GMO Project Verified seal. This initiative, started by the Non-GMO Project, is North America’s only independent verification process for products made according to best practices for GMO avoidance. Finally, avoid products potentially produced with GMOs. With the help of organizations like the Non-GMO Project, consumers can determine what products to watch for and how they can make the right choices to suit their lifestyles. A complete list of over 6,000 products that are Non-GMO Project Verified is available in an online directory and as an iPhone app to make shopping easier for you.