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This article will be updated when there is major breaking news regarding. To keep up with latest news from Google New on GMO labeling efforts, go to Google News gmo labeling here.

Biochef illustration depicting scientist mixing up a batch of GMO's.
No, this is not science fiction. Genetically modified organism - GMO's - are cross-breeds between animals and plants. Neither plant nor animal, but genetically engineered, these organisms could be in your food now.   Illustration source: Wayne L. Curtis




Biotech In Your Kitchen

Your Food May Be Crossbred With Bacteria!

By Mary Curtis

There is a lot of debate these days about GMO's. Arguments, both for and against GMO's, fill television, radio, the Internet, and social media, almost daily.

Shoud the United States require GMO labeling on all food products (most other Western nations already require such labeling)? Or, should we just accept GMO's as safe, as a newer, better way to produce food?

Should we believe the food processing magnates (like Monsanto, for instance) who tell us that GMO's are safe? Or, are GMO's a ticking time-bomb with hidden potential for genetic defects down the road? Are GMO's just as dangerous as nuclear radiation? (During the 1950's Cold War era's above-ground nuke tests, government "experts" told the public that there was nothing to worry about and that the "pink snow" from fallout was so "safe" that your kids could go out and play in it.)

Important questions, hard answers. No wonder the constant stream of debate!

This article will explain, in plain language, what GMO's are. What this article will NOT do is advocate for either side. An important issue like this that affects our food supply should be decided by each of us as individuals. In order to decide, we must have the facts, all of them, not just propaganda from one side or the other. This article will be periodically updated as new facts, or legislation, occur. It will also update you and provide information for you if you decide to get involved with this issue.

To begin:

GMO is an acronym which mean Genetically Modified Organiam.

GMO's are not natural. They never occur in nature

The GMO is the brainchild of the union between the biotech industry and the giant multinational food producers.

GMO's, put simply, are a cross-breed species of plants and animals.

This is not science fiction. It is very real and has very real consequences for all of us.

To further commercialize the world's food supply and to centralize agriculture for the giant food corporations, researchers manipulated plant and animal DNA (genetic engineering) to produce bigger, better crops of food staples, and to enable these giants to grow these crops in more and more places that were previously not profitable because of temperature, insects, lack of water, or other reasons. The idea, which seems reasonable at first, is that if these giants could grow food crops in regions of the world where they could not grow before, that the overall global food supply would increase, thereby feeding more and more people.

But sometimes the best intentions can have negative consequences. And rushing to monetary profit without regard to potential dangers or without taking the time to adequately or genuinely research potential dangers, increases the possibilities of negative consequences. In the case of GMO's, spurred by the profit-driven agribusiness giants, these consequences can be extremely serious, if the concerns of some critics turn out to be true.

The concept of genetic engineering is not new but global agribusiness has now stepped up research and development in their efforts to control the world's food supply, putting out of business the small or medium family farmer.

For years, many soy bean suppliers have been using genetically engineered plants which, they tell us, is necessary to make them more resistant to weeds and insects. But now commerical growers are expanding their spectrum of foods which have been genetically engineered.

Commercial corn producers who are part of these multinational agribusiness giants are now growing crops which are a cross between corn and bacteria. They are neither plant nor animal but something else, something that will never occur in nature.

Do not confuse hybrid with GMO: they are entirely two different things; one is a natural process which occurs all the time in nature, the other is synthetic. Hybridization regards crossing plants with plants to create another plant that is stronger, more pest-resistant, has sweeter fruit, better-tasting vegetable, etc. People have been working with hybrids practically since we humans began growing food rather than hunting/gathering. Farmers routinely cross pollens from one plant with another to see what, if anything, will happen. Hybrids also occur in nature as wind or insects will carry pollens to other types of plants which will then hybrid or grow into a new plant.

GMO, however, changes the DNA by deliberately disrupting, distorting, or replacing the DNA. Without the genetic engineering techniques, to intentionly manipulate the DNA, these new species will never occur by themselves in nature.

Is it dangerous to eat foods which have been cross-bred with other species via genetic manipulation?

At this point, it depends on your point of view. The scientists tell us that it's safe; but 50 or 60 years ago, the scientists told us it was safe to play in the "pink snow" from an above-ground nuke test.

We know that those in Europe think it is concerning enough to require labeling of any food product that uses GMO ingredients. And there is a grass-roots effort here in the United States to require labeling.

The Practical Vegetarian will continue looking into this situation which concerns all or us, whether you are a vegetarian or not. In the meantime, consider the following alerts before you pop your favorite foods in your mouth:

So far, the question over how much of our food in the U.S. contains genetically engineered organisms will be not be answered in food labels. A recent grass roots effort in California (Prop. 37) to require GMO listings on the label failed in the November election. (See this article for more information about California's Proposition 37: http://www.care2.com/greenliving/why-a-failed-gmo-ballot-measure-still-matters.html

A front-page article in the New York Times, in May, 2012, urged more public awareness. GMO's are more than just "the selective breeding process used in nearly all crops," the NY Times says, GMO crops "contain DNA derived from bacteria." (See New York Times article: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/05/25/science/dispute-over-labeling-of-genetically-modified-food.html?_r=0

Although experts tell the rest of us that GMO's pose no harm, can we really trust them, especially if they are being paid by powerful food processor to convince us of their safety?

It is our right to know what we're ingesting in our foods. GMO's are already required to be labeled in Europe. But commercial farmers and biotech companies are fighting labeling here because labeling "might lead consumers to reject genetically modified food...without understanding" it, according to the NY Times article.

The Practical Vegetarian.com will continue to investigate this issue including any future issues to require labeling of GMO's. Meanwhile, the following links will help you discover if your food is GMO free:

  1. For a list of companies whose foods contain GMO's go here: http://www.whydontyoutrythis.com/2013/06/comprehensive-list-of-gmo-products-and-companies.html
  2. For a list of GMO free companies (non GMO), go here: http://buzz.naturalnews.com/000950-Non-GMO_Project-non-GMO_products-company_list.html
  3. For more information about GMO's, go here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Genetically_modified_organism - this is a Wikipedia page.
  4. If you have information about a ballot initiative to require labeling, email me here: mary@thepracticalvegetarian.com.


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