You’re Already Eating GMO Food and Don’t Even Know It

There are two kinds of people: those who want to know everything that is possible to know about the food they eat (the ingredients, nutrient levels, place of origin, first and last name of the farmer that grew it), and those who, as long as the food is safe, just eat it.

Which are you?  Because whichever camp you fall into, likely dictates whether you care if GMO foods be labeled “GMO foods”. Whole Foods has just announced that by 2018 all their stores will label any foods that contain GMO ingredients and many other stores are likely to follow suite. This has the makers of GMO foods in a tizzy.

I think we are going to be shocked when we see that the majority of our processed foods are GMO. (Many processed foods contain corn and/or soy and the vast majority of those crops are GMO). Although very little of our fresh fruit and vegetables are GMO currently, this could change and one popular fruit that is most likely GMO is papaya. (About half of Hawaiian grown papaya is GMO.)

There are many things that can be done to an organism for it to gain the distinction of being “genetically modified” but one of the most common is when the DNA of a plant is tinkered with such that a pesticide is baked into the genetic material. There has also been discussion of creating fish with pumped up growth hormones so they mature in half the time, and cows that produce milk with a lower fat content. Do any of these “alterations” make the organism unsafe for humans to eat? Most scientists say no, but then again the scientists were saying that DDT (the infamous pesticides used in the 70’s) was safe until they were saying that in fact it was not safe at all.   Ditto for BPA (the chemical found in plastics), asbestos, and on and on…

So do I want to know if my food is GMO? Yes. Even now, knowing that most corn and soy is GMO, I always buy organic kernel corn, organic edamame and organic tofu. (Organic food, by the way, is not allowed to contain any GMO plants).  If you buy conventional corn or soy products, you can pretty much count on it being GMO.

But I fear that once this labeling begins, the price of non GMO food will go through the green house roof and the demand for organic will be even greater (and hence even costlier). I think people will be scared off (rightly or wrongly) by the GMO label and this will then require the sellers to assure is that it IS safe.  We will start seeing ad campaigns telling us that we have nothing to worry about, that the food conglomerates have our best interests in mind and would NEVER sell us anything unsafe. So we should just go back to our soy chips and leave the laboratory experimenting to them….

Your thoughts?

(Oh and in case you’re not a loyal Portlandia watcher (a very funny TV series) and you might have missed an episode or two … Here is a video clip about the “people-who-care”’s approach to ordering chicken at a restaurant.)

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  • http://profiles.google.com/gjrhine Gary Rhine

    Science may be farther along in determining if GMO is safe but you don’t know what you don’t know. As long as there is a choice I will take GMO free at whatever the cost.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1004365814 Jackie Preas

    Interesting info.

  • Fred

    Excellent article! I’ve avoided GMO products like the plague for years. Based on internet sources, here are the lists of which countries have completely banned GMOs or restricted them:

    BANNED:

    Algeria, Sri Lanka, Hungary, Switzerland, New Zealand, Ireland, Japan, Saudia Arabia, Greece , France bans all GMO corn as does Russia, the European Union and Australia

    RESTRICTED:

    Egypt, Brazil, Paraguay,Norway, Austria, Thailand,Germany, Spain, Italy, Peru, and China

    • Jen

      Australia does not have a ban on GM. It is sold in processed food and grown in some states.

      • Fred

        Thanks, Jen….oops, one of my sources on the internet lead me astray!

  • Tuni

    Demand drives down cost. There are a whole host of problems why organic is and will remain to be expensive, however more demand will be great for the “people who care”. Also make your own gardens!

  • Jen

    I don’t purchase any foods that are genetically engineered (GE), including any packaged foods that have non-organic canola oil, soybean oil, corn oil, corn syrup, corn and soy derived ingredients, cottonseed oil, sugar. If any label just says “sugar” (instead of cane sugar), then that “sugar” is derived from genetically engineered sugar beets …this includes all that pretty Easter candy that was just in all the stores. Classic condiments such as Hellman’s mayonnaise, Grey Poupon mustard and Heinz ketchup, as well as 80% of the packaged items in our supermarkets contain GMOs. I buy mostly organic, including whole organic chickens from Whole Foods, when they go on sale for $1.99 lb, and keep them in the freezer. All the “100% vegetarian fed” chicken on the market…fed GE soy & GE corn. I am like that little boy from the New York Times article, and avoid wheat, dairy and nightshades. Nightshades cause the most acute pain and people with this sensitivity also react to crops with GE BT toxin. I’m 49 years old…these food sensitivities just showed up 8 years ago. My entire life I ate everything, including my share of junk food, and was a gourmet and ethnic foodie.

    Food and Water Watch (great fact sheets), Food Democracy Now and Right to Know GMO are good web sources about labeling.

  • Rick Machado

    The labeling of GMO’s is not a good enough reason for me to raise my prices on my farm products. We raise prices only when we start selling out of a product on a continuous basis. The demand for organic is strong-er than before but pales besides the sales of conventional food. What is more worrying is the constant erosion of organic standards.

  • Gillian K

    The best doc I’ve seen on GMO – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pZVRrbyGtos

    If the link doesn’t open, you can find it on youtube. Just search for “genetic roulette GMO”. It was made last year and has a panel of medical and scientific experts revealing the truth about the GM food supply and its health consequences.

    GMOs are being linked to a wide spectrum of illnesses/conditions from autism to Alzheimer’s – and a great deal in between. 90% of the commercial crops in the US are now GM. Monsanto is making it very difficult to eat/live off the GMO grid.

  • Shine

    Realized this with grits and cornmeal. Quaker, the Wally World brand, et al., are ground from GMO corn. For me, reading LABELS has always been fundamental.

  • Laura

    I worry about bees and this built-in pesticide. Scary stuff.

  • gillian k

    http://gmo-awareness.com/2011/05/12/monsanto-dirty-dozen/

    very interesting…check out Monsanto’s historical track record!

  • Jolene

    Im half torn on this subject. The idea of GMO does not scare me, I think its the next logical step however it depends on how your modifying my food. I don’t want soy that was been modified to withstand tons of carcinogenic pesticides, but i do like the idea of somehow modifying the crops to be pest resistant by themselves. I think this is a step that we need to take to ensure adequate food supply. also I always have an issue with studies done testing GMO’s effect on the body because how on earth do you tell of it isn’t the pesticides and lack of nutrients causing the same problems you want to blame on the genetic modification.

  • Moon Cho

    Interesting post and information. Seen a lot of articles lately regarding GMOs and yours by far was the most intriguing. Be sure to check out http://www.yingandyangliving.com/food/- tons of great healthy recipes. Let me know what you think!

  • bill

    i did learn that organic food MAY still contain gmo’s.. I always thought if it was organic it was safe, but not necessarily

  • Melanie Carr

    What do PCB, aspartamine, dioxins, saccharine, rBHT, Round-Up, and GMO products all have in common? At one time or another over the last century, all of these products have been produced by Monsanto. There are questions, either proven or suspected, about the safety of all of them. Monsanto has a long record of producing a product, making as much money as possible off of it, then ceasing production for something more profitable.

    In the case of some of these, their profits have come at a HUGE cost to the public. For example, dioxins. During the Viet Nam war, large amounts of dioxins were incorporated into the herbicide “Agent Orange”. US troups seving in the theatre and the people of Viet Nam were exposed to this toxin.

    Monsanto had data on the toxic effects of dioxins from studies on factory workers who were accidentally exposed to dioxin. What did they do with this information? They forged reports to the FDA to “prove” that the product was not harmful and could NOT be responsible for the illnesses suffered by veterans of the Viet Nam war. As a result, these veterans were denied their claims for compensation against the company.

    These men and women were still eligible for Veteran’s benefits. Currently veterans exposed to Agent Orange can by treated by the Veteran’s Administration for illnesses linked to exposure. Examples of illnesses include diabetes and cancer.

    The upshot is this – Monsanto made millions off of Agent Orange. But who pays for the care of people who are sick from exposure? Not the company that produced the product. That burden falls on every American who pays taxes. Our tax money goes to provide medical care and disability benefits for veterans harmed by Agent Orange.

    This is not the only case where Monsanto has profited while the American taxpayers were stuck with the bill.

    Are GMO’s safe? Who knows? The producers are doing everything in their power to block anyone from being able to prove one way or the other. One thing you can be sure of – if the products do cause harm, WE will be paying in the form of higher taxes, higher health care premiums, and higher food prices.

  • em.s

    The only thing that will change the price of Organic Veg is demand. If the demand is there, they will grow more, or people will start to grow. This creates competition, which lowers prices, which makes organic food more accessible to the everyday consumer. I, for one, am hoping for that change. It will improve the price of Organic Veg for the better.