GMOs – What They Are and Why You Want Them Out of Your Food
General Mills has recently issued a statement that Cheerios will now be available free of genetically modified organisms, or GMOs. Most of us probably weren’t even aware that the top-selling breakfast cereal even contained these concerning ingredients. Exactly what is a GMO?
Genetically modified organisms are plants or animals that have been genetically engineered with DNA from bacteria, viruses or other plants and animals. These experimental combinations cannot occur in nature or in traditional crossbreeding. Usually, they are engineered to increase yield, improve drought tolerance, enhance nutrition or have the ability to withstand direct pesticide exposure.
But unfortunately, GMO consumption is connected with health problems and potential environmental damage.
According to the Non-GMO Project (a non-profit organization), most developed nations do not consider GMOs to be safe. In more than 60 countries around the world – including Australia, Japan, and countries within the European Union – there are significant restrictions or even outright bans on the production and sale of GMOs.
In the US, however, GMOs are approved and used in as much as 80% of conventional processed food. High-Risk Crops include Alfalfa (first planting 2011), Canola (approx. 90% of U.S. crop), Corn (approx. 88% of U.S. crop in 2011), Cotton (approx. 90% of U.S. crop in 2011), Papaya (most of Hawaiian crop; approximately 988 acres), Soy (approx. 94% of U.S. crop in 2011), Sugar Beets (approx. 95% of U.S. crop in 2010), Zucchini and Yellow Summer Squash (approx. 25,000 acres).
So what is the potential problem with GMO crops? According to a 2012 nutritional analysis published by Moms Across America, Non-GMO corn contains 437 times more calcium, 56 times more magnesium, and seven times more manganese than GMO corn. Of greater concern was the finding that GMO corn was found to contain 13 ppm of glyphosate, a toxic pesticide that may be carcinogenic (non-GMO corn was found to have zero).
There have also been animal studies to suggest that GMO crops lead to tumor development, organ damage and early death. (Although to be fair, one such study published in the journal Food and Chemical Toxicology that is quoted by some groups has been retracted pending an investigation.)
Unfortunately, most Americans do not even know when they are consuming GMO-containing foods. There is no mandatory labeling system as of yet despite the finding by a 2012 Mellman Group poll that 91% of America consumers would like to see exactly what they are eating.
The US stands behind GMO crop production. In 1999, James H. Maryanski PhD, Biotechnology Coordinator with the Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition (Food and Drug Administration) gave this statement about the US governments stand on GMOs:
“For almost two decades FDA has been studying genetic modification techniques for drug-biologic development, as well as the development of new foods, and the Agency has carefully developed policies to accommodate the changing and evolving world of biotechnology. The evidence shows that we are meeting our goal of ensuring that these new products meet the same safety standards as traditional foods,” he says.
As for the box of Cheerios you may be eating or feeding your children – “Original Cheerios will now contain non-GMO corn and non-GMO pure cane sugar in its boxes,” says General Mills. Keep in mind, however, that other varieties of Cheerios, including Honey Nut Cheerios, will continue to be made with GMO ingredients.
“For our other cereals, the widespread use of GM seed in crops, such as corn, soy, or beet sugar, would make reliably moving to non-GM ingredients difficult, if not impossible,” says General Mills.
Food and Drug Administration
Moms Across America