Guest Blogger Series “GMOs Revealed” – Part Four

As you may remember, my youngest sister, Maggie, is guest blogging in a four-part series, providing us all with information around the controversial subject of genetically modified organisms.  Throughout Part Three of her series, Maggie offered insight into the potential drawbacks of GMO consumption.  Among these detriments included: the depletion of nutrients in certain foods, the limitations to cell growth, and the reduction of the potency of antibiotics.  This week, Maggie’s post details the resources that consumers can use in order to find non-GMO food and beverage products.  After you read this guest blog post, please use the comments section to share how you make informed choices concerning your GMO consumption.  Please don’t hesitate to ask questions or post comments you have about any of Maggie’s previous three posts as well.  Thank you so much for this wonderful guest blogger series, Maggie!

Guest Blogger Series “GMOs Revealed” – Part Four

Arguments about whether GMO technology is good or bad continue to unfold (GE Food). Supporters of GMOs say that they are a great resource for a world of hungry people (GE Food). Many believe that GMOs will lower the amount of people who die due to hunger (GE Food). Critics point out the long list of risks associated with GMOs (GE Food). Geneticist David Suzuki states, “What biotechnology allows us to do is to switch genes from one to the other without regard to the biological constraints. It’s very very bad science, we assume that the principles governing the inheritance of genes vertically, applies when you move genes laterally or horizontally. There’s absolutely no reason to make that conclusion.”

Consumers looking for non-GMO options have many resources, one of them being the Non-GMO Project. The Non-GMO Project is an organization that is committed to providing consumers with the information they need on GMOs in their food (GMO Facts). As quoted from their website, “The Non-GMO Project is a non-profit organization with a mission of protecting the non-GMO food supply and giving consumers an informed choice” (GMO Facts). This organization provides the consumer with a clear label on food packages that say, “Non-GMO Project Verified” (GMO Facts). These words are accompanied by an orange butterfly on a green plant (GMO Facts). This “seal” means that that particular food item has gone through the Non-GMO Project verification process (GMO Facts). This process “is an assurance that a product has been produced according to consensus-based best practices for GMO avoidance” (GMO Facts). The verification process includes multiple stages of testing, on-site inspections where the product is manufactured, and reviews of the ingredients in the product (GMO Facts). The Non-GMO Project is the only organization in North America that provides non-GMO verification for food products (GMO Facts). The nonprofit’s goal is to empower consumers to stop buying GMO foods so farmers will stop growing them and companies will stop putting them in their products (GMO Facts).   

As GMO technology becomes more and more a part of the lives of people around the globe, staying informed has never been so imperative. All consumers should be able to make informed decisions about what they eat, as their health could depend on those decisions.

Works Cited

GE Food and Your Health.  n.d.  Center for Food Safety,  n.d.  Web.  19 Mar. 2016.

GMO Facts.  n.d.  The Non-GMO Project,  n.d.  Web.  10 Mar. 2016.

Guest Blogger Series “GMOs Revealed” – Part Three

As you may remember, my youngest sister, Maggie, is guest blogging in a four-part series, providing us all with information around the controversial subject of genetically modified organisms.  Throughout Part Two of her series, Maggie provided a list of products that are made using ingredients that have been genetically modified.  In addition, she explained the differences in GMO labeling depending upon a consumer’s geographic location.  This week, Maggie’s post details the detriments of genetically modified organisms to human health and well-being.  After you read this guest blog post, please use the comments section to share your opinions about the human health concerns surrounding the consumption of genetically modified organisms.

Guest Blogger Series “GMOs Revealed” – Part Three

There are many studies that prove that GMOs are potentially harmful to human health (GMO Education). Although the FDA ruled in 1992 that “genetically engineered foods present no different risks than traditional foods,” the organization’s own scientists have said, “There is a profound difference between the types of unexpected effects from traditional breeding and genetic engineering. This difference should be and is not addressed” (GE Food). Five main health concerns about GMOs include: toxicity, allergic reactions, antibiotic resistance, immunosuppression, and loss of nutrition (GE Food).

When the gene of one organism is inserted into another, there is no way of knowing where the gene is being inserted (GE Food). Scientists do not know the genetic makeup of the organism receiving the genes either, and therefore cannot come up with a safe place to insert the gene (GE Food). The insertions are very random (GE Food). Because of this, a nontoxic element in a food could potentially become toxic (GE Food). FDA scientists warned that there was definitely a possibility of dangerous toxins appearing in food due to genetic modification and health risks that come with them (GE Food).

There are two main concerns with regard to allergic reactions and GMOs (GE Food). One is the fact that genetic modification can take an allergen from one food and put it into another (GE Food). The New England Journal of Medicine put out a study that showed people who ate soybeans that had been inserted with Brazil nut genes having serious allergic reactions (GE Food). Without labels on GM products, consumers with allergies cannot avoid food with their allergen (GE Food). The second concern is that GMOs could be creating new food allergies because of the new proteins that are a result of genetic modification (GE Food). These proteins have not been in human diets before and could cause allergic reactions (GE Food). Also, GM soy, corn, and papaya fail allergy tests (GMO Education). This is because the proteins in the GMO contain known allergens (GMO Education).   

GMOs could also make some antibiotics useless to humans and animals (GE Food). Most all GMOs contain something that is called “antibiotic resistance markers” that are used for the producers of the GMO to find out if the gene actually made it into the host (GE Food). These “antibiotic resistance markers” could make antibiotics useless (GE Food). For example, the Novartis company inserted a corn plant with an ampicillin resistant gene (GE Food). Ampicillin is an antibiotic that is used to treat many human and animal infections (GE Food). Concerns lie in the gene from the corn moving into bacteria and therefore making the antibiotic far less effective (GE Food).

A study conducted by Drs. Arpad Pusztai and Stanley W.B. Ewen showed lab rats fed genetically modified potatoes resulted in poor effects on their organ development, body metabolism, and immune function (GE Food). The potatoes had been modified to contain Bacillus Thuringiensis, a biopesticide (GE Food).

There are also concerns that genetically modification could lower the nutritional value of different foods (GE Food). FDA scientists have stated that the genetic modification could result in “undesirable alteration in the level of nutrients” in that particular food (GE Food). In addition, in the 1980s, L-tryptophan, a food supplement, caused serious health issues (GMO Education). One hundred Americans died (GMO Education). It also caused disability and sickness in five to ten thousand other people (GMO Education). These sicknesses and death were most likely caused by the genetically modified organism in the product (GMO Education).

The Institute for Responsible Technology reported that over 50% of the babies of a mother rat that was fed GMO soy died within three weeks (GMO Education). This in comparison with the babies of the mothers fed non-GMO soy in which only 10% died in three weeks (GMO Education). In addition, the stomach lining of rats fed GM potatoes showed excessive cell growth which is a condition that could cause cancer (GMO Education). Those same rats also showed damage to their organs and immune system (GMO Education).

Works Cited

GE Food and Your Health.  n.d.  Center for Food Safety,  n.d.  Web.  19 Mar. 2016.

GMO Education.   n.d.  Institute For Responsible Technology,  n.d.  Web.  20 Mar. 2016.

Guest Blogger Series “GMOs Revealed” – Part Two

As you may remember from last week, my youngest sister, Maggie, is guest blogging in a four-part series, providing us all with information around the controversial subject of genetically modified organisms.  Throughout Part One of her series, Maggie provided insight into the history of this type of food engineering, as well as explanations about what genetically modified organisms actually are (and are not).  This week, Maggie’s post details how the production of GMOs in the United States differs from the production of GMOs in other countries, as well as how GMOs are regulated in terms of labeling.  After you read this guest blog post, please use the comments section to share your opinions about whether the FDA should mandate the labeling of products containing GMOs, given the general public’s consensus (which Maggie will explain below)!

Guest Blogger Series “GMOs Revealed” – Part Two

The United States is one of 70 countries that either produce or import GMOs. As of 2014 the five countries producing GMOs were the United States with 73.1 million hectares, Brazil with 42.2 hectares, Argentina with 24.3 hectares, Canada with 11.6 hectares, and India with 11.6 hectares as well (Worldwide). Genetically modified crops in the U.S. include corn, soybean, potato, cotton, canola, tomato, and squash (Johnson). In fact, 90% of the corn, soybean, and cotton crops grown in the U.S. are genetically modified (Johnson). You may find GMOs in store bought items like salad dressing, pasta, peanut butter, frozen yogurt, tomato sauce, and even infant formula (GMO Education). But, GMOs can also be found in non – food items such as cosmetics, shampoo, soaps, and detergents (GMO Education). Also, many animals are fed genetically modified feed (GMO Education).

Scientists have tried many different genetically modified combinations (GMO Education). These combinations include Arctic fish genes inserted into tomatoes and strawberries so they would resist frost, jellyfish genes inserted into pigs to make their noses glow in the dark, and spider genes inserted into goat DNA for goat milk that contained a certain spider protein to make bulletproof vests (GMO Education). Other experiments in the genetically modified field have resulted in apples that resist browning and potatoes that glow in the dark when they need watering (GMO Education). In addition, rice has been inserted with human genes, corn with jellyfish genes, sugarcane with human genes, and corn with human genes (GMO Education).

 Currently, the United States does not require GMO labeling (What Are We Eating). This means that if a food contains a GMO, the U.S. does not require that information to be presented to the consumer on the nutrition or food label (What Are We Eating). Therefore, millions of infants, children, and adults consume genetically modified organisms without even knowing it, thus turning into human lab rats (GE Food). In 64 other countries around the world, which makes up 40% of the population, there are requirements for GMO labels, severe restrictions to the production of GMOs, and even bans on GMOs (What Are We Eating). The entire European Union and China require GMOs to be labeled (What Are We Eating). So why not in the U.S.? The FDA has said that “there is no need to label GMOs,” and will not label GMO foods (What Are We Eating), although, 92% of the United States population say that they are not only in favor, but strongly support the labeling of GMOs (U.S. Polls). Because GMO foods are not labeled, the consumer is not able to make an educated decision about whether or not they want to eat a genetically modified product. The United States currently lets companies use GMOs in secret, masking them on ingredient lists (What Are We Eating). Items that a consumer may see on an ingredient list that may be made from a genetically modified organism include: aspartame, fructose, glucose, diglyceride, and whey (Non-GMO).

Works Cited

GE Food and Your Health.  n.d.  Center for Food Safety,  n.d.  Web.  19 Mar. 2016.

GMO Education.   n.d.  Institute For Responsible Technology,  n.d.  Web.  20 Mar. 2016.

Johnson, David. Genetically Modified Food People Already Eat in the U.S.  n.d.  Time, 30 Apr. 2015.  Web.  16 Mar. 2016.

Non-GMO Shopping Guide.  n.d.  Institute For Responsible Technology,  2014.  Web. 17 Mar. 2016.

U.S. Polls on GE Food Labeling.  n.d.  Center For Food Safety,  n.d.  Web.  12 Mar. 2016.  

What Are We Eating.  n.d.  Label GMOs.  n.d.  Web.  9 Mar. 2016.  

Worldwide Commercial Growing.  n.d.  Gene Watch,  n.d.  Web.  15 Mar. 2016.

Guest Blogger Series “GMOs Revealed” – Part One

My youngest sister, Maggie, recently participated in her school’s science fair.  In preparation for the fair, she completed substantial research in order to address the scope of her project: revealing the plight of America’s genetically modified food system.  At the fair, she defended her analysis of the increased prevalence of genetically modified organisms, while also exploring the risks of GMO product consumption.  By synthesizing the two schools of thought surrounding GMOs, she presented a compelling case for the dilemmas that agricultural technologies bring to the surface of this nation’s conversation about its food supply.  I am thrilled that Maggie will be guest blogging in a four-part series, providing us all with further insight into this complex method of food engineering.  As always, please use the comments section of this post to share your opinions with our community!

Guest Blogger Series “GMOs Revealed” – Part One

First introduced to food supply in the mid – 1990s, GMOs now dominate the shelves of supermarkets throughout the United States. Today, 80 percent of processed foods contain at least one genetically modified organism. “GMO” searches on Google have tripled since 2012 (Rangel), as the information about this new technology increases.

For my science fair project, I chose to investigate the growing conversation about genetically modified organisms. As more data about them becomes accessible to the public, I think it is important that people stay informed about how GMOs can and will affect them.    

What is, in fact, a genetically modified organism? The World Health Organization defines them as, “organisms in which the genetic material (DNA) has been altered in a way that does not occur naturally” (Food Safety). In other words, the genes of one organism are injected into another to create new traits or properties that cannot be found in that organism when it exists in nature. The genes that are inserted can be physically shot into a cell, or introduced through bacteria (Biotech). The new genes may come from bacteria, viruses, insects, animals, and sometimes even humans (GMO Education). The process of inserting foreign genes into organisms is known as genetic engineering (GMO Facts). Genetically modified organisms are often referred to as GMOs and genetic engineering as GE (GMO Facts).

Genetic modification is not to be confused with cross breeding (Genetic Modification). Cross breeding is the process of exchanging the pollen of one plant to another (Biotech). The goal is to try to create offspring with the specific trait a scientist is looking for (Genetic Modification). This process though, is limited to species that are related or very closely related (Genetic Modification). In addition, it can take a large amount of time to get the trait that is wanted, many times multiple generations of the cross bred organism (Genetic Modification). Most often, neither plant that is being cross bred has the desired trait (Genetic Modification). Genetic modification, however, allows scientists to insert genes from one organism into a completely unrelated organism. For example, genes from a salmon have been inserted into a tomato to make the tomato resistant to cold water (Genetically Modified). This allows a larger harvest of tomatoes when the weather is unfavorable (Genetically Modified).

Works Cited

Biotech Information Resources.  Jul. 2014.  International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications,  n.d.  Web.  12 Mar. 2016.

Food Safety.  n.d.  World Health Organization,  n.d.  Web.  13 Mar. 2016.

Genetically Modified Foods.  n.d.  PBS Learning Media,  9 Jul, 2002.  Web.  14 Mar. 2016.

Genetic Modification and Conventional Breeding.  n.d.  Europabio,  n.d.  Web.  15 Mar. 2016.

GMO Education.   n.d.  Institute For Responsible Technology,  n.d.  Web.  20 Mar. 2016.

GMO Facts.  n.d.  The Non-GMO Project,  n.d.  Web.  10 Mar. 2016.

Rangel, Gabriel.  From Corgis to Corn: A Brief Look at the Long History of GMO Technology.  n.d.  Harvard University,  n.d.  Web.  11 Mar. 2016.