On the Subject of GM Salmon

Genetically modified salmon has recently been given the metaphorical green light by the Food and Drug Administration.  There is no requirement mandating proper labeling of this genetically modified salmon; however, the FDA has floated the idea that the salmon may be labeled optionally.  If this optional labeling were to take place, it would appear as though each seafood corporation could make its own decision regarding the level of detail that they will provide their consumers regarding the manner in which their salmon was raised (Pollack).

Purdue University Professor William Muir, a proponent of GM salmon, says that “the current practice of using wild caught salmon as a food source is not sustainable; our oceans are overfished.”  Additionally, Professor Muir states that “this development provides a safe and sustainable alternative.”  Conversely, opponents of genetically modified salmon are concerned about the health of wild salmon if the GM salmon were to escape from their confinement (Pollack).

At this time, I am opposed to the genetic engineering of salmon.  Yes, I am disappointed with the haphazard proposals, if we can even call them that, for labeling GM salmon.  Yes, I am doubtful that the GM salmon will never escape their confinement- and I am skeptical about what their escape means for the reproductive success of wild salmon.  Nevertheless, the aspect of this controversy that I find most perplexing is that genetic engineering has become an increasingly acceptable, even expected, aspect of our food system.  Does the future of our food system look like genetically modified… everything?

I look forward to hearing your opinion on this matter!

Until Next Week… Plan Well, Pack Well, Live Well,

Katie 🙂

Works Cited

Pollack, Andrew. “Genetically Engineered Salmon Approved for Consumption.” New York Times. 19 Nov. 2015: The New York Times Company. Web. 28 Nov. 2015. <http://www.nytimes.com/2015/11/20/business/genetically-engineered-salmon-approved-for-consumption.html?_r=0>

Advertisements

Did You Miss Me?

Because I missed you!  🙂

Why, you ask, have I been absent from Project Lunchbox these last two weeks? Let me put it this way: GREETINGS FROM COLLEGE!  After a hectic but exciting two weeks of packing, unpacking, and acclimating, I am officially back from my writing hiatus.

Perhaps over the course of the past month or so, you’ve heard rumblings of a bill making its way through the United States legislature concerning genetically modified organisms.  Approximately one month ago, the bill, entitled The Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act of 2015, progressed past the United States House of Representatives after a vote that 275 legislators favored, while only 150 legislators disapproved.  The architect of this bill, Representative Mike Pompeo, was inspired to create this bill with feelings that laws about the obligatory categorization and classification of genetically modified organisms are much too expensive.  Representative Pompeo stood strong in his conviction that “precisely zero pieces of credible evidence have been presented that foods produced with biotechnology pose any risk to our health and safety” and he argued that “we should not raise prices on consumers based on the wishes of a handful of activists.”  Those who advocate for the passing of the bill into a law often cite the Grocery Manufacturers Association’s claims that the continuation of GMO labeling as a process determined by individual states would raise the average four person American family’s grocery bill by upwards of five hundred dollars, while also forcing food companies and the processed food industry to spend an enormous sum of money in order to catch up to speed with the labeling.  Ironically, those who disagree with Representative Pompeo’s statements and those in support of the legislation have created their own catchy title for the bill: The Denying Americans the Right to Know Act, otherwise known as the DARK Act.  Whether or not it is referred to as The Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act of 2015, or the DARK Act, this bill aims to accomplish one goal: nationalizing a standard of optional food labeling of genetically modified organisms.  That’s right, this bill proposes the discretionary labeling of GMOs rather than mandating it across all food companies in the United States (Marcos).

Interestingly, there were several amendments proposed and consequently dismissed by the House of Representatives that had the potential to protect the integrity of food labeling and also ensure consistency.  Representative DeLauro championed an amendment which would have prevented food companies and the processed food industry from labeling their products as natural if they were made with even a single GMO.  Another amendment, feverishly supported by Representative DeFazio, would have made it an obligation for food companies and the processed food industry to standardize their food labeling of GMOs domestically and internationally.  For instance, if a processed food was already labeled as being made with GMOs in Europe, if this amendment had passed, it would have required this processed food company to label the food as made with GMOs in the United States as well.  Finally, an amendment endorsed by Representative Huffman would have granted Native Americans the jurisdiction to curtail the sowing and harvesting of genetically modified plants on their lands (Marcos).

In opposition to the bill and its contents, Just Label It has made it their personal mission to empower Americans to voice their concerns over the proposed, and in their opinion, lackluster GMO labeling legislation through the “Conceal of Reveal.”  This campaign’s chairman, Gary Hirshberg (you may also know Mr. Hirschberg as the chairman of Stonyfield Farm) explained “We are disappointed but not surprised that the majority of House members have sided with large chemical and food companies to protect corporate interests over the 90 percent of American citizens who simply want the right to know more about their food.  As a long-time food executive, I find it hard to believe that smart companies like PepsiCo, Coca-Cola, General Mills, Kellogg’s and Campbell’s are willing to risk their reputations to avoid putting a couple of additional words in their ingredient panels.  Instead, they continue to fund efforts that are exactly the opposite of what their consumers clearly want. It is clear that the tide of consumer support favors more transparency.  Americans will now know how their representatives voted and that their favorite brands are keeping them in the dark” (Spear).

If this bill is passed by the Senate, a standard of food labeling for GMOs will be implemented across the United States.  However, it is critical to note that this labeling would not be mandated or required by food companies, as it would be their decision to include whether or not their products were created by genetically modified organisms.  Additionally, if this bill became a law, the Food and Drug Administration would be prevented from requiring companies to label their products as containing GMOs on a national level (Spear).

At its core, this situation deals with clarity, particularly how much clarity Americans should be allowed when it comes to food labeling.  If you had to use one word to describe what this legislation entails and its results on the public, which word would you choose and why?  Also, where do you stand when it comes to the labeling of genetically modified organisms?  I can’t wait to hear from you!

Until Next Week… Plan Well, Pack Well, Live Well,

Katie 🙂

P.S.

I also wanted to let you know that I am going to be sending out weekly posts on Sunday evenings from now on to accommodate my college schedule!

Works Cited

Marcos, Christina & Wheeler Lydia. “House passes bill blocking states from requiring GMO labels on food.” The Hill. 23 July 2015: Capitol Hill Publishing Corporation. Web. 30 August 2015. <http://thehill.com/blogs/floor-action/house/248974-house-passes-gmo-labeling-reform-bill> 

Spear. Ecowatch. n.d. EcoWatch, 24 July 2015. Web. 30 August 2015. <http://ecowatch.com/2015/07/24/house-passes-dark-act/>

Vermont Pioneers Through New GMO Territory…

Interestingly, Vermont will be the first state in the USA to enact legislation requiring food corporations and manufacturers to clearly label products which contain genetically modified organisms no later than July 1, 2016.  Once VT Governor Peter Shumlin, an advocate for properly educating and informing the general public about what’s really inside their food signs this mandate into law, it will no longer be legal for GMO containing food products to be disguised from citizens.  While other states have made attempts to bring about such change in food labeling in the past few years, Vermont is the only one to date that has accomplished anything significant with their effort.  In fact, California and Washington have tried to enact legislation similar to Vermont’s, however, companies such as Monsanto reacted by spending millions of dollars in advertising, ultimately convincing the public that GMO labeling wouldn’t actually end up being all it’s cracked up to be.  Companies and corporations have an underlying fear that the growing pro-GMO labeling sentiment would wreak havoc on their businesses.  With initiatives like the Non-GMO Project on the rise, it will be interesting to see how far food companies will go in an effort to prevent the illegality of labeling foods containing GMOs (Weingarten).

How do you feel about this… do you see GMO labeling laws as something that will happen imminently in your community/state, or something that will eventually happen in the future?  Let me know!

Until Next Week… Plan Well, Pack Well, Live Well,

Katie 🙂

Works Cited

Weingarten, Hemi. “Vermont Will Be The First State to Mandate GMO Labeling.” Fooducate.  Fooducate. 25 April 2014. Web. 29 April 2014. <http://blog.fooducate.com/2014/04/25/vermont-will-be-the-first-state-to-mandate-gmo-labeling/>

 

The Non-GMO Project

As we know, to create a genetically modified organism, the DNA from one species is literally injected into the DNA of another.  Examples of crops that have been genetically modified include: alfalfa, canola seed, corn, and soy.  Although I’ve blogged about genetically  modified organisms in the past and their hazards to our health, this week I wanted to report some great news regarding the labeling of products that contain them.

Have you heard about the Non-GMO Project?  This Project consists of an alliance among consumers, seed breeders, farmers, distributors, processors, retailers, and manufacturers who have come together to form North America’s first independent third-party Non-GMO Product Verification Program.  Their program uses a multi-level process in order to verify compliance with the non-GMO standard at every level of the supply chain.  This insures that producers follow exacting best practices for GMO prevention.

In addition, the Project’s seal helps consumers make more informed choices at the supermarket.  So the next time you’re at the grocery store, make sure to scout out the non-gmo seal (it has a small orange butterfly in the top left-hand corner of the label!)  Let me know how many you find in your favorite grocery store!

Until Next Week…Plan Well, Pack Well, Live Well,

Katie 🙂

PS – If you’d like more information about the non-gmo project, check out their website at: http://www.nongmoproject.org

And Speaking of GMOs…

This week I thought that I’d touch upon GMOs, or genetically modified organisms, as a continuation of my guest blogger’s poem.  Below you’ll find information about all things GMO: why they’re in our food, the arguments that favor them, the arguments that denounce them, and how we can identify what foods they are in at the  supermarket.

What are GMOs?

All animal and plant species consist of cells, and at the center of every cell resides a nucleus.  The nucleus is known as the brain of the cell, and it operates the cell’s functioning and how it carries out day to day activities.  Next, DNA, or deoxyribose nucleic acid, can be found inside the nucleus in the form of genes.  And that brings us to genetically modified organisms, or plants and animals that have been engineered to have coveted traits and qualities.  To create a genetically modified organism, the DNA from one species is literally injected into the DNA of another.  However, it’s important to note that these methods are different than breeding or hybridizing.  This is because traditional breeding allows for members of the same species to mate with one another, thus producing a new and improved variety.  It is impossible to breed two different species together using this traditional breeding method.  On the other hand, a genetically modified organism can be engineered using different species.  For example, this science allows for a pig to be mated with a potato…pretty freaky!

Why are GMOs in our Food?
In an effort to make species immune to roundup (a type of pesticide), genetically modified organisms are in four-fifths of all of the food we eat.  Roundup is used to exterminate insects and prevent insurmountable weed growth.  GMOs that are able to resist pesticides maximize profits for farmers and manufacturers.
Arguments that Favor GMOs:
Many large scale farmers and manufacturers will argue that the science behind GMOs makes these engineered plant and animal species bionic, and able to withstand the harshest of conditions.  For instance, a genetically modified organism will be more apt to survive droughts and freezing temperatures.  Also, they are more likely to resist wide spread diseases and persistent pests or insects.
Arguments that Denounce GMOs:
The three main areas of concern against GMOs are their effects on our environment, our health, and our economy.  First, people are worried that plant and animals species that aren’t intended to be genetically modified will actually become GMOs through pollen.  For instance, it is possible for the pollen from a crop of corn to be carried over to milkweed plants.  The milkweed would then be consumed by monarch butterfly caterpillars.  The infected pollen would damage the caterpillar’s insides and cause it to die.  Therefore, many worry about what seems to be uncontrollable contamination of species.  In addition, GMOs have been linked to autism, increased allergenicity, birth defects, diabetes, and cancer.  Finally, the seeds of genetically modified organisms are quite expensive, and it is possible there will come a day when all small scale farmers, many from third world countries, wouldn’t be able to afford the cost of the genetically modified seeds.  Hence, without the immediate availability of food, malnutrition and starvation would skyrocket.
How To Detect Food Containing GMOs at the Supermarket:
If you’re looking to reduce your exposure to GMOs, here are some super savvy shopping tricks that you can use to reduce your overall exposure:
1.)  When you’re in the produce aisle, scan your fruits and veggies PLU or price lookup code.  If the first digit in the code is an 8, this means that the fruit or veggie is genetically modified.
However, it’s important to note that these PLUs aren’t required by the FDA, so nothing is guaranteed.
2.)  Opt for products that announce that they’re GMO free or non-GMO.
3.)  Purchase 100% grass fed beef in order to ensure that the animals weren’t fed genetically modified corn.
4.)  Start a garden this spring season…this way, you’ll know exactly what you’re eating: right down to the types of seeds that you bought!
5.)  Scout out local farmers markets and ask the farmers  how they treat their crops.  As a general rule, small scale farmers rely less heavily on genetically modified organisms and pesticides than do large scale farms and plantations.
Interestingly, the labeling of a genetically modified organism in the United States is not mandated by the FDA or the government.  Although a million people have petitioned the FDA in an effort to get proper labeling on genetically modified foods, powerful companies have lobbied against taking action.  But does the FDA’s refusal to grant consumers requests speak for itself in terms of the health effects of GMOs?  Let me know what you think!
Until Next Week…Plan Well, Pack Well, Live Well,
Katie 🙂
References:
Clark, Sandra. HealthyFoodNaturally. Healthy Food – Naturally. 2013. Web. 19 March 2013.
Mastroberte, Tammy. ElevatedExistence. 2011. Web. 19 March 2013.
NoGMOShoppingGuide. Institute for Responsible Technology. 2010. Web. 19 March 2013.
Whitman, Deborah. CSA. ProQuest. 2012. Web. 19 March 2013.