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GMOs: What Am I Eating?

By Debra Rodzinak

Those three letters in the headline have stirred up a storm on the internet.  Anyone who searches those three little letters will pull up over 128 million websites pertaining to GMOs.  If this is such a hot topic, why don’t we hear more about it?  What is a GMO?  Is it contagious?  Why do I need to worry about GMOs? 

What Are GMOs?

According to livescience.com, a GMO is a genetically modified organism, an organism that has had its DNA altered or modified in some way through genetic engineering. In most cases, GMOs have been altered with DNA from another organism, be it a bacterium, plant, virus or animal.

A little confusing, but basically a GMO in our food supply is a food, like corn, that has been modified with DNA from a donor, such as a plant or animal and sometimes a bacteria or virus.  That last part sounds a little scary to me.  Do I want to eat a tortilla that contains the DNA from a virus? 

Why Don’t I Just Buy Foods That Are Not GMO?

I think we all would buy foods that are labeled Non-GMO if we believed GMOs were not safe.  Unfortunately, the United States doesn’t require labeling on GMO foods.  Much of the world requires some form of labeling on GMO foods.  Over 40 percent of the world's population already knows whether the foods they eat are genetically modified. But in the United States, we don’t follow the lead of countries like China or the European Union. 

Interestingly, companies that produce and sell food in the US will reformulate the foods they sell overseas that require GMO labeling. This makes me wonder why they change their “magic formula” for foods sold elsewhere.  

What Are the Health Risks of GMOs?

Unlike new drugs that require rigorous testing and approval for sale in the US, the safety of genetically engineered foods eaten by young and old alike is not adequately tested in the US.  There have been no long-term studies conducted on genetically engineered food safety in humans.  In fact, the only testing required for GMOs is by the companies who manufacture the foods themselves. Our government does not test or require any additional testing for these types of foods.

If people are allowed to know what is in their food, then they can make informed food choices. Not labeling food as GMO, I believe, takes away the power of the consumer to vote with their dollar.  Legislation regarding GMO labeling needs to be passed. 

 

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