The foods we choose to eat are usually ones that we like the taste of, foods that we have grown to love and foods that we consume for nutritional value. But the foods that taste oh so good may not be oh so good for us. Have you ever heard of GMO? GMO stands for genetically modified organisms and these folks are things that people are consuming all over the world without even knowing it! No matter how tasty or healthy we may think our food is, we could be consuming GMO’s without evening knowing it!
So what are GMO’s??
GMOs (genetically modified organisms) are the result of a laboratory process of taking genes from one species and inserting them into another species in an attempt to obtain a desired trait or characteristic: they are also known as “transgenic organisms.” This process may be called either genetic engineering (GE) or genetic modification (GM). For example, some genetically modified soybeans contain a gene that comes from soil bacteria. This gene helps the soybeans grow even when sprayed with herbicide. Some genetically modified corn has a gene that produces a toxin. This toxin kills an insect called the corn borer and allows the corn to grow without damage. These types of genetically modified foods are considered safe for humans to eat. The first GMO crop was approved by the FDA in 1994. Since then, GE varieties of corn, soya, sugar beets and canola have become common local crops in Canada. In addition to locally produced crops, GE varieties of cottonseed oil, papaya, squash and milk products are imported from the USA into Canada. In a mere 20 years, GMO ingredients have made their way into most of the processed foods available on Canadian grocery shelves.
Am I eating a GM food??
The safety of GMO foods is unproven and a growing body of research connects these foods with health concerns and environmental damage. GM foods do not have to be labelled in Canada or the United States. Labeling of GM foods is very difficult. This is because a GM food like corn can be used as an ingredient in many other foods like cereal, yogurt, frozen entrees and canned soup. All of these foods would need to be labelled as having genetically modified ingredients.
If you are a Canadian consumer, you will likely not know if the foods you buy have been genetically modified. But, in other parts of the world like Europe, Russia, Japan, Australia and New Zealand, it is mandatory to label GM foods.
Risks of eating GM Foods:
Crops that grow GM plants may contaminate other fields that are close by. This may happen if the seeds from a GM crop blow into a neighbouring field. Many countries now have ways to lower the risk of cross-contamination, but this is still one of the biggest risks of GM crops.
Some experts say that the variety of foods that the world produces may be lowered due to GM crops. This is because farmers may choose to plant only a few types of GM crops since they may produce larger amounts of food.
The scariest part for Canadians?
Health Canada does not plan to do research on GM foods since they are not seen as a risk to Canadians.
I don’t want to eat these! What can I do??
We have a couple of options and steps that we can take to eliminate GM foods! We can:
- Support Bill C-257, an act to amend the Food and Drugs Act and instate mandatory labeling of genetically modified foods.
- Contact your local MP’s office to find out how they are representing your interests regarding GMO’s.
- Start buying Organic!
- Plant a garden, grow your own produce.
- To avoid products with GM ingredients, check out our book Genetically Engineered Foods: A Self-Defense Guide for Consumers and you can check out the Non-GMO Shopping Guide for avoiding GE foods.