"Europe largely bans genetically engineered foods and has strict requirements on labeling them. They do allow the import of a number of GM crops such as soy, mostly for animal feed, and individual European countries have opted to plant these types of crops. Genetically engineered corn is grown in Spain, though it amounts to only a fraction of European farmland." (source: Huffington Post)
In the United States, consumers are pushing to have mandatory labeling of genetically engineered foods, but it is an uphill battle. Many of the big corporations producing GMO products are vigorously fighting this requirement.
"The U.S. does not require labels on the view that genetically modified food is not materially different than non-modified food. Opponents of labeling say it would scare consumers away from safe foods, giving the appearance that there is something wrong with them.....U.S. activists insist consumers should have the right to choose whether to eat genetically modified foods and that labeling would offer them that choice, whether the foods are safe or not. They are pushing for labeling at the state and federal level. California voters last year rejected a ballot initiative that would have required GM food labeling. The legislatures of Connecticut and Maine have passed laws to label genetically modified foods, and more than 20 other states are contemplating labeling." (source: Huffington Post)
Like it or not, we have been consuming genetically engineered foods for years. "GM foods have been a mainstay in the U.S. for more than a decade. Most of the crops are used for animal feed or in common processed foods such as cookies, cereal, potato chips and salad dressing." (source: Huffington Post) Some estimates are that 60%-70% of all processed foods in the US are genetically modified. Most likely we have all consumed foods with at least one genetically modified ingredient.
"GMOs may be hidden in common processed food ingredients such as: Amino Acids, Aspartame, Ascorbic Acid, Sodium Ascorbate, Vitamin C, Citric Acid, Sodium Citrate, Flavorings (“natural” and “artificial”), High Fructose Corn Syrup, Hydrolyzed Vegetable Protein, Lactic Acid, Maltodextrins, Molasses, Monosodium Glutamate, Sucrose, Textured Vegetable Protein (TVP), Xanthan Gum, Vitamins, Yeast Products." (source: NonGMO Project)
According to NonGMO project, these are GMO crops currently being grown:
- 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)
Why the issues with GMOs? According to Web MD, some of the risks of GMOs include:
- Introducing allergens and toxins to food
- Accidental contamination between genetically modified and non-genetically modified foods
- Antibiotic resistance
- Adversely changing the nutrient content of a crop
- Creation of “super” weeds and other environmental risks
Recently, GMO movement has entered new territory with the FDA evaluating approval of a genetically modified salmon. If approved, this would become the first genetically modified animal to be approved for human consumption.
How can we avoid eating GMOs? Avoid consuming processed food and buy organic products. Certified organic products cannot intentionally include any GMO ingredients. Buy products labeled “100% organic,” “organic,” or “made with organic ingredients.” You can be doubly sure if the product also has a Non-GMO Project Verified Seal.
Below are links to help you learn more about GMOs. The NonGMO Project has a shopping guide to help you if you want to avoid purchasing products with GMO ingredients. They also have an app you can put on your phone.