5 things you should know about the genetically modified food you’re probably eating
Would you feed your family genetically modified food? Chances are, you already have.
On Thursday's Central Standard, the science behind genetically modified (GMO) and genetically engineered (GE) food. The guests:
- Harvest Public Media’s Abbie Fentress Swanson
- Dr. Alison Van Eenennaam, who studies animal genomics and biotechnology at UC Davis
- Chris Boeckmann, organic production manager at the Alan T. Busby Research Farm at Lincoln University in Jefferson City, Mo.
Here is some of what we learned:
- You’re probably eating genetically modified food
Scientists are hard at work at creating hamburger in a lab and chicken in a test tube. That’s not available to consumers yet. But 88 percent of all the corn planted in the U.S. last year was genetically modified, as well as 93 percent of all the soybeans. Humans don’t actually consume any of that directly, but a lot of it is turned into feed for the meat we do eat. Plus, many everyday products contain corn syrup, most of which is produced from genetically engineered corn.
Some say that a 60- 70 percent of processed foods on grocery store shelves contain at least one GE ingredient.
- You may not know if you’re eating genetically modified food
Currently, food isn’t mandated by federal law to contain a label stating that it contains genetically modified organisms. More than 20 states have proposed mandatory labeling laws and earlier this year lawmakers in both the U.S. House and Senate introduced federal labeling legislation. If you’re trying to avoid GMOs, buying organic is generally your best bet.
- Organic food does not necessarily mean “GMO-free”
As both Van Eenennaam and Boeckman mentioned on Central Standard, it’s almost impossible to say that any product grown outdoors in the wild is completely GMO-free. Food that is certified organic is guaranteed to have been produced without using genetic engineering methods, but thanks to natural cross-contamination it can’t be said to contain absolutely zero genetically engineered organisms.
- “Genetically engineered” often means “herbicide-tolerant” or “insect-resistant”
The most common genetically engineered products today are commodity crops like soybeans, cotton and corn. Herbicide-tolerant crops are developed to survive the application of certain herbicides, so farmers can spray their fields and kill weeds but not their crops. Insect-resistant crops contain a gene from a soil bacterium that produces a protein that is toxic to specific insects, which protects the crops from insect damage.
- Genetically engineered fish is coming
The FDA is considering whether to allow genetically engineered salmon on the U.S. market. AquaBounty, the company that produces the AquAdvantage salmon, first submitted its application to the FDA 18 years ago. Read more about the GE salmon here.
Learn more about food and food production at harvestpublicmedia.org.