Genetically Modified Foods

Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) are created by splicing alien fragments of genetic code into the genetic code of a plant or animal. The main application for for this process is to produce certain desired characteristics in food crops. For instance, soybeans have bacterial DNA spliced in to make the plant resistant to the powerful herbicide Roundup. That bacterial DNA ends up in your food (along with some toxic Roundup as a bonus).

The safety of these "Frankenfoods" and their long term effects on health and the environment are highly questionable, but nearly impossible for us to know because large amounts of money are involved.   Photo, Griffin from throne room of palace of Knossos, by Paginazero distributed under license Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported.

About 75% of packaged foods you may purchase in supermarkets contain genetically modified material, mostly from Canola, Corn and Soybeans. These foods are very difficult for a normal consumer to avoid (G7). So what food crops are currently genetically modified in North America?

  • Canola:   About 80% of all canola grown. That's the whole difference between Canola Oil (approved for human consumption) and Rapeseed Oil (considered toxic).
  • Corn:   Sweet corn (corn on the cob) and canned corn are almost all non-GM, but corn for food processors (corn chips, tortillas, etc.) and for animal feed generally is.
  • Soybeans:   About 90% of all soybeans grown in North America.
  • Potatoes:   Some Atlantic, Russet Burbank, Russet Norkatah and Shepody. Planting of GM potatoes has declined due to consumer resistance.
  • Tomatoes:   Including cherry tomatoes - but GM tomatoes are no longer planted due to consumer resistance.
  • Squash:   Some Yellow Crookneck, possibly some Zucchini.
  • Sugar Beets:   The courts have declared the USDA violated regulations in allowing planting of this crop.
  • Papaya   About 50% of Papaya from Hawaii is GM. No way to tell it from the non-GM. Mexican papayas are a lot bigger anyway.
  • Cotton:   This includes cotton seed oil used in many processed foods.
  • Vegetable Rennet:   The non-animal coagulant used to make cheese for vegetarians (and everyone else since animal rennet is in short supply) is produced by genetically engineered bacteria.
  • Vitamin B12:   There is no natural non-animal source for this critical vitamin, so strict vegans depend on B12 produced by genetically modified bacteria.
  • rBGH/rBST:   This hormone, injected into cattle for faster growth, is produced by genetically modified organisms. This controversial substance is found in meat and possibly milk.
  • Salmon:   Not yet approved, this very fast growing salmon is the GM animal closest to approval.


Foods containing GM material must be so labeled in Europe, but the USDA / FDA regulations require no labeling. Certified Organic growers are required to be GM free, but there are no restrictions on non-certified products. Whole Foods Markets has partnered with a non-GMO program to certify products as non-GMO (through inspection, documentation and genetic testing) and apply a non-GMO logo to them. Chances of getting a European style label for products containing GM ingredients in North America is about zip.

Several dairy states have passed laws that forbid labeling dairy products as NOT from rBGH injected cows. In Ohio this law has been defeated in the court of appeals. It is still required to have on such labels a disclaimer saying "According to the FDA, there is no significant difference between the milk from cows injected with rbST compared to those not injected". This is for a rather loose interpretation of the word "significant".

Why Genetically Modified Crops?

Crops are genetically modified to make them resistant to certain diseases or insects, or to make them grow faster and larger or grow in climates where they normally do not do well.

One of Monsanto's major reasons for genetically modifying crops is to make them resistant to a powerful herbicide they manufacture and sell called Roundup. Massive doses of Roundup are sprayed on crop fields to kill all the weeds, leaving the GM crop untouched. The result is, of course, the natural development of super-weeds that eat Roundup for lunch. Some farms have had to resort to manual weeding - not seen in big agriculture for many years. Even more serious, a major study has now linked Roundup to birth defects (G11).

The USDA has done nothing about this and the predictable response of corporate agriculture has been to spray more and more dangerous herbicides, increasing pollution of the environment and contamination of your food. In contrast, the FDA has maintained an effective program to prevent development of super-insects.

Are GM Foods Safe?

The safety of the foods produced by genetic modification is highly questionable. The process is safe but the products of this process are inherently hazardous and the long term risks to health and environment are almost completely unknown (G1).

Genetic material from GM crops migrates to non-GM crops and contaminates the genetic pool. This is now happening with corn in Mexico, the center of genetic diversity for corn.

The long term effect of this altered genetic material on humans and animals that ingest it is completely unknown, but in the short term many problems have cropped up, including human and animal deaths (G8, G9).

Why don't we know if GM foods are safe?

The GM seed producers have shown a willingness and ability to destroy the career and reputation of any researcher who publishes findings showing risk. If direct threats don't work, then political and economic influences are applied to the researcher's employer, and other scientists are quickly mobilized to destroy his or her credibility (G3)

The business of genetically modified food crops is dominated by Monsanto Corp. with a near monopoly. It's main competitor is DuPont, which is suing Monsanto on monopoly grounds. Other companies heavily involved are Dow and Bayer.

None of these companies is particularly noted for high ethical standards, in fact many people consider Monsanto the most evil corporation on the planet. All are very wealthy and able to buy as many scientists as they need to "prove" whatever they want to prove and as many politicians as they need to enforce their desires - and to destroy those who stand against them.

Well, we all know about politicians, but why are so many scientists so easy to buy?

Easy to answer. Research scientists produce no revenue. Their projects are expensive and totally dependent on grant money. Scientists depend on that grant money not only to fund projects, but for their very sustenance. Grant money comes from wealthy and powerful organizations that want a particular result from the research. Wrong results - no money.

Grant money is often laundered through seemingly neutral organizations to conceal from the public where it comes from, but the scientists receiving the money are usually pretty aware of where it's coming from, what is expected of them and what the consequences are if they come up with the "wrong" answer.

And it's not just money. Often a research project is dependent on samples of a product provided by a corporation. Wrong results - no product. In this atmosphere of dishonesty and deception, some scientists will simply cut out the middleman and take favors and payments directly from corporations.

And it doesn't stop there. If a research report shows one positive outcome and a hand full of negatives, affected corporations will ballyhoo the positive in their promotions and simply not mention the negatives at all.

Is the corporate world really so corrupt and uncaring that it will knowingly risk our health and very lives for profit?

If you really need to ask that question you either just arrived from Mars or depend on Fox News for everything you know (G4).

Consumer Resistance Intensifies.

It's taken time to overcome the industry's "education" programs, but there is now a strong movement to force food packaging to label if GM products are within. An officer of Monsanto stated that would be the same as putting a skull and crossbones on the package.

This has already happened in Europe where labeling is required, and at least one producer of GM seed has ended all GM activity there due to extreme consumer resistance.

Vermont is considering a law to require such labeling (May 2012), and the word is out that Monsanto intends to sue the state if it passes. Connecticut is also considering such a law.

The biggest news on this front is California, where the initiative process allows the people to bypass the politicians. The proponents of a labeling law have submitted more than twice the number of signatures needed to get the initiative on the ballot (May 2012). California is such a large and influential market, and such a huge food producer, such a law would effectively hold nation wide.

Krystal Gabert, editor of Food Manufacturing magazine, suggests the industry needs to educate the public to overcome these laws - but isn't (mis)education what they've been doing all along? Expect it to intensify.


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