10 Misconceptions About GMOs


1
GMOs Are Unlabeled and Impossible to Avoid
A label on this bag of popcorn indicates it is non-GMO. Some grocery chains will start labeling their products to let consumers know they do not contain GMOs. A referendum to make this the law in California was defeated in 2012. ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images

It is true that the federal government doesn't require food from animals that have been raised on feed from GMO plants to be labeled. However, in June 2013, the U.S. Department of Agriculture officially approved a label that food companies can use to identify meat and liquid egg products that come from animals that haven't been fed GMOs. All these producers have to do is provide proof that they've been vetted by an independent certifying organization [source: Strom].

Additionally, some specialty grocery store chains are trying to keep their distance from GMOs. Trader Joe's, for example, recommends that consumers concerned about genetic engineering buy its organic-labeled meats and dairy products and wild-caught seafood. Another chain, Whole Foods, announced that by 2018 all products in its U.S. and Canadian stores will be labeled to indicate whether or not they contain GMO ingredients, and it will label some animal products as non-GMO verified.

But unless you grow your own food, perhaps the surest way to avoid GMOs is to live in Europe. Since the late 1990s, the European Union has required labeling of food products containing GMOs, and as a result, European food retailers — fearful that the labels would drive away customers — have kept them out of their wares. As a recent Scientific American editorial notes, "It is virtually impossible to find GMOs in European supermarkets."

Author's Note: 10 Misconceptions About GMOs

I wasn't particularly well-versed in the controversy about GMOs before I researched this article, though like many people, I probably harbored a vague unease about so-called "Frankenfoods." After learning more about the subject, however, I've developed a more nuanced view. It's not easy to dismiss all the concerns that people opposed to GMOs have, and it makes sense to me that consumers should be able to decide if they want to consume GMO foods or avoid them. But I also think there's a powerful argument to be made that GMOs actually can be good for people, particularly in developing countries where malnutrition remains a serious problem. For example, one GMO, Golden Rice, which has been designed to produce the vitamin A precursor beta-carotene, could play a big part in fighting vitamin A deficiency, which kills 250,000 children worldwide each year and blinds another 500,000.

Related Articles

Sources

  • American Museum of Natural History. "Grow." (Oct. 6, 2013) http://www.amnh.org/exhibitions/past-exhibitions/our-global-kitchen-food-nature-culture/grow
  • American Radio Works. "History of Genetic Engineering." Publicradio.org. (Oct. 7, 2013) http://americanradioworks.publicradio.org/features/gmos_india/history.html
  • Amos, Brit. "Death of the Bees. Genetically Modified Crops and the Decline of Bee Colonies in North America." Globalresearch.ca. Aug. 9, 2011. (Oct. 7, 2013) http://www.globalresearch.ca/death-of-the-bees-genetically-modified-crops-and-the-decline-of-bee-colonies-in-north-america/25950
  • Barber, Elizabeth. "GMOs and a potential US-Europe pact." Christian Science Monitor. July 25, 2013. (Oct. 7, 2013) http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Global-Issues/2013/0725/GMOs-and-a-potential-US-Europe-pact
  • Charles, Dan. "Top Five Myths Of Genetically Modified Seeds, Busted." NPR. Oct. 18, 2012. (Oct. 7, 2013) http://www.npr.org/blogs/thesalt/2012/10/18/163034053/top-five-myths-of-genetically-modified-seeds-busted
  • Coghlan, Andy. "GM monkey passes jellyfish gene to offspring." New Scientist. May 28, 2009. (Oct. 6, 2013) http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn17194-gm-monkey-passes-jellyfish-gene-to-offspring.html#.UlILBSSshcY
  • Dupont, Veronique. "GMO corn, soybeans dominate US market." Phys.org. June 4, 2013. (Oct. 6, 2013) http://phys.org/news/2013-06-gmo-corn-soybeans-dominate.html
  • Eng, Monica. "GMOs should be safety tested before they hit the market says AMA." Chicago Tribune. June 19, 2012. (Oct. 7, 2013) http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2012-06-19/features/chi-gmos-should-be-safety-tested-before-they-hit-the-market-says-ama-20120619_1_bioengineered-foods-ama-drug-cosmetic-act
  • Genetic Science Learning Center. "The Evolution of Corn." Genetics.utah.edu. 2013. (Oct. 6, 2013) http://learn.genetics.utah.edu/content/variation/corn/
  • Hartley, Matt. "Grain Farmer Claims Moral Victory in Seed Battle Against Monsanto." Globe and Mail. March 20, 2008. (Oct. 7, 2013) http://www.commondreams.org/archive/2008/03/20/7784
  • Jabr, Ferris. "Film Review: GMO OMG SRSLY? An #EpicFail in Exercising Our Right to Know." Scientific American. Sept. 9, 2013. (Oct. 6, 2013) http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/brainwaves/2013/09/09/film-review-omg-gmo-srsly-an-epicfail-in-exercising-our-right-to-know-about-genetically-modified-food/
  • Keese, P. "Risks from GMOs due to horizontal gene transfer." Environmental Biosafety Research. July-Sept. 2008. (Oct. 7, 2013) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18801324
  • Kleter, Gijs A., Peijnenburg, Ad A. C. M. and Aarts, Henk J. M. "Health Considerations Regarding Horizontal Transfer of Microbial Transgenes Present in Genetically Modified Crops." Journal of Biomedical Biotechnology. 2005. (Oct. 7, 2013) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1364539/
  • Langer, Gary. "Poll: Skepticism of Genetically Modified Foods." ABC News. June 19 2013. (Oct. 7, 2013) http://abcnews.go.com/Technology/story?id=97567&page=1
  • MacKenzie, Deborah. "Study linking GM crops and cancer questioned." New Scientist. Sept. 19, 2012. (Oct. 6, 2013)ww.newscientist.com/article/dn22287-study-linking-gm-crops-and-cancer-questioned.html#.UlILpiSshcY
  • Mills, Nancy. "Genetically Modified Organisms." Australian State of the Environment Committee. 2006. (Oct. 7, 2013) http://www.environment.gov.au/soe/2006/publications/emerging/gmo/
  • Monsanto. "Why Does Monsanto Sue Farmers Who Save Seeds?" Monsanto.com. Undated. (Oct. 7, 2013) http://www.monsanto.com/newsviews/Pages/why-does-monsanto-sue-farmers-who-save-seeds.aspx
  • Nature. "Poison Postures." Nature.com. Sept. 25, 2012. (Oct. 7, 2013) http://www.nature.com/news/poison-postures-1.11478
  • Nordlee, M.S. Julie A., Taylor Ph.D., Steve L. Townsend, B.S., Jeffrey A. , Thomas, B.S., Laurie A. and Bush, M.D., Robert K. "Identification of a Brazil-Nut Allergen in Transgenetic Soybeans." New England Journal of Medicine. March 14, 1996. (Oct. 7, 2013) ww.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJM199603143341103#t=article
  • Oliver, Randy. "Neonicotinoids: Trying To Make Sense of the Science – Part 2." American Bee Journal. September 2012. (Oct. 7, 2013) http://scientificbeekeeping.com/neonicotinoids-trying-to-make-sense-of-the-science-part-2/
  • Organicconsumers.org. (GM crops currently on the market in the U.S." Organicconsumers.org. Undated. (Oct. 7, 2013) http://www.organicconsumers.org/ge/GMonMarketUS.pdf
  • Palmer, Roxanne. "GMO Health Risks: What The Scientific Evidence Says." International Business Times. March 30, 2013. (Oct. 6, 2013) http://www.ibtimes.com/gmo-health-risks-what-scientific-evidence-says-1161099
  • Reuters. "French Study Finds Tumours In Rats Fed GM Corn." Trust.org. Sept. 19, 2012. (Oct. 6, 2013) http://www.trust.org/item/?map=french-study-finds-tumours-in-rats-fed-gm-corn
  • Scientific American. "Labels for GMOs are a Bad Idea." Sept. 6, 2013. (Oct. 9, 2013) http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=labels-for-gmo-foods-are-a-bad-idea
  • Trader Joe's. "Trader Joe's Products are Sourced from Non-GMO Ingredients." Traderjoes.com. Oct. 1, 2013. (Oct. 7, 2013) http://www.traderjoes.com/about/customer-updates-responses.asp?i=4
  • Understanding Evolution. "Artificial Selection." Evolution.berkeley.edu. Undated. (Oct. 6, 2013). http://evolution.berkeley.edu/evolibrary/article/evo_30
  • University of California San Diego. "Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO)." Ucsd.edu. (Oct. 7, 2013) http://www.bt.ucsd.edu/gmo.html
  • University of Nebraska-Lincoln. "What is genetic engineering and how does it work?" Unl.edu.
  • U.S. Food and Drug Administration. "Questions & Answers on Food from Genetically Engineered Plants." Fda.gov. April 7, 2013. (Oct. 6, 2013) http://www.fda.gov/Food/FoodScienceResearch/Biotechnology/ucm346030.htm
  • WebMD. "Are Biotech Foods Safe to Eat?" WebMD. 2013. (Oct. 6, 2013) http://www.webmd.com/food-recipes/features/are-biotech-foods-safe-to-eat
  • Whole Foods. "GMO: Your Right to Know." Wholefoodsmarket.com. Undated. (Oct. 7, 2013) http://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/gmo-your-right-know
  • Wines, Michael "Mystery Malady Kills More Bees, Heightening Worry on Farms." New York Times. Mar. 28, 2013. (Oct. 7, 2013) http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/29/science/earth/soaring-bee-deaths-in-2012-sound-alarm-on-malady.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0
  • World Health Organization. "20 questions on genetically modified foods." Who.int. 2013. (Oct. 6, 2013) http://www.who.int/foodsafety/publications/biotech/20questions/en/

UP NEXT

Composite Faces from  DNA Help Solve Cold Cases

Composite Faces from DNA Help Solve Cold Cases

DNA phenotyping is a new method of creating leads in criminal cases. HowStuffWorks looks at the science behind it.


More to Explore