According to the Biology-online.org dictionary, GMO stands for “genetically modified organism, an organism whose genetic material has been modified”. Generally the public thinks of GMO as food that has been altered in a laboratory and probably not in a good way. To say the least there is controversy over the use of GMO ingredients and plant products, which have been in the American food system for more years than we realize. One reason we don’t realize it there is because the US and Canada are two of the few nations that don’t require GMO labeling on food products.
Recently during a cleaning binge I came upon a thoughtful opinion piece by Mark Lynas*, a researcher at the Cornell Alliance for Science. which I had set aside months ago. Before pitching it I decided to give it another read and this piece gave me some “food for thought” on the GMO subject. Mr. Lynas has had some experience with science and admits to being anti-GMO until visiting a farmer in Bangladesh. From this ground level view with a farmer growing GMO eggplants, which from all accounts improved the output of the crop without the use of pesticides and increased the revenue of this impoverished farmer, which in turn allowed him to provide more for his family, Mr. Lynas decided to relook at the science.
Mr. Lynas is swayed only by the science and when looking at the science the conclusion he and 88% of the association of scientists ( American Association for the Advancement of Science) agree that GMO foods are safe to eat.
Did the opinion piece change my mind? Would I eat GMO food , if I had a choice, probably not. I am a wait and see kind of person and I would like to see more long term studies. Problem is , if you live in the US you don’t often have a choice as GMO labeling is voluntary and so I am sure I have eaten my share of GMO foods over the past years. Ironically the same US companies who are fighting GMO label laws in the US readily modify their products or labels to meet the GMO requirements of other countries where they want to sell their products.
Lucky for us we live in China and despite the heavy metals in our rice and the PM2 in the air the air, China does require GMO’s to be included on the food label. Although they have required GMO labeling since 2001 this does not mean that they have banned GMO foods. According to Forbes magazine**, there is a general back and forth among the relevant government ministries on the food safety laws and regulations regarding GMO’s, alas not much different from many of the countries of world struggling with how to feed their growing populations with ever shrinking acreage of arable land.
There is a lot more to say about the negative and positive possibilities of GMO’s and the studies should continue but however you feel about the issue one thing we can all agree on is that GMO food ingredients need to be identified on the label so we can all make an informed choice.
Eat Well, Live Well, Have Fun!
*”Believing in G.M.O food” by Mark Lynas, International New York Times, Saturday-Sunday, April 25-26,2015.
**”Amidst Public Controversy China Debates GMO Development” by John Balzano, Forbes Magazine October 16, 2014.