GMOs or genetically modified organisms are organisms that have been genetically modified to provide some benefits beyond the properties of the original organism.
Currently, GM food crops are the most common GMOs. However, it is quite possible to introduce genetic modification to animals too. A species of fast-growing salmon, currently in development in the UK, may be the first animal GMO to find its way into your diet.
GM foods are genetically engineered by taking the genes of one organism and joining them to the genes of the host organism.
The most common examples of GM food crops are those genetically modified to tolerate commonly used herbicide and weed-resistant GM crops that produce their own herbicide.
Other reasons given for engineering food crops including the ability to yield more fruits/seeds; to produce longer-lasting foods; to produce more nutrient-packed foods; and to make plants resistant to cold, drought and pests.
However, 8 out 10 GM foods are designed to resist or produce herbicides instead of producing more nutrients.
Although the productivity gains afforded by GM food crops are appealing to farmers and chemical/GM companies such as Monsanto, GM foods are bad news for the rest of us.
The most common GM food crops are:
Since almost all processed food products include one or more of the food crops listed above, there is a very high chance that you are already eating foods derived from GM crops. For example, it is estimated that 85% of the corn grown in the United States is GM corn.
There is an endless list of processed foods containing GM ingredients. The most common examples are cereals, soy products, high fructose corn syrup, cornstarch, vegetable oils and even artificial sweeteners like aspartame.
Unlike Europe, where there is an active resistance against GM foods, the inclusion of GM foods in processed food products is quite common in the US.
In fact, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not require manufacturers of GM food products to label them as such. The FDA believes GM foods are no different from non-GM foods. Major GM food crop manufacturers such as Monsanto also push this statement and have even claimed that no safety tests are needed for GM foods.
However, studies conducted by independent scientists (including genetic engineers) and health food advocacy organizations show that the FDA is wrong and that the claims of GM food manufacturers are driven by financial gains.
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