Genetically Modified Foods (GMOs)
GMOs: What are GMOs? Genetically Modified Organisms. A genetically engineered food is a plant or meat product that has had its DNA artificially altered in a laboratory by genes from other plants, animals, viruses, or bacteria, in order to produce foreign compounds in that food. This type of genetic alteration is not found in nature, is a deviation from God’s design, and is experimental.
GMOs are generally created through recombinant DNA techniques, completely unlike traditional breeding. Most GMOs currently on the market are transgenic, made by forcing synthetic versions of genes based on those from one or more species into the DNA of an unrelated species in order to introduce a new trait. This cannot occur in the natural world. Examples of this are: inserting a synthetic version of a bacterial gene toxic to insects into corn plants so that corn rootworms die when they attempt to eat the corn, or inserting a synthetic gene from an eel pout into a salmon in an attempt to make the salmon grow more quickly.
The remaining GMOs on the market are primarily intragenic, made by forcing synthetic versions of genes based on those from one or more species into the DNA of a related species. Most of these intragenic GMOs include RNA interference (RNAi) constructs. These synthetic combinations of parts of genes do not occur in the natural world. Examples include the non-browning Arctic Apple and non-bruising Simplot Innate potato.
Newer methods used to genetically engineer plants and animals include Gene Editing techniques such as CRISPR, TALENs, and Zinc Finger, and extreme forms of engineering such as Synthetic Biology, or SynBio. Although deregulated in the U.S., GMOs produced with these methods can still result in unpredictable effects, including changes in plant chemistry that may have toxic effects.
Which Foods are GMO?: See Institute for Responsible Technology's website for updates. Currently, GMOs are found in 80% of U.S. packaged and processed foods. In the U.S., three major commodity crops are raised predominantly from GMO seed: field corn (92%), soybeans (94%), and cotton (94%). Percentages are based on U.S. acreage as of 2015 (USDA). 98% of Canadian grown Canola is genetically engineered for herbicide resistance. U.S. sugar beet production is estimated to be over 95% genetically modified for herbicide resistance. Other GM crops currently approved in the U.S. include sweet corn, Hawaiian Rainbow papaya, zucchini, and yellow crookneck squash, pink pineapples, Golden rice, salmon and Impossible Burger/other plant based meats created by Impossible Foods. Synthetic sweeteners Aspartame and Eversweet are also genetically engineered. Genetically modified alfalfa is grown for use as hay and forage for animals. ‘White Russet’ brand potatoes, genetically modified to resist bruising were introduced to some grocery stores in 2015, but are not yet widely available. GMO potatoes are being marketed under the Simplot Innate brand, found under the trademark White Russet. Genetically engineered non-browning ‘Arctic’ apples have been deregulated by the USDA and are expected to be on the market in 2016. AquaBounty plans to begin harvesting GE salmon in late 2020. When it arrives in supermarkets, it will be labeled “bioengineered,” not genetically engineered.
Products derived from the above, including oils from all four, soy protein, soy lecithin, cornstarch, corn syrup and high fructose corn syrup among others.
Also: meat, eggs, and dairy products from animals that have eaten GM feed (and the majority of the GM corn and soy is used for feed); dairy products from cows injected with rbGH (a GM hormone); food additives, enzymes, flavorings, and processing agents, including the sweetener aspartame (NutraSweet) and rennet used to make hard cheeses; and honey and bee pollen that may have GM sources of pollen.
Processed products using GM crops can be listed as the following ingredients:
GMO in food processing: Bacteria are the easiest organisms to engineer and have been used for research, food production, industrial protein purification (including drugs), agriculture, and art. Most food-producing bacteria are lactic acid bacteria, and this is where the majority of research into genetically engineering food-producing bacteria has gone. The bacteria can be modified to operate more efficiently, reduce toxic byproduct production, increase output, create improved compounds, and remove unnecessary pathways. Food products from genetically modified bacteria include alpha-amylase, which converts starch to simple sugars, chymosin, which clots milk protein for cheese making, and pectinesterase, which improves fruit juice clarity.
Fungi can be used to produce large complex molecules for use in food, pharmaceuticals, hormones and steroids. Yeast is important for wine production and as of 2016 two genetically modified yeasts involved in the fermentation of wine have been commercialized in the United States and Canada. One has increased malolactic fermentation efficiency, while the other prevents the production of dangerous ethyl carbamate compounds during fermentation.
Safety: The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not do safety studies and allows biotech companies to do their own safety testing. Many objections have been raised over the development of GMO's, particularly their commercialization. Many of these involve GM crops and whether food produced from them is safe and what impact growing them will have on the environment. Other concerns are the objectivity and rigor of regulatory authorities, contamination of non-genetically modified food, control of the food supply, patenting of life and the use of intellectual property rights. Also of concern are the related synthetic pesticides and increases in toxic agricultural chemical use since the introduction of GMOs. Nearly all GMO seeds are pre-coated with neonicotinoid insecticides, which are systemically expressed throughout the plant and its pollen as it grows. GMO pollen can travel for miles by wind or via pollinating animals and then infect non-GMO and organic crops. Thus, allowing the increased use of GMOs could result in the contamination of and potential extinction of certain natural species.
Michael Pollan summed up the problem with GMOs in his phrase “playing God in the garden” in an 1998 New York Times article. To Pollen, the two most disturbing concepts of GMO are that: 1. GMOs forcibly cross two living species that the laws of nature have been designed to prevent from mating. Conventional breeding has built-in limits. Nature will not allow DNA to mix if it comes form species that are too far apart. 2. We are manipulating the DNA of living organisms for our own purposes (and profit).
The Bible reveals God's good plan for each species to remain separate, reproducing according to its own kind. Then God said, “Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb that yields seed, and the fruit tree that yields fruit according to its kind, whose seed is in itself, on the earth”; and it was so. And the earth brought forth grass, the herb that yields seed according to its kind, and the tree that yields fruit, whose seed is in itself according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. So the evening and the morning were the third day. (Genesis 1:11-13, NKJV)
Labeling and Regulation: There are differences in the regulation for the release of GMOs between countries, with some of the most marked differences occurring between the US and Europe. Key issues concerning regulators include whether GM food should be labeled and the status of gene edited organisms. Currently, 64 countries around the world require labeling of genetically modified foods. Unlike most other developed countries – such as 28 nations in the European Union, Japan, Australia, Brazil, Russia and even China – the U.S. has no laws requiring labeling of genetically modified foods.
A mushroom has been gene edited to resist browning, giving it a longer shelf life. The process used CRISPR to knock out a gene that encodes polyphenol oxidase. As it didn't introduce any foreign DNA into the organism it was not deemed to be regulated under existing GMO frameworks and as such is the first CRISPR-edited organism to be approved for release. This has intensified debates as to whether gene-edited organisms should be considered genetically modified organisms and how they should be regulated.
Health Risks: Why would you want them labeled? Learn more on these websites: www.labelgmos.org and http://responsibletechnology.org. The main reason for concern is that there is enough independent data to show both health and environmental risks for GMOs. Also, 80% of GMO acreage is sprayed with Monsanto's Roundup including the primary active ingredient glyphosphate, which has been declared a probable human carcinogen by the World Health Organization. The American Academy of Environmental Medicine (AAEM) urges doctors to prescribe non-GMO diets for all patients. They cite animal studies showing organ damage, gastrointestinal and immune system disorders, accelerated aging, and infertility. Human studies show how genetically modified (GM) food can leave material behind inside us, possibly causing long-term problems. Genes inserted into GM soy, for example, can transfer into the DNA of bacteria living inside us. The toxic insecticide produced by GM corn was found in the blood of pregnant women and their unborn fetuses. Numerous GM vegetables, fruits and animal products are currently being developed and considered for approval.
What You Can Do: