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The Real True Facts about Genetically Modified Food

The real true facts about genetically modified food



There is a lot of confusion about the effects of genetically modified foods, GMO’s which is very misleading and counter-productive.  Two issues which are worlds apart are first of all the influence of companies like Monsanto that produce seeds for GMO crops that cannot produce their own seeds thus leaving the farmer hopelessly bound to Monsanto for future production.

The other totally separate issue is whether these crops are safe for human consumption and this has nothing to do with the business practices of Monsanto, only the safety of the GMO for us to eat. So far there has not been one peer-reviewed scientific study that conclusively shows any GMO being harmful to humans.

Genetically modified foods are not new. Since 1994 Health Canada has approved more than 120 GM foods from apples and squash to soybeans and canola oil.

Unless your diet includes only foods labelled non-GMO (genetically modified organisms) or certified organic, you are probably eating GM foods. Whether that is good or bad is an ongoing debate and I am about to explain some facts about GMO’s.

Genetic Engineering

Genetic engineering allows scientists to transfer one or more genes from one organism (e.g. Plant, animal or microbe) to another organism. The resulting organism is said to be a GMO because it has one or more genes from unrelated species.

In most cases, the new gene gives the organism a useful characteristic. Genetically altered crops are more resistant to disease, pesticides, cold temperatures, and or drought.  GM corn and soybeans, for example, have been given genes from Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt), a bacterium that produces proteins that kill insects. The anti GMO people claim that somehow pesticides are incorporated into the plants but this is ignorance and stupidity from people who do not understand biochemistry. If pesticides were transferred to the plant, it would die instantly. The GM crops with the new gene are now able to protect themselves from insects without the use of pesticides because of this harmless bacterium.

Are GMO foods beneficial?

Food crops engineered to tolerate insects, disease, pesticides, dry soil and extreme temperatures will produce higher yields and, as GM food advocates contend, can help feed our growing global population. It is ironic that a Canadian Society that throws away 37 per cent of the food it purchases condemns GMO use for third world countries that are starving.

Depending on the crop and the introduced trait, GM crops can actually benefit the environment by reducing the use of pesticide sprays. Genetic engineering can also give plants qualities that affect their shelf-life, taste or nutritional profile. Some soybeans have been genetically modified to produce healthier oil.

Golden rice, genetically modified to contain high amounts of beta-carotene, has been developed as a potential way to combat Vitamin A deficiency and is responsible for preventing blindness in many areas of rural Africa.

Are animal foods next for GMO engineering?

On November 19, the US FDA approved genetically engineered Atlantic salmon as safe for human consumption. The AquAdvantage salmon, genetically modified so its natural growth hormone remains continually active, reaches market size twice as fast as conventional salmon. However, so far it is the only animal product.

The four GM crops grown in Canada are soybean, canola, corn and sugar beets. That means food products made from these crops, including corn flakes, corn chips, canola oil, margarine, soy beverages, tofu and table sugar, are considered GM foods.

Food ingredients that come from GM crops include, corned starch, caramel colour, high fructose corn syrup, sugar, maltodextrin, dextrose and lecithin are added to thousands of foods. It is important to understand that when a GM crop is processed into certain ingredients such as sugar or corn oil, virtually all the DNA and protein, including the engineered gene, is eliminated.

Genetically modified papaya and zucchini are approved for import from the United States. So is GM cottonseed, which may show up in cereals, breads, potato chips and snack foods.

Arctic apples, approved in March 2015, and expected to reach Canadian grocery stores by late 2016 are genetically altered so they don’t turn brown when sliced.

Are GM foods safe to eat?

The potential health risks of GM foods remain theoretical. Opponents of GMO’s contend they could give rise to allergies and antibiotic resistance and question their long-term safety to human health.

According to numerous regulatory agencies and scientific bodies, including Health Canada, the US FDA, the European Food Safety Agency and the National Academy of Sciences, there is no evidence that GMO foods pose any health risk to people.

Yet, there are no continuing epidemiological studies investigating the potential health effects of long-term GMO consumption. Since GM foods are not labelled in North America, such a study is impossible to conduct.

Are GMO’s safe for the environment?

It is possible that crops engineered to tolerate pesticides could breed with weeds and lead to the development of so-called super-weeds which would require increased pesticide use.

Contamination of organic and conventional crops with GMO’s, harm to insects that are not pests and loss of plant biodiversity are among some of the environmental concerns.

Are GMO food regulated in Canada?

Health Canada regulates the approval and sale of GM foods through the Novel Foods Regulation. Companies that wish to bring a GM food or GM crop seed to market are required to submit detailed scientific date to Health Canada, whose scientists then assess if the food is safe and will not harm the environment.

Can I avoid eating GMO foods?

In Canada and the United Sates GM foods are not required to be labelled as such unless the introduced gene poses a safety concern from allergens or a change in nutrient content. GMO labels are mandatory in the European Union, Australia, New Zealand and Japan.

Companies can, however, voluntarily label foods as “GMO free” or “does not contain GMO’s.” If you want to avoid GMO’s, you can also buy certified organic foods, which cannot be grown or produced with GMO’s.

If you are unsure about a food, call the manufacturer to ask if GMO’s were used to produce it.