October 28, 2012

Genetically modified foods?

Heard of GMOs?  Some corn and soybean genes have been engineered for ethanol. Some to be insect-resistant or herbicide-resistant to survive Roundup. Sugar beets and cotton crops go that route too. So more pesticides and herbicides can now be used if farmers deem it necessary.

But did you know that "genetically modified organisms" (GMOs) or genetically engineered ingredients are in your kitchen now? GMO crops are so widespread that an estimated 70 percent of U.S. processed foods contain engineered genes. Seven out of ten bites? Yikes. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has approved more than 80 genetically engineered crops and denied none.

The debate about the safety of GMO foods is ongoing. But do you want the right to know what you are eating?  More than 50 countries around the world require GMO labeling.

If there’s nothing wrong with GMOs, why not include them on food labels? That’s the thinking behind Proposition 37 on California’s ballot next week—requiring that foods with genetically engineered ingredients be labeled thus. Pesticide companies such as Monsanto and Dow and processed food companies are spending more than $35 million fighting this “Just Label It” initiative.

Trader Joe's and Whole Foods have pledged to not stock their shelves with GMO foods. But how can any consumer be sure?

Worried?  That your fresh fruits and vegetables have been genetically modified? You can recognize GMO produce by those stickers the cashiers scan. A five digit number beginning with "8" means it is genetically modified. Five digit numbers beginning with "9" mean certified organic. Non-organic foods will only have  four digit codes.