GMOs have been making headlines over the last few years, stirring raucous debates between politicians, corporate agriculture producers, and food activists, and intriguing American consumers like you and me. Indeed, they’ve gained immense attention, but what exactly are they and why should you care?
GMO stands for “genetically modified organisms,” and embodies a category of plants that have been created through genetic engineering. It’s an experimental technology that merges DNA from different species, and scientists that develop GMOs insist that this technology could allow for more durable crops that can resist diseases and may be more nutritious. However, research groups and anti-GMO activists are skeptical, and continue to urge American consumers to steer clear of known foods that have been genetically altered. According to the Non GMO Project, “Most developed nations do not consider GMOs to be safe,” explaining that in countries like Japan, Australia, and most of Europe, there are required labels for foods that have genetically altered ingredients, or have even banned them.
In America, despite activists and consumers urging farmers and corporations to label GMO products, there aren’t any laws that require genetically modified foods or ingredients to be labeled. In late May, a GMO-labeling bill was turned down by the United States Senate, who unanimously wanted to leave the matter in the hands of the FDA. What this means is that there is still virtually no way to know for sure if you are consuming GMOs, a fact that is what makes the issue so controversial.
According to Michael McAuliff in an article for the Huffington Post, “more than 3,000 ingredients are required to be labeled, but genetically modified ingredients are not part of that list,” which is why many Americans are in an outrage over GMOs. Whether or not people want to consume them is a personal choice, just as many Americans choose to avoid MSG or non-organic foods, but the right to choose is made impossible when GMOs aren’t labeled.
How do you weigh in? The best way to learn more about GMOs is to follow their presence in legislature, research what sorts of foods they’re commonly found in using resources like the Non GMO Project’s high risk crop list and by talking to farmers at your local farmers market.