I'm sure plenty of people already know what this acronym means, but there was a lot in this that I was oblivious to.
Jellyfish genes in potatoes?? W-T-F
If you've shopped in a natural foods store in recent months, you've no doubt seen products bearing the label "GMO-free" or "contains only non-GMO ingredients." The acronym GMO stands for Genetically Modified Organisms, which refers to any food product that has been altered at the gene level. Genetically modified foods are also frequently described as "genetically engineered", "genetically altered" or "genetically manipulated."
It can be said that modification of plants is not a new phenomenon. For centuries, gardeners and farmers have been crossbreeding different species of plants to create plants that produce heartier, better tasting, or more beautiful crops. However, the type of genetic engineering of foods that has caused a groundswell of concern around the world is vastly different from these traditional plant breeding practices. With modern genetic engineering, genes from an animal, plant, bacterium, or virus are inserted into a different organism (most often a plant), thereby irreversibly altering the genetic code, the "blueprint" that determines all of an organism's physical characteristics, of the organism that received the gene. Through this technology, scientists have created tomatoes with a longer shelf life by adding flounder genes, soybeans that are resistant to weed killers, potatoes that produce their own pesticides, and potatoes with jellyfish genes that glow in the dark when they need water. Genetic engineers are also working to develop fruits, vegetables, and grains with higher levels of vitamins and foods that contain vaccines against diseases like malaria, cholera and hepatitis.
While proponents of genetic engineering believe that this technology will make it possible to produce enough food to ensure that everyone in the world has enough to eat, farmers, scientists, environmentalists, health professionals and consumers throughout the world are outraged by the growing number of genetically altered foods in our food supply and are very skeptical about the purported benefits of this technology. Since 1996, when the first large-scale commercial harvest of genetically engineered crops occurred in the United States, the percentage of genetically engineered crops grown in the United States has increased to 25%, including 35% of all corn, 55% of all soybeans, and nearly half of all the cotton. In addition, much of the canola oil produced in Canada comes from genetically manipulated rape seed. It has been estimated that as many as two-thirds of all food products in grocery stores contain genetically engineered ingredients. In fact, unless you buy exclusively organic, you will likely bring home foods that contain genetically modified ingredients, especially if you purchase foods that contain soybeans, corn, or their derivatives (soy oil, soy flour, soy protein isolates, corn oil, corn starch, corn flour, and high fructose corn syrup).
At this point in time, the health risks of consuming genetically altered foods have not been clearly identified, since few studies have been conducted to evaluate impact of these foods on human health. However, many scientists have speculated that it is likely that these foods will trigger allergic reactions in some people, create new toxins that produce disease, and lead to antibiotic resistance and a subsequent resurgence of infectious disease. The impact on the environment may be even more devastating. Many farmers are concerned that it will be impossible to prevent genetically engineered crops from "polluting" organic farms, as the wind and bees will naturally carry pollen from the genetically engineered crops to nearby organic farms. In addition, farmers and environmentalists fear that foods that are genetically engineered to be resistant to herbicides, such as Roundup Ready soybeans, will result in heavier herbicide use, further polluting the groundwater, lakes and rivers. Heavy use of herbicides may also encourage the development of "superweeds" that are resistant to herbicides, which could threaten crops throughout the country. The results of a 1999 study conducted by researchers at Cornell University suggest that genetically engineered crops also endanger wildlife, specifically the Monarch butterfly. These researchers found that nearly half of the Monarch caterpillars that ate milkweed leaves dusted with pollen from genetically engineered corn died within four days. A study conducted one year later at Iowa State University found that plants that neighbor farms of genetically engineered corn are dusted with enough corn pollen to kill Monarch caterpillars.
As more is learned about the environmental and health risks of genetically engineered foods, people around the world are demanding that food producers eliminate these so-called "Frankenfoods" from their products. While the law in the United States does not mandate that foods containing genetically modified ingredients be labeled, many proactive food producers have stopped using these ingredients and are now labeling their products as "GMO-free." For more information about genetically modified foods, please visit the official website of The Campaign to Label Genetically Engineered Foods at Yachts For Sale | Boats For Sale | Yacht Charter and Earthsave's webpage at EarthSave - Food intervention programs to achieve health independence.