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GMOs: The Debate Continues

GMOs: The Debate Continues

Weakening oversight

When I post on Facebook or Twitter, a lot of times it’s out of a sense of dismay about the shape the world is in. As a nutritionist who focuses on natural food for better health, two of my biggest concerns are 1) a weakening of the Food and Drug Administration’s oversight of the food supply, and 2) the need to label genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in food products. In my opinion, it’s bad enough that GMOs are in food, but at least consumers should have the ability to tell which foods have them.

If a product includes corn grown from a Monsanto genetically modified (GM) seed, the producer of the product should be required to say that on the label.

What are GMOs, exactly? According to the World Health Organization, they are “organisms in which the genetic material (DNA) has been altered in a way that does not occur naturally. The technology is often called ‘modern biotechnology’ or ‘gene technology,’ sometimes also ‘recombinant DNA technology’ or ‘genetic engineering.’”

Adverse events

Are they safe? Research on at least one GMO-containing product, the top-selling Monsanto herbicide, Roundup, says no.

A June 2011 report in Earth Open Source presented significant evidence showing that Roundup is linked with birth defects. Another research paper published in Chemical Research in Toxicology in 2002 questioned the safety of Roundup on human health and reported, among other concerns, that Roundup could affect human embryonic development.

“Roundup, a product of Monsanto, is comprised mostly of the isopropylamine salt of glyphosate, which is the most used herbicidal chemical in America,” an article discussing these two studies stated. “Roundup is not backed by any impartial, independent, rigorous scientific research. The studies used to back up the claims of governments around the world and especially in the EU are unpublished industry studies.”

Little hope for more monitoring

“The White House in its 2014 budget did not call for an increase in the FDA’s budget, thereby leading to the logical conclusion that food safety inspections will not be increasing,” I wrote in my June 2013 article, “The Importance of Knowing Where Our Food Comes From.”

And now, with the shutdown of the government that went into effect on October 1, 2013—the result of a standoff between Congress and the Obama administration over healthcare laws, government spending, and the debt limit—our already underfunded FDA has no workers to inspect food products, including those containing GMOs. I tweeted on October 4, “Things are bad enough at the FDA, now with a shutdown food inspections are non-existent!”’

Why not label?

Should food with GMOs be labeled as such? The two main arguments against this are that 1) mandating labeling would be phenomenally expensive to both taxpayers and food producers, and 2) the labeling would not provide consumers any additional information about ingredients.

I disagree, and think consumers should be told about GMOs so they can make informed decisions. As one critic said, I don’t want to be part of the biggest science experiment ever created on earth.

But until the foods are labeled as such, follow the advice of the American Medical Association’s Council on Science and Public Health Council, which suggested that consumers wishing to choose foods without bioengineered ingredients may do so by purchasing those labeled “USDA Organic.”

I further recommend that the organic food be locally grown.

I post cutting edge information and research on GMOs, food quality and other health related issues on Facebook and Twitter. Follow me to get the latest.