What’s really in your cereal?

Think you know what you’re eating? According to the USDA, in 2009, 93% of soy, 93% of cotton, and 86% of corn grown in the U.S. were GMO. GMOs or “genetically modified organisms” are organisms that have been created through techniques of biotechnology (also called genetic engineering, or GE). This relatively new science allows DNA from one species to be injected into another species in a laboratory, creating combinations of plant, animal, bacteria, and viral genes that do not occur in nature or through traditional crossbreeding methods. Surprised? Incredible isn’t it?

“Pesticide companies develop Genetically Engineered food crops by combining DNA from plants, animals, bacteria and viruses, to contain or resist pesticide, which results in more pesticides sold and sprayed,” says Michael Hansen, Chief Scientist of Consumers Union. “Genetically engineered foods contain untested novel foreign compounds that can be detrimental to our health.”

American consumers deserve to choose whether they want to eat GMOs. In 30 other countries around the world, including Australia, Japan, and the countries in the European Union, there are significant restrictions or outright bans on the production of GMOs, because they are not considered proven safe. In the U.S. on the other hand, the FDA approved commercial production of GMOs based on studies conducted by the companies who created them and profit from their sale. Many health-conscious shoppers find the lack of rigorous, independent, scientific examination on the impact of consuming GM foods to be cause for concern, according to the Non-GMO project.

Robert Brackett, Director, Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition at the Food and Drug Administration testified before the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry that the FDA is confident that the bioengineered foods on the United States market today are as safe as their conventional counterparts. He said the FDA has found no evidence to indicate that bioengineering presents food safety problems. The FDA does not require labeling to indicate whether a food ingredient is a bioengineered product, just as it does not require labeling to indicate which conventional breeding technique was used in developing a food plant. According to an ABC News Poll, 93 percent of Americans say the federal government should require labels on food saying whether it’s been genetically modified, or “bio-engineered.” Such near-unanimity in public opinion is rare.

Surely the use of GMOs will continue, but we have a right to know what’s in our food. At least if it has a label we can choose to buy it or not. Currently we’re in the dark. October is Non-GMO month. Awareness might make a difference next time you find yourself in a grocery store. Look for non-GMO labeled foods and buy organic products when you can. Visit http://justlabelit.org/takeaction if you want to sign the petition to tell the FDA to label our food.

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