It’s one of the most divisive and discussed issues in food production today: genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Supporters point to greatly improved food production and reduced need for fertilizers and pesticides; opponents claim that GMO products are inadequately tested and may result in unknown health and environmental dangers.
So what exactly are genetically modified organisms? Well, the traditional method for creating new and improved species of crops has been cross pollination and this is how it’s been done by farmers for generations. GMO crops have been altered by changing their genetic make-up and more research has to be conducted to determine benefits and risks. While regulations are being enacted, a wide grass-roots movement is currently promoting non-GMO foods and agriculture because many people believe they must protect themselves and the agricultural environment. GMO critics say genetically engineering a food could affect its nutritional value or create allergens or toxins in the food, although these claims are disputed by federal regulators, including the Food and Drug Administration. Three agencies — the FDA, U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Environmental Protection Agency — regulate GMOs for safety.
Crops on the market today that are most likely to be GMO – corn, soybean, cotton, sugar beets, alfalfa, canola, Hawaiian papaya, yellow crookneck squash, and zucchini.
In addition to the question of the harmfulness of GMOs, there’s also the question of required labeling and the importance to consumers. Though studies have shown that some consumers won’t change their purchasing habits because of a GMO label, polls consistently show that the majority of Americans do want to have the right to make that decision themselves.
Stay tuned for more updates on this hot topic as GMO labeling laws come to fruition in the coming year.