President Obama has signed into law a bill that will require food companies to label the use of genetically modified ingredients, commonly known as genetically modified organisms or GMOs, in their products. This law received bi-partisan support and sailed through Congress quickly. However, don’t expect to see any GMO labeled packaging in your local stores any time soon. Congress gave the Agriculture Department (USDA) two years to draft the rules. Some experts believe that the law will not go into effect until 2020.
What are GMOs?
GMOs are plants or animals that have had foreign genes from other organisms inserted into their genetic codes. The general purpose of this work is to build or enhance traits that do not exist or express in the non-modified plants or animals. The most well-known genetically modified crops are the Roundup resistant corn and soybean. By manipulating their genes, these corn and soybean plants can withstand the herbicide Roundup while other weeds will be killed.
Monsanto, the maker of Roundup, introduced the Roundup Ready soybean in 1996, and the Roundup Ready corn, cotton, sugar beet and various other crops followed soon after. These crops have been adopted rapidly as they have alluring practical, economic and even some environmental benefits (e.g. lowering use of herbicides overall). By the late 90s, nearly 90% of soybeans and 70% of corn grown in the U.S. were Roundup Ready.
Today, 75-80% of foods contain genetically-modified ingredients according to the food industry. The FDA considers these ingredients to be safe for consumers. The same conclusion has been drawn by the WHO (World Health Organization), the AMA (American Medical Association) and the U.S. National Academy of Science, although there are other organizations, such as Center for Food Safety, which have argued differently.
Like all new technologies, the true impact of GMOs to human health and to our environment as well as to the survival of humanity won’t be known for quite some time, but the technology is here to stay. At least we will soon have a way to know their presence in our foods so we can make a conscious decision about our food choices.
For further studies, read the following articles:
-By Angela Liu, President and founder of Crispy Green