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GMOs 101

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Right now, we have the choice to avoid GMOs (genetically modified organisms). We can choose organic products, which, by law, are required to be grown and processed without the use of GMOs. The use of GMOs is prohibited in organic products. This means an organic farmer can’t plant GMO seeds, an organic cow can’t eat GMO alfalfa or corn, and an organic soup producer can’t use any GMO ingredients. To meet the USDA organic regulations, farmers and processors must show they aren’t using GMOs, and that they are protecting their products from contact with prohibited substances from farm to table.

Click here to learn more about the non-GMO requirements under the National Organic Program.

We have the right to know what we are eating, and the right to make informed choices about what we eat.

Just label It is a coalition of 300 companies, organizations and doctors has filed a petition with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for just this reason. The petition called for the mandatory labeling of GE foods was written by attorneys at the Center for Food Safety and submitted in September 2011 to the FDA. It was created on the premise that people have a right to know what is in their food, and to give consumers not only a voice, but a choice in how they can take action. On March 27th, 2012, 180 days after the petition was filed, over 1 million Americans had signed in support of labeling genetically engineered foods.  To date, the FDA petition has received over 1.2 million signatures.

Consider this: much of the corn, soybeans, cotton, sugar beets, and canola in the United States are genetically modified. This means the ingredients made from them, including such common ingredients as corn syrup, soy lecithin, sugar, vegetable oil and cottonseed oil, are genetically modified as well. In fact, according to California’s Department of Food and Agriculture, 70% of processed foods in American supermarkets now contain genetically engineered (GE) ingredients. At this time, none of these products are required to be labeled as genetically engineered.

If you agree that you have a right to know if the food you are eating has been genetically engineered, send a message to the FDA today. With just one click, you can show your support for the FDA petition requiring the labeling of GE foods and win back your right to know.

You can also help show your support by sharing these two videos with everyone you know. In doing so, you will help spread the message that labels matter.


What are GMOs?
You’ve probably heard about GMOs, which are also referred to as genetically modified organisms, GE (genetically engineered), herbicide-tolerant (HT) or Bt crops. In simple terms, a GMO is an organism that has been changed injecting it with genetic material from another species.

From The Organic Center’s GE report:

GE seeds were introduced commercially in 1996 and now dominate the production of corn, soybeans, and cotton in the United States. GE crops contain one or both of two major categories of traits:

• Herbicide-tolerant (HT) crops, more commonly known as "Roundup Ready crops," are genetically engineered to survive direct application of one or more herbicides during the growing season, chemicals that would otherwise kill or severely stunt the crop.

• Bt crops are engineered to produce toxins...that kill certain agricultural insect pests.

Are GMOs safe?
In 30 other countries around the world, including Australia, Japan, and all of 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.

How widespread are GMOs in our food supply?
Have you ever wondered just how many GMOs are out there? If not, you might be surprised to learn that 86% of corn and 93% of soybeans grown in the United States is genetically modified.  In fact, according to California’s Department of Food and Agriculture, 70% of processed foods in American supermarkets now contain genetically engineered (GE) ingredients.

You might also be surprised to learn that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has decided to allow the unrestricted use of another GE crop: alfalfa. USDA also decided to continue to allow planting of Roundup Ready sugar beets despite a court order to complete a final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) before making any decision on deregulation for genetically engineered (GE) sugar beets.

How can you avoid GMOs?
The best way to avoid GMOs is to choose organic. By law, organic products must be made and produced without the use of genetic engineering.  That is why at every phase in the production process, organic processors and producers are required to take steps to make sure that you and your family are getting all the benefits you need and want and none of the things you don’t—including GMOs. That means not planting or treating land on which organic food and fiber is grown with prohibited substances (including GMOs); creating buffer zones to prevent contact between organic and non-organic crops; cleaning machinery to prevent contact between organic and non-organic items and minimize the risk of contamination; and storing organic and non-organic ingredients separately to ensure that the organic products have as little risk as possible of containing GMOs.

Learn more about why GMOs are prohibited in organic production and processing, as well as the steps taken by organic producers and processors to prevent against GMO contamination.

Also check out Label It Now – What You Need to Know About Genetically Engineered Foods, a downloadable e-book whose proceeds support the Just Label It campaign.

Know what to look for on labels to avoid GMOs. 

What effects do GMOs have on human health?
GMOs are currently not labeled or tracked in our food supply, making it impossible to conduct long-term studies on the link between GMOs and human health problems. However, because we also do not have information conclusively proving that GMOs are safe, it impossible to rule out the possibility that GMOs may indeed cause health problems.

What effects do GMOs have on the environment?
GMOs lead to the growth of “superweeds”
Just as the heavy use of antibiotics contributed to the rise of drug-resistant supergerms, American farmers’ near-ubiquitous use of the weedkiller Roundup has led to the rapid growth of tenacious new superweeds. The reason for this is that when a crop is repeatedly sprayed with Roundup to kill a given pest, the pest develops a resistance to the Roundup. The new "superweed" requires more herbicide to be applied in order to keep it under control.   

GMOs lead to the rise of "superbugs"
Research conducted the Iowa State University found that corn that was genetically modified to resist certain pests (rootworms) is being harmed by those pests, because the pests have become resistant to the pesticides being applied to them.

GMOs result in the increased use of toxic and persistent pesticides
As GMOs become more resistant to pesticides and herbicides, more of these substances are needed to prevent the growth of undesirable plants (i.e. weeds). In turn, the increased use of pesticides and herbicides results in increased environmental pollution and human exposure to toxic substances.

According to research conducted by The Organic Center, GE crops have been responsible for an increase of 383 million pounds of herbicide use in the U.S. over the first 13 years of commercial use of GE crops (1996-2008).

GMOs may reduce biodiversity and put our food security at risk
As more scientific effort and funding is dedicated to the development of genetically engineered seeds and crops, and more farmers become reliant on them, the stock of non-genetically engineered seeds and crops decreases. This, in turn, reduces crop and seed diversity and creates conditions under which our food supply becomes more vulnerable because it is dependent on the survival of a small number seeds and crops. 

Research shows that the vast majority of GE crops are used to feed animals in rich countries rather than people in poorer nations. For instance, South America’s expanding GE soybean plantations produce soy meal for Europe’s livestock industry, and have reduced food security by displacing poor farmers and reducing land area planted to food crops like corn and beans for local consumption. Additionally, researchers attending the September 2009 World Seed Conference in Rome pointed out that seed companies using genetic engineering are reducing crop diversity, which could have serious consequences for the world’s food supplies.

Learn more about why there are concerns about GMOs.