What is GMO food and should you care?

GMO stands for genetically modified organism.  Simply put, these are organisms that have had their genetic material (dna) modified or altered through some form of genetic engineering.

Three important things to understand about the term GMO:

  1. There are various methods that can be used to accomplish this.
  2. The alteration can be done using material from the same or a different species than the one being modified.
  3. GMO is perhaps most concerning when food items are modified.

According to Wikipedia, most genetically modified plants are generated by the use of a particle gun to inject foreign material into the dna of the plant being modified or through a transferal technique using bacteria to inject new material into the plant being modified.  Either way, the resulting dna is something new that has not been seen in nature.

Genetic modification can be made using material from the same species, or from a different species altogether.  When it is from a different species, it is called a transgenic modification.  One example of this is a tomato that was developed (but never commercially marketed) using fish genes.

My biggest concern is that as of October 2012 in the US, there is still no requirement that GMO food products be labeled, and there is no labeling requirement for food products that contain GMO ingredients.  The argument made by the promoters and marketers of GMO products that there is no difference and so things do not need to be labeled.  Consumers should have the right to know which products are GMO so that they can make their own judgment and informed purchasing decisions on the food and food products they eat.  It is interesting to note that there are mandatory labeling requirements in place for GMO products or ingredients in Europe.

 

Be sure to read the next post about GMO products currently (October 2012) in the US food supply that you are probably already consuming.

 

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