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“An ecosystem, you can always intervene and change something in it, but there’s no way of knowing what all the downstream effects will be or how it might affect the environment. We have such a miserably poor understanding of how the organism develops from its DNA that I would be surprised if we don’t get one rude shock after another.”
~Professor Richard Lewontin, Professor of Genetics, Harvard University
Maybe you’ve heard of a GMO, but if you had to define it, you may not be able to. Don’t worry, you’re not alone! Plenty of people have never even heard of GMOs, much less think about them when they’re grocery shopping. But, over 60 countries like Peru, Algeria, and 28 European countries have significant restrictions or outright bans on the production and sale of GMOs. If that many countries have placed restrictions on GMOs, we should be paying more attention to them.
So, what are GMOs? A GMO, or genetically modified organism is a plant, animal, microorganism or other organism whose genetic makeup has been modified in a laboratory using genetic engineering or transgenic technology. This is different than traditional breeding practices, where different breeds of the same species are combined to produce favorable traits. With modern GMOs, DNA is taken from a completely different species (like a fish or virus) and inserted into a crop (like a tomato or corn) to transfer genetic traits. These experimental combinations of genes cannot and do not occur naturally.
The overwhelming majority of GMOs are engineered to be more tolerant to large applications of herbicides and pesticides, like Roundup, a chemical fertilizer created by the corporate giant Monsanto. Monsanto controls 80% of the GM (“genetically modified”) corn market and 93% of the GM soy market. Roundup’s main ingredient is glyphosate. Glyphosate was found by the World Health Organization to be a “probable human carcinogen” in May 2015 and today is classified as a “known carcinogen” under Prop 65 in California. Food Democracy Now has the scoop on glyphosate here.
GMOs have caused the use of pesticides and herbicides to skyrocket, leaving more chemical residue on crops for consumers to ingest. While much of the research around GMOs is conflicting, a growing body of evidence connects GMOs with health issues, environmental damage, biodiversity loss, and violations of farmers’ and consumers’ rights.
To make matters worse, the long-term health effects of GMOs on both people and planet are virtually unknown, and almost all studies that “prove” the safety of GMOs are funded by the very biotech corporations that profit from GMO sales.
Today, an estimated 80% of food on supermarket shelves contain GMOs, something not stated on ingredient labels.
Fortunately, a growing number of people are becoming informed and demanding corporate food giants to label GMOs. In the absence of meaningful mandatory labeling in the United States, our partners at the Non-GMO Project are working hard to protect non-GMO food in a different way, by creating a voluntary labeling system by which food companies could meet the consumer demand for non-GMO choices, thereby changing the supply chain and preserving safe, healthy food for future generations.
If you want to dive deeper, take a look this article from the New York Times about genetically modified crops.
As consumers, we have the power to find and choose non-GMO products to support a safe and healthy food supply. When in doubt, choose USDA Certified Organic products, which cannot contain GMO ingredients. And keep an eye out for The Non-GMO Project’s “Butterfly” verification mark, which is North America’s only independent verification for products made according to rigorous best practices for GMO avoidance. The Butterfly is also the fastest-growing label in the natural products industry representing more than 43,000 verified products, with annual sales of over $25 billion.
The key to change is understanding. GMOs can be a highly controversial topic that is often not fairly represented. Propaganda, like the new GMO film Food Evolution, can skew the facts, preventing people from taking action around an issue that really matters.
To gain a better understanding of GMOs and the breadth of information that is available, take a look at The Organic and Non-GMO Report.
Then, take a look at our video of the day to give you an understanding of this really important topic
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The list of common ingredients that are now almost entirely made from GMO crops is astounding. Food companies are not required to test these GMO ingredients for pesticides or other harmful effects, and they don’t have to tell you when they put GMOs in your food. The passage of The Dark Act (S. 764) in 2016 preempts all mandatory labeling laws already passed at the state level and puts the burden on the consumer to discover if a product contains GMOs or not.
Find an informative infographic and video that explain GMOs and their impact on health and the planet.
>Now, it’s It’s time to do your own investigative work.
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Greenest due on October 29 @ 6am PT.
Up to 50 additional points will be awarded for outstanding work.
It just so happens that some of the most popular snack foods (i.e. processed, packaged foods) often contain GMOs. In this challenge, we are inviting you to share what you’ve learned about GMOs with friends and family.
Upload a PDF Document with your responses and a screenshot of your social media post. Include your name (or team name), username, email address, and school.