Food from Farms logo designed by erick p
The campaign to label Genetically Modified Foods picked up steam last week as a broad coalition called on the U.S Food and Drug Administration to require food producers to label genetically modified foods. Nearly 400 business and organizations along with the Just Label it – We Have a Right to Know campaign submitted a petition on behalf of a million consumers to the FDA calling for the mandatory labeling of GE foods.
In our iPhone app we included a warning for genetically modified produce. If you look up a fruit or vegetable using it’s PLU Code, which can be found on the small stickers placed on produce, Farmanac can identify if it was genetically modified. Unfortunately it’s only accurate if the producer voluntarily chooses to identify their product as GMO. And with no labeling requirement in the US1 the reality is you’ll almost never find a PLU Code with the leading 8 that indicates it’s GMO2.
The good news is that at this point only a few fruits and vegetables for sale in the United States have been genetically modified. Those that have, include papaya (but only those coming from Hawaii) as well as some zucchini and yellow squash, and recently Monsanto announced they will begin selling GMO sweet corn. Because these products won’t be labeled as GMO, the best way to ensure you don’t consume them is to buy organic.
But what exactly is wrong with genetically modified foods? Scientists and food experts are concerned with a number of issues that relate to GMO’s. Primary among them is the long term effects on humans and the environment that genetically engineering foods will have. All living organisms are complex and we know very little about how artificially modifying their genes will effect them in the next twenty years. To date, no long term studies have been conducted on the safety of genetically engineered crops. Additionally, a host of other concerns have yet to be fully tested or understood regarding GMO produce. Some of these concerns are as follows:
Genetically engineered crops can be a cross between two different organisms. In one instance, genes from Brazil nuts were spliced into soy beans. They looked exactly like every other soybean, but were biochemically different. The results for those allergic to nuts are serious and potentially fatal.
- GMO crops are patented and thus owned by corporations
If a farmer grows a tomato from a genetically engineered seed, the company that developed the seed owns that tomato and requires the farmer to pay them royalties. Even when that seed is accidentally spread or cross-pollinated to another farm, the company will claim ownership.
- Toxicity of genetically engineered crops
90% of GMO foods are either insect resistant (meaning every cell has a toxin designed to kill the bugs that would eat the crop), or herbicide resistant (allowing increased usage of toxic pesticides that poison our air, drinking water, and environment with unknown consequences on the human body).
- Cross contamination of non-GMO crops
When a genetically engineered crop is used in the “real world” it naturally cross-pollinates with other crops, spreading further into the natural environment and permanently altering our food landscape.
At Farmanac our team stands behind the call to label GMO foods. In our effort to improve our app we’re exploring new features that can help educate consumers about the genetic engineering of food. If you believe GE foods should be labeled we encourage you to sign the petition to the FDA at Just Label It. California residents can also get involved in the Label GMOs ballot initiative which is attempting to gather enough signatures to get the questions in front of the states voters in 2012.
- The European Union, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Korea, Brazil, and China all require the labeling of GMO foods. ↑
- A typical PLU is 4 digits identifying the type of produce, including the variety. However, many PLUs have 5 digits beginning with either a 9 to identify it’s organic or an 8 identifying it’s genetically modified. ↑