In a world where genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are becoming more prevalent, it’s important to understand how they impact our food. Chances are, you’ve unknowingly consumed foods made from GMO crops. Let’s delve into this topic to shed light on what you’re really putting on your plate.
Unveiling the GMOs in Our Food
GMO crops, such as corn, soybean, and cotton, are widely found in everyday food products. These crops are primarily used to make ingredients like cornstarch, corn syrup, soybean oil, and canola oil. Additionally, some fruits and vegetables like potatoes, summer squash, apples, papayas, and pink pineapples also have GMO varieties available.
Although GMOs are prevalent in our food, it’s worth mentioning that most GMO crops in the United States are actually used for animal feed. Farmers rely on GMO corn to feed livestock such as cows and poultry, ensuring their health and well-being.
To help consumers identify GMO ingredients in the foods they eat, the U.S. Department of Agriculture provides a comprehensive list of bioengineered foods available worldwide. Furthermore, the implementation of the National Bioengineered Food Disclosure Standard means that you will start seeing a “bioengineered” label on some food products.
GMO Crops in the United States
Let’s take a closer look at the GMO crops that dominate the agricultural landscape in the United States:
GMO corn is the most prevalent crop in the United States. It is genetically engineered to resist insect pests and tolerate herbicides. Interestingly, GMO Bt corn produces proteins that are toxic to specific insect pests but harmless to humans and animals. This allows farmers to control pests without the need for excessive insecticide spraying.
GMO soybeans are predominantly used for animal feed and the production of soybean oil. The soybean itself is transformed into various ingredients found in processed foods, such as lecithin, emulsifiers, and proteins.
GMO cotton has played a vital role in revitalizing the cotton industry in Alabama. It is resistant to bollworms and serves as a reliable source of cotton for the textile industry. Additionally, GMO cottonseed oil is used in packaged foods and restaurants for frying, and cottonseed meal and hulls are utilized in animal feed.
GMO potatoes have been developed to resist insects, diseases, bruising, and browning. By preventing browning, GMO potatoes help reduce unnecessary food waste caused by the misconception that browned food is spoiled.
The GMO Rainbow papaya was created to combat the ringspot virus, which nearly decimated the papaya industry in Hawaii. This genetically modified fruit saved papaya farming on the Hawaiian Islands.
While not widely grown, GMO summer squash boasts resistance against certain plant viruses.
GMO canola is primarily used to make cooking oil and margarine. Its resistance to herbicides aids farmers in controlling weeds effectively.
GMO alfalfa is predominantly used as feed for cattle, especially dairy cows. Its herbicide resistance safeguards alfalfa production and maintains the nutritional quality of the hay.
A few varieties of GMO apples have been engineered to resist browning after being cut, reducing food waste caused by the mistaken belief that brown apples are spoiled.
More than half of the granulated sugar sold in grocery stores is derived from GMO sugar beets. Their herbicide resistance allows farmers to effectively manage weed control.
The GMO pink pineapple is created by enhancing the levels of lycopene, the pigment responsible for the pink flesh in watermelons and redness in tomatoes.
The Impact on Animal Food
Similar to GMO crops for human consumption, DNA from GMO animal feed does not make its way into meat, eggs, or milk. Extensive research demonstrates that these animal products are nutritionally equivalent and offer the same safety and quality as those produced by animals fed non-GMO food.
To ensure the safety of GMO and non-GMO animal food, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates their production. The FDA Center for Veterinary Medicine monitors the entire process, from animal food production to labeling, guaranteeing clean conditions and accurate information for consumers.
More Than Just Food
Contrary to popular belief, GMO technology extends beyond food production. It has revolutionized industries such as medicine and textiles. Genetically engineered organisms are employed in the creation of medicines, including human insulin for diabetes treatment. Rigorous FDA approval processes ensure the safety and efficacy of these medicines. Additionally, GMO cotton plants are utilized to make fabric for clothing and other textile materials.
By understanding the presence and impact of GMO crops, consumers can make informed decisions about the foods they consume and their wider implications.
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