If you have the habit of reading labels carefully each time you’re at the specialty food shop or grocery store, you have noticed that several products bear the mark “GMO free” or “contains only non-GMO ingredients”.
What does this all mean? What is a non-GMO product or better yet, what is a GMO product?
GMO stands for Genetically Modified Organism. GMO products have been altered at the gene level using gene splicing techniques in which scientists merge the DNA of different species. This results in an animal breed or plant variety that would not normally occur in the natural world.
Modification of plants is not exactly a recent development. In fact, horticulturists, gardeners and farmers have, for many centuries already, been cross breeding different plant species to develop plants that are more resistant to disease or are better tasting or are more beautiful.
However, these traditional plant breeding techniques are very different from genetic engineering used to create these “GMO foods”. “GMO” foods are an entirely different animal, so to speak.
With genetic engineering, genes are spliced from an animal, plant, or bacterium and inserted into a different organism. This results in an altered genetic code that affects the organism’s physical characteristics.
It all seems like mad science but this technology has allowed scientists to develop potatoes that produce their own pesticides or soybeans that are resistant to weed killers or tomatoes that have longer shelf life by combining tomato and flounder genes.
There are even potatoes that glow in the dark when they need watering. This was done by using genes from jellyfish.
With a population that is increasingly becoming more conscious of eating healthy, genetically modified foods are causing a big concern. One of the major flaws in this technology is that the process of inserting genes into the DNA of a plant is random and scientists cannot predict where the genes go.
The health risks associated with consuming genetically altered food have not been clearly established but scientists have speculated that GMO foods can trigger allergies or may create toxins that produce disease.
They fear that consuming GMO foods may also lead to antibiotic resistance and subsequent resurgence of infectious diseases.
More than the effect on your and your family’s health, GMO’s can potentially impact the environment. Traditional farmers who chose to grow crops organically fear that genetically engineered crops can contaminate their farms as winds and bees will inevitably carry pollen from these plants to their farms.
GMO cross contamination has put a big burden on organic and non-GMO farmers causing them extra work and forcing them to put in longer hours. This increases your cost of food.
Farmers and environmentalists alike fear that use of crops that are genetically engineered to be resistant to herbicides will ironically, result in heavier use of herbicides. This puts groundwater, lakes and rivers at risk of being further polluted.
Another negative effect of increased use of herbicides is that it will make weeds more and more resistant to herbicides. This could give rise to superweeds which could threaten other crops.
Some studies conducted show that GMO foods are even a threat to wildlife. A science professor in Indiana University found that GMO corn produced increased mortality and reduced growth in caddisflies, aquatic insects that are a food resource for higher organisms like fish and amphibians.
Things like this put a burden on an already precarious balance of the ecosystem.
Twenty years ago, the first GMO product went on the market – a tomato puree made from Flavr Savr tomatoes. These were tomatoes produced in California which were genetically engineered to ripen more slowly.
When the product was first introduced, it performed quite well, outselling conventional tomato purees. But consumers became aware of all the risks that this product presented and just three years after it started selling, it was withdrawn from the market.
Though this particular product is no longer available, there are countless other products in the market that are GMO or use GMO ingredients. And you might not even be aware of whether the fruits and vegetables you consume, or the ingredients in your favorite off-the-shelf products are GMO products.
The most common GMOs are soy, cotton, canola, corn, sugar beets, Hawaiian papaya, alfalfa, and squash (zucchini and yellow). Many of these items appear as added ingredients in a large variety of the foods we eat.
And all those chemicals that you read in labels? Amino Acids, Aspartame, Ascorbic Acid, Sodium Ascorbate, Vitamin C, Citric Acid, Sodium Citrate, Flavorings (“natural” and “artificial”), High Fructose Corn Syrup, Hydrolyzed Vegetable Protein, Lactic Acid, Maltodextrins, Molasses, Monosodium Glutamate, Sucrose, Textured Vegetable Protein (TVP), Xanthan Gum, Vitamins, Yeast Products. All GMO.
With all the risks mentioned above, it becomes really important for you and your family to be aware of your labels and make a choice for verified non-GMO products.
Cibaria International has long been a leading provider of olive oils and balsamic vinegars. We acquire the very finest products from some of the most authentic and most time-honored olive oil and balsamic vinegar producing families in the Mediterranean, making them conveniently available in large and wholesale quantities to our customers.
With commodities you can trust, service you can depend on, and unparalleled commitment to being the best that we can be, Cibaria International has long been a leading supplier of olive oils and vinegars, from all over the world to every segment of the food industry across America and Canada.
All Cibaria products, olive oils and vinegars, are non-GMO. For more information on private labeling Cibaria products, click here.
Tags: Non-GMO, GMO Foods, Natural Foods, health food, food labels, food terms, organic food