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What is a GMO?

The basics of Genetically Modified Organisms

What is a GMO?
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You probably have heard a lot about GMOs and even seen protests about them, but what are GMOs? Are they safe? Where do you find them? Here are the answers to such questions.

What are GMOs?

GMOs (genetically modified organisms) are plants or animals that have been genetically engineered to provide a perceived advantage to the producer or consumer of these foods. Such modifications can translate into a product with a lower price, greater benefits in terms of durability, nutritional value or both and will not occur naturally.

Are they safe?

Great question! When you eat GMOs you are introducing to your body substances that have not yet been tested for long-term effects in humans. However, from the studies available at this time, we know that foods containing GMOs have the potential to cause hepatic, pancreatic, gastrointestinal, renal and reproductive problems. Laboratory studies on animals have also shown that such foods can be toxic or allergenic. Many countries have strict restrictions regarding the use of GMOs in foods but this is not the case in the United States.

Are they common?

Yes, as much as 80% of processed foods sold in United States contain GMOs. The crops most likely to contain GMOs include: corn, canola, soy, papaya, sugar beets, zucchini and yellow summer squash.

Are GMOs labeled?

Unfortunately no. That is a big portion of the controversy regarding GMOs. Many consumers are requesting mandatory labeling in United States.

Are Organic Foods Non-GMOs?

Certified organic foods can’t intentionally include GMO ingredients, but no GMO testing is mandatory. Therefore, with organic food you will have a much better chance of avoiding GMOs, but it is certainly not a guarantee. Once again, mandatory labeling is the best solution to give you the right to choose what you eat.

Will GMOs impact my weight?

No, the main issue with GMOs is overall health.

For consumers, it can be difficult to stay up-to-date on food ingredients that are at-risk of being genetically modified, as the list of at-risk agricultural ingredients is frequently changing. As part of the Non-GMO Project's commitment to informed consumer choice, we work diligently to maintain an accurate list of risk ingredients.

Agricultural products are segmented into two groups: (1) those that are high-risk of being GMO because they are currently in commercial production, and (2) those that have a monitored risk because suspected or known incidents of contamination have occurred and />or the crops have genetically modified relatives in commercial production with which cross-pollination(and consequently contamination) is possible. For more information on the Non-GMO Project's testing and verification of risk ingredients and processed foods, please see the non-gmo project standard.

High-Risk Crops (in commercial production; ingredients derived from these must be tested every time prior to use in Non-GMO Project Verified products (as of December 2011):

  • Alfalfa (first planting 2011)
  • Canola (approx. 90% of U.S. crop)
  • Corn (approx. 88% of U.S. crop in 2011)
  • Cotton (approx. 90% of U.S. crop in 2011)
  • Papaya (most of Hawaiian crop; approximately 988 acres)
  • Soy (approx. 94% of U.S. crop in 2011)
  • Sugar Beets (approx. 95% of U.S. crop in 2010)
  • Zucchini and Yellow Summer Squash (approx. 25,000 acres)

Listed in Appendix B of the Non-GMO Project Standard are a number of high-risk inputs, including those derived from GMO microorganisms, the above crops or animals fed these crops or their derivatives.

Monitored Crops (those for which suspected or known incidents of contamination have occurred, and those crops which have genetically modified relatives in commercial production with which cross-pollination is possible; we test regularly to assess risk, and move to “High-Risk” category for ongoing testing if we see contamination):

  • Beta vulgaris (e.g., chard, table beets)
  • Brassica napa (e.g., rutabaga, Siberian kale)
  • Brassica rapa (e.g., bok choy, mizuna, Chinese cabbage, turnip, rapini, tatsoi)
  • Curcubita (acorn squash, delicata squash, patty pan)
  • Flax
  • Rice
  • Wheat

Common Ingredients Derived from GMO Risk Crops
Amino Acids, Aspartame, Ascorbic Acid, Sodium Ascorbate, Vitamin C, Citric Acid, Sodium Citrate, Ethanol, 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

GMO Fails:

  • Tomatoes: In 1994, genetically modified Flavr Savr tomatoes became the first commercially produced GMOs. They were brought out of production just a few years later, in 1997, due to problems with flavor and ability to hold up in shipping. There are no genetically engineered tomatoes in commercial production, and tomatoes are considered "low-risk" by the Non-GMO Project Standard.
  • Potatoes: Genetically modified NewLeaf potatoes were introduced by Monsanto in 1996. Due to consumer rejection by several fast-food chains and chip makers, the product was never successful and was discontinued in the spring of 2001. There are no genetically engineered potatoes in commercial production, and potatoes are considered " low-risk" by the Non-GMO Project Standard.
  • Pigs: A genetically engineered variety of pig, called Enviropig was developed by scientists at the University of Guelph, with research starting in 1995 and government approval sought beginning in 2009. In 2012 the University announced an end to the Enviropig program, and the pigs themselves were euthanized in June 2012.
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organicproduce, Mount Storm WV
No, GMOs are not safe. A good portion of our food supply is not safe.
6/15/2015 7:47:00 AM
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nutritionpro44, La Vista NE
Regarding your claims that GMOs are not safe, is this comment your speculation or could you provide the scientific studies done on humans (or animals if that's all there is) that show the relationship between GMOs and their potential to cause hepatic, pancreatic, gastrointestinal, renal and reproductive problems? Could you cite any other resources you used? Who is the author of this write-up and what is your area of expertise?
10/14/2014 5:38:00 AM
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