What are G.M.O.s? Genetically Modified Organism (G.M.O.) is the result of laboratory process where genes from the DNA of one species are extracted and artificially forced into the genes of an unrelated plant or animal. Genes may come from bacteria, viruses, insects, animals or human and are known also as “transgenic” organisms.
G.M.O. plants and animals are not grown by nature but created through science. That science is spearheaded and lead by chemical titans Dow and Dupont, makers of plastics, cleaning supplies, and construction materials. In second place are agrochemical and biotechnology corporations Monsanto and Syngenta, makers of Roundup herbicide.
Where can G.M.O.s be found? In our food.
G.M.O. was first introduced to the Unites States food supply in the mid-1990’s by Monsanto through products like saccharin, a synthetic version of sugar, and vanillin, a synthetic version of vanilla. Monsanto was also the first to genetically modify a plant cell or a plant ‘seed’. Monsanto is currently the leader in genetically engineered (GE) plant seeds.
Let’s take a look at G.M.O. products that are quite common on food shelves and in the produce department.
Genetically Engineered (GE) Seed Crops are:
Canola- accounts for 90% of US. Crop
Zucchini and Yellow Summer Squash- over 24,000 acres dedicated
Kellogg, Pepsi, Kraft Foods, General Mills, The Hershey Co., Coca-Cola, J.M. Smuckers Co., Conagra Foods, Smithfield Foods, Flowers Food Inc. all use G.M.O. crops for their ingredients of a variety of products.
Ingredients derived from G.M.O. High Risk Crops are common on product labels. If you notice most of these ingredients have chemical-based names: Amino Acids, Aspartame, Ascorbic Acid, Sodium Ascorbate, Citric Acid, Ethanol, Artificial Flavorings, High-Fructose, Hydrolyzed Protein, Lactic Acid Maltodextrins, Xanthan Gum, Sucrose.
G.M.O. produce grown in the US. are much simpler to distinguished through PLU codes. PLU codes, or ‘product look-up’ numbers, are on oval or round stickers on the skin of fruits and vegetables. These PLU codes are on every piece of fruit and/or vegetable purchased in grocery stores and big box chains like Walmart.
The leading number from the PLU code gives you the information of the product; whether it’s organic, conventionally grown or G.M.O..
The #9 is an organic product. Grown naturally without any pesticides, fertilizers, synthetic ingredients or sewage sludge; bioengineering; or ionizing radiation.
The #8 is a G.M.O. Product, grown from bioengineering seeds; created by science.
The numbers #3 and #4 are conventionally grown. Typically offered in every grocery store and big box chains that offers produce. Grown using pesticides and herbicides and fertilized with synthetics derived from petroleum.
So why are G.M.O.s so common on our dinner tables?
Large conglomerates like Dow, Dupont and Monsanto have patented their genetically modified (GM) seeds as intellectual property, which enables G.M.O.s to be owned, sold and traded on the stock market, and controlled.
Although it is big business in the U.S., G.M.O.s are very restricted or banned in other parts of the world. Sixty-four countries, including the entire European Union, have banned G.M.O.s entirely.
Many states, including Maryland, Vermont and Colorado have banned genetically engineered (GE) fish and wheat. Some counties of California, Hawaii and Washington state have banned some genetically modified crops from their fields.
The best way to avoid G.M.O.s on your dinner plate is to grow your own foods or buy locally from your farmers and stay far away from any processed foods.
Cathy Allen is an award-winning Urban Environmentalist, the co-creator of G.R.A.S.S. (Growing Resources After Sowing Seed) as well as Chair of the “Grow-It Eat It” campaign. G.R.A.S.S. is an environmental entrepreneurial nonprofit program based on the fundamentals of gardening, agriculture and ecology. In conjunction with Baltimore City Public Schools, Allen’s campaign has planted over a half-million trees on the lawns of Baltimore City public schools.