Products and foods that have GMOs – genetically modified organisms – have been a topic of debate in recent years. The Non-GMO Project defines a GMO as “a plant, animal, microorganism or other organism whose genetic makeup has been modified using…gene splicing, gene modification or transgenic technology.” This is not like the centuries-old practice of crossing similar breeds to create crops or animals. Instead, GMO technology is only a few decades old and begins in a lab, but this technology is now used all over the world. One of the biggest problems with GMOs is its potential dangers to human health.
The Dangers of GMOs
One of the serious problems with GMOs relates to glyphosate, a herbicide that the World Health Organization has labeled a “probable human carcinogen”. One common type of GMO is Roundup Ready crops, which include corn, soybeans, canola, cotton, sugar beets, and alfalfa. Thus a farmer can spray these crops with glyphosate and only the weeds will die, leaving herbicide saturated seeds behind. In response, weeds have evolved that are glyphosate-resistant, forcing farmers to use more of this herbicide. To combat this, companies like Monsanto have created even stronger pesticides to sell to GMO farmers, such as Enlist Duo, which contains both glyphosate and 2,4 D. The EPA ok’d this pesticide for use on cotton, soy, and corn in nearly 20 states. Glyphosate is not just a carcinogen, it is also an endocrine disruptor. Other dangers that glyphosate may be linked to include birth defects, tumors, killing healthy gut bacteria, cellular damage, liver and kidney damage, other diseases and possible links to autism.
In fact, we don’t know the full story on the safety of products, crops and foods that have GMOs. We do know some of the dangers, though. Many of these crops are engineered to be tolerant of herbicides, resulting in farmers increasing usage and the development of stronger pesticides. GMO foods may also be linked to the rise in food allergies around the U.S. In 2009, the American Academy Of Environmental Medicine called for a moratorium on genetically modified foods. They cited several animal studies and concluded that “there is more than a casual association between GM foods and adverse health effects.” We need to do more studies to understand the long-term effects of these foods on our health and our ecosystems.
Common Crops of Foods That Have GMOs
The most common GMO crops for this technology include:
- Bt Corn: This was developed with a pesticide genetically engineered into the corn itself, killing common corn pests that attempt to feed on it. It was supposed to be safe for humans, but a Canadian study showed that this pesticide was found in human fetuses. Over 90% of corn grown in the U.S. is of this variety.
- Soy: This product can be food in many processed foods. GMO soy may be also be linked to the rise in soy allergies, particularly in those who already had a peanut or Brazil nut allergy. In addition, this was meant to increase crop production but a 2009 study showed that they did not increase yields. Over 90% of soy grown in the U.S. is this variety.
- Bt Cotton: This is engineered similarly to BT corn with the same problems. 90% of U.S. grown cotton is Bt cotton.
- Sugar beets: Over half the sugar produced in the U.S. comes from sugar beets, which have a higher sugar content than it’s (so far) non-GMO cousin, sugar cane.
- Canola/Rapeseed: This is also another Roundup Ready crop, from which canola oil is derived. Over 90% of corn grown in the U.S. is this variety.
- Alfalfa: Commonly used for feed, this was bred to make feed easier for animals to digest. Alfalfa is “a perennial crop that can easily spread and end up in organic alfalfa fields.”
- Hawaiian Papaya: Now found in more than 75% of papaya crops, this breed was engineered to resist certain viruses. However, this can increase the likelihood of another virus attacking and being even more harmful as it evolves with the virus-resistant plant.
- Zucchini and Yellow Squash: Similar to Hawaiian papaya, these GMO plants were also engineered to resist certain viruses.
Recently, a whole new category of synthetic food has been developed, sure to provide more hidden ingredients in processed foods. Get ready for GMO 2.0.
A New Threat: GMO 2.0
New GMO products are quickly and quietly entering our supermarkets. Dubbed GMO 2.0, this new generation of products are not yet regulated by the USDA or the FDA. The current standards are 30 years old and do not take into account the latest technology.
GMOs are created by manipulating the genes of an organism. Today’s technology has opened the door to a new way to manipulate genetic engineering. GMO 2.0 involves “gene editing”. GMO 1.0 was processed by “pasting” genes from one species to an unrelated one. Gene editing, on the other hand, involves changing the DNA itself, such as suppressing certain enzymes. Another GMO 2.0 technology is synbio, which we’ll discuss later in the article.
Jim Thomas, Programme Director for the ETC Group, which works to address issues surrounding new technologies that could have an impact on the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people, weighed in on the problem. “The technical difference is that there used to be just one or two ways of moving genes from one species to another (GMO 1.0). Today, genetic engineers have a whole basket of techniques that allow them to alter the genetic codes much more extensively (GMO 2.0).”
Your family could already be eating GMO 2.0 foods without knowing it! Because they are easier to engineer, GMO 2.0 products are coming to market quicker and without updated FDA and USDA regulation. According to Thomas, “If GMO 1.0 products were poorly understood and unpredictable, GMO 2.0 is doubly so. The more dramatically you alter the genetic codes in an organism, the greater chance of unwanted side effects.”
Let’s take a look at all the new GMO products and what they might mean for your family.
New Products and Foods That Have GMOs
Are you ready to learn about a gene-edited product that may already be in your supermarket? Canola oil made by the company Cibus is not only on your shelves, it is also not listed as a GMO by the company because it’s not GMO 1.0! In fact, Cibus claims it’s not a GMO at all because they are using the current standard as a technicality.
Worse than that, other gene editing companies are making the same claims about their GMO 2.0 products. How can you keep your family safe? Luckily, Project Non-GMO will not verify a product that is made with GMO 2.0 technology, so looking for their symbol is a good start to helping you buy safe products.
Already found on Environmental Working Group’s (EWG) list of the Dirty Dozen fruits and veggies, GMO 2.0 potatoes have been FDA approved. “Innate” potatoes are bred to bruise less easily and have lower levels of acrylamide, a naturally occurring chemical that may be linked to cancer.
According to Scientific American, Innate potatoes “silence” particular traits in the DNA of a variety of potatoes, a technique called “RNA interference”. Dr. Margaret Mellon of the Union of Concerned Scientists questions the safety of this technology, referencing a 2012 paper that claims, “We find evidence that the risks are not considered by some regulators.” In other words, the FDA’s safety standards may be missing problems with this new technology.
Unfortunately, Innate potatoes have been approved for planting in Canada in 2017. The USDA has also given approval to develop two brand new blight-resistant strands of potato using this RNA technology.
That staple of your kid’s diet, the apple, is another of the foods that have GMOs. The New York Times reports that “Arctic” apples are “genetically engineered in a way to suppress the production of an enzyme that causes browning when cells in the apple are injured” or sliced using, you guessed it, RNA interference! The FDA approved these apples, developed by Okanagan, as safe for consumption in 2015.
While apples that don’t brown may sound like a good thing, it removes nature’s way of telling you your apple is not fresh. According to Friends of the Earth, some scientists believe that this deleted enzyme may help crop to fight diseases and pests. And that means even more pesticide usage on this fruit that appears on EWG’s Dirty Dozen list every year.
Okanagan president Neal Carter claims that his company has lots of “silent supporters” and the apple will appeal to “food services businesses”. This is yet another reason to steer your family clear of fast food restaurants.
It’s just products and foods that have GMOs. Scientists have created genetically modified mosquitoes to control the spread of disease. I spoke to Dana Perls, senior food and technology campaigner with Friends of the Earth, about the dangers of these mosquitoes. She told me that even though the GE mosquito company claims the mosquitoes will be sterile, its own data show that 3 to 4 percent of the GM mosquito offspring survive, with unknown impacts on the environment. Once the mosquitoes are released into the environment, they cannot be “recalled”. Scientists have major concerns about how they could impact the health of people and our environment.
Scientists claim that this can reduce the mosquito population, but the Center for Disease Control notes that Oxitec’s trials are not set up to test for disease reduction. Only a small percentage of infected mosquitoes is required to transmit disease. And, if you remove one species of mosquito, a more aggressive one, such as the Asian Tiger Mosquito, could take its place.
The creator of these mosquitoes, Oxitec, uses tetracycline, which provides a kind of “chemical switch” to automatically kill second generation mosquitoes. Dr. Helen Wallace, director of GeneWatch U.K., claims that the use of this chemical to feed genetically engineered mosquitoes “risks spreading antibiotic-resistant bacteria into the environment, posing a risk to human health.” In fact, this chemical is being phased out in the U.S. and already is banned in many countries.
GMO mosquitoes were the topic of much controversy in early 2016 when the worry about a Zika virus epidemic was a cause for concern in the United States. In August 2016, the FDA approved the mosquito for trials in the Florida Keys, to the outrage of many local citizens. In fact, on November 8th, 2016, residents of Key Haven, FL, voted against the release. Oxitec is seeking a new release site as of the date of this writing.
GMO 2.0: Meet Synbio
Another form of GMO 2.0, synbio, short for “synthetic biology”, is poised to be the new kid on the block in engineered foods. While traditional GMOs insert DNA from other organisms, synbio technology inserts computer-generated DNA into cells, essentially creating completely brand new organisms.
Corporations already know that the public will be wary about this. In May 2014, Friends of Earth (FOE) reported on a leaked agenda of an insider meeting about marketing synbio. CEO’s, directors and public relations reps met to create a plan to spin synbio as a safe solution to world hunger just as they did for GMOs. They are actively trying to change the narrative so that you will find mostly positive press when you Google “synbio”. Read more about it in this detailed article on how companies plan to deceive you and your family into accepting synbio in your foods.
Are Synbio Products Safe?
Friends of the Earth believes that this new wave of genetic engineering could have serious impacts on the environment and potentially our health. They claim that not enough independent studies have been done on its safety. According to The Atlantic, experts from the Woodrow Wilson Center’s Synthetic Biology Project agree, stating that more study is needed to discover if synbio could spur dangerous pathogens or damage species diversity, putting our environment at risk.
With nanotechnology already infiltrated into many products and so many foods that have GMOs already on our shelves, what’s a mom to do? The safety of this science for our families seems uncertain at best.
GMO 2.0 Products
Where can you find this new technology? Products and foods that have GMOs (2.0 version) contain 100s of ingredients now being released or developed like these:
- Vanillin, which can be labeled “natural” since it is derived from living organisms
- Nootkatone and Valencene citrus flavoring
- Saffron from Evolva
- Animal-free milk derived from yeast from Perfect Day
- Vegan cheese created with milk derived from yeast from Counter Culture Labs & BioCurious
- Animal free egg whites from Clara Food
- Rose oil
- Algal butter
- Thrive Oil
- Clearwood fragrance
- Squalane and hemisqualane
- Propanediol and propylene glycol
- Steviol Glycosides (Reb M and D)
Even More New GMO Products in the Future?
Science Daily reported that Yale scientists have found a way to “confine” GMOs within an environment, “overcoming a major obstacle to widespread use of GMOs.” That means corporate GMO development and usage is poised to spread into many fields, including medicine and waste management. Despite the fact that consumers do not want more GMO products, corporations use them to provide cheap and easy production, increasing their profits by millions.
This is just a short list of the oncoming wave of unregulated GMO 2.0 coming to grocery shelves near you. Companies are trying to replace natural oils, sweeteners, flavors, fragrances and spices with synbio versions and yet are labeling them as “natural”. In fact, there are so many that I can’t list them all in one article! These gene-edited and synbio products replace truly natural ingredients. They may begin to hurt food producers and processors all over the world, who are predominantly women. Jim says, “The synbio companies are targeting replacing natural ingredients that are mainly harvested by women such as shea butter and saffron so disproportionate effect on women farmers in the global south.”
New Products and Foods That Have GMOs 1.0
Unfortunately, GMO 1.0, while better regulated, has still not gone away. Here is a look at new products and foods that have GMOs -the original version – coming your way from traditional GMO methods.
As we reported previously, GMO grass is coming. RoundUp Ready Kentucky Bluegrass, developed by Scotts Miracle-Gro, has been genetically modified to resist being harmed by RoundUp. According to Inquisitr.com, Scotts claims the heavier pollen of this GMO grass is less likely to blow seeds into other lawns but organic farmers fear they will see the same cross contamination of farms that happened with Monsanto’s GMO soybean seeds.
In fact, they have good reason to worry. Test fields were set up back in 2003 in Oregon, the self-proclaimed “grass seed capital of the world”. The inevitable happened there: GMO seeds of this hard-to-destroy strain of grass blew out of test fields into grass fields up to 13 miles away, costing Oregon farmers labor and money to remove. In January 2017, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reversed course over the controversy and approved the GMO grass “without conducting an environmental review of the new crop.”
According to the Center for Food Safety (CFS), scientists have been trying to create a “super fish” for over a decade that is edible and can grow faster and larger than fish in their natural state. AquAdvantage® has successfully developed a salmon of this type. It has been approved for commercial production by AquaBounty, who has stated they will only produce sterile female fish to avoid contaminating other fish populations.
However, CFS contends there is no method that can guarantee 100% sterility within a species that can change sex. They believe that these fish pose a danger to our ecosystems and may damage natural fish populations in North America. CFS also questions the safety of these fish for human consumption due to toxicity, allergenic effects and diseases.
In 2016, U.S. environmentalists filed a complaint was filed against the U.S. FDA to overturn approval of this fish, stating that the FDA did not have the proper authority to approve, nor considered all the risks. Unfortunately, the approval was not overturned.
As a weary mom, tired of all these new GMO products, kicking back with a bottle of wine sounds like a great idea, but not so fast! It turns out that another of the foods that have GMOs are wines may be a new trend as well. Organic Consumers reported that the first wines made with genetically modified wine yeast, ML01, were released in 2014. They contend that this new GMO product could also contaminate “native and traditional wine yeasts”. In addition, these wines remain unlabeled, so GMOs could potentially exist in any wine made in North America without your knowledge. We recommend that you buy organic wine.
Xtend Cotton & Soy
We already know that cotton and soy have produced numerous problems by being “RoundUp Ready”, that is, containing herbicides with glyphosate. Xtend, the new GMO version of these crops, double down on that. Dubbed “RoundUp Ready 2” by Monsanto, these contain another herbicide, dicamba, in addition to glyphosate. Dicamba was deemed necessary because the last batch of crops was engineered to resist glyphosate, leading to the development of superweeds. This substance is known for being volatile, meaning it can turn into gas and drift into surrounding areas. “Quietly” approved by the EPA in November 2016, they claim that this version of dicamba is “less volatile,” but should we really trust them?
2,4D (aka Enlist Duo)
In 2015, the EPA approved this herbicide for use on GMO corn and soybeans. Opponents have stated that 2,4D is a chemical that had been in Agent Orange, a toxin used during the Vietnam War to remove leaves from trees. Supporters claim that 2,4D is not the same as the dangerous chemical that caused so many health problems.
The debate continues on other safety issues of this new herbicide. Food and Water Watch has called out the FDA for noting that several components of the corn sprayed with 2,4D contained altered components, such as amino acids, fatty acids and more. This may mean it is not safe for your family to eat, as scientists from the French National Institute for Agricultural Research have suggested. In addition, there are concerns about crops building up resistance to weeds as they have for RoundUp as well as cross contamination and accumulation in the environment.
Avoiding Products and Foods That Have GMOs
With so little regulation, moms need to protect their families by taking food choices into their own hands. How?
- Download SynBioWatch’s New Shopper’s Guide to Synthetic Biology and use their database to search for specific ingredients.
- Eat USDA Certified Organic and know the country of origin for all your food.
- Eat Project Non-GMO Verified when you can’t find organic.
- Use grass-fed and pastured selections for your animal products and foods.
- Take caution when buying seafood.
- Use DIY solutions when you can.
- Eat foods and products that come from local organic farmers.
Smart moms know that clean eating keeps our families safe, so make wise choices at the grocery store to avoid products and foods that have GMOs, versions 1.0 and 2.0!