GMO labeling battles at the state level wage on, but natural and organic food advocates are largely considering the GMO-free Cheerios announcement earlier this week a victory. Due to the lack of labeling laws, it is often extremely difficult to determine if the produce or packaged food products sold at the local grocery store contain genetically modified ingredients.
Chances are, if soybeans or corn products are in your grocery cart, they have been genetically modified. Tufts University Associate Professor of Food Policy Parke Wilde reports that the vast majority of those two crops and any food products containing their oil or other composite ingredients have been genetically engineered. Approximately 90 percent of soybeans and 75 percent of corn in the United States were grown from GMO seeds. Many papayas grown in America are also the result of a genetic engineering process.
Institute Integrative Biology at Swiss Federal Institute of Technology senior researcher Angelika Hilbeck states that produce cases sometimes can be identified as genetically modified by their barcode numbers. According to Hilbeck, if the five-digit code begins with an 8, odds are that the produce is from GMO seeds.
A GMO orange is currently in development in Florida, according to an Off The Grid News report. Although GMO crops are now filling store shelves in massive quantities, not ever attempt by Monsanto and the biotech giant’s competitors proved successful.
Monsanto eased through federal regulatory requirements for the NewLeaf Potato in 1995. The GMO potato was of the Russet Burbank variety, but it failed on the open market after a Russian Academy of Medical Sciences review stated that rats which ate the genetically modified potato sustained significant organ damage.
The GMO potato warning came a bit too late to protect American consumers. By 1999, farmers in the United States had already planted about 50,000 acres of the genetically modified potato. Although Monsanto had hoped the GE potato would be a huge hit, the food industry did not embrace the unnatural spud. While the biotech giant suspended sales of the NewLeaf Potato, the GMO crop remains approved for sale in both Canada and America.
A strain of GMO corn released more than a decade ago caused huge problems for farmers in the United States. StarLink, a transgenic variety of yellow corn, was crafted to rupture the stomach cells of caterpillars. Intentionally killing caterpillars, which play a vital role in nature, was not enough of a reason to pull the GMO corn from the market, but the allergic reaction caused in humans was. The EPA did not force the removal of StarLink Corn entirely; it was merely restricted to use in fuel and as animal feed.
Although precautions were supposedly taken to prevent StarLink Corn from contaminating conventional or even other GMO corn varieties, the inevitable occurred rather quickly. DNA from the bioengineered corn was found to have caused rather widespread infestation. A recall of more than a dozen products resulted from the GMO corn contamination. Although StarLink Corn has not been grown since 1998, another infestation resulted in Saudi Arabia earlier this year.
LibertyLink Rice was a Bayer AG GMO crop. The company ultimately paid $750 million to American farmers in 2011 after agriculture regulators were forced to admit that the genetically engineered rice had contaminated conventionally grown long grain rice. An entire strain of rice was permanently lost due to the GMO infestation and rice futures plummeted.
Despite the catchy name, the GMO tomato also failed to attract the taste buds of Americans. The genetically engineered tomato was supposed to help the crop withstand long and rugged transport from farm to the supermarket. After the Flavr Savr Tomato became available at the grocery store, GMO tomato paste sales soared, outselling conventional cans of the staple. A British doctor took to the television to warn shoppers that some lab rats had developed gut lesions and died after eating some GMO crops. Both the government and the biotech industry condemned the doctor as a fraud, but the market for the GMO tomato still dried up quickly.
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