It refer's to laboratory engineered foods made in test tubes using the latest molecular biology techniques. Created for human or animal consumption. These plants have been modified in the laboratory to enhance desired traits such as increased resistance to herbicides, pestisides, or cold weather. The enhancement of desired traits has traditionally been undertaken through breeding, conventional plant breeding methods are time consuming and that's a good thing, because over time muck knowldge isw gained. Genetic engineering, on the other hand, can create plants with the exact desired trait very rapidly and with great accuracy. For example, plant geneticists can isolate a gene responsible for drought tolerance and insert that gene into a different plant. The new genetically-modified plant will gain drought tolerance as well. Not only can genes be transferred from one plant to another, but genes from non-plant organisms also can be used. The best known example of this is the use of B.t. genes in corn and other crops. B.t., or Bacillus thuringiensis, is a naturally occurring bacterium that produces crystal proteins that are lethal to insect larvae. B.t. crystal protein genes have been transferred into corn, enabling the corn to produce its own pesticides against insects.
According to the FDA and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), there are over 40 plant varieties that have completed all of the federal requirements for commercialization. Some examples of these plants include tomatoes and cantaloupe, that have modified ripening characteristics. Soybeans and sugar-beets that are resistant to herbicides, and corn and cotton plants with resistance to insect pests. While there are very, very few genetically-modified whole fruits and vegetables available on produce stands, highly processed foods, such as vegetable oils or breakfast cereals contain genetically-modified ingredients because the raw ingredients have been pooled into one processing stream from many different sources. Also, the ubiquity of soybean derivatives as food additives in the modern American diet virtually ensures that all U.S. consumers have been exposed to GM food products.
Soybeans and corn are the top two most widely grown GMO crops. Next are cotton, rapeseed (or canola) and potatoes close behind. these GM crops were modified for herbicide tolerance, and insect pest resistance. Despite persisting concerns over genetically modified crops, a new industry report (PDF) shows that GMO farming is taking off around the world. In 2012, GMO crops grew on about 420 million acres of land in 28 countries worldwide, a record high according to the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications. Governments around the world are hard at work to establish a regulatory process for GM plants. Yet depending on the political, social and economic climate within a region or country, different governments are responding in different ways. In the United States, only the California counties of Mendocino, Trinity and Marin have successfully banned GM crops. Voters in other California counties have tried to pass similar measures but failed. San Juan County, Washington was able to pass what is known as Initiative Measure No. 2012-4, which actually bans the growth of genetically modified organisms within the county. Jackson County, Oregon passed a measure which makes it unlawful for any person to propagate, cultivate, raise, or grow genetically engineered plants in Jackson County. In Australia, Several Australian states had bans on GM crops but most of them have since lifted them. Only South Australia still has a ban on GM crops, though Tasmania has a moratorium on them until November of 2014. In Japan, The Japanese people are staunchly opposed to genetically modified crops and no GMO seeds are planted in the country. However, large quantities of canola are imported from Canada (which is one of the world's largest producers of GM canola, and there is now GM canola growing wild around Japanese ports and roads to major food oil companies. Genetically modified canola such as Monsanto's Roundup Ready canola have been found growing around 5 of the 6 ports that were tested for GM contamination. In New Zealand, No GM foods are grown in the country. In Germany, there is a ban on the cultivation or sale of GMO's. In Ireland, all GM crops were banned for cultivation in 2009, and there is a voluntary labeling system for GMO foods. In Austria, Hungary, Greece, Bulgaria and Luxembourg: There are bans on the cultivation and sale of GMOs. In France: Monsanto's MON810 GMO corn had been approved but it's cultivation was forbidden in 2008. There is widespread public mistrust of GMO's that has been successful in keeping GM crops out of the country. In Switzerland, the country banned all GM crops, animals, and plants on its fields and farms in a public referendum in 2005, but the initial ban was for only five years. The ban has since been extended through 2013. In India, the government placed a last-minute ban on GM eggplant just before it was scheduled to begin being planted in 2010. However, farmers were widely encouraged to plant Monsanto's GMO cotton and it has led to devastating results. The UK's Daily Mail reports that an estimated 125,000 farmers have committed suicide because of crop failure and massive debt since planting GMO seeds. In Thailand, the country has zigzagged in its support and opposition of GM crops. The country had widespread trials of GM papayas from Hawaii but reversed its plans when the seeds got wild and began contaminating nearby crops. Several countries such as Japan moved to restrict the importation of Thailand's papayas as a result, not wanting to import any GM foods. Thailand is currently trying to embrace both sides — producing organic foods for some countries at a high price while moving towards embracing more and more GM crops. The country has also tried declaring some areas GMO-free zones in order to encourage other countries to trust their foods.
The EPA conducts risk assessment studies on pesticides that could potentially cause harm to human health and the environment, and establishes tolerance and residue levels for pesticides. There are strict limits on the amount of pesticides that may be applied to crops during growth and production, as well as the amount that remains in the food after processing. Growers using pesticides must have a license for each pesticide and must follow the directions on the label to accord with the EPA's safety standards. Government inspectors may periodically visit farms and conduct investigations to ensure compliance. Violation of government regulations may result in steep fines, loss of license and even jail sentences. As an example the EPA regulatory approach, consider B.t. corn. The EPA has not established limits on residue levels in B.t corn because the B.t. in the corn is not sprayed as a chemical pesticide but is a gene that is integrated into the genetic material of the corn itself. Growers must have a license from the EPA for B.t corn.
The USDA has many internal divisions that share responsibility for assessing GM foods. Among these divisions are APHIS, the Animal Health and Plant Inspection Service, which conducts field tests and issues permits to grow GM crops, the Agricultural Research Service which performs in-house GM food research, and the Cooperative State Research, Education and Extension Service which oversees the USDA risk assessment program. The USDA is concerned with potential hazards of the plant itself. Does it harbor insect pests? Is it a noxious weed? Will it cause harm to indigenous species if it escapes from farmer's fields? The USDA has the power to impose quarantines on problem regions to prevent movement of suspected plants, restrict import or export of suspected plants, and can even destroy plants cultivated in violation of USDA regulations.
Many GM plants do not require USDA permits from APHIS. A GM plant does not require a permit if it meets these 6 criteria: 1) the plant is not a noxious weed; 2) the genetic material introduced into the GM plant is stably integrated into the plant's own genome; 3) the function of the introduced gene is known and does not cause plant disease; 4) the GM plant is not toxic to non-target organisms; 5) the introduced gene will not cause the creation of new plant viruses; and 6) the GM plant cannot contain genetic material from animal or human pathogens. The current FDA policy was developed in 1992. Companies working to create new GM foods are not required to consult the FDA, nor are they required to follow the FDA's recommendations after the consultation. Consumer interest groups wish this process to be mandatory, so that all GM food products, whole foods or otherwise, must be approved by the FDA before being released for commercialization. The FDA counters that the agency currently does not have the time, money, or resources to carry out exhaustive health and safety studies of every proposed GM food product. Moreover, the FDA policy as it exists today does not allow for this type of intervention.
Biotech firms claim they offer a genetically modified pest-resistant crop. Pest-resistant in this context actually means the crops contain their own built-in pesticide. So eating a GM plant, whether you're a bug or a human, means you're ingesting toxic pesticides. The fact is, genetic engineering is crude, imprecise and insidious. The process itself alters DNA and mutates genes. It's a game of genetic roulette that can't be won, and it's dangerous to the whole human race. It has been proven GM crops do not fulfill their stated purpose. They have not influenced the escalating rates of hunger, poverty, food prices and environmental disasters. The solution is a fundamental change in farming practices that does away with GM crops and promotes small-scale organic farming. According to Jeffrey Smith's research, between 1994 and 2001, the period during which GM foods flooded the market, food related illnesses doubled. GMO foods can be:
- Cause cancer
- Contribute to food allergies
- Possibly cause damage to your immune system
- Create super-viruses
- Potentially cause outbreaks of Morgellons Disease
- Some varieties of zucchini, crookneck squash, and papayas from Hawaii
- Milk containing rbGH
- Rennet (containing genetically modified enzymes) used to make hard cheeses
- Aspartame (NutraSweet)
Examine produce stickers on the fruits and vegetables you buy. The PLU code for conventionally grown fruit consists of four numbers; organically grown fruit has five numbers prefaced by the number nine; and GM fruit has five numbers prefaced by the number eight. Buy organic produce as often as you can. By definition, food that is certified organic must be free from all GM organisms. Stay away from processed foods. Most of these contain GMO corn and soy products. I use the "True Food Shopping Guide" (http://www.truefood.org.au/truefoodguide/) it is a great tool to help you determine which brands and products contain GMO ingredients. Check this site before you go to the grocery store. Now, with everything negative I've brought to light with this post about GMO's I don't think we can afford to ignore a technology that has such enormous potential benefits. However, I believe we must SLOWLY proceed, with caution to avoid causing unintended harm to human health and the environment as a result of our enthusiasm for this powerful technology. Also I believe we should let men of science police the technology, not Monsanto executives trying to make a quick buck for investors using the whole human race as guinea pigs. Public outcry is rising against these largely untested foods and crops. The industry claims of "super yields,"and an end to poverty and famine have proven to be dangerously inaccurate. Now, more than ever, is the time when our voices, and purchases can make a real difference. Good Luck...
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