Are GMOs in American foods now?
Yes, currently, most of the field corn (hard kernels) and soybeans grown in the US are genetically modified. The traits commonly used are resistance to herbicides, such as Roundup and resistance to insect pests, through incorporation of the Bt trait. These crops are typically found in processed and packaged foods (phys.org). When you see dextrose, soy lecithin, or high fructose corn syrup on a package of non-organic food, the food probably contains GMOs. In addition, cows and pigs are typically fed GM corn and soybeans, so our meat contains processed GMOs.
Phys.org GMO corn, soybeans dominate US market
Do GMOs taste different?
No. GMO plants have been generated from conventional cultivars so they don’t taste any different. Unless you eat only organic food, you have probably already eaten GMOs.
Are GMOs more nutritious? Is Organic more nutritious?
There is no significant difference between the nutritional of Organic and GMO crops. Studies have shown that organic crops are not more nutritious than conventional crops with the exception of vitamin C content in organically grown blueberries which was slightly higher than conventionally grown blueberries (Journal of Food Research). Since genetically modified crops are grown in conventional cropping systems, it is hard to draw this direct comparison. However, in some studies growing crops organically has been shown to produce more nutritious crops than growing them in conventional systems (Food Chemistry). On the other hand, Golden Rice is genetically modified to contain higher levels of beta-carotene, also known as pro-Vitamin A( Golden Rice Project). In this case, the genetically modified variety would have higher nutritional value no matter which system it was grown in! Anthocyanin enhanced tomatoes are another example of a genetically modified crop that has had a nutritional compound added by genetic modification. Go check it out on our news page!
Journal of Food Research, A Comparison of Antioxidant Properties in Organic and Conventional Blueberries
Bohn et al. Compositional differences in soybeans on the market: Glyphosate accumulates in Roundup Ready GM soybeans, Food Chemistry, Volume 153, 2014 http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0308814613019201
Golden Rice Project
Why aren’t GMOs labeled?
In this US, GMOs were originally treated under the substantial equivalence principle. This means that they were approved as being equivalent to current crops being grown. Both regulators and companies considered GM plants to not be a risk, and as such, there was no need to label them. After concerns about GMOs were raised in Europe, and by environmentalists in the US, a push for GMO labeling in the US began. There are several arguments for and against GMO labeling. Labeling proponents state that people have right to know what they are eating, but those against labeling warn that, since many people don’t actually know what they are eating( i.e. don’t know what a GMO actually is), labeling is worthless fear mongering. Those against labeling also point to massive costs to establish completely separate production systems for GMO and non-GMO foods (Colorado State Extension). A measure to label GMOs was narrowly defeated in California Prop 37(Huffington Post). Currently, Vermont is the only state with regulations stating that GMOs must be labeled (Burlington Press). Foods with GM products are often labeled as such, and no organic products can contain GMOs.
Colorado State Extension
Burlington Free Press
Why are GMOs labeled in Europe?
Soon after GMOs were introduced in Europe, several scares concerning GMOs were widely reported. This was quickly followed by the Mad Cow Disease outbreak in the UK. These factors led to great insecurity among the public in Europe over GMOs. The governments of Europe addressed this by mandating the labeling of all GMO food. This was also easier to do in Europe, as GMO crops were not widely grown there, as they were in the US. (Council on Foreign Relations)
Council on Foreign Relations