• Joan Rothchild Hardin

Genetically Modified Organisms – Our Food

DEFINITIONS You’ve no doubt heard about genetically modified organisms (GMOs) but perhaps not understood why many countries have already banned them and why so many people in the US want foods containing them to be labeled so we can make the choice to avoid eating them. GMO stands for GENETICALLY MODIFIED ORGANISM. GE (GENETICALLY ENGINEERED) and GM (GENETICALLY MODIFIED) are other names for the process of genetically altering foods we eat – and more. GENETIC ENGINEERING VS HYBRIDIZATION

A baby zedonk, offspring of a zebra and a donkey = a hybrid animal I want to point out that genetic modification is not at all the same as hybridization, which has been done on crops and food animals for centuries without posing serious damage to the soil, the environment and every living thing. Hybridization is the crossbreeding of two species, either naturally in the wild or intentionally in order to gain the most valuable attributes from each specie – for example, the mating of a male donkey and a female horse produces a mule, several different types of roses are deliberately crossbred to produce hybrid tea roses, the loganberry is a cross between the raspberry and blackberry. Hybridization IS NOT genetic engineering. In contrast, genetic modification is the process of forcing genes from one species into another entirely unrelated species. Genetic engineering forcefully breaches the naturally occurring barriers between species. SOME EXAMPLES OF GMOS (Information from, 2011-2014):

  • Corn + DNA from soil bacteria that is naturally immune to RoundUp herbicide + e. coli bacteria + soil bacteria that causes tumors in plants (allowing the plant’s cell walls to be breached) = RoundUp Ready Corn – one of several RoundUp Ready crops engineered by Monsanto. (See A Note About Monsanto below.)

  • Strawberries and tomatoes injected with fish genes to protect the fruit from freezing

  • Goats injected with spider genes to produce milk with proteins stronger than Kevlar for use in industrial products

  • Salmon genetically engineered with a growth hormone that allows them to keep growing beyond their normal size

  • Dairy cows injected with the GE hormone rBGH (also known as rBST) to increase their milk production

  • Rice injected with human genes to produce pharmaceuticals

A NOTE ABOUT MONSANTO:   GMO’s are the latest in this giant international company’s long list of dubious contributions to the world. Monsanto is also responsible for Agent Orange, PCBs, DDT, Dioxin, Aspartame, Saccharin, rBGH, rBST and Terminator Seeds that grow for only a single season, forcing farmers to buy Monsanto’s GE seeds every year instead of saving seeds from the prior harvest as they did for centuries. In 1997 Monsanto  re-branded itself from a “chemical” company to a “bio-agricultural” company. (, 2011-2014)

The genes injected into GMOs can be derived from bacteria, viruses, insects, humans or other animals so GMOs are also known as transgenic organisms. Since genes operate in complex ways that are still not fully understood, genetic engineering often produces unintended and damaging consequences. (, 2011-2014)


  • Monsanto, the international genetic engineering giant

  • Pioneer Hi-Bred International (a DuPont subsidiary

  • Syngenta

  • Dow Agrosciences (a subsidiary of Dow Chemical)

  • BASF (primarily a chemical company but rapidly expanding into biotechnology

  • Bayer Cropscience (a subsidiary of Bayer)

(Sourcewatch, 2014) Countries that grow genetically modified crops, listed by number of acres:

Credit: Alice Krelt, NPR

Countries requiring labeling of genetically engineered foods:


GMO Labeling Worldwide. Turquoise=requires labeling of genetically engineered foods. Grey=no labeling required. FOODS CONTAINING GMOS Information from See GMOs Defined. According to the USDA’s report for 2013, the percentages of these crops grown in the US which have been genetically modified are:

  • Quest brand tobacco – 100%

  • Soybeans – 93%

  • Corn – 90%

  • Cotton – 90%

  • Sugar Beets – 90%

  • Canola -88%

  • Hawaiian papaya – more than 50%

In addition, the FDA has recently given its approval for these GMO crops:

  • Alfalfa – widely fed to meat and milk producing animals

  • Kentucky Bluegrass – even more widely fed to meat and milk producing animals. Kentucky Bluegrass is already an invasive grass in its natural state and will spread even more uncontrollably with genetically engineered resistance to RoundUp (Monsanto’s herbicide).

As of 2014, the FDA is still undecided about whether to grant approval for farmed salmon containing a growth hormone. And here’s something that should give you pause:   The Environmental Protection Agency (FDA) now regulates the RoundUp Ready corn described above (90% of all corn grown in the US) as an insecticide because it has been engineered to produce its own insect killing chemical as it grows! So when enjoying your buttered popcorn while watching a movie, remember you’re consuming an insecticide — probably coated with a butter-flavored GMO product.

GMO crops  spread with a ripple effect, a tsunami really, all through the processed foods we eat — infant formula, breads and other baked goods, tofu, catsup, tomato sauce. GM feed is given to animals who produce milk, meat and eggs — so you’re eating GMOs in your steaks, burgers, fries (potatoes and the oil they’re cooked in), ice cream, cheese, yogurt, mayonnaise, and veggie burgers  (whey protein). Even non-food items often contain GMO ingredients: soaps, detergents, cosmetics, shampoo and bubble bath – products whose ingredients get absorbed through the skin, our largest organ.

Unexpected Sources of GMO Corn In 2005, the Grocery Manufacturers of America estimated that 75% of all processed foods in the US contain at least one genetically modified ingredient. The percentage is surely higher now, nine years later.

Source: USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service, USDA’s Economic Research Service How common are genetically engineered crops? If you’ve been following any part of the battle in the US to get mandatory GMO labels put on foods and food products containing genetically modified organisms, you already begin to grasp the political complexity of the problem.  Around the world, 64 countries already enforce the consumers’ “right to know” laws for genetically modified foods. Some have gone so far as to ban the sale of GMO foods in their borders. So far, the Food and Drug Administration has resisted GMO labeling in the US. Monsanto and other large companies in the food industry – including the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) – have poured huge sums into influencing the FDA not to label GMO-containing products and into advertising to defeat movements in several states endeavoring to establish mandatory GMO labeling within their borders.

These companies provide 90% of the foods sold by grocery stores BOYCOTT COCA COLA PRODUCTS TO LET THE COMPANY KNOW YOU DISAPPROVE ITS ONGOING FUNDING TO BLOCK GE LABELING And sign the petition.

Some of Coke’s ‘healthier alternative’ drinks An email today (5/29/2014) jointly from The Center for Food Safety and The Food Revolution Network asks people to boycott all Coca Cola products: “In 2013, Coca-Cola secretly funneled more than $1.5 million dollars through the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) in order to block an initiative that would have required the labeling of genetically modified organisms (GMOs). …. Now GMO labeling initiatives are developing in 29 states including Oregon and Vermont. We think it’s time for the company to stop fighting our right to know what’s in our food. “We’re engaging hundreds of thousands of people worldwide to spread the word about Coca-Cola’s secret campaign contributions, and encouraging people to boycott the brands they market as healthier alternatives until they change their ways.” Coke and the company’s other sodas are made with high fructose corn syrup and sugar. Both sweeteners are derived mostly from GE crops: corn and sugar beets. Even soda consumers trying to cut calories are getting a dose of GMOs: Aspartame, the most widely used artificial sweetener, is created from genetically modified bacteria.