Most Americans Unaware They Are Eating Genetically Modified Foods
(Beyond Pesticides, March 28, 2005) Most Americans do not think that they eat genetically modified foods even though they most likely do, according to a survey done by the Food Biotechnology Program at the Rutgers Food Policy Institute. Around 75 percent of processed foods in the US, including boxed cereals, grain products, frozen dinners, cooking oils and more, contain some genetically modified (GM) ingredients, stated Stephanie Childs of the Grocery Manufacturers of America.
The survey included these three questions, reported CNN: Can animal genes be jammed into plants? Would tomatoes with catfish genes taste fishy? Have you ever eaten a genetically modified food? The answers to the questions are: yes, no, and almost definitely. Most people could not answer these questions correctly, even though they have very likely been eating GM foods, which are unlabeled, for years. Furthermore, the survey found that less than half the people interviewed were even aware that GM foods are sold in supermarkets.
Lisa Lorenzen, a liaison to the biotech industry at Iowa State University, said most Americans don't worry about GM foods because they trust the regulatory system. On the other hand, she said, many Europeans oppose GM foods because they don't trust governments that wrongly insisted for years that the beef supply, tainted by mad cow disease, was safe.
The FDA does not require food companies to list genetically modified ingredients on food labels. Labeling is only required when the GM products have properties different from ordinary foods, such as a higher nutrient content. Currently, companies developing GM foods voluntarily send their data to the FDA, but there's no official approval before products go on sale.
The crops for which genetic engineering is most pervasive are soybeans and corn. More than 80 percent of the soy and 40 percent of the corn raised in this country is a GM variety. Last year, around 200 million acres of biotech crops (mostly corn and soybeans) were grown, about two-thirds of it in the United States. Biotech industry representatives have long maintained that genetically modified organisms can increase crop production, improve yields and lower pesticide use - and thus are beneficial to farmers, the agricultural economy and the world's hungry. But a report published last year actually showed that the planting of 550 million acres of genetically engineered (GE) corn, soybeans and cotton in the United States since 1996 has increased pesticide use by about 50 million pounds.
Additionally, recent studies have found that organic food is not only safe but also a healthier alternative to conventional agriculture, which contains high residues of pesticides. A University of California at Davis study published in the February 26, 2003 edition of the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, found greater nutritional attributes in organically grown food compared with produce grown conventionally (see Daily News 3/13/03).
TAKE ACTION: Americans have a right to know whether the food they are eating is genetically modified. Consumers have a right to choose for themselves what kind of food they eat, and the government is acting irresponsibly by denying us that knowledge and that choice. Take two minutes to take action on this issue by sending an online letter: Go to The Center for Food Safety's website to automatically send a pre-written letter to the FDA demanding thorough safety testing and mandatory labeling of GMOs.