Chances are genetically engineered foods and ingredients touch your everyday life… and most of us are not even aware of it! Let’s have a look at the numbers and continue to build awareness. As a Canadian, you will likely be surprised to learn some of these facts.
Genetic modification is a process where scientists can combine genetic traits from entirely different plant and animal species, essentially “cutting” a trait from one organism and “pasting” it into another. The intention is to give crops desired traits that don’t occur naturally, such as resistance to disease or droughts.
The first genetically modified organism or GMO crop was approved by the FDA in 1994. Since then, genetically engineered varieties of corn, soya, sugar beets and canola have become common local crops in Canada. Today, Canada is the third largest producer of GMOs in the world and in a mere 20 years, GMO ingredients have made their way into most of the processed foods available on Canadian grocery shelves.
What are the issues? Why do we keep hearing about GMOs?
One reason is safety. According to David Suzuki, the safety of GMO foods is unproven, and a growing body of research connects these foods with health concerns and environmental damage. For example, according to a recent long-term GMO study published in the journal Food and Chemical Toxicity, rats fed a type of genetically engineered corn had a higher mortality rate and greater chance of developing tumors than rats that ate non-genetically engineered corn. These results can not be applied to humans directly. We are not rats, but the statistics can not be ignored.
With these questions surrounding safety, most developed nations have policies requiring mandatory labeling of GMO foods and some have issued bans on GMO food production and imports. Today there are over sixty countries worldwide in which labeling of GMOs is mandatory. Canada? Not one of them.
The second reason is our right as consumers to make an informed decision when choosing which foods to eat. Some polls indicate that over 80% of Canadians want product labels to indicate whether they contain genetically engineered ingredients and 76% of Canadians feel that the federal government hasn’t given them enough information on genetically engineered foods and ingredients. In Alberta and British Columbia, 50% of the population would actually support a ban on GMOs altogether.
The Government of Canada has officially recognized this. Our politicians understand that for many Canadians, labeling of foods derived from biotechnology or genetic engineering is an important issue of consumer preference or choice. So what have they done about it? Not much. A national standard for voluntary labeling of genetically engineered ingredients was established – but this is voluntary, not mandatory, and no company has yet labeled their products as containing genetically engineered ingredients.
The issue is clear. GMOs are practically everywhere and we’re not given the right to know. There are safety concerns and environmental issues that need further investigation. Until we know the long term effects of GMOs, we should at least have the right to decide on our own if we want to take on any risk or buy non-GMO instead. Without mandatory labeling we do not have this ability. Let’s continue to put up a fight and push for GMO labeling. It’s only a matter of time until we join the rest of the developed world.
What can we do in the mean time?
7 tips on how
to avoid GMOs
1. Choose organic. If something is labeled organic, it means it does not contain genetically engineered ingredients.
2. Cook meals from scratch, using the base ingredients. Processed and packaged foods are the real culprit. Avoid these because they likely contain genetically engineered ingredients, usually corn and soy-derived.
3. Visit your local farmers’ market. Speak to the farmers and ask questions. You will become educated and understand their processes and build confidence that their crops are not derived from GMO seeds.
4. Stop using sugar. Sugar comes from sugar beets, which are in all likelihood genetically engineered.
5. Start your own garden!
6. Look for a GMO-free stamp of approval on product labels. The Non-GMO Project product verification certificate is an example.
7. Shop at Vitarock.com! We endeavor to choose products that are Pure, Green, Safe and Fair, including those that are free from harmful ingredients, including genetically-modified substances. We have identified all of our non-GMO items on our website for your convenience.