Seeds Of Doubt: Consumers Should Distinguish Fact From Fiction On GMO Items
Watertown Daily News Editorial Board
More people have expressed a desire to increase their knowledge about how their food is produced.
This is a good development in that it makes them better informed as consumers. It also requires food producers to be more open about what exactly is in the items they sell.
One area of growing concern is genetically modified organisms. The thought of manipulating the genetic makeup of livestock or vegetables for mass consumption can be unnerving.
“People have been altering the genomes of plants and animals for many years using traditional breeding techniques. Artificial selection for specific, desired traits has resulted in a variety of different organisms, ranging from sweet corn to hairless cats,” according to an article titled “Genetically Modified Organisms: Transgenic Crops and Recombinant DNA Technology,” written by Theresa Phillips for the website Nature.com/Scitable. “But this artificial selection, in which organisms that exhibit specific traits are chosen to breed subsequent generations, has been limited to naturally occurring variations. In recent decades, however, advances in the field of genetic engineering have allowed for precise control over the genetic changes introduced into an organism. Today, we can incorporate new genes from one species into a completely unrelated species through genetic engineering, optimizing agricultural performance or facilitating the production of valuable pharmaceutical substances. Crop plants, farm animals and soil bacteria are some of the more prominent examples of organisms that have been subject to genetic engineering.”
The rise in opposition to GMOs is based partly on misconceptions about the whole process, some in the scientific community believe. Margaret E. Smith, a professor of plant breeding and genetics at Cornell University, Ithaca, offered a presentation Thursday at Jefferson Community College about what’s true when it comes to GMOs and what’s not.
Ms. Smith pointed out that aggregated research conducted on these products shows they are safe to consume. But she also said that people must remain vigilant about GMOs remaining healthy. It’s good for people to be thorough when it comes to studying GMOs, but they shouldn’t accept falsehoods about them, she indicated.
Demands for specific labeling of GMO foods could unnecessarily increase costs, Ms. Smith said. A more practical way of identifying non-GMO products is to look for items that are certified as organic or listed as “Non-GMO Project verified,” she said.
We are a broad-based coalition representing the entire American agriculture food supply chain – from farm to fork. We are committed to increasing the public’s understanding about the science and safety of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and advocating for science-based policies that keep food affordable for every American.