Neither do most people!
Sure, we’ve all heard the hype about GMO labeling. And seen the pet food shelves with “GMO-free” products.
But without proper knowledge, how can one know when to ignore or heed GMO guidance?
What are GMOs?
GMO stands for genetically modified organism.
In laboratories, scientists are able to manipulate the genetic material of living organisms. This process can occur in plants, animals, bacteria and viral genes.
This manipulation can create everything from malaria-resistant mosquitoes to pest- and disease-resistant crops.
Why Genetically Modify?
Scientists engineer most commercial GMO seeds to withstand herbicide and/or insecticide. These seeds allow farmers to use products that kill weeds and pests without harming their crops.
Scientists are also working on transgenic plants to create new colors and different crops.
Other research on GMO crops is focused on reducing global food costs. For example, according to figures from 2014 non-irrigated corn production:
- GMO crops cost per acre net income difference: $161
- Non-GMO crops cost per acre net income difference: $271
According to a 2010 study by Graham Brookes, an agricultural economist with PG Economics Ltd., it is estimated corn-based products would be priced 6 percent higher and soybean-based products would be 10 percent higher if GM crops were not grown.
Brookes wrote in GMO Answers:
“The main reason why biotech (GM) crops have contributed to reducing the cost of food stems from the nature of the technology adopted. The technology adopted to date has largely been productivity-enhancing and cost-reducing technology.
This means additional global production has arisen from the use of the technology, equal to an extra 122 million tonnes of soybeans, 237 million tonnes of corn, 18 million tonnes of cotton lint, and 6.6 million tonnes of canola in the period 1996–2012.
At the same time, the cost of producing these crops using this technology has typically been lower than the cost of producing the same crops using conventional technology, because of savings to the amount spent on inputs such as pesticides and fuel.
These savings have usually more than offset the additional cost farmers have incurred for buying GM seeds, so that, when added to the extra income arising from higher yields, the net farm income benefit from using GM technology has been equal to $116.6 billion (1996–2012).”
The most common symbol for genetically modified foods is the tomato. In 1994, the FlavrSavr transgenic tomato hit the U.S. market. The FlavrSavr had a “deactivated” gene, preventing it from producing polygalacturonase, a fruit softening enzyme.
The FlavrSavr was the first tomato that could ripen on the vine and still have a long shelf life, allowing for the development of flavor. Tomatoes are usually picked prematurely and ripened artificially.
But, the FlavrSavr didn’t last long. It disappeared by 1998 due to disappointing sales.
As of 2012, there are no GMO tomatoes grown commercially in the U.S.
So why are there “new” varieties of tomatoes in stores?
Because tomatoes are still bred the old-fashioned way – crossing plants for desired traits, establishing genetics, and producing seeds.
Are GMOs Safe? Why Is There Controversy?
By 2014, 94% of soybeans, 96% of cotton, and 93% of corn grown in the U.S. were genetically modified.
In fact, animal agriculture produces over 9 billion food-producing animals annually, more than 95% of which consume genetically modified food.
These statistics are comparable to other agricultural countries, such as Brazil and Argentina.
So if we, our pets, and the meat we eat suffer GMO exposure at such an alarming rate, why is there so much backlash?
Well, despite the numerous books, blogs, and organizations saying GMOs aren’t safe, there is little scientific evidence to prove this is true.
Although studies have been published suggesting GMOs may not be safe, most consisted of flawed research and were deemed inconclusive.
Furthermore, there is overwhelming scientific evidence proving GMOs are safe.
The Italian Study
For example, a team of Italian scientists recently studied and cataloged 1783 studies about the environmental impact and safety of GMO foods.
What did they find?
“The scientific research conducted so far has not detected any significant hazards directly connected with the use of genetically engineered crops,” they wrote in the research review, published in Critical Reviews in Biotechnology.
Their research spanned from 2002 to 2012, which represents about a third of the lifetime of GM technology.
“We tried to give a balanced view informing about what has been debated, the conclusions reached so far, and emerging issues,” Alessandro Nicolia, lead researcher and biologist at the University of Perugia, told Real Clear Science.
Some of the controversies surround the fact that the government paid Monsanto to conduct some of the safety studies.
The conflict here is Monsanto is not only a producer of seeds but also herbicides and pesticides. Thus, it would be in Monsanto’s interest to prove the safety of their products.
Other GMO Studies
But, other independent organizations have conducted research as well. And, as the Italian research shows, there is little to no evidence of GMO danger.
Other controversy includes the fact the US government doesn’t require GMO labeling.
Are PET | TAO Products GMO-Free?
Question: Does PET | TAO contain GMOs?
Answer: No. Well, maybe. It’s complicated.
- Because the finished product doesn’t contain modified organisms, the phrase non-GMO technically applies. But, we do not want to mislead our customers.
- It’s impossible to 100% confirm we don’t use GMOs.
- Our foods are free from ingredients most likely to have GMOs, like corn.
- But, it’s possible GMOs touch parts of our product at some point during the entire process.
- GMOs aren’t black and white. It is difficult to confirm GMO use since the FDA doesn’t require farmers to disclose GMO presence.
- Furthermore, it’s nearly impossible to trace animal feed over the entire lifespan of the animal consuming it, even if we can sometimes trace ingredients such as “barley” or “corn.” Therefore, untraceable GMOs might affect meat products.
We believe there is sufficient scientific evidence proving the safety of GMOs.
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