Posted by Teri on May 12th, 2012 1 Comment
When I first moved to Ireland from the US many years ago I remember having a discussion with my Irish brother-in-law about produce and food. I was talking about how fruit and veg in the US are much bigger and looked better than some of the stuff that you get in Ireland where you pay a higher price. Bigger is better, right? Somewhere along the lines, however, he managed to convince me to have another think. He said that when something is going off, he wants to be able to tell that it’s going off. He doesn’t want it to look perfect and then find out that it’s rotten inside. Hmmm … good point.
Genetically Modified Organisms
With modern day processing of food, much is done to keep it looking good for longer periods of time. This includes the use of sprays, waxes and genetic engineering to name just a few. With genetically modified foods (GMOs) scientists use gene splicing to give products a particular trait. Crops are often modified so they produce more with less waste.
There is much debate over the safety of GMOs to both humans and the environment. The industry will have you believe that they are perfectly safe – so safe in fact that they shouldn’t have to tell you what they’re doing. Time and again when measures are brought up requiring the labelling of GMOs, big industry and lobbyists win. There was another case of this the other day.
No reporting and Pink slime
Earlier this year consumers were upset when they found out about ‘pink slime’. The problem was that they were never told about it. As it was part of processing it did not have to be reported (see the FDA’s position on reporting). Industry experts say that this processing is perfectly safe and should not have to be reported. It looks like consumers think differently.
Some reports say pink slime was being used in up to 70% of supermarket ground beef in the US. Consumers view non-reporting by the industry unfavourably and rightly so. Many see this as an underhand approach to keep people in the dark.
The government, through the FDA and USDA, checks to ensure the acute safety of food products. It’s hard to prove if something is not safe over a long period of time. Even if a link is established, it can take time before anything is done. The Congress gives the FDA limited authority over what it can require in terms of labeling. Producers can volunteer to label produce as GMO however, without regulation, none of them do. As with pink slime, when producers don’t have to report they don’t.
Watch dog organizations such as the true food network report some of what is happening with GMOs:
“super” pigs are being engineered with human growth genes, fish with cattle growth genes, tomatoes with flounder genes, and thousands of other plants, animals and insects. These creations are being patented and released into the environment at an alarming rate.
A big fight
GMOs are big business. Imagine for a minute that you weren’t happy eating GMOs and think about what happened with pink slime. BPI, the leading pink slime producer, had to close three of its four plants after the media furor.
Growth of GMO in the US
The use of GMOs has increased substantially since they were commercially introduced in 1996. Government figures show that over 70% of corn and 90% of soybeans produced in the US are GMO. The True Food Network reports that up to 70 percent of processed foods are. In Europe, all GMO foods must be labelled. As such, there hasn’t been the huge growth in GMOs as there has been in the US.
My son was in Aspen last year at a music festival. He loves fruit. At the cafeteria he picked up a bright red apple completely trusting and looking forward to eating it. When he bit into it, he says it was rotten and one of the grossest things that he has ever done.
Is this what we want? In the olden days, when you saw fruit and veg you knew whether it was going off or not. Now it’s much more difficult.
As consumers we need to keep on top of this. If we don’t the industry will and they won’t tell us what they’re doing. As with pink slime, they want you to believe it’s all perfectly safe. They don’t want you to think there is anything wrong with what they’re doing. They will also insist on their right to not tell you anything about it.
Keep on top of this, will you? And keep healthy.