Do You Have the Right to Know What's in Your Food?
In the past couple decades, we have seen a drastic increase in the amount of product information we find on our food. Some of this information is useful, some of it less so. However, one glaring omission from the products lining our supermarket aisles is if they contain genetically modified organisms (GMOs). This seems like quite an important omission, as most of us would want to know if we're eating GMOs.
If you examine the contents of an aisle in your favorite supermarket, you'll find a number of different messages being sent by the food there. Some may purport to be "low fat", others "high in fiber." Other messages may be even more vague and harder to verify, like "New improved recipe" or "All natural ingredients." It seems that, when you go shopping, you get a lot of information from your food's packaging - whether you want it or not.
This information is taken into account when you make decisions about buying a product. For example, some may examine the nutritional facts in order to make decisions based on specific diets (e.g. vegan). Or, you may be interested in increasing the amount of some ingredients, like fiber, or decreasing others, like sodium. Thus, you may want to have nutritional information to base your decisions on. Many consumers, however, are attempting to avoid one type of ingredient: GMOs. Unfortunately, their existence in a food is not always disclosed.
More and more countries around the world have begun requiring the disclosure of GMOs in food products. The rationale behind this disclosure is simple: the long-term safety of eating foods with genetically modified ingredients has not been demonstrated. A recently-released documentary film, Genetic Roulette: The Gamble of Our Lives, investigated the increasing rates of digestive problems in the United States in the last twenty years. Interestingly, the rise of disorders like leaky gut syndrome, Celiac disease, and irritable bowel syndrome parallels increased use of GMOs in our food.
Sometimes the danger from GMOs is posed by the ingredient itself, other times it is caused by the environment in which it is grown. For example, genetically modified corn can now be found in 80% of all processed foodstuffs. It also contains the toxin Bacillus thuringiensis, which is potent enough to cause the stomachs of insects which consume it to explode. This toxin's safety has not been tested in humans. On the other hand, the pesticides companies use to grow GMOs may also pose a threat. Some have been shown to cause neurological issues, organ damage, reproductive problems, and cancer.
For these reasons, many people are opting to purchase non-GMO foods. This choice also promotes a healthier environment as fewer GMO crops means reduced use of pesticides. Unfortunately, many find it difficult to avoid GMO foods because the foods aren't subject to any sort of labeling requirements. Labeling of GMO foods doesn't mean they won't be produced. However, it will give you the information you need to make a choice about whether you purchase them or not. See our Superfoods section, filled with organic products with no GMOs.