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Examples of Genetically Modified Foods- Are They Regulated?

written by: ciel s cantoria•edited by: Tania Cowling•updated: 4/7/2010

We have heard of genetically modified foods but can we recognize these GM foods if ever we see one? There have been negative issues about genetically modified foods; are they properly monitored and regulated to ensure that public health and safety are protected?

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    Examples of Genetically Modified Foods

    Shopping6 In one of the archived publications of the Associated Press, it disclosed that the Grocery Manufacturers of America has estimated that as of 2005, about 70 to 75% of the processed foods sold in the US contain genetically modified ingredients. A specific list of genetically modified foods presently patronized and being consumed by the US populace would be difficult to furnish. Since its introduction and penetration of the US market, genetically modified foods were hardly labeled as such; hence, the consumers have had no way of knowing if what they had chosen to purchase were genetically altered products. Some were simply derived from genetically modified plant varieties.

    In some grocery stores, attempts to differentiate GM foods were implemented by placing the GM products on separate store shelves under the category “Modified". The segregation was mainly on the basis that most of the processed foods displayed in these shelves contain GM soy. In fact, it is said that half of the soy crops found in North America are genetically altered.

    As a consumer’s guide, you may want to carefully consider foods that are modified and contain the following genetically modified ingredients:

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    genetically modified corn 

    Canola- this could be included in oil products and in fried or baked snack foods.

    Corn- GM corns have been developed as pest resistant and the unfit variety exceeds its Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) or the self-produced pesticide. Be wary of corn-based products like snack foods, baked and fried foods, soft drinks, confectionery, special purpose foods as well as edible oil foods.

    Sweet Corn-genetically modified like the regular corn wherein the US the FDA confirmed that thousand of tons of sweet corn intended only as animal feeds have been included in foods sold for human consumption.

    Cottonseed Oil- may be found in blended vegetable oil products, casings, snack food, edible oil products as well as fried or baked foods.

    Dairy Products- Based on studies, an estimated 22% of US cows are injected with bovine growth hormone as a form of genetic modification.

    Honey-In Canada, some bees collect nectar from GM canola plants hence the honey collected from these bees are sustained by GM crops. Due to this, Canadian honey is banned in Europe.

    Meat- meat from animals that come from farms that use GM feed or injected with the bovine growth hormone.

    Papaya- GM papayas have been developed as virus resistant and about 1,000 hectares in Hawaii grow this type of GM papayas, which represent ¾ of Hawaii’s papaya crops.

    Peas- GM peas have been tested in mice and have manifested possible allergens since they have been injected with kidney beans in order to create their own pesticide.

    Potatoes- Russett Burbank, Russet Norkatah, Atlantic and Shepody may have been used for snack foods, and other processed potato and other food products.

    Rapeseed- developed to have inherent resistance to pesticide but certain compositions of leftover foods containing rapeseed, revealed toxins and were unfit to be fed to animals. In Canada, the crop was genetically engineered and was said to have been renamed as canola.

    Rice- There are reports that a rice variety containing human genes will be cultivated in US soils but will be used in developing countries as medium for human proteins that will treat infant diarrhea.

    Soybeans- GM plant variety that were developed as herbicide resistant and will be used in the production of soybean-based foods like soy milk and other drinks, tofu, soy four, lecithin, soy oil, and other soy-based by-products that are mostly snack foods, baked or fried foods, pastries, breads, edible oil and special purpose foods.

    Tomatoes- This crop was genetically modified in order to attain longer shelf-life by inhibiting the crop’s natural tendency to rot and degrade easily.

    Vegetable Oil- This product is largely considered as genetically modified since they are mostly derived from GM corn, soy, canola or cottonseed. The only vegetable oils that can be considered as not GM food products are those that are specifically labeled as organic or Non-GMO.

    Vitamins- Most vitamins were derived from GM food sources: Vitamin C from corn, D and K carriers from corn derivatives such as starch, glucose and maltodextrin, E from soy, A, B2, B6 and B12 from genetically modified organisms.

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    Find out what US government regulatory offices that have direct hands in regulating and monitoring the manufacture and release of genetically modified foods and how effective or ineffective are they?
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    How Do Government Regulatory Offices Implement Controls on Genetically Modified Food in the US?

    The International Forum on Globalization ( published a report about their study as to the regulatory measures implemented by the US government on genetically modified food. According to IFG analysis, the regulations of GM foods are the main concerns of three regulatory bodies, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the US Dept. of Agriculture (USDA). Despite these three regulatory bodies, GM foods are manufactured and marketed without pre-review before they are released in the market and no pre-review of GM food labeling. Companies, like Monsanto Corp., who are largely involved in the manufacture of GM foods are allowed to withhold data from the public, concerning health and safety issues. In addition, there are no set of rules that properly monitor the proliferation of GM foods for distribution.

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    The FDA’s Role

    Amidst this weak framework in the regulation of GM food , FDA’s own scientist submitted their assessments and concerns supported by documents that the processes employed in genetic modification cannot be likened to the traditional breeding recognized by farmers of long ago. The new methods of genetic engineering lead to certain risks which include creating new forms of toxins and potential allergens in food. It is further feared that this will undermine or render as ineffective the therapeutic effects of antibiotics and will subsequently lower the nutritional value. The GM foods derived from new plant varieties that were genetically modified have never been tested and were never labeled as GM foods.

    In spite of the warnings set by FDA scientists, FDA heads issued a policy in 1992 which declared that the resulting food products derived from GM plants were to be recognized as safe with the exception of those that contained genes that came from the 10 known most allergenic species. This statement pre-empted the need to pre-review the marketing and labeling of GM foods.

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    110px-Environmental Protection Agency logo.svg 

    The EPA’s Role

    The EPA on the other hand continues to monitor the chemical pesticides as well as those produced by plants called Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt). There are the so called Bt plants which the EPA regulates and classify as Plant Incorporated Protectants (PIP). The EPA has listed a number of crops as Bt corn, Bt cotton and Bt potatoes and are all under PIP. This means EPA determines the extent of the risks that the plant-produced pesticide may have on human health. In some cases, the EPA allows the product even if tests show that its Bt exceeds the allowable level provided that it can be proven that human exposure to the Bt residue will not result to harm.

    However, despite EPA’s assessments that some products were unfit for human consumption, their imposed restrictions over the harmful GM foods were ignored. The unfit products were able to penetrate the market due to laxity in monitoring and absence of regulatory controls of its release in the market. It is a known fact that several Bt corn-based products contaminated corn supplies and a considerable number of contaminated corn-based food products had stayed in the market. Not all of them were recovered because they were not properly labeled as GM foods.

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    800px-USDA logo 

    The USDA’s Role

    The USDA is responsible for issuing permits for field tests of GM plants for pharmaceutical products, for GM grass and GM insects and is required to conduct environmental assessments before test permits are granted.

    However, USDA was found to be issuing permits without any manifestations that environmental tests were conducted since no reports have been submitted. In subsequent developments, the USDA learned of biocontamination incidents where fields of unfit GM corns had contaminated neighboring farms engaged in traditional corn and soy bean farming. Although USDA ordered the quarantine and the destruction of the neighboring traditional farms, the exact account or details were never divulged by the USDA.

    Find out what Monsanto Corporation's stand is about genetically modified foods as well as the outcome of the endless debates over genetic engineering, on the next page.

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    There may have been debates and arguments over the benefits as against health and safety of genetic engineering and genetically modified foods. Learn about why the debate over genetically modified foods began and the outcomes of these debates.
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    Monsanto Corporation’s Position

    Monsanto Corp. is the prime mover and main proponent of genetically modified foods. They have voiced their own position regarding the issues about the hazards to health and safety about GM foods. In an interview with the New York Times, Monsanto’s Corporate Director of Communication staunchly released Monsanto from any responsibility in vouching the safety of genetically modified foods. Monsanto’s spokesperson asserted that their main concern is to sell, the matter of assuring public safety rests solely on the FDA. In fact, Monsanto Corp. even had the temerity to file a suit against the farmers of neighboring farms whose soil were contaminated with Monsanto’s Round-up Herbicide; the corporate giant’s position was that the neighboring farms were benefiting from their technology for free.

    It can be surmised that based on these developments, the European Union had since then imposed a 5-year moratorium of genetically modified foods in their respective countries; particularly those coming from the US.

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    The Endless Debate over Genetically Modified Foods

    Glowing tobacco plant The image you can see on the left is a glowing tobacco plant; one of the genetically modified plants that were successfully altered.

    At the end of all the exchange of opinions and arguments, it is still the general public’s health that is actually on the line. The lack of the basic labeling requirement to provide proper information still remains to be addressed in the US. In comparison, the European Union countries as well as in Australia, Japan, and Malaysia, consumers exercise their rights to choose between genetically modified foods and organic foods by simply examining their distinguishing labels. Their rights are well-protected by the simple act of instituting and implementing the EU Regulation 1829 which deals with the matter of labeling genetically modified foods and feeds.

    It has been more than a decade since the debates over genetic engineering and the production of genetically modified foods and pharmaceuticals began. The advocates of GM foods contend that food production will increase and will alleviate the problems of malnutrition, hunger and diseases. After more than ten years since these benefits were presented as arguments in favor of genetically modified foods, were these benefits met considering that the GM foods found their way in the US markets including those of the developing countries? Can it really be said that genetic engineering provided the solution to problems of malnutrition, widespread hunger and incidences of diseases?

    Those who are opposed to genetic modification of foods were supported by scientists including the Institute of Science in Society, represented by a world renowned biophysicist and geneticist in the person of Dr. Mae Wan-Ho who stated that "Genetic engineering is inherently dangerous, because it greatly expands the scope for horizontal gene transfer and recombination, precisely the processes that create new viruses and bacteria that cause disease epidemics, and trigger cancer in cells." Based on this, it can be surmised that genetically modified food provides another link to cancer and other diseases that have increased over the years.

    Publications about these debates will end with the note that it is up to the public to decide. This can be easily said and done in behalf of the consumers in EU and other countries, but not in the US where genetically modified foods are not properly labeled as such.

    Reference materials:


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