Genetically modified products: Do you want them in your body?

The “natural” products you select may not be entirely natural.

| November/December 1999

 The tomato you put on your sandwich, the soy isoflavones you take as a dietary supplement, and the corn oil you cook with all may be genetically altered.

Currently, no law mandates the labeling of genetically altered foods, also called genetically modified organisms (GMOs) or genetically engineered (GE) foods. GMOs have been integrated into the U.S. food supply without much public concern, largely because the American media has ignored the issue. Since the 1960s, the biotechnology industry has spent billions of dollars altering the DNA of plants in an effort to increase the quality, quantity, and pesticide manageability of its crops. The result is that an extensive range of genetically engineered products are in our food supply today.

Europeans avoid GMO products, and the European Union is now fighting against U.S. GMO exports—particularly milk and beef from livestock that has been treated with hormones. Because this could hurt agribusiness, the U.S. government is concerned with public acceptance of these products.

Arguments against GMOs

The most widespread application of genetic engineering in agriculture involves inserting a gene that allows crops to self-produce a “natural” insecticide, or makes crops resistant to a specific type of herbicide so that farmers can kill weeds without harming crops.

In a July speech before the National Press Club, Secretary of Agriculture Dan Glickman focused on consumer acceptance of GMO products—downplaying the health, safety, and environmental concerns of biotechnical medical researchers and scientists who argue that there isn’t enough information about the long-term effects of these altered organisms.

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