Avoid genetically modified (GM) food
Scientists are altering and augmenting the genetic make up of our food crops to increase crop yields by making the plants pest resistant, herbicide tolerant, disease resistant, cold, drought, salinity tolerant, etc and to improve the nutrition of the crop and/or to provide pharmaceutical properties via the crop to the end consumer. These crops are producing what is now commonly known as Genetically Modified (GM) food.
However the following two areas of concern have many people questioning and avoiding Genetically Modified (GM) food.
1. Human health risks. Research into the health risks associated with humans consuming GM food is surprisingly thin and has revealed the following health concerns:
- Gene transfer – the single study into the possibility of altered GM food genes transferring to genes of human gut bacteria has shown that they are transferring. The ramifications of the gene transfer from the DNA of our food to ourselves is largely unresearched and prudence alone would suggest that for GM food to be deemed safe the implication of these “gene transfers” will have to be thoroughly studied prior to further commercial release of GM products.
- Allergies – by mixing genes to improve the nutritional value of plants, GM food appears to have increased the likelihood of increased allergies. For example, a year after the release of GM soy in the United Kingdom, it was found soy allergies increased by 10-15 per cent in a single year.
- New diseases – the introduction of a brand of GM amino acid supplements (L-Tryptophan) in the 1980's resulted in a deadly epidemic, Eosinophilia-myalgia syndrome, that according to the Centre for Disease Control killed approximately 100 people, permanently disabled 1,500 and caused between 5,000 and 10,000 to fall ill.
2. Environmental hazards of GM crops - GM crops leave the labs where they are made, to be grown on farms across the world.
- Unintended transfer of transgenes through cross-pollination – plants cross-pollinate each other and GM plants are no different. However, the prospect of, for example, herbicide resistant GM crops cross breeding with weeds to create a herbicide resistant super weed, has many farmers and environmentalists concerned.
- Unknown effects on other organisms (e.g. soil microbes) – plants grown in an ecosystem consisting of many other (often inter-dependent) organisms. The impact on these organisms has largely been overlooked in studies of the environmental impact of GM crops.
- Loss of flora and fauna biodiversity – studies have show that pollen from pest resistant GM crops are drifting to surrounding plants and decimating insect species living on non-GM plants.
With the old adage “better to be safe than sorry” in mind, it would appear there are sufficient question marks about the production and consumption of GM foods to avoid them. This action explores how you can do this.
How to do it now!
Buy foods that are labelled ‘GM Free’.
With the increased focus and concern about Genetically Modified (GM) and Genetically Engineered (GE) food, food producers need to decide if they allow GM or GE crop ingredients into their products and brands. Those companies that actively avoid GM and GE ingredients will often indicate this on their packaging.
The True Food Guide, an initiative of ‘Greenpeace’, provides a GE free food guide, including a full list of GE free brands.
Green brands are made by companies that have a clear non-GE policy and implement procedures to remove GE crop ingredients from their supply chain. This includes highly processed ingredients, like oils and lecithin, and animal products from animals feed GE feed.
Click to download the list (PDF).
Improve the food safety certification on GM crops grown and foods sold in Australia.
Currently there is no way for consumers to ensure that their groceries are GM free, as labeling is not required for most products containing GM ingredients.
Contact your political representatives and ask that:
- GM crops are only approved if they are proven to be safe 'beyond reasonable doubt' using evidence from independent, long-term, published studies - measuring indicators relevant to human health.
- All GM foods are clearly labelled, including highly processed products such as oils, starches and sugars from GM crops and meat, milk, cheese and eggs from animals fed GM feed.
- TrueFood: GM -Our Right to Know. On the True Food website, concerned consumers can take action on the issue of GM food labelling by signing the petition.
- True Food Network - provides you some pointers on how to take action.
Eat organic produce.
Organic certification requires that no GM products are grown. So eating organic food ensures you are avoiding genetically modified food. See our action 'Eat Organic Produce' for more information. The Organic Food Guide is a comprehensive online guide to organic farming and buying in Australia.
Why is this action important?
The quality of our food and our food production processes are critical for human survival. Mass introduction of genetically modified crops into our environment and GM food into our bodies without long term research by organisations free of pro-GM bias is critical. Quite simply, we don’t know enough about the impact that creating a new plant/food by mixing the DNA of a plant with that of bacteria has on the environment, let alone our bodies. It would be tragically ironic that in an attempt to feed more people we further damaged the eco-systems that already feed us while producing a food that causes a portion of the population to have allergic reactions.