I have written about genetically modified food before, and now I feel I have to write about it againI have written about genetically modified food before, and now I feel I…
You may or may not have heard that in the US last year, Bayer, a pharmaceutical company, bought Monsanto, an agrochemical company, which owns a number of food companies, for a mere $57 billion. It is frightening, because now, essentially, a pharmaceutical company owns a food-producing company.
Genetically modified food is one of the top three food safety worries in the UK. Food Standards Agency surveys show concern about GM is at an all-time high, but these foods are creeping into the shops unnoticed. It’s mostly cooking oil and American sweets that are the culprits at the moment, but if we don’t object and say something, more will follow.
GM ingredients on sale in our shops are grown in a way that is less thoughtful towards people, animals and our environment. They have had DNA artificially added, removed or changed in the lab.
DNA is a bit like a computer programme, but one that doesn’t come with instructions. Adding, removing or editing sections of complex genetic code is not a simple cut and paste process – there is so much that can go wrong. Safety tests are usually controlled by the companies that profit from GM. It’s incredibly difficult to carry out independent studies, but many of those that have been done have found problems. Most people in the UK don’t eat genetically modified ingredients, but the animals that produce our meat, eggs and dairy products have less choice.
The vast majority of non-organic farm animals are fed GM soya and maze, even if they do spend some of their time grazing in the outdoors.
Surveys show that consumers want to know about GM animal feed, but because it does not need to be listed by law on the label of the animal it was fed to, this information is kept hidden.
They’re part of an industry approach to farming that put profits from multinational corporations before sustainability, animal welfare or good-quality food.
GM crops support some of the most environmentally damaging farming practices in the world. Research by the American National Academy of Sciences in 2016 showed that GM farming had caused major agricultural problems. It has led to the development of super weeds that are resistant to weedkillers, and research suggests they reduce biodiversity.
Contamination of non-GM crops is widespread and has the potential to wipe out traditional plant varieties. Farmers might not be able to save GMs for planting next year as the contract demands that they will buy both the seed and the associated weedkiller from the same company each year.
In the UK, GM ingredients have to appear on the label by law, so always read the small print and ask about GM cooking oil when you are eating out in restaurants and takeaways, as they should list this on the menu, but some don’t always do this.
Some meat, eggs and dairy products on sale in the UK come from animals that have eaten GM feed. This does not have to be listed on the label, so unless it’s organic (where GM is not allowed) it’s very difficult to know what we are eating right now.
There are no GM crops grown commercially in the UK, Northern Ireland, Scotland or Wales at the moment, as they all have policies that reject GM farming, but the UK governments support GM, and ministers have suggested that it should be grown in England once we have left the EU. If this happens, it could become very difficult to protect non-GM crops from contamination.
The most common types of GM plants, like Monsanto’s Roundup-ready soya maze and oilseed rape are designed to be heavily sprayed with glyphosate, which then makes it into the food chain. This powerful weedkiller is classified by the World Health Organisation as probably carcinogenic.
Insects pay a high price, too. The Monarch butterfly has declined by 90 percent, and studies show that GM farming is one of the main causes. Let’s be part of the solution, not the problem. As consumers we hold the power. Choose organic produce where you can and always check the labels before you buy.
To join a growing community of people who say no to GM, go to gmfreeze.org
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