If you were on CNN.com last Friday, you saw this headline, “Genetically Engineered Frankenfish Salmon Wins FDA Approval”. It sounds kind of funny, but is it really?
What is genetically engineered salmon? And should we care?
The answer is a big YES! Genetically engineered food may be hazardous to our health and the health of our pets.
We don’t have a full picture of all the health risks yet, but here’s what we do know.
First of all, genetically engineered (GE) and genetically modified (GM) mean the same thing. And you may have heard of GMOs. They’re genetically modified organisms that are found in our food.
According to the World Health Organization, genetically modified foods are foods derived from organisms whose genetic material (DNA) has been modified in a way that does not occur naturally, e.g. through the introduction of a gene from a different organism.
Until now, GE foods were limited to plants. The most common are corn and soy. In fact, most corn and soy produced in this country is genetically engineered.
But now meet Frankenfish, the first animal to be genetically modified.
Why would food producers want to change the DNA of a plant or a salmon?
Let’s take a look at corn. Most of the corn grown in the U.S. is genetically engineered to be resistant to the weed killer Roundup, a Monsanto product. This enables growers to spray the herbicide without worrying about killing the corn. It only kills the weeds.
There are also several varieties of corn that have been genetically modified to produce Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt), a soil-dwelling bacterium used as a biological pesticide.
So the corn itself contains a pesticide to kill bugs that can’t be removed by washing, or any other means. If you eat this corn, you are consuming these bacteria. Is this good or bad? I don’t know, but it doesn’t seem like something I want to put in my body.
Growers want genetically modified plants to improve yield. If crops aren’t being choked out by weeds or killed by insects or disease, there will be more to sell.
This new GM salmon has been modified to grow year round and faster than farm-raised salmon. They use genes from Pacific Chinook salmon and an eel-like fish called the ocean pout to change the salmon’s DNA.
Frankenfish is salmon that will be available year round and will get to consumers faster, as a result of this genetic modification.
Food producers make the argument that genetic engineering of food is necessary to feed a rapidly growing human population.
So what’s the problem with genetically modified food?
Farmers are finding that more and more Roundup is needed to kill the weeds because, not only is the corn and soy resistant to the weed killer, but the weeds are becoming resistant too. These chemicals are unhealthy.
A number of studies show that humans who consume GE corn have traces of pesticides and weed killer in their bodies. And no one is certain at this point what impact that has on our health.
Studies have been done on rats. In one of the studies, some of the rats were fed GE corn called Monsanto’s Round-up Ready Corn. Some of the rats had corn that also contained herbicide residue from the Round-up sprayed to kill weeds.
Among these rats, there was a greater incidence of mammary tumors, kidney and liver damage, and premature death (whether the corn they consumed had the Roundup residue on it or not) than in the control group.
There’s also been an uptick in allergies, GI problems, cancer and neurodegenerative conditions in dogs since the 1990s, according to Boulder, Colorado veterinarian, Robert Silver. Is it a coincidence that that’s when GE food came on the scene?
The rat study was small and maybe not sizable enough to be statistically significant, but it was significant enough to take notice. And increased incidence of illness since the introduction of GE food proves more research needs to be done.
Here’s something else…
In 1996, the New England Journal of Medicine reported on a study that found that genes inserted into crops can carry with them allergenic properties.
This study and the rat study make it appear that the actual process of genetically modifying the plant may bring with it significant health concerns.
Since the 90s, there’s also been a rise in human skin and food allergies. This too has been attributed to the broad consumption of GM foods.
What other foods are genetically engineered?
Besides corn and soy, there are many other ingredients in our food, particularly in processed foods that are genetically modified. Things like canola oil, carmel color, and corn syrup are often genetically engineered.
If you’re interested in a full list of hidden ingredients to watch out for, go to the Institute for Responsible Technology website, nongmoshoppingguide.com.
Are you wondering what the FDA has to say about genetically engineered food?
Well, they have ruled that GE foods are “substantially equivalent” to conventionally produced foods, and are “generally recognized as safe”. But they’ve done no testing, so how do they know?
The FDA requires no safety testing of GM foods before they are allowed on the market. These foods that we eat are considered safe–until they’re not.
And the FDA requires no labeling of foods that contain genetically modified organisms (GMOs).
In fact, there is legislation in Congress right now that would make it illegal for states to require food manufacturers to label GE foods. It’s dubbed Deny Americans the Right to Know–or the DARK Act.
A number of states are currently trying to get legislation passed locally to require food companies to label food that contain GMOs. In the meantime, the only way to truly avoid GE food is to eat organic.
But how about our pets? How can we protect them?
If you have a pet that suffers from allergies or another ailment, and your vet told you to avoid corn in their diet, maybe it’s not really all corn that’s a problem. Maybe it’s GE corn that’s hurting their health.
If your pet food isn’t organic and isn’t labeled GMO-free, any corn in the recipe, and possibly other ingredients, will most likely be genetically engineered.
You can try to avoid pet foods that have GMOs by choosing a food with no corn and soy, but it will be more difficult to avoid protein in the recipe from animals that have been fed GE corn. And we don’t know what that GE corn does to the cow whose beef your dog is eating.
And now…you need to add to the list of ingredients to avoid salmon or omega-3 fish oil from salmon. That really cuts down on your pet food options.
Most commercial big box store pet foods contain GE ingredients.
The only way to truly avoid GMOs in your pet’s food is to feed them organic pet food or a pet food that is labeled GMO free. Then your pet will be safe from these potentially harmful ingredients.
All Husse pet foods are GMO free. You can count on that.
How do you feel about GMOs? Do you think there should be a labeling requirement? Share your opinion in the comment section above.