Geneticengineeringwhat

Genetic engineersing: What is it?

A guide to nutrition and genetic engineering of foods. Genetic engineering is raising public concern. This series will help you understand the concept as well as realize the dangers of genetically-engineered foods.

Nutrition

Genetic Engineering
What Is It?
A series.

Rob McLean

Genetic engineering is raising public concern.

Genetic engineering is a form of biotechnology. It focuses on the manipulation of the DNA or genetic material inside the cells of living organisms.

Genetic engineering blocks, adds, or even scrambles DNA to add or block traits of the organism.

It is a modern and broad term describing processes such as plant fermentation and hybridization or cross-breeding.

The best way to explain genetic engineering is to give examples of foods that have been genetically engineered:

  • Corn and soybeans engineered to contain altered levels of nutrients.
  • Corn, soybeans, tomato, and canola plants that withstand herbicide application.
  • Corn, tomatoes, and potatoes that have their own "built-in" pesticides.
  • Corn, tomatoes, potatoes, soybeans, grapes, cantaloupe, canola and other plants that have been manipulated to resist plant viruses.
  • Tomatoes, peas, peppers, and fruits engineered to improve processing and extend shelf life.
  • Various enzymes (proteins that speed up biological processes) used to make wine, fruit juice, sugar, beer, and oil.
  • Genetically engineered rennet  for making cheese. Rennin is a coagulating enzyme obtained from a young animal’s stomach–usually a young calf. It is used to curdle milk in foods such as cheese.

Do we know if our foods have been genetically engineered?

No.

Although most people feel they have a right to know if the foods they are eating and feeding their families are genetically engineered, that right is not being protected by the United States. Other countries are protecting their citizens.

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Most people feel they have a right to know if the food they are eating and feeding their families is genetically engineered.
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We will never know about genetic engineering unless a labeling system is adopted. In addition, avoiding genetically engineered ingredients is and will increasingly become more complicated as more genetically-engineered foods hit the market unlabeled.

Currently, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not require labeling of genetically engineered foods except:

1. When the characteristics of the food differ significantly from what is normally expected of the food–based upon what is now known, of course, since it can not be based on long-term studies or results.

2. When the variant or new genetically engineered food is nutritionally different from the non-genetically engineered version of the same food.

What can you do to help?

Let the FDA, your favorite food manufacturers, your congressman, and your state’s Food and Drug Administration know what you think about genetic engineering.

Buy products that state no genetically-modified seed or organisms on the package. Write other manufacturers an email and let them know why you are no longer buying their products. You can contact manufacturers by looking for their web address printed on product packaging. Some also print 1-800 phone numbers, too. Calling an 800 number is also an effective way to let a manufacturer know you are no longer buying their product.

Get involved in a grassroots campaign in your area if you have the time and inclination. Grassroot movements do work.

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