Before you get dragged into the long, endless debate of whether GMO in food is a good scientific idea or not, this is where you should probably begin your journey.
First, you need to know whether whatever you are consuming is a genetically modified food or not.
There is a common misconception that you can tell GMO in food products by just looking at them. Certainly not true.
Those big shiny tomatoes, big seedless fruits, that juicy looking piece of meat or fish may not necessarily be GMO.
Before you protest, we need to first understand what GMO or Genetically Modified Organisms are and how they found their way into our foods.
What are GMO Foods
Genetically modified foods represent a special type of foods that are grown or produced by manipulating their DNA structure.
The DNA is the component in living organisms that is responsible for carrying genetic material.
With advanced technologies scientists found ways of altering plant and animal genes to increase yield and improve them through a process called genetic engineering.
Most of the current genetic engineering is targeted on plants. As of today, very few animals have been genetically engineered and it is thus not common to find GMO in food that is of animal products such as meat or milk.
Why Modify Food Genes?
This is the question that most people observing this contentious issue of GMO in food industry are asking scientists. The scientist’s answer is usually simple.
With growing technology, humans have always been looking for ways to make things easier.
Since humans live to eat and eat to live at the same time, food was never going to be left out of technological advancements.
There are several reasons why genetic engineering is here with us. In this piece, I will just state the reasons and not go into details because today I am here to help you identify GMO in food products and leave the discussion on GMO pros and cons for another day.
The most common reasons for GMOs are:
- To toughen them to be resistant to pests, diseases, weeds, and some unfavorable extreme climatic conditions.
- Increasing their yield by improving their maturity periods and production efficiency
- To improve their nutritional value
- To increase desirable characteristics and reduce undesirable characteristics in foods
- Deriving unique properties from food products
All these reasons are usually summed up as the solutions to future food security problems that will avail enough quality food to the world at low costs.
How do you Tell GMO Foods from Others?
This should be simple because every GMO in food should be clearly labelled…Well, you are right.
But that is not the level of integrity you would expect from rogue business people who are after nothing else but profits.
Not many foods are genetically modified. GMO Foods are highly regulated and the approval process is very expensive.
This makes them unattractive for those seeking to venture into the business; leaving it to a few large corporations
So the first thing that will help you here is to know which foods have been genetically modified.
Thankfully, the US department of Agriculture through the Agricultural Marketing Service(AMS) has developed this list of Bioengineered foods to help consumers identify all the GMO foods across the world.
The GMO foods in the list include; canola, alfalfa, corn, Arctic apple, cotton, eggplant, papaya, pineapples, potato, soybeans, sugarbeet, summer squash, and salmon fish.
Even without this list, there are a few ways for consumers to identify if a food or food product contains genetically modified organisms.
1. Check the for Non-GMO Labels
Many nations across the world are developing standards to regulate GMO in food and food products in the market.
For instance, GMO food producers in the US will be required to have a label “bioengineered” on foods as a mandatory disclosure requirement under the new NBFD Standard that will take effect in January 2022.
There are also other third-party voluntary NON-GMO claims in labels that you can look for when buying foods.
you can avoid the GMOs with the simple act of reading what is written on packaging labels as earlier discussed in this post.
2. Check Sticker Numbers to Identify how the Food was Grown
Still on the packaging labels, there are countries with established codes that describe the conditions under which the food was grown.
Under this, a 4-digit number means food was grown using conventional methods.
A 5-digit number beginning with a 9 describes an organic product.
If it’s a 5-digit number beginning with an 8 it is genetically modified.
This labelling is however not a universal standard and may not be found in many other regions. It is however important if you come across it.
3. Check for Foods with 100% Organic Label
Going organic is one sure way of avoiding GMO in food and food products.
Organic farming is done under very strict conditions where no artificial chemicals or inputs are used in the entire production chain.
In the US, the law prohibits GMOs or GMO ingredients in foods with the label 100% organic.
Even in other regions most organically produced foods contain only about 0.9% of GMO in them. So, if you really fear GMOs, then it is best to only visit the organic shelf.
Other than these three sure methods, the only other method of identifying GMOs would be to keep in mind that list of GMO foods mentioned above when shopping and try to substitute them with the 100% organically labelled foods.
Do foods with GMO concern you? Let me know what you think in the comments.