Genetically engineered foods
Genetically modified organisms (GMOs), also called genetically engineered (GE), bioengineered, transgenic or biotech is an experimental technology developed to alter the genes of a plant or animal cell -usually for commercial purposes. GE technology is most often used to make farmed salmon grow bigger and to give new properties to agricultural crops. Inserting non-native genes into plants create organisms with new properties and capabilities. Supporters of this technology advance the benefits of higher crop yields with less use of pesticides, fertilizers and water. GE plants can be designed to be tastier, more nutritious, and can even produce medications. They say these attributes are particularly important to counter the harsh growing conditions that exist in many developing nations. They also point out that there have been no reports of illness caused by consuming genetically altered foods. Critics say more than 85% of our soybeans and 50% of our corn grown this year will be genetically modified. Nearly 70% of all processed foods on supermarket shelves now contain some GE components even though no human testing has been attempted.

Transgenic contamination, or wind-blown pollen from GE crops contaminating natural crops in neighboring fields, is also a concern. This common phenomenon has caused the Agriculture Department to issue rules to prevent contamination of natural crops by biopharmaceutical crops. These measures include greater buffer zones between natural and biopharm crops, stricter harvesting requirements, and inspections of biotech farms. Biotech crops are nonfood GE crops that have been altered to produce pharmaceutical, chemical and industrial compounds. Critics worry these crops will contaminate crops grown for food. Studies conclude there is no bio-confinement method that completely prevents contamination of wild plants and animals by their genetically engineered counterparts. Supporters claim GE plants and animals are needed by the world’s burgeoning population to avoid famine. Critics warn about prematurely certifying the safety of this technology. They believe there has been insufficient assessment of potential long term risks to our health and environment. They say a consumer has a right to know if the food they’re buying is natural or bioengineered. In 2014, Vermont became the first state to require the labeling of GMO foods.

Pending Legislation:
H.R.913 - Genetically Engineered Food Right-to-Know Act
Senate version of H.R.1599 - Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act of 2015 (Passed House 7/23/15)

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May 21, 2020
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May 27, 2020

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