Genetically engineered foods (GEF) have been tinkered with. Specifically, one or more changes have been made to their DNA in order to change some characteristic of the food. Both plants and animals have been subjected to genetic engineering. In the plant kingdom, corn, sugar beets, rice, papaya, canola, soybean and cotton seed oil have all been genetically modified and are sold on the open market. Experiments continue on animals, though we do not yet have reports of animal GEF hitting the food shelves yet. In 2006, they put the DNA of a roundworm into a pig so that it would produce omega-3 fatty acids. Other pigs have been modified to absorb phosphorus from plants more efficiently, cutting down the phosphorus content of manure.
Crops that have been genetically modified (GM) have been the subject of court rulings, not just in the U.S., but also in India. In 2007, a federal court ruled that the U.S. Department of Agriculture had illegally approved GM alfalfa engineered by Monsanto. The judge ruled that a full environmental impact study was needed before “Roundup Ready” alfalfa could be marketed, for fear that the modified alfalfa could contaminate natural and organic alfalfa. The judge also feared the appearance of “superweeds” if the GM alfalfa was planted commercially. A 2010 Supreme Court decision yielded mixed results, and the law is still murky. However, in 2011, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack approved the unrestricted used of GM alfalfa. So in this case, the biotech industry won out against farmers and environmentalists who fear an onslaught of GEF will follow. The Center for Food Safety is suing the decision.
“No one knows where this will lead, and what are the possible health side effects of GEF”, said a leading healthy insurer. Some people have even suggested to start seeking whole life insurance quotes to prepare for the potential negative side effects of GEF. In 2010, the University of Arkansas found that 83 percent of the wild canola they tested contained modified genes that are resistant to herbicide. Other scientific studies have found that GM foods have not substantially increased yields over their natural counterparts. This undercuts the whole reason for modifying the food in the first place.
Activists continue to protest the proliferation of GEF. In March 2011, a rally was held to protest Monsanto’s leadership in the genetically engineered seed sector. Monsanto markets GM corn, soybeans and other crops. The protestors accused Monsanto of buying up smaller seed companies, altering the seed and then raising prices. Some countries have taken steps to halt the spread of GEF despite food shortages. For instance, India in 2010 announced a ban on GM plant cultivation. In 2006, rice exports from the U.S to Europe were interrupted because of the rice contained unapproved genes. Hungary and Venezuela have also taken anti-GEF actions. Until further research is done, no one can say for sure if and how GEF may someday harm humans and contribute to weight loss trends. In response, many consumers choose foods that carry a non-GM label or are certified organic.