Corina A. Rodriguez and Jessica Roche

GMO (Genetically Modified Organisms) Awareness Survey Summary

            Genetically Modified Organisms, as the name suggests, are organisms whose genes have been modified in a way that does not occur in nature. This usually “involves isolating and removing the DNA encoding single gene from one organism, manipulating it outside the cell (in a laboratory) and reinserting it into the same organism or into the genetic material of another organism.” This creates combinations of plant, animal, bacterial and virus genes that do not occur in nature or through traditional crossbreeding methods.

According to the research we found, most GMOs have been engineered to resist the direct application of herbicide and/or to produce an insecticide. New technologies are now being used to artificially develop other traits in plants, such as a resistance to browning in apples, and to create new organisms using synthetic biology. Most GMO research is currently centered on attaining increased yield, drought tolerance, enhanced nutrition, or other consumer benefits.

In our survey we questioned people about their basic knowledge of GMOs, possible unhealthy side effects, and their view of any type of government regulation. Most people polled, either disagreed with the usage of GMOs or, worse, had little knowledge on the subject. The majority (88%), claimed to know about GMOs and 56% knew that GMOs had been on the market for more than 20 years. It was interesting to learn that 28% knew which common foods are GMOs, and that 24% were aware of the recent labeling law passed in 2016. This is a very small percentage, in our opinion, considering the importance food has for a healthy body and mind.

Our poll results showed that women had a better understanding of the subject and were more critical on the matter. However, in general, most people had a basic idea of what GMOs are and were aware of common foods containing GMOs.

One of the questions pertained to how much they knew about the law signed by Obama in 2016 requiring that food products mention on their labels whether they use GMOs. When this law was passed, many people grew dissatisfied because the regulation enabled food companies to circumvent the requirement by putting the information on QR codes. So instead of labeling whether a product contains GMO ingredients, they could use scientific names people would not recognize. Most of those aware of this labeling law believe it could have been better.

We gave the interviewees information on some countries that had banned the usage of GMOs. We questioned poll-takers on whether they agreed with the decision of those countries to ban GMOs. Only 64% of them already knew that other countries had banned GMOs, and 40% agreed with the decision of those countries to ban GMOs.

Our analysis showed us that the answers received were based more on a limited knowledge the majority of the polltakers had about GMOs. Few had knowledge of the diverse scientific research results emanating from outside the biotech companies. We found out that those who knew about GMOs were more concerned and preferred to avoid them when possible. Those individuals believe GMOs have a negative effect on our health due to the alarming amounts of pesticides and have contributing factors to ADD, Autism, and “crazy allergies.”

We chose this topic because we believe “we are what we eat” and it is very important to create some awareness about the choices available to us, so “we shall make better-informed decisions,” when possible. We consider this matter connected to the US Government because they should ensure citizen safety and are strongly involved in the regulation of the food industry. Government should be stricter with the amount of inorganic and dangerous chemicals allowed in our foods. It is well known by doctors and scientists that the human body is not designed to process inorganic chemicals, and their consumption can have harmful side effects. Therefore, we believe GMOs should be banned, as it has been done in many countries of Europe, Asia, and elsewhere. We should look for natural, safer, and healthier alternatives to protect the animals and crops, while creating more natural foods for current and future generations. This, in turn, will result in a great contribution to our environment and ecosystems.

We were surprised by how little people know about the foods they eat, how little they investigate; perhaps because we trust everybody will do “the right thing” with the knowledge they have. This project was a very good learning experience, giving us more information about the topic, as well as more awareness about the products people consume on a regular basis. 

Facts and Figures about GMOs

Relevant Dates

  • 1982 – FDA Approves First GMO

Humulin, insulin produced by genetically engineered E. coli bacteria, appears on the market.

  • 1994 – GMO Hits Grocery Stores

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approves the Flavr Savr tomato for sale on    grocery store shelves. The delayed-ripening tomato has a longer shelf life than conventional tomatoes.

  • 1996 – GMO-Resistant Weeds

Weeds resistant to glyphosate, the herbicide used with many GMO crops, are detected in Australia. Research shows that the super weeds are seven to 11 times more resistant to glyphosate than the standard susceptible population.

  • 1997 – Mandatory Labels

The European Union rules in favor of mandatory labeling on all GMO food products, including animal feed.

  • 1999 – GMO Food Crops Dominate

Over 100 million acres worldwide are planted with genetically engineered seeds. The marketplace begins embracing GMO technology at an alarming rate.

  • 2003 – GMO-Resistant Pests

In 2003, a Bt-toxin-resistant caterpillar-cum-moth, Helicoverpa zea, is found feasting on GMO Bt cotton crops in the southern United States. In less than a decade, the bugs have adapted to the genetically engineered toxin produced by the modified plants.

  • 2011 – Bt Toxin in Humans

Research in eastern Quebec finds Bt toxins in the blood of pregnant women and shows evidence that the toxin is passed to fetuses.

  • 2012 – Farmer Wins Court Battle

French farmer Paul Francois sues Monsanto for chemical poisoning he claims was caused by its pesticide Lasso, part of the Roundup Ready line of products. Francois wins and sets a new precedent for future cases.

  • 2014 – GMO Patent Expires

Monsanto’s patent on the Roundup Ready line of genetically engineered seeds will end in two years. In 2009, Monsanto introduced Roundup 2 with a new patent set to make the first-generation seed obsolete.

GMO Facts

The “What is GMO” page from the Non-GMO Project provides a list of high-risk crops.

Quotation:

Are GMOs safe? A growing body of evidence connects GMOs with health problems, environmental damage, and violation of farmers’ and consumers’ rights. More than 60 countries around the world – including Australia, Japan, and all of the countries in the European Union – require GMOs to be labeled. Globally, there are also 300 regions with outright bans on growing GMOs.

In the absence of credible independent long-term feeding studies, the safety of GMOs is unknown. Increasingly, citizens are taking matters into their own hands and choosing to opt out of the GMO experiment.

Are GMOs labeled? Sixty-four countries around the world, including Australia, Japan, and all of the countries in the European Union, require genetically modified foods to be labeled. 1 While a 2015 ABC News survey found that 93% of Americans believe genetically modified foods should be labeled, GMOs are not required to be labeled in the U.S. and Canada. 2 In the absence of mandatory labeling, the Non-GMO Project was created to give consumers the informed choice they deserve.

Which foods might contain GMOs? Most packaged foods contain ingredients derived from corn, soy, canola, and sugar beet — and the vast majority of those crops grown in North America are genetically modified. 3

Animal products: The Non-GMO Project also considers livestock, apiculture, and aquaculture products at high risk because genetically engineered ingredients are common in animal feed. This impacts animal products such as: eggs, milk, meat, honey, and seafood.

Processed inputs, including those from synthetic biology: GMOs also sneak into food in the form of processed crop derivatives and inputs derived from other forms of genetic engineering, such as synthetic biology. Some examples include: hydrolyzed vegetable protein corn syrup, molasses, sucrose, textured vegetable protein, flavorings, vitamins yeast products, microbes & enzymes, flavors, oils & fats, proteins, and sweeteners.

How do GMOs affect farmers? Because GMOs are novel life forms, biotechnology companies have been able to obtain patents to control the use and distribution of their genetically engineered seeds. As a result, the companies that make GMOs now have the power to sue farmers whose fields have been contaminated with GMOs, even when it is the result of the drift of pollen from neighboring fields.4 Genetically modified crops therefore pose a serious threat to farmer sovereignty and to the national food security of any country where they are grown.

What are the impacts of GMOs on the environment? More than 80% of all genetically modified crops grown worldwide have been engineered for herbicide tolerance.5 As a result, the use of toxic herbicides, such as Roundup®, has increased fifteen-fold since GMOs were first introduced.6 In March 2015, the World Health Organization determined that the herbicide glyphosate (the key ingredient in Roundup®) is “probably carcinogenic to humans.”

Genetically modified crops also are responsible for the emergence of “super weeds” and “superbugs,” which can only be killed with ever more toxic poisons such as 2,4-D (a major ingredient in Agent Orange).7,8

Most GMOs are a direct extension of chemical agriculture and are developed and sold by the world’s largest chemical companies. The long-term impacts of these GMOs are unknown. Once released into the environment, these novel organisms cannot be recalled.

https://www.nongmoproject.org/gmo-facts/

End Quotation

______________________________________________________________________________

  • “Center for Food Safety | Issues | GE Food Labeling | International Labeling Laws.” Center for Food Safety. N.p., n.d. Web.
  • Langer, Gary. “Poll: Skepticism of Genetically Modified Foods.” ABC News. ABC News Network, 19 June 2015. Web.
  • Fernandez-Cornejo, Jorge, and Seth James Wechsler. “USDA ERS – Adoption of Genetically Engineered Crops in the U.S.: Recent Trends in GE Adoption.” USDA ERS – Adoption of Genetically Engineered Crops in the U.S.: Recent Trends in GE Adoption. United States Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service, 09 July 2015. Web.
  • Leader, Jessica. “Monsanto Wins Lawsuit Filed By U.S. Organic Farmers Worried About Seed Contamination.” The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, 10 June 2013. Web.
  • Duke, S.O., & Powles, S.B. (2009). “Glyphosate-resistant crops and weeds: Now and in the future.” AgBioForum, 12(3&4), 346-357.
  • Kustin, Mary Ellen. “Glyphosate Is Spreading Like a Cancer Across the U.S.” EWG. Environmental Working Group, 07 Apr. 2015. Web.
  • Mortensen DA, Egan JF, Maxwell BD, Ryan MR, Smith RG. “Navigating a critical juncture for sustainable weed management.” BioScience. 2012;62(1):75-84.
  • “Newsroom.” Agent Orange: Background on Monsanto’s Involvement.p., n.d. Web.

References

Biosafety – what are GMOs? (n.d.). Health and Safety Executive. Retrieved from   http://www.hse.gov.uk/biosafety/gmo/whatare.htm.

Center for Food Safety. (2016). GMO facts. The Non-GMO Project. Retrieved from         https://www.nongmoproject.org/gmo-facts/.

Council for Biotechnology Information. (2018). GMOs and the environment. GMO Answers.       Retrieved from https://www.gmoanswers.com/gmos-environment.

Shireen. (2012). GMO timeline: A history of genetically modified foods. GMOawareness.           Retrieved from http://www.gmoinside.org/gmo-timeline-a-history-genetically-modified-foods/.

 

Appendix A

Demographic Results

 

Appendix B

Survey Results

Appendix C

Survey Graphs

 

Appendix D

 

Appendix E

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