In my last article “Activism at Work: Farewell to Pink Slime” there were a number of comments stating this as a number one reason individuals have chosen a vegan or vegetarian lifestyle. Not knowing what is in the meat products currently on our store shelves is a huge factor in changing your diet. Unfortunately  we don’t always know what is in our produce either.

Our produce has been inundated with genetically modified organisms and currently produce companies do not have to label these items any differently than standard produce.

First things first, what is a genetically modified organism? A genetically modified organism (GMO) is an organism whose genetic material has been altered using genetic engineering techniques. These techniques, generally known as recombinant DNA technology, use DNA molecules from different sources, which are combined into one molecule to create a new set of genes. This DNA is then transferred into an organism, giving it modified or novel genes. Transgenic organisms, a subset of GMOs, are organisms that have inserted DNA from a different species. GMOs are the constituents of genetically modified foods.

Why would someone want to genetically alter our food? In produce, GMO technology is patent-protected food crops that are resistant to commercial herbicides or are able to produce pesticidal proteins from within the plant. Some GMO produce are just simply resistant to commercial herbicides. They can be saturated in a herbicide and still grow. This means less bugs eating the plants. Second, GMO produce can have pesticide in its very DNA. Instead of being resistant to herbicides, the plant itself is actually a herbicide. If a bug or insect eats the plant the herbicide is engrained into its DNA deterring the insects.

The FDA has claimed that GMO food is completely safe and that there is no cause of alarm. That is why there is currently no regulation requiring the produce to be labeled. However, many individuals and studies show that these genetically modified items may not be so healthy. I personally do not want to consume produce that has pesticide and herbicides genetically coded into its DNA. In the current state unless I purchase organic produce I have no way of knowing if my produce uses GMOs or not.

This is where a little political activism could make big changes. There are a number of petitions in each state that are wanting regulations to be placed on the industry. They are not calling for banning of GMO produce, instead they are calling for labeling of the product. Just like ‘pink slime’, if enough people band together and demand change something can be done.

Even if FDA regulations are not put into place, a standard could be set. Bovine growth hormones used in milk production is a perfect example of how individuals demanding change can make big change without FDA intervention. Bovine growth hormone (rBGH) was a cause of concern for the public. They did not want to ingest milk that contained rBGH without knowing it. Therefore, a standard was set in the milk industry. Now if you pick up a jug of milk you will notice that rBGH-free milk is labeled that it does NOT contain these growth hormones. Though the government did not step in and require labeling of milk that contains rBGH, the industry saw an opening and those companies that do NOT use rBGH now label it as such. If the label does not say rBGH-free it most likely contains the growth hormones. This makes it easy for the consumer to tell what is in the milk they purchase. The same could hold true for the produce industry as well.

Have you signed a GMO labeling petition yet?