When it comes to the food we eat, it’s time to get real.
At least, that is what Jeremy Seifert thinks. Seifert directed the film GMO OMG, released Friday, which tackles the subject of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and their impact on, in the film's words, "our children, the health of our planet, and our freedom of choice." There is no getting around it — GMOs are a big part of the America’s everyday diet. The scary thing is, most of us don’t even realize it.
It all started with a tomato. The Flavr Savr tomato was introduced to American consumers in 1994. Unfortunately for the poor Frankenstein tomato, it didn’t taste any better than the real thing, and didn’t sell well.
How big a deal are GMOs today? For starters, they are present in 85% of processed foods in America. Perhaps even more troubling is the fact that the FDA does not require labeling of genetically modified food. As such, you're probably eating GMO food products without even knowing it. The only way you can avoid eating genetically engineered food products is by purchasing items that are organic or are voluntarily labeled as being "non-GMO."
With 165 million acres of crops, the United States accounts for nearly half of the world's production of GMO crops. In comparison, Australia, Japan, and all the members of the European Union either have significant restrictions on genetically modified food, require labeling, or ban it altogether
Now you may be asking what, exactly, constitutes genetically modified food. A GMO is any organism whose genes have been mutated, added to, or deleted using genetic engineering techniques. Seifert's film is concerned with the GMOs that end up on our tables, which have typically been engineered for fast growth, pathogen resistance, extra nutritional value, or other beneficial properties.
But if GMOs are made to produce better, healthier foods, than what is the big deal? The effects of eating genetically engineered foods are largely unknown, and because of the lack of labeling in the USA, they're likely to stay that way. While there have been both industry-funded and independent peer-reviewed studies on the effects of consuming GMOs, there is no consensus as to what the health effects are.
GMOs aren’t exactly helping their own cause with consumers when it comes to satisfying taste buds or being a cost-saving option. Food writer Michael Pollan argues that genetic engineering has not created food products that are, "cheaper, tastier or nutritionally enhanced." So all of you wannabe Julia Childs out there may want to pass on GMOs.
Then there is the impact on the environment. Genetically engineered crops typically use more herbicides and pesticides, and can even contaminate other crops with their modified genes. That’s not to mention the ethical and economic implications of patenting living organisms, which corporations like DuPont and Dow Chemical do with GMOs.
Americans need to start thinking with their stomachs. Be a kid again, and become a picky eater. Demand that the Food and Drug Administration require GMO labeling. Push for more studies on the effects of genetically engineered foods on the human body. Purchase foods that are labeled organic or “non-GMO.” And go see GMO OMG.