The GMO Agenda

By Ariel T. Rodriguez15

Genetically modified organism, commonly known as GMO, was the topic of discussion at a recent lecture “The GMO Agenda” held at the Las Vegas-Clark County West Charleston Library, near campus, Sept. 9.

Former College of Southern Nevada student Nicole Sligar, founder of GMO Free Nevada, presented information on GMOs and its presence in our food supply.

“The term genetically modified organism, GMO, refers to plants and animals with DNA that have been modified in laboratory by forcible inserting bacteria, viruses, chemicals or radiation,” wrote Sligar, on a flier she passed out at the event. “This experimental technology results in modified plants and animals that do not occur in nature. Approximately 80 percent of grocery-store food contains GMOs.”

Genetically modified foods, also GMOs, are approximately 90 percent of the corn, cotton and soybeans fields planted in the United States in 2014 to 2015, according to Encyclopaedia Britannica.

“While GMOs offer many potential benefits to society, the potential risks associated with them have fueled controversy especially in the food industry,” according to the Encyclopaedia. “Many skeptics warn about the dangers that GM crops may pose to human health. For example, genetic manipulation may potentially alter the allergenic properties of crops. Whether some GM crops, such as golden rice, deliver on the promise of improved health benefits is also unclear.”

An example of a GMO food product that many of us consume is high-fructose corn syrup. We find this is soda and candy, among many other common foods.

“High fructose corn syrup is corn syrup that has been modified to be two times as sweet as regular corn syrup,” said Chef Jill Mora, a culinary arts professor at CSN. “What that means is, instead of a recipe requiring one cup of corn syrup, I only need half a cup of high fructose corn syrup.”

Mora said there are many reasons why foods are genetically modified. Some of the benefits include desired nutrients, insect resistance, drought tolerance, shape, texture and even flavor.

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Instructor Amy Ziemba, a science instructor at CSN, said there is a lot of good in GMOs. She explained that in Asian populations where they predominantly eat rice—rice lacks a lot of important micronutrients and vitamins—scientist can modify that rice so it expresses those necessary nutrients desired for the population.

Although there are benefits, there are issues as well.

“There will be some populations of genetic modified organisms that might have some unintended modifications that create allergies, like we see today, and create intestinal issues,” Ziemba said. “Not all GMOs are going to create that but who is really regulating the new GMOs that come out to make sure they are not.”

According to the Food and Drug Administration’s guidance for industry voluntary labeling, the FDA does not establish labeling requirements for bioengineered foods as a class of foods. In other words, food-processing companies do not have to label GMO ingredients on their products.

Sligar stated in the lecture that since GMOs were introduced in the food supply, Americans have experienced higher levels of chronic illnesses, allergies, cancer, diabetes, obesity, digestive disorders, autism and other diseases.

For people who are concerned about their health and nutrition, it is best to eat organic because the genes have not been altered, Mora said.

Sligar suggests shopping local organic farmer markets where there is a higher likelihood of natural products. She also would like the public to contact their governmental leaders to change labeling laws.

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