Connecticut is the first state in the nation to require foods containing genetically modified organisms (or GMOs) be labelled. Governor Dannel Malloy signed Public Act 13-183 into law on December 11, and said he was “proud that leaders from each of the legislative caucuses can come together to make our state the first in the nation to require the labeling of GMOs.”
“The end result is a law that shows our commitment to consumers’ right to know while catalyzing other states to take similar action,” Malloy said. Other states taking action is an important aspect of the law, two provisions keep the law from taking effect. One is that four other states need to adopt like-legislation. Additionally, a combination of Northeastern states needs to pass a GMO labeling law. The number of states does not matter so long as the population totals exceed 20 million. The law was passed in the hope that it will compel other states into action. Labeling laws exist in more than 60 countries, and are meant to bring greater transparency to what is being consumed.
When DNA from one species is extracted and injected into another — in order to produce a cheaper product, or add nutritional value — the product has been genetically modified, making it a GMO. It is a practice that is highly controversial–praised, and derided. Even though the foods go through FDA testing, people are concerned about the safety of the practice, and whether or not it is ethical. As a result, many favor a label placed on foods to let them know what they are purchasing. Here are 5 prevalent, contentious GMOs.
Recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH), and recombinant bovine somatotropin (or, rBST) are genetically modified versions of hormones cows produce naturally. Cows are injected with rBGH and rBST by farmers who want to increase milk production. Each has been shown to cause a higher prevalence of mastitis in cows. Not only is the condition painful for the cow, but it requires antibiotic treatment. In 2010, an appellate court in Ohio ruled that when milk is free of these hormones, it “is safer or of higher quality than milk from treated cows.”
Soy is prevalent in the majority of processed foods (approximately 60 percent), and is the percentage of GM soybean crops in the U.S. is even higher. It is estimated that 91 percent of soy grown in the U.S. is genetically modified. In 2001, GM soybeans accounted for approximately 68 percent of crops.
In 2005, the Russian National Association for Genetic Security studied the effects of GM soy versus regular soy on rats and their offspring. Compared to the offspring of rats who consumed regular soy, the mortality rate was four to six times higher for the offspring of rats who had consumed GMOs. When the rats did survive, they had a lower weight compared to the others.
Bt-corn is a variety of corn that does not need to be sprayed with pesticides. Instead, the crop has been engineered to carry a gene that kills insects that try to eat it. The prevalence of GM corn is similar to soy, and it is estimated that farmers in every state produce GM corn. The Austrian government has released a studied that shows mice who had a diet with genetically modified corn were more likely to have fewer babies, or give birth to smaller babies.
A team at Baylor University researched rats raised on corncob bedding. It found that “ground corncob bedding impedes male and female mating behavior and causes acyclicity in females.” The agents that caused the infertility, and altered behavior in rats is also found in fresh corn kernels, and the research concluded that, “Mitogens in corn products may influence human health and development.”
Environmental advocacy group, Ocean Conservancy, sees danger for the world fish population if genetically modified salmon become prevalent. Health benefits are added to salmon, something consumers may desire, but genetically modified salmon are a detriment to the wild salmon population. AquAdvantage is a group that makes genetically modified salmon in fish farms. The salmon grow at twice the rate as regularly fish, and AquAdvantage believes it can be used to meet global fish demand.
Ocean Conservancy, however, wonders what this fish could do to the natural fish population. The group cited research published by the National Academy of Sciences, which ”found that the release of just 60 genetically engineered fish into a wild population of 60,000 could lead to the extinction of the wild population in less than 40 generations.” The fish can escape from the farms and eggs can be released into the ocean when farms re-circulate water. Once in the wild, the two breeds would be in competition with each other.
5. Sugar Beets
Genetically modified sugar beets first appeared in America in 2005. Today, they are 95 percent of all sugar beet crops. Sugar beets are the basis 50 to 60 percent of sugar in the U.S. Monsanto has created a strain that is highly herbicide resistant with no damage after spraying to crops. Monsanto’s version comprises all GM crops.
In 2010, a judge ordered an injunction against GM sugar beets because a proper Environmental Impact Statement had not been conducted. This was overturned because not harvesting the sugar beets would detrimentally effect U.S. sugar production. When the USDA did complete the statement, it permanently deregulated GM sugar beets.
Page Tomaselli, senior staff attorney at the Center for Food Safety says that this action, along with the Monsanto Protection Act, creates “a situation where we would not be able to challenge these permits under the National Environmental Policy Act or the Endangered Species Act or any other environmental law that these permits might be violating.”