Rickinreallife's picture
The term GMO to refer to food derived from plants whose genetic endowment, in part, includes traits inserted or deleted through biotech techniques is both highly predjudicial and hardly accurate. Even if genetic engineering had not been invented, virtually every bite of food we eat, comes from a source that is a genetically modified version of some plant or animal ancestor. Is there a more precise term to refer to foods derived from source plants or organisms whose genetic information has been altered in part by modern genetic engineering techniques since these are only a small subset of all genetically modified organisms? Would you be more open to some form of ingredient labeling if the requirement was not to place a designation such as "may contain GMO's" that implies inaccurate inference of safety or nutritional composition of the food product, but perhaps something like "may contain food ingredients derived from organisms improved through [more accurate term to substitute for GMOs]." Or perhaps, "may contain ingredients derived from organisms developed in whole or in part through regulated breeding methods."

A:Expert Answer

You make very valid points in your question. The goal of food labeling, and this site, should be to provide information that helps consumers make their own determination about a topic that is important to them and their food choices. We believe any label—whether it references biotechnology, GMOs or another term—should be helpful, not confusing, for consumers.


We’re continuing to have conversations across the value chain and with a variety of stakeholders to figure out how we can best meet the growing desire for information about how food is raised, and—as you point out—share it in a way that is scientifically accurate and meaningful. Unfortunately, most GMO-labeling proposals to date would result in a patchwork of confusing state-based rules and increased costs for consumers. Another complicating factor is the nearly infinite amount of information about our food that theoretically could go on a label, and yet the amount of space on food labels is finite and traditionally has been reserved for safety and health information vs. marketing claims.


In the meantime, companies like ours are participating in and funding this site to answer the questions consumers have about GMOs: questions about GMO safety, the potential impacts to the environment (including beneficial), perceived corporate control of agriculture or how we make biotech crops and why. These are questions that a label cannot answer.


Joseph Najjar's picture

First of all, GMO( genetically modified organism) is an actual living thing. For example, the corn plant itself is a GMO, the seed that you harvest from that plant is GM seed. We can use molecular markers to locate genes of interest and screen large numbers of individuals for a particular set of genes, cutting down the total amount of material we have to deal with. As you said, genetic modification has been happening since humans first started gathering seeds and replanting them. They replanted seed from the best plants, so they were always selecting for what they found most favorable in the plants. If you can find them, look at what corn, carrots, wheat, and a bunch of other crops looked like 10,000 years ago, and what they look like now. Much more recently, we have been genetically manipulating these plants more directly, and those are the plants that should really be labeled "genetically modified". Within that category, there are also different groups. Transgenic organisms have genes from a different species within them. For example, the Bt gene in corn or soybean. GM crops also include plants that only have genes from within their species though. If we discover a soybean plant in China, with resistance genes that we dont have in our gene pools here, we can move that gene from a "wild-type" relative into a commercial variety, that has been optimized for the farmer's field. Being able to move the gene directly, as opposed to traditional back-crossing methods, saves years of breeding and lots of money. Your ideas on labeling are on the right track, but you have to remember most Americans may not see any differences between those statements. If the general public isnt educated on the matter, it doesnt really matter what the labels say....thats why I'm glad this site is here

Joseph Najjar's picture

http://www.thefurtrapper.com/mesoamerica.htm ---- scroll down a bit to see the picture of old maize versus new maize, and that is just over a few thousand years. This is just one example of the changes seen over that time period