editor forwarded this voicemail to me: "Good morning.
This is Mrs. Mary Margaret Graham ... like the crackers …
from Carmel. I’d like you to do an article on genetically
altered foods. I was at a ladies club this past week and all
we could talk about was food and how it affects us. We are
starting to suffer from overpopulation and if we don’t have
food we’re out of luck! So we’d like to get an article on
this genetically altered food. Thank you very much for your
efforts on behalf of some of us older ladies, so we know what’s
good for us and what we should avoid."
as you bring up the concerns of all of us who eat for a
living, including farmers and food producers. And timely, too,
as I just attended an update on this very topic sponsored by
the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND) — the world’s
largest organization of nutrition professionals — in
collaboration with the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT)
— food scientists from more than 90 countries whose goal
(according to their website) is to provide "every person
on the planet with a safe, nutritious and sustainable food
genetically modified organism (GMO) is any living thing that
has had its genetic material altered in a way that does not
occur naturally. Genetic engineering (GE) is the term for the
technology scientists use to transfer individual genes from
one living thing to the other.
flag? Consider what genes are and what they do. Genes
determine individual characteristics of living things —
yours or mine or those of a turnip. Genes are not the
characteristics themselves, however. They are the instructions
that cells follow to make proteins that control our genetic
destiny. Think of your genetic code (or that of a turnip) as a
recipe book. Cells follow these recipes to make proteins that
determine our unique attributes.
are what make an orange different from spinach, for example.
But what if an orange tree was being attacked by a bug that
spread a bacteria that killed the tree and its fruit? And what
if farmers were not able to eradicate this bug, even with
pesticides and other strategies? And what if researchers
discovered in the genetic code book for spinach a recipe
(gene) for a protein that renders spinach immune to the a
bacteria that is now destroying orange trees?
exactly what is happening in Florida where a reported 80
percent of that state’s citrus trees are being destroyed by
a bacteria that causes a condition called "citrus
greening." Plant pathologist Erik Mirkov from Texas
A&M University discovered that spinach contains a protein
that resists this bacteria. And when he inserted this
particular recipe into orange plants, he was able to grow
orange trees that produced proteins that protected orange
trees from this bad bug.
you drink orange juice from a tree that was "genetically
modified" in this way? Many orange farmers are afraid you
would not. And so the debate continues.
record, study after study has determined that genetically
altered food is exactly the same chemically and nutritionally
as non-GMO foods. That’s one reason why the US Food and Drug
Administration has not mandated labeling of foods produced
with biotechnology. Food producers can voluntarily provide
that information, however.
the issue of which foods we choose to eat (and why) remains a
personal one. Sometimes it helps to understand what we are
really talking about, however. Thanks for your question, Mary