FAQ

GMO Inside is dedicated to building a more sustainable food system by getting as many companies as possible to transition away from GMOs and toxic pesticides. You might be wondering “how we do it” or “why it is important.” Check out our Frequently Asked Questions to learn more about GMO Inside and GMOs. Don’t see your question answered below? Contact us at [email protected].

 

 

What is GMO Inside?

GMO Inside is a campaign of Green America, a national, 501(c)(3) not-for-profit, membership organization dedicated to harnessing economic power—the strength of consumers, investors, businesses, and the marketplace—to create a socially just and environmentally sustainable society. In particular, GMO Inside is committed to shifting the food supply away from GMOs and toxic chemicals and towards a more sustainable food future. The campaign works to educate consumers around the environmental and health impacts of industrial agriculture and encourage consumers to use their voice to push companies towards better practices. This is our theory of change. Read more>>

 

Green America is a member based organization and receives the majority of its funding from individual members. Funding also comes from major donors and foundations. GMO Inside receives funding through Green America’s general programmatic fund as well as through corporate donors and sponsors. We receive funding from mission-based companies that are dedicated to building a more sustainable food system and educating consumers about the impacts of GMOs and industrial agriculture. Our current supporters are Nutiva, Kamut, and Crofters.

What is genetic engineering? What is a GMO?

Genetic engineering, or genetic modification, is the process of manipulating an organism’s DNA to display specific traits. Gene splicing introduces new genetic material into an organism’s DNA, resulting in a genetically modified organism (GMO). More recently developed methodologies of genetic engineering include gene-editing. This technology allows scientists to target specific traits and either remove or rearrange them.

 

Genetic engineering merges DNA from different species, creating combinations of plant, animal, bacterial, and viral genes that cannot occur in nature or via conventional breeding. GMOs are engineered for various purposes, ranging from agricultural production to scientific research. The most common and wide spread use of genetic engineering is for the development of herbicide-tolerant crops. These crops are developed so entire fields can be sprayed with pesticides killing all the weeds and leaving the crops alive. This makes the crops immune to toxic pesticides, such as glyphosate, dicamba, 2,4-D, and glufisonate, leading to an increase in overall pesticide use.

What are the most common types of genetically engineered (GE) crops?

The two most common types of genetically engineered crops on the market are Bt crops and herbicide-tolerant (or herbicide-resistant) crops.

 

Bt, or bacillus thuringiensis, is a type of soil-dwelling bacteria that produces a protein toxic to many insects. Bt crops are engineered to produce the Bt toxin within the plant itself, acting as a built-in insecticide. Bt toxin kills crop pests by dissolving the insect’s gut lining.
Herbicide-tolerant crops are engineered to be resistant to one or more pesticides. The most common type are Roundup Ready crops that are a product of Monsanto and resistant to glypohsate, a commonly used weed-killer. Other varieties of herbicide tolerant crops are resistant to 2,4-D, dicamba, and glufisonate or a combination of any one of these.

 

More and more foods are being genetically engineered or contain genetically engineered ingredients. Here is a list of the most common and commercially available GE crops to look out for. If a product contains these ingredients and is not labeled as USDA-certified organic or Non-GMO Project Verified, it is likely genetically engineered:

    • Corn
    • Soy
    • Alfalfa
    • Canola
    • Cotton
    • Papaya
    • Sugar Beets
    • Zucchini and Yellow Summer Squash
    • Other less common GE foods: potato, apple, and Salmon
    • Additives: Amino Acids, Aspartame, Ascorbic Acid, Citric Acid, Dextrose, Ethanol, Flavorings (“natural” and “artificial”), High-Fructose Corn Syrup, Hydrolyzed Vegetable Protein, Lactic Acid, Maltodextrins, Molasses, Monosodium Glutamate, Sodium Ascorbate, Sodium Citrate, Sucrose, Textured Vegetable Protein (TVP), Xanthan Gum, Vitamins, Vitamin C, Vitamin E, Yeast Products. Read more »
    • Note: Dairy, meat, and other animal products are at high risk of being sourced from livestock raised on genetically modified feed. The majority of animal feed is made up of genetically modified soy, corn, alfalfa, and cottonseed. Read more »

 

  • Learn more about USDA Organic and Non-GMO Project verified here>>

 

How is genetic engineering different from hybridization?

Genetic engineering is not the same as hybridization. Genetic engineering utilizes gene-splicing technology to engineer a combination of genes, often from different species, that cannot occur naturally. Genetic engineering can only happen in a laboratory.

Hybridization occurs when two separate organisms crossbred to create offspring displaying a combination of traits from the parent organisms. Hybridization can occur randomly through cross-pollination, or deliberately with the guidance of farmers and gardeners. A pluot, for example, is a hybrid grown from a plum and an apricot.

Why the concern about GMOs?

  • Environmental impact:  Increased herbicide and pesticide resistance is creating superweeds and superbugs, requiring heavier applications of these chemicals. Greater herbicide and pesticide use on GMO crops pollutes soil and water resources. Pesticides are responsible for the degradation of soil health by decreasing the overall biodiversity of soil. This impedes plant growth and health and hinders the soils ability to sequester carbon. GMO crops are also accelerating the drive toward mono-crop agriculture, which diminishes genetic diversity and threatens food security in the event of widespread crop disease, as seen with oranges and bananas.
  • Corporate control:  Three companies–Monsanto, Dow/DuPont, and Syngenta–control over 53% of the global seed market. As the market continues to consolidate, biotech companies exercise strict patent laws, suing farmers for patent infringement if their fields are contaminated with genetically engineered seed. Biotechnology corporations, Big Ag, and processed food companies also spend millions of dollars on anti-GMO labeling campaigns to keep consumers in the dark about the food we eat.
  • Health risks:  GMOs are not yet proven safe for human consumption. Many studies claiming GE-foods are safe are industry-funded and only last for 90 days. In order to prove that GMO foods are safe, more independent, long-term testing is necessary. There are clear health risks caused by the pesticides used in connection with herbicide-resistant crops. In 2015, the World Health Organization deemed 2,4-D and glypohsate as probable carcinogens.

How do I know if a food is genetically modified or not? What does it mean if a product is “natural”?

Over 60 countries around the world mandate labeling of genetically modified foods, including nations in the European Union, Russia, Australia, and China.

The US does not require labeling of genetically modified foods; however, many states have introduced labeling legislation and ballot initiatives. Vermont’s labeling law goes into effect this summer. Federal efforts are underway to establish a policy for national mandatory GMO labeling. Currently, the only way to differentiate between GMO and non-GMO foods is  1) USDA organic certification, which does not allow use of genetically modified ingredients; and/or  2) Non-GMO Project verification, an independent non-GMO verification process, or 3) NSF non-GMO True North standard, a recently developed non-GMO verification standard.

In the US, the word “natural” has no regulated definition. Most companies use the term “natural” as a marketing strategy. There is no regulation prohibiting the use of GMOs in products labeled natural. Recently, efforts have been made to establish a strong legal definition that precludes GMOs from being recognized as natural.

“From a food science perspective, it is difficult to define a food product that is ‘natural’ because the food has probably been processed and is no longer the product of the earth. That said, FDA has not developed a definition for use of the term natural or its derivatives.”– FDA

How can we avoid GMOs?

  • Buy organic: USDA-certified organic products cannot intentionally contain GMOs.
  • Look for the Non-GMO project label: The Non-GMO Project label provides consumers with independent, 3rd party assurance that a product contains no GMOs. The Project tests high-risk ingredients in the products that bear its label, to ensure that they contain less than 0.9 percent GMOs (allowing for low levels of unintentional contamination).
  • Be wary of unverified non-GMO claims: A company may legally label its products as being GMO-free or non-GMO without having to perform testing or prove to a third-party that is the case.
  • Avoid high-risk ingredients: Non-organic corn, soy, cotton, sugar beets, and alfalfa ingredients as well as non-organic meat and dairy products.
  • Avoid non-organic processed foods: The list of hidden GE ingredients in processed foods is long, ranging from ascorbic acid to xanthan gum. Get a full list of ingredients to avoid in the Non-GMO Shopping Guide.