Shopping Guide Helps Consumers Dodge Genetically-Engineered Foods
On Wednesday, the Environmental Working Group released a green shopping guide for consumers who want to quickly find supermarket foods that have not been genetically engineered (GE).
Whether they're certified organic or GE-Free, the Shopper’s Guide to Avoiding GE Food also aims to help shoppers decide which foods are most important to buy, according to an Environmental Working Group press release.
“Avoiding GE foods isn’t easy because consumers are denied the right to know if foods in the grocery aisles have been genetically engineered or contain GE ingredients,” said Renee Sharp, Environmental Working Group’s director of research, in a prepared statement. “It is our hope that EWG’s new guide will provide shoppers with the information they need to make more informed decisions when shopping for themselves or their families.”
Also, to help promote the anti-GE initiative, Environmental Working Group representative Scott Faber appeared on the Dr. Oz Show last week to discuss the alarming prevalence of such foods.
About 70 percent of food in supermarkets is genetically engineered or contains GE ingredients, according to some estimates.
The Environmental Working Group guide highlights the four most common GE foods and ingredients—soybeans, sugar, vegetable oils and varieties of field corn.
Ninety-three percent of soybeans and 90 percent of corn grown in the U.S. are genetically engineered, and sugar beets (95 percent of which are genetically engineered) account for 55 percent of U.S.-grown sugar. Soybean oil, canola oil, cottonseed oil and corn oil made in the U.S. come from crops that are almost entirely genetically engineered.
The guide includes a watch list of foods that may be genetically engineered—papaya, zucchini and yellow summer squash, and sweet corn. It also lists many other GE foods that could be coming soon to grocery aisles, including salmon, plums, potatoes, rice, and tomatoes.
Scientists have not determined whether GE foods pose health risks. However, Environmental Working Group scientists and researchers believe consumers have many good reasons to avoid eating GE ingredients. Among them:
- Few long-term studies have been done to determine if GE foods are safe. The federal government does not require GE foods to be tested for carcinogenicity, for harm to fetuses or for long-term risks to humans or animals.
- Genetically modified crops have spurred the rise of “superweeds”—pest plants that have mutated to resist herbicides. Attempting to eradicate these hardy plants, some farmers are using more pesticides and, in some cases older and more toxic pesticides, like dicamba and 2,4-D. Both pesticides are known to cause reproductive problems, birth defects and pose increased risks of cancer.
- Unintended GE contamination has become a major issue for organic farmers who struggle to prevent cross-contamination of their crops by GE seed or pollen spread by wind, insects, flood and machinery.
At first glance, you wouldn't think avocados and almonds could harm bees; but a closer look at how these popular crops are produced reveals their potentially detrimental effect on pollinators.
Migratory beekeeping involves trucking millions of bees across the U.S. to pollinate different crops, including avocados and almonds. Timothy Paule II / Pexels / CC0<p>According to <a href="https://www.fromthegrapevine.com/israeli-kitchen/beekeeping-how-to-keep-bees" target="_blank">From the Grapevine</a>, American avocados also fully depend on bees' pollination to produce fruit, so farmers have turned to migratory beekeeping as well to fill the void left by wild populations.</p><p>U.S. farmers have become reliant upon the practice, but migratory beekeeping has been called exploitative and harmful to bees. <a href="https://www.cnn.com/2019/05/10/health/avocado-almond-vegan-partner/index.html" target="_blank">CNN</a> reported that commercial beekeeping may injure or kill bees and that transporting them to pollinate crops appears to negatively affect their health and lifespan. Because the honeybees are forced to gather pollen and nectar from a single, monoculture crop — the one they've been brought in to pollinate — they are deprived of their normal diet, which is more diverse and nourishing as it's comprised of a variety of pollens and nectars, Scientific American reported.</p><p>Scientific American added how getting shuttled from crop to crop and field to field across the country boomerangs the bees between feast and famine, especially once the blooms they were brought in to fertilize end.</p><p>Plus, the artificial mass influx of bees guarantees spreading viruses, mites and fungi between the insects as they collide in midair and crawl over each other in their hives, Scientific American reported. According to CNN, some researchers argue that this explains why so many bees die each winter, and even why entire hives suddenly die off in a phenomenon called colony collapse disorder.</p>
Avocado and almond crops depend on bees for proper pollination. FRANK MERIÑO / Pexels / CC0<p>Salazar and other Columbian beekeepers described "scooping up piles of dead bees" year after year since the avocado and citrus booms began, according to Phys.org. Many have opted to salvage what partial colonies survive and move away from agricultural areas.</p><p>The future of pollinators and the crops they help create is uncertain. According to the United Nations, nearly half of insect pollinators, particularly bees and butterflies, risk global extinction, Phys.org reported. Their decline already has cascading consequences for the economy and beyond. Roughly 1.4 billion jobs and three-quarters of all crops around the world depend on bees and other pollinators for free fertilization services worth billions of dollars, Phys.org noted. Losing wild and native bees could <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/wild-bees-crop-shortage-2646849232.html" target="_self">trigger food security issues</a>.</p><p>Salazar, the beekeeper, warned Phys.org, "The bee is a bioindicator. If bees are dying, what other insects beneficial to the environment... are dying?"</p>
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