As a Justmeans staff writer for the Sustainable Foods editorial department, I explore the disparity between consumerism and independence through the topic of sustainability. As a self-described 'urban homesteader' I look to find the balance between a sustainable lifestyle and use of corporate convenience. I don't necessarily want to live without electricity, but I want to be comfortable if eve...
GMOs & The FDA
While browsing the Food and Drug Administration's website, I noticed a whole section on genetically engineered animals. It's a good discussion to have, as biotech industries are pushing more and more for "products" that are genetically modified. (Note that I am using Genetically Modified Organisms and Genetically Engineered animals/ food/ bacteria, as genetic engineering is the process and the modified organism is the result.)
First the FDA briefly explains genetic engineering:
Genetic engineering has been widely used in agriculture to make crops resistant to certain pests or herbicides, in medicine to develop microbes that can produce pharmaceuticals for human or animal use, and in food to produce microorganisms that aid in baking, brewing, and cheese-making.
There are different kinds of GMO animals for different kinds of uses. Some are for drug research, some are for study and some are for food. GMO animals for food are different than cloned animals, as cloned animals are simply genetic reproductions of the original animal. A GMO animal has a *new* characteristic or trait that is desired for a particular reason, like:
Animals have been engineered to provide healthier meat, such as pigs that contain healthy omega-3 fatty acids at levels comparable to those in fish.
There is some discussion about how the animals will be supervised depending on whether it is made for marketable food or for the bio-pharmaceutical industry. The FDA says they will not cross market GMO animals that are created for drugs with GMO animals that are created for food, and that as of today, no GMO animals have been approved for the table.
FDA has so far not approved or authorized any GE animals for use in food. However, we are reviewing applications requesting approval of GE animals intended for food use. We can not predict when we will complete those reviews, but we will not approve any GE animal for food use unless we find that the food from those GE animals is safe. It would be illegal to introduce food from an unapproved GE animal into the food supply without FDA permission. We work closely with GE animal producers to make sure that they keep good records of their animals and that none enter the food supply without FDA approval.
We still don't know what the effects of GM Corn or GM Soy are going to do to our bodies; and it's not surprising to see the idea of making "better bacon" a list item on a corporate board meeting's agenda. And all of it would be fine, I guess, if it were labeled so the consumer had a choice in the matter:
FDA does not require that food from GE animals be labeled to indicate that it comes from GE animals, just as it does not require that food from GE plants be labeled to indicate that it comes from GE plants.
This makes it all the more important to know from where your food comes. Talk with local farmers if you have the opportunity; if you live in an area where you can't reach a farmer, then question the supermarket managers and executives until you know where your food is coming from and how it is grown or raised. As agriculture and pharmaceuticals form a menage-a-trois with the biotech industry, it's up to each of us to take responsibility for our own bodies, ask questions and demand answers.
Photo credit: Public Domain