GMO’s: Regulation in the USA

23 Jul

When I hear GMO, I think Monsanto- corn, soy, and canola are the largest GMO crops.  Genetically-modified organisms are organisms (here we’re talking about seeds) which have been altered to have specific characteristics.  I thought for a long time, what’s the upset over GMOs?  They are made to be hardier plants (sometimes drought-resistant) and produce higher yields (or just have less crop loss). Sounds good to me!

Risks of GMO’s

The major form of GMO’s is ‘herbicide tolerant’  like ‘Round-Up ready’ which means they can be treated with a specific variety of chemicals without killing the plant.  Some test results of the health consequences of these alterations on humans (examples here and here//August ’12 update:  Website I came across: Check out the ‘GMO Health Dangers’ segment about halfway down the page.) are apparently not enough to convince the people who are supposed to be regulating food industries to take action.  Weirdly, tests have shown that cows, pigs, and other animals show preference for non-GMO crops when given the choice.  Concerns include:

 -the huge amount of pesticides and insecticides GMO crops are able to withstand end up in our grocery stores

-these strains may affect entire ecosystems–after all, you can’t control every seed that blows in the wind and where it lands, how quickly it reproduces, or what eats it. Check out this case of GMO wheat gone rogue

-engingeering and mass distributing specific strains perpetuates a decrease in biodiversity making food supply vulnerable to failures, disease

-harsh effects on ecosystems  (watch Vanishing of the Bees..really eye-opening)

-supposed increase in yields only benefits large industrial farms because the costs of patents, licenses, buying new seeds and specific fertilizers, are so high


GMO’s are a large-scale and highly risky case of commodification.  Monsanto and similar organizations have toyed with natural forms of life and patented this life.  Monsanto has sued and bankrupt many small and medium sized farmers by claiming that the farmers are infringing on Monsanto’s patent when seeds have made their way onto these farmers lands. Those sued are often organic farmers who are intentionally not using Monstanto’s seed but instead have been contaminated by them.  Fortunately, the tables are slowly being turned and Monsanto might not only be stopped in its tracks but also be made responsible for the strains that it has introduced into nature and been unable to control.

Environment June ’13 update

My feelings towards GMO’s have evolved into a concern for the environment: Growing GMO’s has not decreased the amount of industrial chemicals used, in fact it has increased them because the plants can tolerate them, and in some causes this increased use has created chemical tolerant plants and weed, requiring even MORE chemicals. ugh.


GMO food products are poorly regulated in the US and there are major efforts by corporations to not only not require GMO labelling but to make it illegal to label a product ‘non-gmo’.  We in the United States are way behind the eight-ball on this.  The EU had a ban on GMO’s beginning with France in 1998.  The EU’s approach to food safety is pro-active and cautious whereas the US is reactive and, er, headstrong.  Sort of the ‘innocent until really definitely proven guilty, and enough people put up enough of a fuss’ approach.  But even in the EU, up against a giant like Monsanto bans are difficult to uphold. The international regulation of GMO’s was even an issue in the wikileaks papers, demonstrating its political and complex nature.

“Yuck, Vanessa, how can I avoid these crops?!”  Well reader, I’m glad you asked.  I like this page that gives some really simple and easy-to-remember tips on staying away from GMO’s.  And if you’re interested in learning more about this stuff look at books and documentaries I’ve been into lately.

As always, thanks for reading!

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6 Responses to “GMO’s: Regulation in the USA”

  1. Neil July 26, 2012 at 8:13 PM #

    our very own Oakhurst was sued years ago for putting GMO Free on their label.

    • Vanessa Bissell July 27, 2012 at 1:28 PM #

      I know! I was surprised when I read that, I don’t remember hearing about it. I mention it in a post I’m working on on rBGH and dairy

  2. Ian July 26, 2012 at 8:46 PM #

    It seems to me that this isn’t a problem with genetic engineering, but with the companies taking advantage of the scientific tool. Genetic manipulations can be a powerful tool to improve quality of life, increase crop yield (not just through peticides) and support more food on less farm land (less land destroyed, yay). I agree with everything you are saying, but I think its not a problem with genetic manipulation but using a powerful tool improperly. A blanket dismissal of GMOs might be a mistake…

    • Vanessa Bissell July 27, 2012 at 1:38 PM #

      Agreed, there are a lot of policy issues that go along with the use of GMOs. GMOs themselves may or may not not be harmful to humans but there are indirect consequences which make me think we would be better off without them. It’s worth exploring why GM products have been banned from an entire continent, like the amount of chemical pesticides that they are able to tolerate and the fertilizers that they require, both of which end up in the food we eat. I think it’s important to do that extra research considering we have government bodies that have interests beyond what is actually best for the American consumer.

  3. Ian July 26, 2012 at 9:21 PM #

    The genes inserted into crops (delta endotoxins, sounds scary) to make them insect resistant is just a protein (not a chemical) that affects insect guts. It has no effect on humans because they lack the receptors that the endotoxins act on. In this case the GMO would be just as nutritious, and actually have a little extra protein to it. There are obviously other considerations, but in this example there is no health risk to humans.


  1. Regulation in the USA: rBGH and Dairy | You Need Food! - August 16, 2012

    [...] is another heavy topic, like the GMO post from a few weeks [...]

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