Quiz yourself about foods made from genetically modified crops
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. Some food companies have stopped using genetically modified crops as sources for their foods. But if you are like many Americans, you may think you don't know enough about the issue to know whether you agree or disagree with those who pressed for these changes. A May 2000 survey by the International Food Information Council found that only one in five Americans consider themselves informed about foods produced with genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Peter Goldsbrough, a plant scientist and expert in genetically modified crops at Purdue University, has developed nine questions to test your knowledge of genetically modified foods and agricultural biotechnology:
1. Have you eaten foods made from genetically modified crops?
2. Which foods use genetically modified organisms in their production to the largest extent?
3. What are the current benefits of having foods made from genetically modified crops?
a. They improve farm profitability and make some farmers' jobs easier.
4. Of the foods we eat, how much contains the genetic material DNA?
a. Less than 5 percent.
5. Most foods derived from genetically modified crops contain:
a. The same number of genes as food produced from conventional crops.
6. What effect does eating genetically modified foods have on your genes?
a. It could cause your own genes to mutate.
7. Are foods made from genetically modified crops required to pass human testing?
8. Are foods derived from genetically modified crops required to be tested for possible allergic reactions in people?
9. Are foods derived from genetically modified crops nutritionally superior?
a. Yes, they offer substantial health advantages over foods produced from conventional crops.
1. Answer: a. Yes. "If you live in the United States, it's almost certain that at one time or another you've eaten foods made from genetically modified crops," Goldsbrough says. A large percentage of the corn and soybeans grown in the United States comes from genetically modified plants, and the crops from these plants are made into common food ingredients such as high fructose corn syrup and vegetable oil as well as other food additives. The corn syrup is used in a number of products, including soft drinks, and the vegetable oil is used to fry foods such as fast-food french fries. According to the Grocery Manufacturers of America, this year an estimated 70 percent of the foods on grocery store shelves will have been made or manufactured using genetically modified crops.
2. Answer: a. Cheese. Before the advent of genetically modified organisms, cheese was produced using an enzyme obtained from the stomachs of calves slaughtered for veal. Now genetically modified bacteria produce that same protein. One result of this is that many cheeses are now considered Kosher.
3. Answer: a. They improve farm profitability and make some farmers' jobs easier. Right now, genetically modified crops have made life a little bit easier for the nation's farmers who use them. However, scientists and farmers believe that soon all of the answers will be true: genetically modified crops will create foods that are more nutritious, have longer shelf lives, contain fewer pesticides, and are produced with less damage to the environment.
4. Answer: e. Nearly 100 percent. All plant and animal cells contain DNA, so nearly all food contains genetic material regardless of whether the food has been genetically modified. There are a few exceptions, however. "During the processing of some food products, such as vegetable cooking oils, almost all of the DNA is removed," Goldsbrough says.
5. Answer: c. One or two additional genes. Genetically modified crops contain one or two additional genes than either conventional or hybrid crops.
6. Answer: c. It has no effect on your genes. "Genes in foods are easily digested and there is no evidence that these new genes are going to have any affect on our genes," Goldsbrough says.
7. Answer: b. No. "There are currently no regulations that require human testing of these crops," Goldsbrough says. "The producers are required by the Food and Drug Administration to say where the genes come from and to disclose nutritional properties, but that is as far as the requirements go."
8. Answer: b. No. There are no requirements to test whether genetically modified crops cause allergic reactions. "When Pioneer put genes from brazil nuts into foods and found that they did cause an allergic reaction by using skin tests, they stopped research on that product," Goldsbrough says. So far this system appears to work. When conventional new foods are introduced into the U.S. market such as kiwi fruit allergic reactions are common. But after three years of widespread use in the United States, no allergic reactions to genetically modified crops have been reported.
9. Answer: c. No. They are neither better nor worse than foods from conventional crops. "Most of the genetically modified crops currently available are designed to reduce farmers' production costs. Under some circumstances there may be less pesticides used, and there is some indication that genetically modified corn is less likely to be infected with fungal toxins that are natural carcinogens, but the overall health effect of these benefits is minor," Goldsbrough says. "In the future these technologies hold the promise of delivering foods that are nutritionally enhanced. For example, foods might provide essential vitamins or contain natural compounds that can help improve your health."
Source: Peter Goldsbrough, (765) 494-1334; firstname.lastname@example.org
Writer: Steve Tally, (765) 494-9809; email@example.com
Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096; firstname.lastname@example.org
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