GMO IS OLD NEWS: WHAT ABOUT CRISPR?

After summarizing the new proposed laws on GMO labeling on Tuesday, today I’m challenging you to learn about a new way scientists are making our food safer and looking ahead to helping manage food allergens. This technology could even help us cure cancer.

CRISPER stands for Clustered Regularly Inter-paced Short Palindromic Repeats. It sounds super complicated, but check out this video which makes it look pretty simple.

EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT GMO LABELING IN 2019

This article originally posted at watchusgrow.org

You may recall, in 2017 the government passed a national Genetically Modified Foods (GMO) labeling law to have one uniform standard for labeling GMOs, also referred to as BE (bioengineered).

Congress passed the National Bioengineered Food Disclosure Standard in 2016. This required the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to establish a labeling standard for GM food. These requirements were originally set to take effect by July 2018. But the USDA extended the implementation two years after a public comment period. On December 20, the USDA released the official law, which they will implement at the beginning of 2020 and require food companies to comply by January 1, 2022. You can read the entire current proposal here.

WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR YOU?

In the near future, you’ll start to see GMO/BE foods labeled in a variety of ways. While companies aren’t required to use the label until January 1, 2022, you might start seeing the new labels sooner. Many companies have already started labeling their products and support this national labeling standard. The rule states, “bioengineered food … shall not be treated as safer than, or not as safe as, a non-bioengineered counterpart.” That’s because research has proven that bioengineered foods are safe. These new food labels are simply informative for the consumer, not indicative of safety or nutrition.

WHAT WILL THE LABELS LOOK LIKE?

Once put into law, you will see three different labeling methods:

  1. Text on food packaging (example: Partially produced with genetic engineering)
  2. A symbol that represents bioengineering
  3. An electronic or digital link that can be scanned

Pictured here are the symbols the USDA will require on GMO foods packaging.

Bioengineered Food Labels

Smaller food manufacturers with limited resources may also choose to label their GM foods using a telephone number that can provide additional information or an internet URL.

The law requires labeling only on bioengineered foods intended for human consumption that contain more than five percent GMO ingredients. Instances where GMOs do not have to be labeled include:

  • Foods derived from animals, such as eggs, meat and milk
  • Refined ingredients like oils and sugars
  • Food served in a restaurant
  • Foods manufactured and sold by very small manufacturers (local shops, etc.)
  • Any non-food products

While food labels may be changing, the safety of our food isn’t. Just as before, food labels should guide to make the right choice for you and your family – not scare you into making a more expensive purchase. Farmers, parents and experts have shared their thoughts on GMOs and making the best choice for their family. Read their perspectives here.

EATING HEALTHY? WHERE TO START?

The internet is a vast, confusing source of information about how to eat healthy. And it seems to be about this time of year when folks are trying to make good on their New Year’s resolutions that those google searches about healthy recipes and which apple yields the biggest metabolism boost.

One thing that doesn’t need to enter your thoughts? Spending more money to buy organic.

While organic and non-organic foods are produced using different farming methods, nutritionally, they are no different. Both organic and non-organic food uses pesticides and other methods of protection to keep your food safe.

In this blog post from Illinois Farm Families, a Chicago mom discovers some of the differences, and similarities, between organic and traditionally grown produce.

Here’s a notable quote from her post:

” I have always assumed that organically grown fruits and vegetables were basically “naturally grown”, meaning existing in or caused by nature.  So I thought they were grown in a greenhouse or large garden, with no pesticides or chemicals used at all.  What I learned is that organic farmers are able to use pesticides and fertilizers, they just have to be of plant or animal origin.  Besides, traditional farmers aren’t just out there spraying pesticides all over their fruits and vegetables all willy-nilly.  Pesticides and fertilizers are used to make sure the farmers are able to provide the best possible products to their consumers.  Make sure you wash your fruits and vegetables and any left over residue is not harmful.  So I feel very comfortable continuing to purchase traditionally grown fruits and vegetables for my family. “

Learn more at WatchUsGrow.org

GMO MEAT, MILK, & EGGS?

Myth

If livestock eat genetically modified grain, there will be GMOs in meat, milk and eggs.

Fact

GMOs have never been detected in milk, meat or eggs derived from animals fed GM feed.

(Ref. U of Cal. GE and Animal Feed)

It has been estimated that over 70 percent of harvested GMO crops are fed to food producing animals, making the world’s livestock populations the largest consumers of the current generation of GMO crops. However, GMOs have never been detected in food derived from animals fed GMO crops. 

It’s important to understand that almost all the food that we (or animals) eat contains DNA and proteins. The DNA and proteins found in food, GMO and non-GMO, are processed by the digestive system in our gastrointestinal tract. During digestion, GMO and non-GMO DNA is broken down into the four nucleotides that make up all DNA, and/or into small nucleotide fragments. Similarly, proteins, again GMO and non-GMO, are broken down into one or a few of the 21 amino acids that exist in nature. Many studies have been conducted on the potential for GMO DNA or proteins to be transferred into animal tissue. No intact or immunologically reactive protein or DNA has been detected in animal tissue.

Therefore, as Alison Van Eenennaam, Ph.D., extension specialist in animal genomics and biotechnology at the University of California, Davis, explains, “Genetically engineered crops are digested by animals in the same way as conventional crops. Evidence to date strongly suggests that feeding livestock with genetically engineered crops is equivalent to feeding unmodified feed sources in terms of nutrient composition, digestibility and feeding value.” Additionally, Dr. Van Eenennaam states, “Genetically engineered DNA, or the novel proteins encoded therein, have never been detected in the milk, meat or eggs derived from animals fed genetically engineered feedstuffs. Several studies have documented that small fragments of plant-derived, but not genetically engineered, DNA can pass into the tissues of animals that consume the plants.”

Source: GMO Answers

WHY GROW GMOs?

GMOs are created to achieve a desired trait, such as resistance to a pest or tolerance to drought conditions.  The 10 genetically modified crops available in the U.S. today include: alfalfa, apples, canola, corn (field and sweet), cotton, papaya, potatoes, soybeans, squash and sugar beets.

GM crops were created for:

GMOs are drought tolerant
  • Insect resistance. This category of traits provides farmers with season-long protection against target pests, reduces the need for pesticide applications, and lowers input costs.
  • Drought tolerance. GM crops that express drought tolerance have better moisture retention and can better endure drought conditions without the need for additional irrigation.
  • Herbicide tolerance. Crops developed to tolerate specific herbicides allow farmers to fight weeds by applying targeted herbicides only when needed and enable them to use conservation tillage production methods that preserve topsoil, prevent erosion, and reduce carbon emissions.
  • Disease resistance. Through genetic engineering plant breeders can enable plants to resist certain diseases, like the papaya ringspot virus (PRSV).  The GM Rainbow Papaya, developed to be resistant to PRSV, allowed Hawaiian papaya farmers to recover from an outbreak of this devastating disease that crippled their industry.
  • Enhanced nutritional content. Genetically modified soybeans with an enhanced oil profile, much like olive oil, have been developed and are longer lasting and trans-fat free.
  • Reduced food waste. Genetic engineering has been used to modify potatoes and apples in order to eliminate superficial browning and bruising (potato only) when the produce is cut or handled.  These traits can help reduce the amount of produce thrown away by producers, processors, retailers and consumers.
  • Improved manufacturing processes. Certain biotech corn varieties enable more efficient biofuels production by improving the process through which cellulose and/or starch is broken down and converted to fuel.  This helps reduce the environmental impact of the manufacturing process by decreasing the amount of water, electricity, and natural gas needed to produce biofuel.

Source: GMO Answers

WHY WOULD ANOTHER COUNTRY WANT U.S. MEAT?

Why would another country want U.S. meat?  Well, it turns out that in many countries, the U.S. is well respected as providing high quality protein.  Some countries, like Mexico, don’t grow enough hogs to provide all the pork their citizens want, so they buy from the U.S. because it’s close, easy, and cheap because of our free trade agreement.

Other countries appreciate our food safety standards.  Or maybe governmental officials from the country have visited our farmers and they like what they see.  The reasons are endless.

U.S. poultry buyers guide

But when another country is interested in buying U.S. poultry or eggs, they might refer to a buyer’s guide, like this one provided by the USA Poultry and Egg Export Council.

The guide helps international customers understand the frozen, uncooked chicken cuts that are available, as well as the processed and specialized products for sale.

Maybe more importantly, the guide also helps the customers understand the safety standards U.S. poultry is subjected to before its allowed to be sold.

“All U.S. chicken meat which is offered for export must be inspected and approved by the Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS) of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). The 90-year-old agency is regarded as a
model for food inspection services worldwide. A USDA inspection stamp indicates that a chicken product was properly processed, has been inspected and is safe to eat. There are three integral layers in FSIS food safety  assurance: manual inspection, HACCP and pathogen reduction.”

Did you realize you live in a country that provides one of the safest food options available worldwide?

SERVE CREAMY CONFETTI CORN FOR THANKSGIVING

Who can’t wait for Thanksgiving and all the food, family and friends you’ll get to enjoy?  Me either!  I’m dreaming of an amazing Thanksgiving feast – and this recipe from Mel’s Kitchen Cafe sounds like the perfect side dish.  I really love the idea of totally amping up the creamed corn!

Today’s Fact:  Corn on the cob was unlikely to have been on the menu for the very first Thanksgiving with the Pilgrims and Native Americans, since Indian corn was primarily kept dried by that time of year and used for grinding up into meal.

Today’s Recipe: CREAMY CONFETTI CORN

Photo by Mel’s Kitchen Cafe

What You’ll Need:

  • 8 slices bacon, chopped
  • 2 12-ounce packages frozen corn kernels, white or yellow
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion, white, yellow or red
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped red bell pepper
  • 1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, light or regular, cubed
  • 1-2 tablespoons milk
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 4 green onions, green parts finely chopped (white parts discarded)

What You Do:

In a large nonstick skillet, cook the chopped bacon until golden and crisp. Scoop the bacon to a paper-towel lined plate and discard all the bacon grease except for a thin coating on the pan, maybe a teaspoon or so.

Add the corn, onion, and red pepper, and cook over medium heat, stirring every so often, until the vegetables are tender and the corn is heated through, 6-8 minutes. Add the cream cheese and milk, stirring until the cream cheese melts and the mixture is evenly combined.

Stir in the sugar, salt and pepper. Add more salt to taste if needed. Stir in the green onions.

Serve warm topped with the reserved bacon.

This dish can be made up to 2 days ahead of time. Scoop the creamy corn mixture into an oven-safe dish, sprinkle with the bacon and cover with a lid or plastic wrap. Store in the refrigerator. When ready to eat, heat the corn dish in a 325 degree oven for 15-20 minutes until heated through.

SERVE SOUTHWEST CORNBREAD STUFFING FOR THANKSGIVING!

Who can’t wait for Thanksgiving and all the food, family and friends you’ll get to enjoy?  Me either!  I’m dreaming of an amazing Thanksgiving feast – and this recipe from A Spicy Perspective will most certainly be a part of our celebration!

Today’s Fact:  Cornbread is older than our country! Native Americans were using ground maize (corn) as a dietary staple for thousands of years before European explorers arrived on the continent.

Today’s Recipe: SOUTHWEST CORNBREAD STUFFING

cornbread stuffing
photo by A Spicy Perspective

What You’ll Need:

  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 1 large onion, peeled and chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup chopped celery
  • 1/2 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped (about 2/3 cup)
  • 1/2 yellow bell pepper, seeded and chopped (about 2/3 cup)
  • 1 packet Old El Paso “Roasted Tomato” Mexican Cooking Sauce
  • 4.5 ounce can chopped green chilis
  • 3.8 ounce can sliced black olives
  • 1/2 cup chopped cilantro + extra for garnish
  • 14 ounce bag dried cornbread stuffing
  • 2 cups shredded “mexican blend” cheese
  • 1 1/4 cups chicken or vegetable stock
  • Salt and pepper

What You Do:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Place a large deep skillet over medium heat. Add the butter, onion, garlic, celery and chopped bell peppers. Saute and stir for 3-5 minutes, until soft. Then turn off the heat and salt and pepper to taste.

Pour the Old El Paso Mexican Cooking Sauce into the skillet, followed by the green chiles, olives, cilantro, and dried stuffing. Stir to combine. Then toss in the shredded cheese, reserving a handful for the top.

Spray a 9 X 13 inch baking dish with nonstick cooking spray. Then spoon the cornbread stuffing into the dish. Drizzle the stock over the top of the stuffing, covering the entire dish. Sprinkle the top with the remaining cheese and a little more cilantro.

Bake for 30-35 minutes until the top is golden and the cheese has melted. Serve warm.

GMO CROPS: ITS BIGGER THAN YOU

Of course, when you’re researching GMO crops you are most concerned with their safety for your family.  But maybe, their availability is bigger than you, bigger than your family, bigger than all of us.

GMO crops are grown around the world by approximately 18 million farmers, most of them in developing countries.  In total, more than 75 countries import, grow and/or research GMOs.  In 2016, 26 countries planted GMO crops.

GMO crops developing countriesGrowing GMO crops provides significant benefits to farmers around the world.  GMO crops increase their yield and lower their costs to farm.  This makes GMOs an important part of alleviating poverty for millions of poor farmers and farm families around the world (equaling approximately 65 million people total).

PG Economics estimates that farmers in developing countries received $3.45 for each dollar invested in genetically engineered crop seeds in 2015.

Use this guide to learn where GMOs are being grown and reviewed for approval around the world.

WORRIED ABOUT GMO FOODS?

Stop.

There are only 10 genetically modified crops available todayThey are alfalfa, apples, canola, corn (field and sweet), cotton, papaya, potatoes, soybeans, squash and sugar beets.

These crops have been genetically modified to express a positive characteristic that makes the crop easier to manage.  An example of these would be improved insect resistance.

Many of these crops are then used as processed ingredients, like sugar or cornstarch.  The sugar or cornstarch might then be included in food products at your local grocery store.  The only way to eat a GMO directly would be if your store includes varieties of papaya, potatoes, squash, sweet corn or apples in their produce aisle.

The list below identifies the genetic traits expressed and uses of the 10 GMO crops approved in the U.S.

GMOs in the U.S.

Although most of these GMO crops are edited for herbicide tolerance and/or insect resistance, this does not mean that the plant cells actually make herbicides or release chemicals.

Many of these crops produce a protein that is indigestible to insects.  When an insect feasts on the plant, it cannot digest the protein and it dies.  Humans CAN digest this protein, so the genetic mutation has zero impact to humans.