Why It’s Almost Impossible to Know what You EatAuthor: Daniel Mather
Trends based around eating healthy foods and organic produce are popular around the world but the reality is that, for the most part, it is actually very difficult today to really know what’s made its way onto your plate.
The simple reason for this is that gene level modifications of crops is now enormously widespread in all manner of agricultural contexts and the incorporation of modified material can in fact be taken for granted in many of the most commonplace food production processes.
What percentage of food is genetically modified?
Precisely the percentage of food products that contain genetically modified (GM or GMO) material varies from country to country but in the US the figure is currently being put at around 80%, if we are to believe the NonGMO Project.
You would be forgiven for assuming that the labels on food products that make their way onto supermarket shelves would need to highlight the presence of any genetically modified material. This, however, is not actually the case and there is no such obligation. Where these labels do appear they are added voluntarily by food production and sales companies.
As a result, there is a good chance that if your food label doesn’t explicitly describe the product as being free from GM material then it will not be.
Why is GM food so widespread?
Many of the most commonplace agricultural processes conducted worldwide have been made cheaper and easier by the introduction of genetic modification techniques and technologies.
The use of these techniques also makes it easier for farmers to grow healthier crops that produce better yields in many cases. In places such as Canada or in northern parts of the US, the practice of using GM materials is particularly widespread because it allows farmers to produce foods in harsh climates that would otherwise be completely unsuitable for growing seasonal foods like strawberries, for example, throughout much of the year. (Remarkably, the introduction of genes from an Arctic fish, whose blood can survive temperatures of 2C, into the genetic structure of strawberries allows them to be grown even at low temperatures).
For all these reasons, most of the world’s foremost food producers have embraced the use of GM products and a host of associated processes, with all indications suggesting that their use will only increase in the coming years.
Can I avoid genetically modified foods?
As noted, products containing some measure of GM material are now very common but there are some people who still view these foods with suspicion and who are determined to know exactly
what they’re putting into their bodies. It’s difficult and time-consuming but if you’re keen to avoid GMO altogether then that there are steps you can take to do so.
Essentially you’ll need track down brands whose foods are clearly labeled as being entirely organic and free from GM material. Some brands have committed themselves to ensuring that all of their food products are completely organic and they apply labels highlighting the point on their packaging.
There are also databases accessible online that collect the details of all food and drink products that are free from GM ingredients and some of these are available in major supermarkets in different parts of the world.
For the most part though, unless you’re willing to spend a good deal of extra time and money finding out what’s in your food products then it is indeed almost impossible to really know what you’re eating.