Do you know what you’re eating?
There are only two ways to avoid genetically modified ingredients. You can either starve or spend more money and time sourcing for natural ingredients. Or you can try and grow your own food (near impossible on a land-scarce island like ours).
GMO (Genetically Modified Organism) food is here to stay. Whether described as genetically engineered or genetically manipulated, it means food that has been altered at the gene level and it affects plants, animals, and microorganisms that in turn affect our food.
Different species are crossed to produce animals and plants not found in nature, so they take on new traits meant to make them grow faster, resist insects and weed killers, and stay fresh longer. Insect-protected cotton and herbicide-tolerant soybeans are two examples.
GMO foods are different than those that are cross-bred. Crossbreeding has been going on for centuries by farmers and by nature, to produce a stronger plant. Plants that are cross-bred are within the same species, or between closely related species. With GMO foods, on the other hand, bioengineers splice specific genes into the DNA of a dissimilar species, disrupting its natural sequence, and creating a new species that has never existed before. (popsugar.com)
At the HDB market I regularly shop at, vegetable stalls sometimes have offers eg juicy seedless grapes, or punnets of strawberries at half the usual price. Along with the aunties and uncles, I usually can’t resist buying some even though I believe these are GMO produce. They seem too cheap and too good to be natural. I blame my paranoia on critics lashing out at Monsanto, major producer of genetically modified seeds.
The anti-GMO movement cites concerns about lower nutrition content and long-term effects eg food allergies, skin damage, accelerated ageing, infertility and organ damage. As health issues are hard to pin down, ordinary citizens might just be uneasy when science takes extremes with nature. It seems sacrilegious when the farm is run, not by Old Macdonald, but a lab technician.
In Singapore where almost everything is imported, there is little we can do other than spend a small fortune on organic food. And even then, we can’t be sure about the quality of what we’re getting.
I choose to stay calm and carry on eating my market vegetables. I have to trust that our government has done the needful as explained at http://www.gmac.gov.sg/Education/Index_FAQ_Genetically_Modified_Foods.html
Genetically modified crops, especially soybean and corn, have been approved in many countries (see our answer to the first question above, on “What foods are produced from GMOs? What is the approximate no. of such products in the market?”). These are very likely incorporated into various processed foods. Since Singapore imports food from many parts of the world, it is possible that such foods with GM-derived components are sold here in Singapore. Like any other foods sold in Singapore, these foods have been assessed to be safe based on the AVA’s rigorous safety standards.
There are currently no legislations and guidelines for the labelling of GM foods in Singapore. Whilst this is so, GM foods, like all other food products, must meet existing food labelling requirements to facilitate tracing and recall. The local authorities will work to ensure that GM foods commercially available in Singapore are safe for consumption, and will also continue to monitor international developments closely to ensure that Singapore’s labelling requirements are up to date.
GM food labelling, where practised, is done with the intention of providing consumers with choice, and not for food safety reasons.
However, if you really-really want to avoid GMO food, Elizabeth Renter of the Natural Society, USA, suggests:
- Assume all American non-organic corn, soy, cottonseed, and canola ingredients are GMO – In the U.S., these plants are likely all grown using genetically modified seeds.
- Stay away from artificial sweeteners –Aspartame is made using GM bacterial strains of E. coli.
- Beware of “Invisible GM Ingredients”. Some ingredients using GMO include whey, xanthan gum, glutamate, hydrolyzed vegetable protein, lactic acid, cellulose, citric acid, maltodextrin, and mono and diglycerides.
- Don’t trust the produce stickers and PLU codes on fruits and vegetables.
Life is hard when you can eat hardly anything.