Local Opponents of Genetically Modified Foods Not Happy With Increase

Registered dietician says there isn’t enough evidence to prove G-M-O’s are safe

A customer buys all natural products at Green Planet Grocery, Syracuse, NY, labeled with "USDA Organic" stamps of approval. © 2011 Alyssa Norwin.

By Alyssa Norwin (SYRACUSE)  – Jeremy Thomas only started shopping at Green Planet Grocery, an organic food store in Syracuse, because his best friend is the  owner, but now that he has grown accustomed to it, he has become a regular.

“It’s more expensive for this food, but I think that you get what you give and I feel my body feels better when I eat natural foods,” Thomas said.

Natural foods do not include those that are genetically modified, or GMO.  GMO means that outside genetic material is spliced into the DNA of an otherwise normal product.

Over the last year, there has been a 10 percent increase worldwide in the amount of GMO foods produced because genetic modification makes foods look nicer and gives them a longer shelf life.  According to Syracuse University Nutrition professor, Sarah Short, some GMO products can even significantly help third world countries, such as Vitamin A enhanced rice (golden rice) which is linked to a significant reduction in blindness.

However, opponents of GMO foods say that although there may be these benefits, the risks from GMO foods have not been properly assessed.

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have approved many GMO products because they have been tested on animals, but that is not enough evidence for strong opponents.

“There’s always side effects,” said Lauren Sterling-Prisco, a registered dietician from Syracuse.  “We don’t know 5, 10, 15 years [from now] how it’s going to effect the environment or human genetic DNA.”

“Just because we haven’t proven there aren’t any risks, doesn’t mean there aren’t any risks,” Thomas agreed. “We also thought the world was flat at one time!”

Organic food companies and other GMO opponents have had a tough time getting any new legislation passed on reducing the amount of GMO foods produced, but Sterling-Prisco said she has not given up hope.

“Continue to do things in your backyard, which is local, and that will start to affect things globally,” she said.

Foods that are not genetically modified are marked with a “USDA Organic” stamp or a “Non-GMO” label.

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