Unpacking the dizzying amount of information that swirls around the topic of genetically modified organisms (commonly known as GMOs) can feel like an arduous undertaking at times. The practice of altering ingredients through genetic engineering is often hailed as the cost-effective answer to global starvation and malnutrition by proponents, while critics claim GMOs are harmful and not safe for human consumption.
Last week, following the passage of a similar bill in Vermont, the US Senate voted 65-32 on legislation that would require foods containing GMOs to state so on their packaging. The bill would require manufacturers to adopt one of three new labels, ultimately informing the public when GMO ingredients have been used in a product.
There are, of course, a few caveats to the proposed plan, however. It remains unclear whether President Obama will sign the bill into law, and, as the legislation stands right now, companies will not be hit with a penalty for failing to comply with the guidelines.
While transparency in the food industry is rarely, if ever, a bad thing, there are also a number of widespread misconceptions when it comes to the long, contentious debate over GMOs. Earlier this week, in an effort to dispel misinformation, the New York Times compiled a brief list of some of the biggest misconceptions surrounding GMOs.
From square watermelons and white strawberries, to Chipotle rumors and gluten sensitivities, it's important to know the real facts behind our food, with or without the new labeling. Here are five of the biggest myths concerning genetically modified organism, now debunked.
GMOs are not making chickens bigger.
Though chickens have become larger over the last several decades, the increase in size is due to farmers crossbreeding the birds with the most desirable traits. Contrary to popular belief, their DNA has not been manipulated in a laboratory, though chickens do eat often eat genetically modified corn and soybeans, like most farm-raised animals.
Chipotle burritos were never filled with GMOs.
In years past, Chipotle made a big deal about it's “G-M-Over It” campaign, but only a few minor ingredients ever came from genetically modified crops. "Only the cooking oil and the tortillas had ingredients from genetically modified crops," the Times wrote.
Gluten sensitivity is not caused by genetically modified wheat.
Gluten sensitivity has been a hot-button issue in a America for years, and a common myth is that genetically modified wheat responsible. While genetically modified wheat sporadically in the past, it has never actually been sold to the public.
Genetically modified oats simply don't exist.
Though certain products claim to be GMO-free on their packaging, that assertion does not necessarily mean that a genetically modified version of that food even exists. McCann’s Steel Cut Irish Oatmeal is one of tens of thousands of products that have been certified by the Non-GMO Project in recent year, but only select flavored oatmeals are made with genetically modified ingredients.
White Strawberies are not engineered in labs.
According to the Times, most American produce is grown using "older breeding methods" that would not fall under the new GMO labeling regulations. White strawberries, as well as red grapefruits and a slew of other crops, were created through a process called "mutagenesis," or radiation breeding. Though the names sound scary, crops grown using this method can still be certified as organic.
Oh, and as for those square watermelons? They were just grown in boxes.
[via New York Times]