Who grows Genetically Engineered Foods? Part 2: Kenda Swartz Pepper
The U.S. accounts for about two-thirds of all the GM crops planted throughout the universe, which as far as I know is just the earth but may include other planets given the surreptitiousness of this industry. Since the mid 1990’s the U.S. has increasingly planted more GM crops than any other planet or country. As of 2008 the US was growing about 62.5 million hectares or approximately 154 million acres of GM crops. Keeping in mind that one hectare equals 2.471 acres.
According to the ISAAA (International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications), as of 2008 there were 25 countries planting ‘biotech’ crops. Since the onset of GM crops, the total accumulated acreage as of 2008 was 2 billion. What may be of great interest is that the 1st billion accumulated acreage occurred during the first ten years of commercial GM crops whereas the second billion occurred in only the last three years. That is some rapid growth.
The identified 25 countries growing GM crops in 2008 are listed on a table as shown in a briefing by ISAAA entitled Highlights of the Global Status of Commercialized Biotech/GM Crops. I encourage you to check it out.
The ISAAA table details how the top eight countries each grew more than 1 million hectares; in decreasing order of acreage in the millions (I’ve estimated the equivalent acreage based on 2.471 hectares per acre) they were; USA (154 million acres), Argentina (52 million acres), Brazil (39 million acres), India (18.8 million acres), Canada (18.8 million acres), China (39.4 million acres), Paraguay (6.7 million acres), and South Africa (4.5 million acres).
According to the ISAAA, in 2008, seven of the 27 countries in the EU officially planted Bt maize for commercial purposes. These countries are: Spain, Czech Republic, Portugal, Germany, Poland and Slovakia.
Of the 55 countries that have granted approvals for biotech crops, Japan tops the list followed by USA, Canada, Mexico, South Korea, Australia, Philippines, New Zealand, the European Union and China.
According to Environment and Energy Publishing,
China, Brazil and Argentina are investing heavily in the field, inserting new traits in rice, tobacco, and sugar cane and cassava (a tropical, starchy stable native to South America).
India as of 2008 was ranked fourth in total GM crop area, with 7.6 million hectares devoted to cotton.
In 2008 China had 3.8 million hectares in GM crops weighing in at 6th. The main GM crop in China is cotton yet China also plants tomato, poplar, sweet pepper and papaya.
One potentially devastating trend in Monsanto’s favor: Demand for grain is likely to grow as countries like China begin to adopt a meat-heavy Western diet. China has just approved planting of GM rice for their food supply.
What Foods are Genetically Modified?
The following list of crops and foods that are being genetically modified (mostly) comes from the site Disabled World. Disabled World also adds that it is virtually impossible to know all the foods that contain GM ingredients, because there is no regulation for labeling.
- Rapeseed- Resistance to certain pesticides and improved rapeseed cultivars to be free of erucic acid and glucosinolates. Gluconsinolates, which were found in rapeseed meal leftover from pressing, are toxic and had prevented the use of the meal in animal feed. In Canada, where “double-zero” rapeseed was developed, the crop was renamed “canola” (Canadian oil) to differentiate it from non-edible rapeseed.
- Honey – Honey can be produced from GM crops. Some Canadian honey comes from bees collecting nectar from GM canola plants. This has shut down exports of Canadian honey to Europe.
- Cotton – Resistant to certain pesticides – considered a food because the oil can be consumed.
- Wheat – an article last year from the Organic Consumer’s Association discusses genetically modified wheat and the potential problems it could cause with foreign markets. One farmer is speaking out and against GM Wheat with a big ‘Won’t do it’, but he is not with the majority.
- Rice – Genetically modified to contain high amounts of Vitamin A. Rice containing human (yes, some GM Food contains human parts – definitely not vegetarian rice) genes is to be grown in the US. Rather than end up on dinner plates, the rice will make human proteins useful for treating infant diarrhea in the developing world.
- Soybean – Genetically modified to be resistant to herbicides – Soy foods including, soy beverages, tofu, soy oil, soy flour, and lecithin. Other products may include breads, pastries, snack foods, baked products, fried products, edible oil products and special purpose foods.
- Sugar cane – Developed to be resistant to certain pesticides. A large percentage of sweeteners used in processed food actually come from corn, not sugar cane or beets.
- Tomatoes – Made for a longer shelf life and to prevent rotting.
- Corn – Has been designed to resist certain pesticides. Products and ingredients include: Corn oil, sugar, syrup, corn flour, meal, corn starch, gluten, and sweeteners such as fructose, dextrose, and glucose. May include snack foods, baked goods, fried foods, edible oil products, confectionery, special purpose foods, and soft drinks.
- Sweet corn – genetically modified to produces its own insecticide. Officials from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have said that thousands of tons of genetically engineered sweetcorn have made their way into the human food supply chain, even though the produce has been approved only for use in animal feed. Recently Monsanto claims that about half of the USA’s sweetcorn acreage has been planted with genetically modified seed this year.
- Canola – Canola oil. May include edible oil products, fried foods, and baked products, snack foods.
- Potatoes- (Atlantic, Russett Burbank, Russet Norkatah, and Shepody) – May include snack foods, processed potato products and other processed foods containing potatoes.
- Flax – More and more food products contain flax oil and seed because of their excellent nutritional properties. No genetically modified flax is currently grown. An herbicide-resistant GM flax was introduced in 2001, but was soon taken off the market because European importers refused to buy it. There was a recent discovery in Canada that Canadian flax has been contaminated with a genetically modified flax. Now farmers are concerned about finding a market for their flax.
- Papaya- The first virus resistant papayas were commercially grown in Hawaii in 1999. Transgenic papayas now cover about one thousand hectares, or three quarters of the total Hawaiian papaya crop. Monsanto donated technology to Tamil Nadu Agricultural University, Coimbatore, for developing a papaya resistant to the ringspot virus in India.
- Squash – (yellow crookneck) – Some zucchini and yellow crookneck squash are also GM but they are not popular with farmers.
- Cotton seed oil - Cottonseed oil and linters. Products may include blended vegetable oils, fried foods, baked foods, snack foods, edible oil products, and small goods casings.
- Tobacco -The company Vector has a GMO tobacco being sold under the brand of Quest® cigarettes in the U.S. It is engineered to produce low or no nicotine.
- Meat – Meat and dairy products usually come from animals that have eaten GM feed.
- Peas – Genetically modified (GM) peas created immune responses in mice, suggesting that they may also create serious allergic reactions in people. The peas had been inserted with a gene from kidney beans, which creates a protein that acts as a pesticide.
- Vegetable Oil- Most generic vegetable oils and margarines used in restaurants and in processed foods in North America are made from soy, corn, canola, or cottonseed. Unless these oils specifically say “NonGMO” or “Organic,” it is probably genetically modified.
- Sugarbeets – May include any processed foods containing sugar – including your favorite chocolate bar!
- Dairy Products- About 22 percent of cows in the U.S. are injected with recombinant (genetically modified) bovine growth hormone (rbGH).
- Vitamins- Vitamin C (ascorbic acid) is often made from corn, vitamin E is usually made from soy. Vitamins A, B2, B6, and B12 may be derived from GMOs as well as vitamin D and vitamin K may have “carriers” derived from GM corn sources, such as starch, glucose, and maltodextrin.
Suite 101 offers some additional details about foods in which the consumer may encounter GMO’s:
GMOs are used most frequently as raw ingredients in processed foods and as feed for livestock which become food, such as grain-fed cattle. Consumers who eat the end products of these industrial food systems — prepared foods, some restaurant foods, and many meat products — therefore consume GMOs, though the food products are not typically labeled.
Packaged foods with corn syrup or soybean oil likely contain the fruits of Monsanto’s (in addition to other agrochemical companies) gene-modified agriculture. Approximately seventy percent (70%) of processed foods found in US supermarkets have genetically modified ingredients. This is equal to about 30,000 products. If you’re open to disappointment and potential shock, check out the list of foods and products from Seeds of Deception that may have Genetically Modified Ingredients.
The non-GMO shopping guide offers a complete list of ingredients that are derived from risk crops including but not limited to (you can check out the guide for more): amino acids, aspartame, ascorbic acid, lactic acid, maltodextrins, molasses, xantham gum and yeast (think beer and bread) products.
Europe Takes a Stand While the U.S. Sits Idly By
In 2000, Friends of the Earth surveyed leading food supply companies and top food manufacturers and discovered that these companies were aware of Europe’s distaste for genetically modified foods and food ingredients. As a result, the following companies chose to source their ingredients (and most claim to source derivatives as well) from GMO-free crops for the food and beverages they sell in Europe:
Pepsi Cola, Coca Cola, Heinz, Mars, Danone (Dannon), Kelloggs, Campbell Foods, Cadbury Schweppes and Kraft/ Jacobs/ Suchard. Almost all of these indicated that they also use GMO-free derivatives. And Europe’s top fast food chain McDonald’s Europe “have asked suppliers to source non-GM ingredients, additives and processing aids.
Because the American population hasn’t spoken with the same opposition, most of these companies still use GM ingredients and derivatives in our food. Derivatives include oils and lecithin. Almost every other industrialized country has regulations to label genetically modified foods – except for the U.S.
Some U.S. Food Manufacturers that Are Likely Using GM Ingredients
A representative from a food manufacturer who for now wishes to remain unnamed (because the company is in the process of changing some of their verbiage) gave me the following information about processed foods and GM ingredients:
The issue is very complex for processed or composite food products. Anything that we buy as a single ingredient direct from an original source of supply, like soy protein, sugar, maltodextrin, gums, etc, is non-GMO. The issue of non-GMO arises when you have to purchase composite ingredients that consist of several ingredients from different sources, like flavors, it is virtually impossible to maintain total non-GMO status with 100% certainty. Very few processed food products are absolutely non-GMO. Most food companies aren’t aware of many of these issues and many times, they will put such a designation on their products if one key ingredient, like soy protein, is non-GMO. Please bear in mind that most companies do not test their product for being non-GMO. They simply rely on statements and documents from their suppliers, who many times may inadvertently be mistaken themselves. For these reasons, we do not make any claims that our products are completely non-GMO, even though in fact they may be.
As of August 2009, Pepsi was still using GM ingredients in their products. It may be a surprise for some folks to see the list of products that Pepsi manufactures keeping in mind that most soft drinks have high fructose corn syrup which is very highly likely to be genetically modified: Mountain Dew, Amp energy drink, Sun Chips, Lays potato chips, Doritos, Tostitos, Tropicana juices, Dole juices, Quaker Oats, Aunt Jemima Syrup, Rice-A-Roni, Gatorade, and Aquafina .
Yes, Gatorade is among that list. Here’s a shout out to all you sports enthusiasts who exercise for your health. Drinking Gatorade could be doing more harm than hydration.
The list of food manufacturers below is neither all inclusive nor fully confirmed. It is challenging to find concrete information, because there are no regulations in the US to label genetically modified foods! Safest bet: if it is not labeled non-GMO, then it likely has GM ingredients or derivatives. If anyone has additional information to offer, please post a comment. I want to honor the integrity of any food manufacturer that is taking steps to remove GM ingredients in the US.
Producers of infant formula and baby foods: Beech-Nut, Enfamil, Good Start, Nestlé, Similac/Isomil
Frozen foods: Boca, unless labeled organic (Kraft), Celeste (Pinnacle Foods), Eggo Waffles (Kellogg), Gardenburger, Green Giant frozen meals (General Mills), Healthy Choice (ConAgra), Kid’s Cuisine (ConAgra), Lean Cuisine (Nestle),Marie Callender’s (ConAgra), Morningstar Farms, Morningstar Farms Natural Touch, unless labeled organic (Kellogg), Rosetto Frozen Pasta (Nestle), Stouffer’s (Nestle), Swanson (Campbell’s), Tombstone (Kraft), Totino’s (Smucker’s), Voila! (Birds Eye/Unilever)
Coca-Cola’s website has a statement that reads: We conform to all labeling regulations just as we comply with all other laws of the countries in which our products are sold. Just out of curiosity, I called Coca-Cola and asked, “Do your products contain genetically modified ingredients?” I was put on hold while the representative checked and she came back with the following:
Biotech corn is used in combination with traditional varieties in some parts of the world where we manufacture our ingredients. The refining process we use removes the genetic material.
Huh? How is it possible that Coca-Cola’s refining process removes GM material? She didn’t have an answer for this, so I did some searching on the world wide googleweb. Zippo. If anyone has information about this, please comment. And I’m still so curious to know why Coca-Cola would remove GM ingredients in Europe but then in the US go through the effort of incorporating these (presumably) same ingredients and then refine them out through some mysterious process. Could it be that it’s actually more cost effective to include the ingredients and then refine them out? Is this whole refining out GM ingredients total poppycock? Someone please educate me on this! That might very well be the first time I’ve ever used the word poppycock in a sentence.
Coca-Cola’s product list which includes Powerade, Odwalla, Nature’s Own, Nestea, Minute Maid, Fresca, Dannon, and Winnie the Pooh (yes, our little honey bear is owned by Coke) is too long to post everything here, so you can check out the website if you’re interested.
Check out Food Consumer for a more detailed list of foods that may contain genetically modified ingredients.