Are GMOs Hiding in Our Food?
OGM: What are we talking about?
A genetically modified organism is an organism (plant, animal, or bacteria) whose genetic material (DNA) is voluntarily modified. The goal is to introduce a new feature. To do this, we use laboratory techniques known as “genetic engineering”1.
What is genetically modified food?
The adjective "genetically modified" refers to a particular technique of genetic engineering: epigenetics, which consists of "gene transfer"2 .
How is a genetically modified organism (eg potato, Solanum tuberosum) made? We start by choosing a genetic coding for a trait that interests us, such as resistance to certain diseases for example. This gene is then transferred to the plant's genome in order to modify its genetic material. Eventually, it expresses this gene and reproduces the desired characteristics. Our tuber now comes from a genetically modified organism!
GMOs: What is their purpose?
In the food field, GMOs have many 3 possible applications including 2 main applications:
The first relates to agricultural production (resistance to biotic stress, tolerance to abiotic stress in particular), especially crops of corn, soybeans, rapeseed or even cotton... Seeds are generally modified so that the plant acquires resistance to insect pests. or diseases or be able to tolerate some herbicides. This is particularly the case in Monsanto's Roundup Ready GMO plants, where the Roundup weed resistance gene has been introduced.
The second application aims to improve the nutritional qualities of food. We are not interested here in agriculture but in human health. The idea, for example, is to combat nutritional deficiencies by making rice richer in vitamin A or iron; Or to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease thanks to oils rich in essential fatty acids.
GMOs in France: zero tolerance?
GMOs in the French fields?
Since January 2015, France, like other EU member states, can choose to ban the cultivation of GMOs on its territory, even if they are licensed at the European level. So far, it has been necessary to adopt a moratorium - more precisely "protective clauses" that are too fragile from a legal point of view - to ban these cultures.
This is what France did in 2008, so that GMOs destined for consumption are no longer grown in Rivne 1 . Our policy makers have advocated the precautionary principle to prevent environmental hazards, even though there is no concrete scientific data on their seriousness.
The 2008 ban targets GM crops for commercial purposes but not experimental crops. It will be necessary to wait until July 2013 for the last field trial in France to be completed.
...and on supermarket shelves?
You can't grow GMOs in France...but you can import them for consumption! More than 70 GMOs (corn, cotton, soybean, rapeseed, sugar beet, etc.) are currently authorized within the EU2. Imported GMOs are used to feed animals, but also to manufacture food products for humans.
Traceability of products containing GMOs is mandatory in Europe. All foods containing more than 0.9% DNA from a GMO must say “GMO” on their label. In addition, the DGCCRF (Directorate General of Competition, Consumer Affairs and Fraud Prevention) can conduct spot checks at the point of sale.
On the other hand, regulations do not impose specific labels on foodstuffs derived from farm animals (milk, meat and cheese) that are fed genetically modified plants.
In which foods are GMOs found?
The only GMO food approved for consumption in Europe is sweet corn. But we can also find it in other forms on our boards 1 . These are mostly ingredients derived from genetically modified foods, for example:
Cornmeal used in bread, breakfast cereals, and biscuits.
Corn starch used in ready meals, sauces, charcuterie, dessert creams, dried dessert preparations, soups, baby food jars, pastries, etc.
Vegetable fats (corn, soybean, rapeseed) that can be found in cereal bars, sandwich bread, appetizer biscuits, pastries, spreads, soups, etc.
Under European legislation, all such ingredients must bear the "GMO" label, except in the case of the accidental presence of DNA from GMOs in food, with a content of less than 0.9%.
Some foods avoid mandatory labeling of GMOs.
Food produced by animals fed on food derived from genetically modified organisms, for example (meat, milk, fish, eggs, etc.). In France, imported GMO foods are mainly soybean powder intended for livestock feed. EU countries are highly dependent on soybean-producing countries (Brazil, the United States, etc.) and struggle to impose “GMO-free” sectors on them2.
“Hidden GMOs”, i.e. those resulting from genetic manipulation other than genetics (mutations, cell fusion, etc.) see next page.
French canteens and restaurants are not required to disclose the contents of their dishes to you...even if they use rapeseed oil from a GMO.
The World's GMOs (By the Numbers)
In 2014, 181.5 million hectares of GM plant crops were grown worldwide: more than 80% of China's total area 1 .
GMOs have been in cultivation since 1996, only 19 years of existence.
20 developing countries and 8 industrialized countries grow genetically modified plants, which represent more than 60% of the world's population.
Soybeans and corn alone occupy more than 80% of the cultivated land.
The main GMO-producing countries are the USA with an area of 73.1 million hectares, Brazil (42.2), Argentina (24.3), as well as equally Canada and India (11.6 hectares).
18 million farmers grow GMOs worldwide, 90% of them live in developing countries.