Genetically Engineered Food Defined
Genetically engineered food is created by taking the DNA from one organism and inserting it into another. The process passes on certain characteristics to plants and animals. The resulting organism is called "transgenic." This modification of gene material is not possible with traditional selective breeding.
No tests have been conducted to determine the impact of transgenic food on the human diet. At least one study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, however, has shown that some genetically engineered food has the potential to cause allergic reactions.
Producers are turning to genetic engineering for a more abundant, less expensive and more nutritious food supply. Biotechnology companies like Monsanto and Novartis produce genetically engineered soybeans, tomatoes, squash and corn. There has been talk, for instance, of inserting flounder genes in tomatoes to keep them from freezing.
More soybeans are genetically engineered than any other food, and 13 percent to 16 percent of the country's soybean crop is being grown from genetically engineered seeds. Between 60 and 70 percent of processed food contains soy, but there is no way to know, without testing, how much of that is genetically engineered.
About 2 percent of the corn crop is genetically engineered. Europeans have been quicker than Americans to react to transgenic food. Thousands of Europeans, rallied by Greenpeace and green parties, have participated in referendums and rallies, signed petitions and marched in protest to the corporate headquarters of biotechnology companies. They have demanded that transgenic food be labeled and kept separate from other food. The European Commission has proposed strict labeling. In Austria and Luxembourg, genetically engineered food is banned.
Most observers suggest that Europe's response is so much more intense because of the European experience with mad cow disease.
Information provided with the help of Organic Consumers Association