Posts Tagged ‘environmental awareness’

Restaurateur Choices: The Debate around GMOs

December 18, 2013

Genetically modified organisms, or GMOs, have been making rabble-rousing headlines for years now. Yet, there is still quite a bit of confusion around the pros and cons of the debate. As a restaurant owner, you have a choice to make about the quality of the food that you are providing to the public. As such, it doesn’t hurt to have a general overview of the discussion around the wide-spread presence of genetically modified foods in our public’s food stream. Here’s the scoop in a nutshell.

The Argument for GMOs

 GMOs are organisms such as plants, animals, insects, and even bacterium and yeast which have had their genes mutated in some way. Mutation occurs through genetic modification or engineering and is typically done by altering or removing a gene, or even by adding in a gene from an entirely different organism. The result is something completely unique; an original organism known as a GMO.

Research into genetically modified foods has been largely propelled by the idea that we could better feed our world’s population by creating plants which were more resistant to pests and disease and were better able to survive in less than ideal growing conditions. In theory, we could also make the food we eat more nutritious and use less fuel and space to produce a higher yield at a lower cost.

The Argument against GMOs

This all sounds fine enough, but where things start to get hairy is in really understanding the long-term effects of tinkering with Nature’s design. For instance, there is some evidence that creating pest and disease-resistant plants is simply speeding up the evolutionary process and creating ‘super weeds’ and ‘super insects’ which are even more resistant to the roadblocks engineered in the plant.

This, in turn, can cause farmers to have to use more toxic herbicides and pesticides to bring the crop to harvest which, in its turn, increases the environmental toxic load. There has been evidence, for example, that the pesticide most commonly used with GM corn is now showing up in our bloodstreams and in the umbilical cord blood of pregnant women. The long-term biological and environmental impacts of the use of GMOs have not been adequately studied, raising concern for unseen ill-effects down the road.

How to Avoid GMOs in Your Restaurant if You Want To

Since the science around GMOs is still developing, the most recent focus of debate has been around giving the public the choice about whether or not to consume GMOs by labeling which food products have been genetically engineered. While several states have raised their own labeling initiatives in the last few years and 64 countries around the world require GMO labeling, it is not currently required in the U.S.

The main GMO crops are alfalfa, canola, corn, cotton, Hawaiian papaya, soybeans, sugar beets, yellow crookneck squash, and zucchini. In the U.S., 90 percent or more of all corn, cotton, canola, sugar beets, and soybeans are grown from genetically engineered seeds.

Regardless of where you fall on the GMO debate, if food is your business, it makes sense to have a solid understanding of the pros and cons in the discussion. There’s a ton of information on the topic out there and a lot of it is conflicting. Until the science is really in, the best we can do is wade through what information is available and make the most educated decision possible.