Putting American GMO Consumption into Perspective

© Josh Sager – April 2014

 

In recent years, genetically modified crops and food additives have become extremely contentious in American politics. Many Americans are skeptical about the safety and morality of genetically engineered crops, thus have pushed for new regulations mandating labeling on any food which contains GMO ingredients.

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While the GMO industry and their lobbyists claim that genetic modifications are safe for human consumption, there is a growing body of evidence which indicates that GMOs may have some extremely serious health consequences when eaten regularly.

Here are a few examples of such evidence:

Given the potential health risks of GMO consumption, it would be reasonable to assume that some people might want to avoid eating GMO foods. Unfortunately, this desire has not been made easy to implement because most processed foods contain GMOs and the United States government has refused to mandate GMO content labeling—people are living in a sea of GMOs and have no reliable way of knowing which foods are truly natural.

Currently, the EU and many nations restrict GMO importation and cultivation, and mandate the labeling of GMO goods that are sold to the general public. These restrictions and regulations are merely common sense provisions, born out of an acknowledgement of the evidence and a desire to protect their nation from potential health threats. Unfortunately, the American government is essentially owned by big money, thus we have lagged behind much of the developed world on reforming out outdated and lax GMO regulations.

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How Much GMO Material do you Consume Every Year?

According to a study by the Environmental Working Group, the average American ingests 193lb of GMO material on the average year—when looked at in terms of our nation as a whole, this translates to 313.9 million Americans consuming approximately 60,582,700,000 pounds of GMOs every year.

In short, Americans consume an inordinate quantity of GMO material, oftentimes without and conscious knowledge of what they are eating. Virtually all processed foods contain GMO sweeteners, yet there is no requirement on the federal level that would force any food company to inform the average American as to what they are buying.

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To give you a little micro-level perspective on our consumption of GMOs, here is a breakdown of GMO consumption in the USA, just from drinking Coca Cola:

According to its nutrition label, the average 12oz can of regular Coke contains 39 grams of sugar, in the form of high fructose corn syrup (because it is less expensive than cane sugar)–this translates to 3.25grams of sugar per ounce of Coke.

Statistics from the Coke Corporation indicate that they sell 1.7 billion cans of coke every day globally, approximately 22% of which are sold within the US’s borders—this means that approximately 374 million cans of Coke consumed every day in the US, which translates to 136.51 billion cans consumed per year. As the standard can of Coke contains 12oz of soda, these 136.51 billion cans contain nearly 1.64 trillion ounces of Coke.

Assuming that the Coke nutrition labels are accurate in aggregate, the 1.64 trillion ounces of Coke sold every year in the USA contain 5.33 trillion grams of high fructose corn syrup. When converted to metric tons, this means that that 5.33 million metric tons of high fructose corn syrup is consumed by Americans drinking Coke every year.

As 50% of all corn grown in the USA is GMO, this means that approximately 2,665,000 metric tons of GMO corn material are being consumed just by Americans drinking Coca Cola every year.

Danger in Volume

While the health consequences associated with GMOs may not become apparent until somebody eats large quantities of the wrong product, the US population is clearly consuming enough GMO material to make any health risks associated with GMOs worrying. Americans are eating trillions of pounds of GMO material every year, thus the margins of risk are fairly gigantic—if only 1% of consumers suffer from adverse reactions due to GMOs, it translates to over 3 million Americans affected.

In the coming years, we will likely either pass reforms on GMO regulation/labeling, or will see an increase in health consequences connected to GMO consumption; more Americans will suffer reproductive, metabolic, neurological and endocrine disorders as GMOs infiltrate ever larger portions of our food markets.

My Personal Experience

While I recognize the risks inherent to consuming too much GMO material, I tend to eat a lot of processed foods. It is simply easier and less expensive to buy processed foods in a supermarket than it is to find an organic market and buy foods that are more likely to be GMO free. I got into this habit while in college (you can’t exactly cook in a dorm room), and have yet to shed it in the years since.

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Of particular note, I drink truly gigantic quantities of soda every day. Fortunately, this is all diet soda, which contains no GMO corn syrup, but that just trades the risk of health consequences from GMOs for the risk of health consequences from artificial sweeteners.

Regardless of my less-than-ideal eating habits, I still support GMO labeling because, given I choice, I would rather be operating on full information and have the ability to search out replacements for GMO-laden foods wherever possible.

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Above all, this is a matter of choice and I find it extremely questionable that any company would demand the right to sell something to the public while denying that same public information as to the contents of what they are consuming; this isn’t even a matter of trade secrets, as we are only asking for a confirmation that a specific class of ingredient is being included in our food. Obviously, the GMO manufacturers don’t want GMO disclosure because it may harm their sales numbers, but such disclosure is a vital part of any market–if you are selling a product with an ingredient that people don’t like, the proper solution is to change your product, not trick people into eating that objectionable ingredient unknowingly.

2 thoughts on “Putting American GMO Consumption into Perspective

  1. Pingback: Putting American GMO Consumption into Perspective | Gaia Gazette

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