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Do You Know Nutrition: Genetically modified organisms, genetically engineered foods

April 26, 2011 at midnight
Updated April 25, 2011 at 11:26 p.m.

Phylis Canion

By Phylis Canion

I am purchasing more products that do not contain genetically modified organisms. It seems like non GMO items are harder and harder to find unless you go to a specialty store. Do you have a timeline of when GMO food was first introduced? Why is so much of our food source genetically modified?

Genetically modified organisms, GMO, or genetically engineered foods, are the result of altering the organism by inserting an individual gene taken from another organism to change the characteristic.

The results: Crops that are immune to pests, pesticides, drought, and heat, will stay fresh longer, grow faster and bigger and can even make cows produce more milk. The first genetically modified plant was created in 1983.

In 1990, the first GM plants were grown for commercial use under United States Departure of Agriculture supervision. The first commercially grown, whole food crop was the tomato. The seed was genetically modified, so that it would ripen without softening.

In 1996, almost six million acres of genetically modified plants were grown in the United States including corn, in which the kernel was modified to be pest resistant. Yes, that is correct, the bugs would not eat it, but we could.

In 1997, 25 million acres of GM plants were grown and by 2002, more than 100 million acres were grown. In 2010, 93 percent of the planted soybeans, 93 percent of cotton, 86 percent of corn and 95 percent of the sugar beet crops were genetically modified. It is now estimated that approximately 76 percent of the crops grown in the United States now contain genetically modified organisms.

The controversy that abounds over GMO foods and their safety is enormous and ever growing. It is important to be aware of GMO labeling on the foods you eat and a note to remember - if the price lookup code or PLU begins with an eight, that indicates it is a genetically modified food.

Can you please tell me what ugli fruit is?

Ugli fruit is produced by cross breeding a grapefruit with an orange or tangerine. It has a pinkish/orange colored skin, is nearly void of all seeds and is a bit sweeter than a grapefruit.

The fruit originated in Jamaica, but it is now grown in Florida. When choosing the fruit, remember it has a yellow, pebbly skin with blotches, but turns orange when ripe. It is excellent to eat, high in vitamin C and is very ugly - hence the name.

Phylis B. Canion is a doctor of naturopathic medicine and is a certified nutritional consultant, email her at doc.phyl@yahoo.com. This column is for nutritional information only and is not intended to treat, diagnose or cure.

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