If I hear someone say “GMO ingredient” one more time, my head will probably explode in cloud of neural fireworks. When someone thinks that sugar or insulin from a genetically modified organism is somehow different from sugar or insulin from another source, I am tempted to bang my head against the wall. Combine these misconceptions into one person with an extreme lack of understanding about genetics and we emerge with a self-righteous food warrior, bearing an appeal to nature in one hand and the overconfidence effect in the other.
As Ken Ross, the CEO of Global ID (which owns FoodChainID, that allows consumers to scan products to determine if they are genetically modified or not), told NPR: there is “no DNA left” in oils or sugars which come from a genetically modified source. In fact, any molecule that is being isolated from or goes through processing will arrive on the consumer without any DNA of any kind.
But, even if these “GMO ingredients” did have DNA, is there any indication that it could harm or even directly affect us? The answer is no, there isn’t, and since the majority of GE applications do not involve toxic chemicals (unlike Roundup aka Glyphosate) we have to wonder about the motives of people trying to generalize about “GMOs” as if it was a single thing.
Before we were using genetically modified bacteria to produce insulin for diabetics, we were dependent on extracting it from pigs and cattle. People were literally taking animal proteins and injecting them into their blood to treat diabetes. These were literally proteins from another species that people were directly injected as treatment. Contrast this with the purified human insulin that we produce using modified E. coli, and it is difficult to see why people think this second option would be more risky. I would argue that it is not only safer, but also more humane and efficient.
So while we may debate about the environmental or even health consequences of GMO foods, there really shouldn’t be any debate about GMO ingredients or medical supplies. And if you are an anti-GMO activist, I encourage you to understand your responsibility as an activist.