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GMO Series Part 1: What's in Your Food?

GMO Series Part 1: What's in Your Food?

As a health-conscious company dedicated to quality meals, we’re publishing a series of blogs exploring the world of genetically modified organisms in food and its potential impacts on our bodies.

Part 1: Genetically-modified plants and allergens

Since the beginning of time, humans have genetically modified plants and animals to work in their favor. Whether selectively breeding show-quality dogs or injecting foreign DNA into plants, genetically modified organisms are in nearly every aspect of our lives today.

Because of this, all of us at Fresh Meal Plan believe quality-sourced ingredients are just as important as nutrition intake, portion size and flavor. That’s why, since launching our company in 2011, we’ve focused on sourcing our ingredients ethically – aiming to reduce the amount of foods sourced from genetically modified organisms [GMO]. 

But what are GMOs and why are they used? 

The World Health Organization defines GMOs as “organisms (i.e. plants, animals or microorganisms) in which the genetic material (DNA) has been altered in a way that does not occur naturally by mating and/or natural recombination [1].”
One GMO example is the introduction of genes from the Bacillus thuringiensis [Bt] bacteria into crops – a naturally-occurring bacterium that is toxic to many species of insects.

Since 1996, the University of California, San Diego [UCSD] states that agricultural crops, such as corn, potato and cotton, were genetically modified with short DNA sequences of the Bt bacterium to help the plants better repel insects [2].
Although Bt belongs to a family of bacteria called Bacillus cerus that causes food poisoning in humans, the UCSD said Bt itself is not harmful. However, there are other variations of the Bt gene that are considered harmful for human consumption and have, in the past, contaminated human-quality crops via cross pollination.

One example comes from a 2000 nationwide recall of Taco Bell taco shells that contained genetically-engineered corn not approved for human consumption, but widely fed to animals, reported the New York Times [3].

StarLink, the corn in question, contains an allergen from the bacterial protein Cry9C, which is from the same bacterium family as Bt, states the Center for Disease Control [4].

“[The] EPA did not license StarLink corn for use in food intended for human consumption because the Cry9c protein shared several molecular properties with proteins that are known food allergens,” the CDC report reads.

The New York Times report states that, although the exact cause is unknown, it is believed that pollen from the StarLink corn cross pollinated with non-modified crops nearby, which Taco Bell sourced for its taco shells. Although StarLink corn was not fed directly to humans on purpose, it was used or sold as animal feed.

So, if animals eat the corn and then we eat the animals, what impact does this have on our bodies?

Coming up, we’ll delve deeper into GMOs and its impact within the meat industry.

1. World Health Organization. “Frequently asked questions on genetically modified foods.” (2014)
2. University of California, San Diego. “Bacillus thuringiensus.”
3. New York Times. “Kraft Recalls Taco Shells With Bioengineered Corn.” (2000)
4. Center for Disease Control. “Investigation of Human Health Effects Associates with Potential Exposure to Genetically Modified Corn.” (2001)

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