According to a new survey conducted by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, genetically modified crops around the world are increasingly being found in food and animal feed. The FAO conducted the the first survey that looked at food and animal feed traded internationally and examined the amount of genetically modified crops present. Of the 193 FAO member countries, 75 answered questions about low levels of GM crops in the trade.
The survey found 198 reported incidents of low levels of GM crops cross contaminating non-GM crops between 2002 and 2012. 138 of those incidents were reported between 2009 and 2012. Once discovered the majority of the shipments are destroyed or returned to the exporting country. The majority of the contaminated GM crops originated from the United States, Canada, and China.
Renata Clarke, FAO Senior Food Safety Officer in charge of the survey, stated. “”The numbers of incidents are small relative to the millions of tonnes of food and feed traded every day. But because trade disruptions may be very costly and given the reported increase in the occurrence of these disruptions, FAO conducted this survey and is holding a technical consultation to try to start a dialogue between countries on the issue”
The survey also found that 30 countries produce GM crops for research purposes or commercial production, 55 countries have zero-tolerance policies for GM crops, and another 17 countries do not have any food safety regulations on GM crops. Clarke added, “ I would note that 37 out of 75 countries responded that they have little or no capacity to detect GMOs, that is, they don’t have the laboratories, technicians, and equipment to do so.”
Countries lacking the finances to fund research or purchase testing equipment have called on the FAO to assist them. Some countries asked the FAO to assess whether the controversial Genetically Modified crops are safe to eat. “We would like to see countries sharing any scientific findings they have on the subject,” she said. “For this purpose, FAO established FAO GM Foods Platform, a web page for countries to share information on safety assessment,”
The results of the survey will be discussed in Rome on March 20th and 21st at at the “Technical Consultation on Low Levels of Genetically Modified (GM) Crops in International Food and Feed Trade” organized by the FAO. The consultation will discuss the extent of trade disruptions due to contaminated shipments and other trade issues related to GM crops.
The news of GM contamination comes on the heels of another report from the United States Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service which also highlights growing concerns over Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) in the food supply. The report shows that between 1984 and 2002 GMO varieties of crops have increased exponentially with more than 7,800 releases of Genetically Engineered Corn, 2,200 for soybeans, more than 1,100 for cotton and around 900 releases of Genetically Engineered potatoes. Despite this growth, and promises from bio-technology companies such as Monsanto and Sygenta, the ERS researchers found that, ”the yields of herbicide-tolerant or insect-resistant seeds may be occasionally lower than the yields of conventional varieties.”
The debate around Genetically Modified or Engineered Organism continues to heat up as more cities, and states consider measures to either ban or label the crops. Many critics of the technology fear the loss of open, community farmed, organic food to corporate, Monsanto-owned, Genetically Modified foods that may or may not be safe. Resistance to the Genetically Modified Agenda has grown so large that global movements such as the March Against Monsanto have sprung up. As consumers continue to ask questions regarding their food and the science behind engineering crops, we see a growing interest in self-sufficiency, organic food and healthy living.