It actually stands for genetically modified organisms. Technically, all organisms are genetically modified either by natural selection or by farmers cross-breeding or cross-pollinating for optimal products. What I’m referring to is the process of genetic modification by genetic engineers. As in, putting some caterpillar genes in some corn genes to make the plant resistant to caterpillars. Mmm.
Was hungry for corn. Now, not so much.
If you want to know if what you’re buying is a genetically engineered (GE) product, reading the label won’t offer much insight, unfortunately. GMOs aren’t labeled. GE ingredients might or might not be included in your food. “Non-GMO” is labeled, however. According to Mark Bittman, author of “Why Aren’t GMO Foods Labeled?” (food safety and food politics guru), unless your food is labeled “Non-GMO,” it probably contains genetically engineered ingredients. Whole Foods statistics put the prevalence of GMOs in our crops at 93% of soy, 93% of corn, 93% of canola seeds, and 86% of cotton.
Scientific evidence hasn’t yet conclusively proved GMOs are immediately harmful to everyone who eats them. Evidence also hasn’t proven that they’re safe in the long term, either. We do know that you risk of an allergic reaction and eventually adapting the antibiotic-resistant properties of GMO products. Do people know this? Not really. The information isn’t widely circulated.
Truth: Neither the FDA nor the USDA require GMO products to be labeled as such, because, “they don’t want people to think the foods are different.”
Hostess with the leastest.
If you’ve ever hosted dinner, you know that there can be snags. Maybe you’re short on fish filets because someone brought their super-secret-surprise significant other who nobody knew about. You graciously give up your comfy seat and end up on that one spare uncomfortable stool sans fish, now a head higher than the rest of your guests, eating in your lap. They indulge in both your filet and each other’s faces. Or, that cake stuck to the inside of the oven from a baking incident involving a too-small bread pan for that luscious batter? It burned, permeating your subsequent oven project of the night with a heavy, smoky flavor. Which wouldn’t have been unfortunate, if you hadn’t been baking chocolate chip cookies. Which you were.
All these pale in comparison, however to the horror instilled by these three words, “I’m a vegetarian.” (Substitute “vegan,” if desired. Then multiply the following reaction by about three times.)
Hitchcock couldn’t begin to cover this moment
Oh no! What do you do!? Do you run out and get last-minute soy-based imitation meat? Morning Star or Boca brand? Seitan or tempeh? What’s the difference? Do you play it cool and heap extra servings of the side dish onto the vegetarian’s plate and hope they get the hint? How offended is this person by others eating meat? Are you expected to ask about their dietary choice and force smiles and nod while you are regaled with an underhanded holier-than-thou bildungsroman? You make sure to sit in the chair that faces the TV.
It can be awkward to have someone like this in your dinner party. The idea of this person might make you triple check everyone’s dietary preferences before sending out invitations. Maybe you have a friend like this and stash veggie meats in your freezer, just in case. Maybe you don’t, because one dinner with them was enough. Why does the idea or reality of eating in the company of a vegetarian make so many people uncomfortable, even in the absence of verbal controversy?