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What is a GMO?

GMO stands for “genetically modified organism.” GMOs are a plant or animal that is manipulated in a lab by inserting a foreign gene. This is typically done to give the plant a more desirable trait, such making it resistant to herbicides or weed killers.

GMOs are most common in oils and sugars of processed foods, such as soda, soup, cookies, chips and cereals. The Center for Food Safety estimates that GMO ingredients can be found in as many as 75 percent of processed foods in the supermarket.

According to the USDA, the following are genetically modified:

  • 88% of corn
  • 94% of cotton
  • 93% of soybeans
  • 95% of sugar beets
  • 90% of canola

Other foods that are genetically modified include some Hawaiian papayas, sweet corn, zucchini and yellow squash.

Genetically modified food is not required to be labeled in the United States, although any item marked as “certified organic” cannot contain GMO material. There are 64 countries that require labeling of genetically engineered food.

In “Washington’s Food Fight,” two other foods are discussed that are making their way through the approval process: salmon and apples.

The AquaAdvantage salmon is engineered to grow twice as fast as a conventional salmon (read the FDA’s report on AquaAdvantage salmon). The Artic Apple is also undergoing the approval process. It is engineered so that it won’t turn brown when sliced.