There’s been a lot of talk about genetically modified foods (also known as GMOs or genetically engineered foods) in the news recently. In case you’re wondering why and what it’s all about, we’re here to help. Read through our simple guide to the issue and let us know if you have any questions at the end!

What are genetically engineered (GE) foods or genetically modified organisms (GMOs)?

GE foods or GMOs are plant or meat products that have had their DNA altered by the addition of genes from another species (e.g., bacteria), which are often introduced to prevent spoilage, fight against pests and insects, and breed viral, pesticide, and antibiotic resistance.

According to the Institute for Responsible Technology, Center for Food Safety, and Just Label It, the most common GE crops in the United States include soy, cotton, corn, canola, sugar beets, Hawaiian papaya, zucchini, yellow squash, and alfalfa.

What’s the hubbub about?

Currently, the FDA doesn’t require companies to provide evidence that genetically modified foods are safe for consumption before they are marketed to the public. Nor does the agency require labeling of foods with genetically engineered or modified ingredients. The FDA has determined it has no basis for concluding that bioengineered foods are different from other foods in any meaningful way or that they present different or greater safety concerns than traditionally grown foods.

In response to the lack of federal oversight, labeling bills have been proposed in more than a dozen states including California over the past year. If passed in November, California’s Proposition 37 would be the first law requiring that genetically modified foods carry a label so consumers can make an informed choice about what they buy and eat. While the United States has yet to pass any federal or state labeling requirements (although this could change with upcoming election), more than 50 countries including Japan, China, Russia, and those in the European Union require GMO labeling.

Why does this matter?

While there is ongoing debate about the impact of GMOs on your health, many advocates in favor of labeling want the biotech and food industries to be transparent about how our food is grown/made and what is actually in it. They’re especially concerned because over 70% of processed foods found in the grocery store contain GMOs, and the consumer can’t easily make an informed purchase since there are no labels.

Further underscoring the need to give consumers choice, we just don’t know enough about GMOs, the associated benefits or risks, and the consequences for our bodies and the environment. To date, no studies evaluating the long-term impact of engineered food have been conducted.  So, there’s no proof that there are health benefits or an increase in nutritional value. In fact, the two main traits that have been genetically added to crops are herbicide tolerance and the ability for the plants to produce their own pesticide.

Do GMOs trigger allergies? Increase toxicity? Impact the development of our nervous system? Hinder immunity? Have a negative impact on the environment and agriculture? All these unknowns are unsettling.

And most Americans agree. According to polls conducted over the past few years by a number of sources ranging from MSNBC to the Washington Post to Consumer Reports, approximately 90% of Americans think GMO food should be labeled.

What can you do?

– Because organic foods are not allowed to contain GMOs, try to buy and eat it when possible (look for the USDA Organic Seal and Non-GMO labels). And generally make it a goal to eat fresh instead of processed foods. This is most important for kids because their developing bodies are the most vulnerable to toxics.

– Use the Center for Food Safety’s shopping guide to determine which foods are the best to buy and which should be avoided.

– Tell the FDA that you have a right to know what’s in your food by joining over a million Americans in signing a petition.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/nicole.venturabonin Nicole Ventura-Bonin

    Please Please Please vote yes on 37- future lives depend on it!

  • J

    I am so glad you are talking about GMO’s. But why do you use them in your products? I stopped using your diapers when I realized they were made with genetically modified ingredients because even though it isn’t being used for consumption, you are still supporting the growing of GMO’s and therefore contamination of non-GMO and organic crops. Please find another source!

    Thank you.

    • Julie

      Can you please elaborate on what ingredient is GMO in the diapers? I am a concerned consumer as well. Thank you!

      • http://bfellicious.wordpress.com/ Felien Geldhof

        I’m pretty sure that Honest is GMO-free!

        • J

          They definitely use GMO’s. Ask them yourself, I did. They especially use genetically modified ingredients for the filler in their diapers and who knows what else.

      • http://blog.honest.com/ Honest

        We use GMO as raw material stock for PLA. It is perfect for this use – NO pesticides are sprayed to produce it, it is not ingested, and by the time it is finally rendered as a finished material it has no resemblance to its precursor raw material (we discuss this in more detail in the answer above). Here is a link to the site with information about what our plant based material is made of:http://www.natureworksllc.com/The-Ingeo-Journey/Raw-Materials.aspx. Please let us know if you have other questions!

    • http://blog.honest.com/ Honest

      Thanks for your question – GMOs are definitely on our radar!

      We’d love to use non-GMO ingredients in all of our products some day, but right now it’s simply not feasible.

      There is currently only one facility in the US that processes corn into plastic (for things like the PLA we use in our diapers). Unfortunately, at this facility there’s no method for processing non-GMO corn separately from GMO corn, so it all gets mixed together. Fortunately, the corn is broken down and processed to such an extent that the molecular make-up is completely transformed and none of the GMO attributes remain in the final product.

      In regards to our other products, anything listed as “organic” cannot be a GMO. And, for the most part, the other ingredients we use are not ones that are genetically modified crops. Here’s a list of the GMO crops you should be looking out for: http://www.healthychild.org/live-healthy/checklist/top_ten_genetically_engineered_food_crops/.

      Please let us know if you have any more questions. We’re here to help!

  • Liz

    BT is a virus that used in GMOs as a pesticide it is a naturally occurring virus and is also
    sprayed by organic farmers. The BT virus causes some of the side effects that
    are linked to GMOs. Please know that organic does not mean that they don’t
    spray to prevent bug infestations and preservation of their crops!

    I’m not in favor of GMOs, but I think there is huge misunderstanding of what organic means and the media is perpetuating it. Organic farming is basically farming pre 1940’s prior to the technology developed in WWII. Think local, think sustainable, think organic
    if it you want and try to a combination of any of the three.

    • http://blog.honest.com/ Honest

      Thanks for the insightful post, Liz. We agree: think local, think sustainable, think organic!

      • Bob

        BT is a bacterium, not a virus. Also, bacteria is never “sprayed” onto crops to prevent pests. Geneticists figured out a way to incorporate a bacterial gene that offers pesticide resistance when expressed in the plant. You do not have to worry about BT bacteria residing inside of your corn.

        You are absolutely right that organic farming allows the use of certain pesticides. These non-synthetic pesticides are approved by the EPA and USDA.

  • http://www.facebook.com/xNadia Nadia Van De Kamp

    This is a rather important issue, and everyone needs to be educated on it. Thanks for spreading the word about GMO and GE foods. CA, vote YES on Prop 37. We need to stop being the governments lab rats. We deserve to know what products contain GMO directly on the label! Thanks, sincerely Nadia – a concerned American.

  • Pingback: GMOs for Newbies | RealFoodGirl:Unmodified()

  • guesties

    Are the corn-derived ingredients in your products other than diapers GMO (i.e sodium citrate, etc)?

    • http://blog.honest.com/ Honest

      GMOs are definitely on our radar. We’d love to use non-GMO ingredients in all of our products some day, but right now it’s simply not feasible.There is currently only one facility in the US that processes corn into plastic (for things like the PLA we use in our diapers). Unfortunately, at this facility there’s no method for processing non-GMO corn separately from GMO corn, so it all gets mixed together. Fortunately, the corn is broken down and processed to such an extent that the molecular make-up is completely transformed and none of the GMO attributes remain in the final product. In regards to our other products, anything listed as “”organic”” cannot be a GMO. And, for the most part, the other ingredients we use are not ones that are genetically modified crops. Here’s a list of the GMO crops you should be looking out for: http://www.healthychild.org/live-healthy/checklist/top_ten_genetically_engineered_food_crops/
      We hope this helps address your question, but please let us know if you have any others we can help with!

  • Sara

    How disapointing, I thought I had found the perfect diaper untill i found out that The Honest company uses GMO corn. Totally ruined my day… I even fell in love with the little anchors and skulls because my husband and I love to sail. How can you say your helping protect mother earth when your company sources from something as distructive as genetic engineering? Its GMO free or nothing for my family, well back to washing cloth diapers for me I guess.

    • http://blog.honest.com/ Honest

      Hi Sarah, thanks for reaching out with your concerns. We do use GMO corn as raw material stock for the PLA and bio-core of our diapers. It is perfect for this use – NO pesticides are sprayed to produce it, it is not ingested, and by the time it is finally rendered as a finished material it has no resemblance to its precursor raw material. Check out a detailed list of ingredients here: https://www.honest.com/baby/honest-diapers.

      We’d love to use non-GMO ingredients in all of our products some day, but right now it’s simply not feasible. There is currently only one facility in the US that processes corn into plastic (for things like the PLA we use in our diapers). Unfortunately, at this facility there’s no method for processing non-GMO corn separately from GMO corn, so it all gets mixed together. Fortunately, the corn is broken down and processed to such an extent that the molecular make-up is completely transformed and none of the GMO attributes remain in the final product. We hope this helps address your questions. Please let us know if we can provide any additional help. And, of course, we’ll share your feedback with our product development team.

      • Sarisha Duncan

        Herbicides are sprayed on GM corn! That’s what they are, ROUND-UP READY (herbicide resistant) ….and they are sprayed in much heavier doses than ‘standard’ non-organic crops. Here’s an article that states how GM crops still use pesticides and herbicides!
        http://www.earthopensource.org/index.php/5-gm-crops-impacts-on-the-farm-and-environment/5-2-myth-gm-crops-decrease-pesticide-use

        • http://blog.honest.com/ Honest

          Hi Sarisha – You’re absolutely right and it was an error on our part to claim otherwise. There are different types of GMO corn – “Round-Up Ready” was created to tolerate the pesticides and “Bt corn” was created to eliminate the need for pesticides, but time has shown it still requires some. It’s a complicated and imperfect system and we’re just doing our best to navigate within it. Here’s a little about the balancing act required to make an Honest product and our long term vision: http://blog.honest.com/the-honest-balancing-act-long-term-vision/#.UwgOvmSxPSA

          Thanks for adding your voice and making this conversation even more educational!

    • SolidWords

      So you’re not concerned that cotton in the US is GMO? Unless you’re growing your own flax and sewing your own linen diapers?