New Report: Americans Eating Their Weight in Genetically Engineered Food

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Do you think you eat much genetically engineered food? The creepy truth is, most of us probably wouldn’t know given the lax labeling laws. But Environmental Working Group (EWG) has taken it upon themselves to do a little sleuthing for us, what they found isn’t exactly comforting.

To figure out how much genetically engineered food Americans are eating each year, EWG researchers examined 2011 data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s per capita consumption of four foods frequently derived from genetically engineered crops: Sugar, corn-based sweeteners, salad oil and the nefarious category of “corn products.”

They then compared those figures with the latest USDA data which shows that 95 percent of the sugar beets, 93 percent of the soybeans and 88 percent of the corn grown in the U.S. are genetically engineered. They mixed in federal data revealing that 79 percent of the salad oil consumed in the U.S. is soybean oil, and 55 percent of the sugar comes from sugar beets.

The grand total? Americans are eating an average of 193 pounds of genetically engineered food per year. Given that the average American adult weighs 179 pounds, many of us are eating more than our weight in frankenfoods.

Renee Sharp, lead author of the report and the director of EWG’s California office, said:

What's shocking is that Americans are eating so much genetically engineered food, yet there have been zero long-term studies done by the federal government or industry to determine if its consumption could pose a risk health. If you were planning on eating your body weight of anything in a year or feeding that much food to your family, wouldn’t you first want to know if long-term government studies and monitoring have shown it is safe?

The breakdown looks like this, per person: 68 pounds of beet sugar, 58 pounds of corn syrup, 38 pounds of soybean oil and 29 pounds of corn-based products. And those numbers exclude other common genetically engineered foods like canola oil, cottonseed oil, papaya, yellow squash and soy foods beyond soybean oil. The analyses also skipped genetically engineered animal feed that we may be eating indirectly via meat fed genetically engineered crops.

And in the meantime, while we’re eating our weight in science-fiction food, the evidence of environmental harm related to genetically engineered crops and their associated pesticides is seriously hard to ignore. According to EWG, the planting of genetically engineered crops has increased overall pesticide use by more than 300 million pounds and has led to the proliferation of pesticide-resistant superweeds and superbugs.

The only surefire way to avoid genetically engineered ingredients is to be fiercely proactive and skip processed food and eat only organically raised food – which is great in and of itself, but should it really have to be so hard?

Tags: Cooking | Food Safety | Fruits & Vegetables | Genetically Modified Food | Genetic Engineering