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Genetically Modified Organisms: Labeling

You enter the grocery store and glance at your list: snack bars, frozen dinners, and cookies appear.  More than likely, these items contain genetically modified ingredients.

GMO Awareness states on their website that Genetically Modified Organisms, or GMOs, are plants whose genes are modified to a form that does not occur naturally.  For example, crops can be genetically modified for weather resistance, pest resistance, to grow a certain color, and to develop a particular flavor.  Genetically modified plants contain the DNA from another plant.  Genetically engineered plants are hybridized by cross pollination and people choosing two plants to breed together due to specific favorable traits they express.

On June 1, 2013 in Connecticut, the announcement was made that GMO foods are going to be required to be labeled.  This will take effect once four states pass a similar bill; one state must border Connecticut.  Also, any number of northeastern states must approve a similar bill with a combined population of at least 20 million people.  The law will take effect by October 1, 2013 as long as the two requirements are met.

There are already 25 states in the United States that have a GMO labeling law in progress or passed.  For example, Alaska has a law requiring genetically engineered fish to be labeled.  Indiana is protected against genetically engineered seafood now that Marsh Supermarkets no longer sells it upon FDA’s approval.  Minnesota has two bills in consideration, one being the genetic engineered label law on a federal level as opposed to state level.  Pennsylvania is deciding on labeling all genetically engineered foods or those foods made with genetically modified organisms.

California had a similar proposition as Connecticut in 2012 called Proposition 37 for mandatory labeling of genetically engineered food.  It required that all raw and processed foods be labeled and prohibited “natural” labels.  The New York Times explains in an article that if this proposition had passed, it would have been the first GMO labeling law to pass in the United States.  It was a close vote; out of 4.3 million voters, 46.9% voted “yes” and 53.1% voted “no”.  This proposition fueled the debate on whether or not GMO’s should be labeled and other states soon began to consider such a law.

Know Your Terms

Under the Connecticut State legislation for this amendment, the following significant terms have been defined:

Label: written, printed, or graphic images on any container or packaging and additional information to be visible on the outside container or packaging in order to be complied with.

Natural food: food not treated with preservatives, antibiotics, synthetic additives, artificial flavoring or coloring, not processed in any manner to be made less nutritious, and not genetically engineered.  The FDA has not established an official definition for “natural food” as of yet, but for the terms of this legislation, this is how natural food will be understood.  Flavors and colors are an exception, however.

Organically grown: food produced through organic farming methods with ecological soil management and mechanical/biological control of insects, weeds, pathogens, and other pests.  These rely on crop rotation, crop residues, composed animal manures, legumes, green manures, composted organic waste or mineral-bearing rocks.  The National Organic Program states that “organic is a labeling term that indicates that the food or other agricultural product has been produced through approved methods that integrate cultural, biological, and mechanical practices that foster cycling of resources, promote ecological balance, and conserve biodiversity.”

Raw agricultural commodity: food in its raw and natural state.

Safe: concerns the health of humans and animals.

Genetic engineering: the genetic material has been changed via in vitro nucleic acid techniques or fusion cells.

In vitro nucleic acid techniques: including recombinant deoxyribonucleic acid techniques that use vector systems and techniques with the direct introduction into organisms.

Organism: any living being that can replicate, reproduce, or transfer genetic material in any way.

Processed food: food intended for human consumption besides raw agricultural commodities and any food processed through canning, smoking, pressing, cooking, freezing, dehydration, fermentation, or milling.

FDA on the Watch

Genetically engineered food products are regulated by the FDA and are processed for their safety just as non-GMO foods are.  Since GMO food must meet the same safety requirements as non-GMOs, they are approved as safe to consume.  The food products are not shipped to go on the market unless it passes the consultation process by the FDA.  Approximately 80% of processed foods are genetically engineered.  Corn, canola, soybeans, and cotton are the plants that are the most genetically engineered, corn being the top genetically engineered crop.

What Does Watson Do?

Watson has many ingredients available for formulations and products that are labeled with a non-GMO label.  We have an IP (identity) certification that allows access to information regarding the origin of the ingredients or seed they came from.  These ingredients are more expensive than their genetically modified forms, but we will be using them in order to meet demands of our customers.  Overall, we can customize orders to fit the customer’s desire to use GMO or non-GMO ingredients.

Vitamin K: Watching out for Your Bones and Heart

“Drink your milk, it’s good for your bones!” is what most children are constantly reminded of by their parents.  While calcium and vitamin D in milk are understood to support bone and heart health, there may be one nutrient overlooked.

Vitamin K is essential for a variety of bodily processes.  Vitamin K1 is made by plants, retained in the liver and synthesizes clotting factors.  Vitamin K2 functions easiest in longer chained forms given that they have longer half-lives and remain in circulation for a longer period of time.  These vitamin K molecules are commonly referred to as menaquinones and are found in lipoproteins which set into circulation.  They allow for calcium homeostasis and transport.

Osteocalcin is a calcium-binding protein in the blood that takes calcium from the blood to the bone matrix.  Matrix Gla is another calcium-binding blood protein that is activated by vitamin K.  The USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University concluded from studies that 50% of osteocalcin is uncarboxylated, or inactivated, because of a deficiency in vitamin K.  In result of this, calcium deposits may form in the blood.

Vitamin K2 has been known to decrease one’s chance of heart disease.  Erasmus Medical Center in a Rotterdam study proves that with a higher level of menaquinones, fewer deaths occur from heart disease and circulation conditions.  Vitamin K2 is involved with osteoporosis as well, according to an Emory University study.  Menaquinones facilitate pro-anabolic and anti-catabolic effects on bone cells and suppress the molecule responsible for controlling the inflammatory process.

Calcium and vitamin D play an important role in the functioning of vitamin K.  Vitamin D allows calcium absorption.  In turn, vitamin K can then be transported from the blood to the bone tissue.  When vitamin D is activated, osteocalcin is regulated for transporting calcium.

Vitamin K1 is mostly found in leafy green vegetables whereas menaquinones are in organ meats, egg yolks, and dairy products.  Adults should consume about 90 milligrams of vitamin K per day.  A deficiency in vitamin K can be brought on by the use of antibiotics for a significant period of time.

While parents may be correct in urging their children to drink their milk for calcium and vitamin D, they must be aware of other nutrients that are essential for proper heart and bone health.