Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) got a lot of press in the late 90s and early 2000s, but it's rarer to see them in the media now. I remember a time when my mum wouldn't let us eat foods with high soy content, and would check with fried food outlets if they used rapeseed or canola oil before she ordered anything for fear of ingesting Genetically Modified foods. I thought she was nuts. Hot chips are hot chips right?

What is a GM Food? Genetically Modified foods are those which have had alterations made to their genetic material in order to make them more economically viable (meaning they have in-built insect repellants, extra 'flavour', increased resistance to disease, increased tollerance for climate differentiations etc). Think back to the 1999 Simpsons episode about 'Tomacco', a tomato-tobacco genetic cross and you'll understand the fears that were and still are (quite legitimately - a tomato with nicotine content actually has been created by Rob Bauer!) held about GM foods.

(I am not the author of this great image.
this person is)

Opinions, opinions
There are many opposing views held about GM foods, even between scientific researchers - in fact it's an issue which seems to polarise them! It's difficult for consumers to tell what's going on, who's making claims and which claims are 'true' - the companies like MonSanto, Du Pont, Bayer etcetera etcetera making the GM products? The economists and sociologists who believe third world countries who are given GM foods in the form of aid are being used as guinea pigs? The scientists who say that GM crops are no more invasive than the unmodified crop? The media who uses the rhetoric of science-fiction like 'Frankenfoods' to portray GM foods? Or those who say that GM foods will be the only way of keeping up with food demands especially in poverty-stricken areas and farmland areas affected by climate change?

Consumer knowledge, regulation and flipping Salmon
Possibly, in the words of Mulder, 'The truth is out there,' but in the meantime, it's up to the consumer to make up their own minds. In Australia all GM foods must pass pre-market approval and be labelled under the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code, and currently it's only crops like soy, canola, potatoes, wheat, rice etc that have been allowed into Australia. (How do you label a potato as a GM food by the way? They don't have stickers on them like apples do!) But in the US right now, the Food & Drug Administration is considering the approval of a GM farmed Salmon with a growth hormone spliced from another species of Salmon. This would be the first GM animal to be available on the market, and it raises even more questions of environmental sustainability: what happens if the farmed fish escape and breed in the wild? Would their added growth hormone give them a competitive advantage over Wild Salmon? How well-tested is the GM Salmon for human consumption over long periods of time? Why is the Food and Drug Administration (which tends to suggest that a genetic 'enhancement' is a 'drug') the only regulatory body for this technology which has been around for more than a decade? You can read an article on GM Salmon here and make up your own mind!

Want to know what Genetically Modified Foods are approved for use in Australia? See a list from the Australia/NZ Food Standards Government website here