Knowledge, it is said, is power. When it comes to the foods we eat, it is also an avenue to safety.
That’s one reason why Kansas State University food safety specialist Karen Blakeslee keeps an eye on a program from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration that helps consumers better understand genetically engineered foods, commonly called GMOs.
“Despite there being a wide range of foods available to consumers – GMO and non-GMO – there is some confusion around what GMOs are and how they are used in our food supply,” said Blakeslee, who is also coordinator of the university’s Rapid Response Center for food science.
Earlier this year, the FDA launched the program, Feed Your Mind, to educate consumers about GMOs.
“The program provides consumers with science-based, educational information to better understand how GMOs are made, learn more about the types of crops that have been modified, address questions they have about health and safety of GMOs, and explain how GMOs are regulated in the United States,” Blakeslee said.
Safety, she added, is the bottom line.
“Consumers want to know about food and the many factors that go into providing safe food to feed themselves and their families,” Blakeslee said. “So, transparency is key to educate consumers for a nutritious and safe food supply from farm to table.”
In the United States, the FDA works closely with the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Agriculture to ensure the safety of GMO foods and plants. Those agencies also help food companies understand the rules they need to follow when creating plants through genetic engineering to heighten their safety.
Blakeslee said that beginning in January, 2022, certain types of GMOs will require a disclosure that lets consumers know if the food itself or ingredients used to make the food are bioengineered.
“At that time,” she said, “foods sold in the United States that meet the definition of bioengineered food must have information on their packaging using one of the approved methods, including text on the package that says ‘bioengineered food,’ the bioengineered food symbol, or directions for using your phone to find this disclosure.”
The FDA provides numerous fact sheets and videos – in English and Spanish – on the Feed Your Mind website.
More information about food safety is available from K-State Research and Extension’s Food Safety website.