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Kimberly Egan

FDA Compliance

Eating GMOs Isn’t Kosher for Anyone

Some indigestible facts you might not want to read over lunch

Published: Friday, June 28, 2013 - 10:42

What do China, Maine, Connecticut, Chipotle, and Whole Foods have in common? They all think you have a right to know whether the food you are eating contains any genetically modified organisms, known as GMOs.

I like that. Why do I care? Because the genes in GMO plants have been altered in a laboratory to do something that the plant would not normally do. This means that Mother Nature did not deem it good. Mother Nature did not deem it good that a tomato should live forever in its fully ripened state, even after traveling around the world in a crate on a truck or boat or a plane, and sitting in a grocery store for days if not weeks. Mother Nature did not deem it good that corn should be able to kill insects while it grows. Mother Nature created insects. They are useful, whereas acres and acres of corn are not. Mother Nature created corn to feed birds and deer and the occasional human. Not to feed every livestock animal in the country or to sweeten the chemical concoctions that the soft-drink makers dream up.

I find it ironic that the vote in Maine on labeling GMOs took place the same month that Edward Snowden demonstrated that he, too, thinks Americans have a right to know. And that Congress—the greatest legislative body in the world—appears to agree that all Americans have a right to know all the super-top-secret stuff the government is up to, but doesn’t think Americans have a right to know if they are eating GMOs. I know I’m going out on a limb, but I don’t think we should expect this Congress to pass a bipartisan bill to require all food manufacturers and restaurants to label GMOs anytime soon.

OK, next one. What do Amy’s Kitchen (frozen pizza), Blue Diamond (peanuts and almonds), Arrowhead Mills (stone-ground everything), and Silk (the company that brought tofu to America), have in common? They all refuse to use GMO ingredients in their products. Let’s all raise a cheer for these companies! This is what makes America great! Government won’t do something the people want? Do it yourself! Decide your elected representative is a lazy-good-for-nothing fat cat eating pork out of a barrel? Take matters into your own hands!

OK, next one. What do Judaism, the Church of England, and Saudi Arabia have in common? This one seems a little harder. But it turns out that all three prohibit GMOs. Saudi Arabia bans them outright, as does Algeria, Brazil, Egypt, the European Union, Peru, and Thailand. The Church of England won’t let any GMO crop trials on any church property, which amounts to 60,000 hectares in England. A hectare is approximately 2.5 acres, which is 150,000 acres, or the equivalent of about 234 square miles. That’s what the Church of England owns. The whole of England is only about 50,000 square miles big, from which, if you are a GMO scientist, you must subtract cities, towns, factories, airports, train stations, banks, houses, roads, outbuildings, seaside resorts, castles, Stonehenge, palaces, manor houses, Kew Gardens, etc. I bet there’s not much left after that. And lastly, GMOs aren’t kosher. There’s so much more to it on that one.

There’s more to say about GMOs, such as the fact that the U.S. government regulates GMO corn as a pesticide, not a food (that’s why we want to know what we’re eating, right?), or that Tasmania has declared GMO rapeseed to be a weed (weeds are bad, not good).

But the worst thing I learned researching this post is that M&Ms, Stoned Wheat Thins, Pringles, and all Pepperidge Farm cookies have GMOs in them.

The horror, the horror.

This article first appeared on the AssurX blog and is used by permission.


About The Author

Kimberly Egan’s picture

Kimberly Egan

Kimberly Egan is a litigation and regulatory lawyer with a background in pharmaceutical and medical device litigation and advice, Consumer Product Safety Commission work, food safety counseling and litigation, and commercial and mass tort litigation. Her food work has included risk-management planning and strategic assessments related to obesity claims, litigation analyses in connection with an acquisition of a company manufacturing dietary supplements, advice on FDA’s food additive and food contact regulations, advice on FDA’s Generally Regarded as Safe (GRAS) regulations, and general advice on food safety issues, product recalls, and supply-chain rationalization. She is a regular contributor to the AssurX blog.


Iincorrect information regarding whether GMOs are Kosher

The author asks: "What do Judaism, the Church of England, and Saudi Arabia have in common? This one seems a little harder. But it turns out that all three prohibit GMOs." Not only is this not true, it is grossly misleading

This is hardly the forum for going into the intricacies of what constitutes Kosher. Countless volumes have been written on the subject. But the basic facts are these:

1. Genetic modification per se is not inherently against the laws of kashrut. Moreover, it is essential to distinguish among types of modification: such as direct gene manipulation and insertion of genetic material from one type of being into another. The insertion of purely genetic material taken directly from non-kosher creatures and inserted into otherwise kosher creatures is as yet an open question.

2. There is no one single organization that certifies whether a specific food product is or is not kosher.  There is one particular certifying organization which focuses on organic foods and has declared it will not certify GMOs as kosher. There is another certifying organization that is combining programs for certification of food as non-GMO with other programs that it operates; however, their not certifying a food as GMO-free does not preclude the food from being kosher.

At this point there may be no consensus, but there is definitely no prohibition.


I'll venture a guess that you are against irradiated foods as well.  If you don't like it, don't eat it.  We don't need government intervention in everything we do.  Let the market decide.  I will go along with truth in labelling type things, but it should be standard practice, not required.