Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are a relatively new food technology. In this process, the genes of the plants are modified to be resistant to various herbicides, produce their own pesticides and pharmaceutical chemicals and sometimes "terminate," or are unable to breed. Their cultivation is a highly contentious subject since the long-term environmental, health and nutritional effects of genetically modified crops are unknown. Some European countries and Marin County in the United States have banned their cultivation. Corn, one of the most commonly grown commodity crops, is also one of the most common GMOs. GMO corn is found in countless commercial products, many for human consumption. In 2011, it was estimated that 80 percent of corn grown in the U.S. was GMO corn.
One use for corn that has become more common in the early 21st Century is its use as a fuel additive. Ethanol, a type of alcohol, is being produced from corn and added to gasoline for use in automobiles. In February 2011, the USDA deregulated the use of GMO corn for ethanol production, a decision which will likely lead to more GMO corn use. Ethanol's use as a fuel is controversial because, as of 2011, it takes more energy to grow the corn and produce the ethanol than the finished product provides.
High Fructose Corn Syrup
High fructose corn syrup is a common sweetener derived from corn. Enzymes are used to change and intensify the natural sugars in the corn. It is used in processed foods, such as soda, juices, bread, processed meats, cereal, yogurt and ice cream. If a food containing corn syrup is not organic, it could very well contain GMO corn.
Corn is a common livestock feed, commonly fed to ruminants, or cud-chewing animals, such as cows. The corn is shredded and fermented by farmers into silage, a corn-based animal feed the animals eat. Corn is also used as a filler in pet food. Any of these products can contain GMO corn.
As one of the most common commodity crops, corn is a main or filler ingredient in countless foods. Any food product that is not organic and contains corn could potentially contain GMO corn. These include, but are not limited to beer, corn chips, taco shells, tortillas, cereal, granola bars, veggie burgers and corn bread mixes. Between corn being used as a filler and high fructose corn syrup as a sweetener, a sizable amount of non-organic, processed foods contain corn, much of which is GMO corn.