Genetically modified organisms are frequently plants that have been modified by scientists working for large corporations to engineer new traits into a field crop. Wikipedia provides a wealth of information on the topic of GMO food. This US PIRG (the national lobbying office of the state Public Interest Research Groups) report provides extensive data on the GMO issues.
GMO crops pose a great risk of largely unexplored threats to human health and the environment. For instance BT Corn is a GM corn from Monsanto that has inserted into its DNA a special trait from the bacillus thuringiensis bacteria that produces a powerful insecticide which kills a common corn pest: the corn borer. However, farmers have reported that the borer has grown resistant, while the plant is continues to kill additional insects such as the Monarch Butterfly and the Lacewing. Meanwhile, contaminated corn exposes humans to this modified DNA.
In the EU, GM maize (or corn for animal consumption) was approved in 1998. Since then, no new GM crops have been approved, despite complaints from the US and rulings by the World Trade Organization. Other GM plants are only allowed in Europe on university study fields under very strict supervision that strictly prevents any pollen drifting. In Europe, Norway, Austria, Germany, UK, Spain, Italy, Greece, France, Luxembourg, and Portugal have bans on GM crops. However, due to the presence of GM maize in Europe, the possibility of contaminated corn exists. It is for this reason Lavera uses Talc instead of Corn Starch in some of its makeup products.
Organic farmers in the US are often finding that their crops are testing positive for GMO cross-contamination. The source of the problem comes from the cross-pollination of organic crops with GMO crops in neighboring farms, the presence of GMO seed in bags of "organic" seed, greed – misrepresentation of GMO products as organic for higher prices, and other factors. “According to the Pew Initiative on Food and Biotechnology, in 2004, 45 percent of corn, 85 percent of soybeans and 76 percent of cotton being grown in the United States were GMOs.”
According to an article from the Dow Jones, the USDA is wanting to “to cement into law its authority to do nothing when unapproved biotech material is discovered in crops”. This is the same USDA that certifies skin care products with the Certified Organic seal.
According to the article, “Dow AgroSciences in February 2008 reported discovering traces of an unapproved biotech material in three lines of corn seeds. The USDA said the unapproved biotech seed was planted on about 53,000 acres of U.S. farm land in 2007.” There have been number a class action lawsuit claimings damages for crops for human use being contaminated by GMO crops: StarLink Corn Products, Ponto vs Aventis Crop Science.
There is currently no requirement to test for GMO in organic crops and end products and little testing. According to Matthew Dillon, director of advocacy for the Organic Seed Alliance, “GMOs are an ‘excluded method’ in an organic program... It could threaten the farmer’s certification to ‘knowingly’ plant seed with GMO presence.”