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How can genetically modified (GMO) food be Kosher?
I have done a lot of reading on the relationship between foods considered Kosher and foods containing GMO ingredients. How can the Orthodox Union, the largest Kosher certification organization in the U.S., consider a food to be Kosher when some of the ingredients are known, or at least suspected, of having their genetic make up manipulated? I realize that Kosher certification is big business, but it seems to me that in order to remain true to the religious aspect of eating Kosher, one would be required to eat food that has not been genetically modified. I understand that the Orthodox Union does not deem food safe or unsafe... you trust the USDA's and FDA's opinion on such matters, however your certification is trusted by millions of Jews, and Gentiles who don't require Kosher food are still paying for the certification by virtue of purchasing a product with your "circle U" on it. In conclusion, does the Orthodox Union have any future plans to issue the coveted "circle U" to food products that are GMO free? Considering the growing support for mandatory GMO labeling nation wide, your organization's willingness to certify foods that are GMO free would certainly be a step in the right direction, and it would give everyone, both Jews and Gentiles, a method of identifying GMO free foods, instead of fighting with corrupt politicians, global bio-engineering conglomerates and lobbying groups for the right to know what we are putting in our bodies. Thank you for your time.
Thank you for contacting the OU.
At the Orthodox Union we value all opinions and appreciate the effort you to take in making us aware of what is important to you.
The OU is a Kosher certifying agency. Health aspects of food production are beyond our area of expertise. Issues of health and safety are the domain of the FDA and USDA, and the OU will certify products that are in compliance with FDA and USDA regulations.
Halacha is extremely sensitive to matters of health, to the extent that chamira sakanta meisura (life-threatening health concerns generally take precedence over Halachic restrictions). Nonetheless, as a kashrus agency, the expertise of the OU is limited to the domain of kosher supervision, and the evaluation of the health status of a product is beyond the scope of the OU’s mandate. There are government agencies that are entrusted with the responsibility of insuring the safety of food items, and the OU certifies products that meet the criteria of public health and safety requirements.
Please do not hesitate to contact us again should you have any further questions.
The Web(be) Rebbe
Orthodox Union Kashruth Division
Visit us online at: www.oukosher.org
Thank you for your response. I understand that you do not judge food for it's safety or lack of safety. I also understand that you trust the various government organizations and their opinion(s) in regards to what food is healthy and/or safe, and that the OU merely certifies said food based on the information provided by the aforementioned government agencies AND the religious doctrine that you follow in accordance to the strict guidelines set forth through the tradition(s) of your faith.
My question regarding foods containing GMO ingredients in food products is based more in the religious doctrine you follow and not the trust in governmental agencies, which by all accounts have become more secular over time. My take, from a religious perspective, in regards to GMOs is that God made food for humans to eat and sustain their life. Man came along, and through his arrogance, decided that the way God made food (i.e corn, soy, et al) was not good enough, and so man genetically modified numerous food products and now deems them superior to their conventional counterparts, which again, were created by God all mighty. I find this to be counterintuitive to a strict religious doctrine, regardless of the specific faith. The question I pose is not one of safety, but one of consistency in regards to following the doctrine set forth by God. As you know, a cow must be slaughtered in a certain manner, and must be preparred by observing strict guidlines in order for the beef to be considered Kosher. I find it hard to understand why it is acceptable for an Orthodox Jew to consume Kosher beef produced by a cow fed a diet containing GMOs, but it is not acceptable for an Orthodox Jew to eat non-Kosher beef produced from a cow that ate a non-GMO diet. There is nothing natural about GMOs, because the food has been manipulated by man, and is not in the original form that God the creator intended.
Thank you again for your time and your response to my concerns.
Jewish-Americans have a long history of finding role models who broke barriers, accomplished great things, or engaged in more mundane acts of heroism. Jewish religious schools are full of discussions of athletes like Hank Greenberg and Sandy Koufax, or the legions of Jewish entertainers and scholars, as ways to demonstrate the accomplishments of American Jews. But in all those stories many of us heard growing up, one set of brave heroes was never mentioned: the Schechter brothers of New York City.
The Schechters were kosher butchers operating in the 1930s who stood fast to their commitment to the dietary laws of kashrut in the face of ferocious pressure and prosecution by a powerful government. They eventually took their case to the highest court in the land—and won—defeating one of the most popular and powerful administrations in American history. Read more: www.fee.org...