“Alien genes” are genes from one species that are forced into a different species, creating a mutant life form that would never occur in nature. They’re called genetically modified organisms, or GMOs, and are created by chemical and pharmaceutical corporations.

They include, for example:

— The bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis spliced into some potatoes and corn, causing the plants to produce a toxin to ward off insects;

— Fish genes into tomatoes (a product that didn’t go on the market);

— Genes from antibiotics and pesticides inserted into corn, soy, canola, sugar beets — in your food today, unless you’re eating organic.

Creating GMOs is not selective breeding within one species. Selective breeding cross-pollinates, for example, one tomato with another, leading to a somewhat different tomato. This happens in nature all the time. It would never lead to a tomato with fish genes in it.

Forcing potentially toxic material into the plants humans and animals eat is not meant to “improve” the plants; it’s meant to sell more product — such as agriculture giant Monsanto’s Roundup Ready soybeans, alfalfa, corn, cotton, canola and sugar beets, which contain tolerance to Roundup herbicides.

Don’t wonder why the government allows these materials in your food: A former Monsanto executive is heading up the Food and Drug Administration. Surprised? Likely not.

When you eat GMO-containing food, you force your body to accept foreign, potentially toxic genes into every cell of your body as “food.” Since few studies of GMOs have been done on humans, the bio-tech corporations can say, “GMOs aren’t proven to harm humans.” But there are good reasons to wonder.

Monsanto, Bayer, Syngenta, Dow and DuPont tell people food would cost more if they had to label GMO products. Nonsense. We need to know whether our foods contain GMOs. If there’s nothing wrong with GMOs, why do they object so strenuously?

Truth: They’re afraid that if you know what’s in these GMO plants, you might not want to buy or eat them.

For instance:

— Pigs fed a GMO corn and soy diet contracted severe stomach inflammation. Animals fed GMOs also have shown disrupted liver, pancreas, kidneys and testes function.

Residues of Roundup herbicide have been shown to remain within and on the corn, soy, canola, sugar beets, etc., that are heavily sprayed during their growth period. It cannot be washed off, so you’re eating that herbicide in the GMOs.

— Agrobacterium tumefaciens and cauliflower mosaic virus are commonly used to breach plants cellular walls. Mutations of these foreign genes are taking place within these GMO plants; is this also happening to people who eat them?

Unfortunately, the so-called GMO labeling bill, LD 718, that passed the Legislature this year, and which Gov. Paul LePage has said he’ll sign, is a very weak bill. GMOs in Maine will not be labeled until other contiguous states decide to label.

The bill also excludes products from animals that have been fed GMOs — even though the GMOs the animals eat are in their cells. Thus, when you drink milk from GMO-fed cows, or eat butter, cheese or yogurt developed from these cows, you are eating the GMO from their bodies, too.

An honest label would tell you if the animals’ flesh, eggs and milk are from GMO-fed animals.

But we can call it a beginning while we work toward a serious labeling bill, so people can know what’s really in their food. Only then can we make good decisions about what to buy and feed our families.

Nancy Oden is an organic farmer who has lived in Washington County for 35 years. She may be reached at cleanearth@acadia.net.