To many, the term “genetically modified food” may sound unappealing. This is especially true if you are someone who values natural products and eating healthy. But what is it about GMO foods that makes them so controversial? Why choose non-GMO?
Here’s what you need to know to make informed food choices that support your values and your health.
What are GMOs?
GMO stands for genetically modified organism:
- Genetically refers to the genes that contain DNA, a set of instructions for how cells grow and develop.
- Modified implies a change or tweak has been made to the genetics.
- Organism refers to all living things – plants, animals, bacteria and fungi.
GMO’s are living beings (i.e. plants, animals, etc.) that have changed their genetic code.
Why do we grow GMOs?
For the past 20 years, genetically modified crops have been widely grown in North America. Today, the most common GMO crops are engineered to make plants able to withstand specific herbicides, mainly soybeans, cotton, and corn. They can also be engineered to include organic bacteria that make plants toxic to insects. GMOs are used by farmers to help ensure a good yield is produced. Farmers tend to worry about three things when planting their crops:
GMOs are created to be able to withstand these threats. There is also the thought process that our population exceeds expectations, resulting in a worry that we will not be able to feed everyone efficiently. Many to provide the world’s population with large quantities of agriculture, GMOs are believed by many to provide albeit with less quality.
What are the risks associated with producing and consuming GMO foods?
Concerns regarding GMOs usually focus on how they will affect the environment and how it will affect the consumer.
Concerns regarding GMOs’ possibility of negatively affecting human health could result from differences in nutritional content, allergic response or undesired side effects such as toxicity, organ damage, or gene transfer.
Food allergies are a growing problem worldwide, and it is believed the spike is linked to the GMOs found in food. There is a big concern over transferring specific proteins from one plant to another in genetic engineering. Proteins found in a small number of foods generally cause most allergic reactions. Mixing these different proteins to mass-produce food means there is no way of knowing if there is a protein from another food that one may be allergic to.
Genetically engineered food producers simply do not know where their genetic “cassette” is being inserted in the food. They also do not know enough about foods’ genetic and chemical makeup to establish a “safe” place insertions. Essentially, a food roulette is being played here because each genetic insertion creates the added possibility that formerly nontoxic elements in foods become toxic.
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