Guest post by Dr Laura Villa; Image by Arturs Budkevics from Pixabay
Genetically modified organisms, or GMOs, have become a hot topic and are part of many debates. However, there is a great deal of confusion about their impact on your health. Do they weaken your health? Do they contribute to cancer and other diseases? What risks do you incur by eating these foods?
Learn more about GMOs and your health:
- What are GMOs? GMOs are genetically modified organisms, and they have been a part of science experiments for decades now. Now, they are part of the food industry and other important industries. They are plants, animals, or bacteria in which the DNA has been modified through genetic engineering. Essentially, the development of GMOs is the replacement of natural selection processes with artificial genetic manipulation. It relies on a sound understanding of DNA and involves the subtraction of specific genetic material or replacement of material from one species with that from another.
- Agricultural applications. The growing population is requiring an increase in the food supply. The demand for food has been instrumental in promoting and advancing genetic modification techniques to produce new and improved organisms, particularly those that, for example, have higher yields or are drought and disease resistant. With this technology, it is now possible to create plant species that are able to survive in extreme temperatures and with low rainfall and have the capacity to create their own resistance to pests and pathogens.
- What GMO crops are grown and sold in the US? The GMO crops available in the US are soybeans, corn, canola, cotton, alfalfa, sugar beets, summer squash, papaya, apples, and tomatoes. Corn is the most commonly grown crop in the United States and most of it is GMO.
- Regulation. Three federal agencies regulate GMO foods: the EPA, the FDA, and the USDA, with each holding a particular role. The FDA sets and enforces food safety standards for all foods, and assures those foods that are GMOs or have GMO ingredients meet the same strict safety standards as all other foods. The EPA regulates the safety of the substances that protect GMO crops. Lastly, the USDA protects agriculture in the United States against pests and disease.
- Concerns bout GMO safety. Researchers continue to study GMO safety and how GMOs affect your health. One of the concerns about genetically modified organisms is that researchers need long-term studies to determine the impact on human health. However, these studies can take years, and food with GMOs is already on the shelves. Health risks associated with GMO foods are concerns with toxins, allergens, and genetic hazards.
- Conflicting study results. Another issue with genetically modified organisms is that the studies have produced conflicting results about their impact on human health. Researchers also point out that many of the studies have been done on animals, and they need studies on humans to assess the risk. Animals and people may have things in common, but they are different enough to be affected in different ways.
- Label issues. You cannot see genetically modified organisms by solely looking at a store shelf. This is caused by the lack of labeling. Some food labels state “contains bioengineered ingredients” (another way of saying GMO). According to the FDA, starting January 2022, certain types of GMOs will require a disclosure that lets you know if the food you are eating is bioengineered food.
- Unknown health effects. Since genetically modified organisms have only been part of the human diet for a few decades, it is difficult to predict other health issues that may arise in the future.
- What is next? It is important to remember that researchers are not finished studying genetically modified organisms. They plan to continue studies to determine how they affect health and the body.
GMOs have become a vital part of life, but there are still many questions about them. Keep up with what is happening in the ongoing research. You will feel more secure about making informed choices in what you buy.
- Watts CPD. BAS. BS. Genetically Modified Organisms. Salem Press Encyclopedia of Science. 2020. Accessed April 19, 2021.
- GMO Crops: Safety, Regulation and Sustainability Insights. Food Insight. Winter 2020:N.PAG. Accessed April 21, 2021.
- SITNFlash. Will GMOs hurt my body? The public’s concerns and how scientists have addressed them – science in the news. Harvard.edu. Published August 10, 2015. Accessed April 21, 2021. https://sitn.hms.harvard.edu/flash/2015/will-gmos-hurt-my-body/
- Center for Food Safety, Applied Nutrition. GMO crops, animal food, and beyond. Fda.gov. Published 2020. Accessed April 21, 2021. https://www.fda.gov/food/agricultural-biotechnology/gmo-crops-animal-food-and-beyond
- Center for Food Safety, Applied Nutrition. How GMOs Are Regulated. Fda.gov. Published May 5, 2020. Accessed April 21, 2021. https://www.fda.gov/food/agricultural-biotechnology/how-gmos-are-regulated-food-and-plant-safety-united-states
- Bawa AS, Anilakumar KR. Genetically modified foods: safety, risks and public concerns-a review. J Food Sci Technol. 2013;50(6):1035-1046. doi:10.1007/s13197-012-0899-1