Pros And Cons Of Genetically Modified Foods

By:    Published: March 21, 2012

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Many people today take for granted exactly where the foods they eat come from. In fact, genetically modified foods have become a commonplace thing in America, even though few people understand just what "genetically modified" means. While there are some benefits that genetically modified foods may offer, there are also some risks and negative effects that these foods can cause as well. Read this article about the pros and cons of this new type of food to decide if you want to continue incorporating genetically modified foods into your diet.

What Are Genetically Modified Foods?

When the term "genetically modified" is used to describe a food, it means that the genetic makeup of one of the ingredients in that food has been altered. This is achieved by a very special set of technologies that combine the genes from different organisms, with the resulting organism being called a genetically modified food. In most cases, the specific genes that are combined have been hand-picked for the specific traits that they have. Those traits could include everything from the resistance to insects to specific nutritional value. These genetically modified foods can be in anything from corn to canola oil, which are quite common ingredients in many foods found on the market today such as snacks, cereals and sodas.

Pros Of Genetically Modified Foods

There are several benefits that have been linked to genetically modified foods, including:

  • Resistance to disease: Genes can be modified to make crops more resilient when it comes to disease, especially those spread through insects. This can lead to higher crop yields, which many experts argue can help to feed people in developing countries.
  • Cost: Because foods can be more resistant to disease, it reduces the cost necessary for pesticides and herbicides. And although genetically modified seeds are a more costly investment initially, this reduction in cost along with fewer lost crops leads to more profits. In many cases, that lower cost is passed onto the consumer through lower food prices.
  • Quality: Some genetically modified foods, particularly fruits and veggies, have a longer shelf life than natural products.
  • Taste: Some people claim that genetically modified foods have a better taste. In some cases, the genes can be altered in order to improve taste, although this is still one factor that varies from person to person.
  • Nutritional content: Foods are often genetically modified in order to increase their nutritional content. This is especially helpful for certain populations where a specific nutrient is lacking in the local diet.

Cons Of Genetically Modified Foods

Although there are some benefits to genetically modified foods, there are some risks that have been associated with these foods. Some of these risks include:

  • Allergens and toxins: Some genetically modified foods may contain higher levels of allergens and toxins, which can have negative effects on the personal health of those who eat them. This may be especially dangerous for people with serious food allergies.
  • Antibiotic resistance: Because genetically modified foods are often developed to fight off certain pesticides and herbicides, there may be an increased risk that people who eat those foods may be more resistant to antibiotics.
  • New diseases: Viruses and bacteria are used in the process of modifying foods, which means that there is a possibility that they could cause the development of a new disease.
  • Nutritional content: Not all genetically modified foods are changed to increase their nutritional content. Instead, these foods may actually lose nutritional content in the process of altering their genetic makeup.
  • Loss of biodiversity: Genetically modified foods could potentially cause damage to other organisms in the ecosystems where they are grown. If these organisms are killed off, it leads to a loss of biodiversity in the environment while also putting other organisms at risk by creating an unstable ecosystem.

How To Find Non-Genetically Modified Foods

There are plenty of books, shopping guides and websites that you can refer to when trying to determine whether a food has been genetically modified or not. However, if you are at the store and trying to decide whether to buy a product, you can look for items that are 100 percent organic. Any certified organic food is guaranteed to not be genetically modified. Additionally, you can find some products that are labeled as "GMO-free" or "non-GM," which indicates that no genetically modified ingredients have been used. This isn't a guarantee since it is not a regulated label, so some research on the manufacturer of the food may be helpful.

Many people also avoid genetically modified products by shopping at local farmers' markets. This gives individuals a chance to talk to farmers directly about whether they use any genetically modified seeds for their crops. You can also grow your own food in a home garden, where you can ensure that each and every food you plant is not genetically modified.

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