Genetically modified foods are very common in the US, even though only a few people understand what the term means. To decide if you want to continue incorporating genetically modified foods into your diet — read on to learn more about them and their pros and cons.
What Are Genetically Modified Foods?
When the term “genetically modified” is used to describe a food, it means that one of the ingredients’ genetic makeup was changed. Technology is used that can combine the genes from different organisms. In most cases, the specific genes are hand-picked for the particular traits. Those traits could include everything from resistance to insects to specific nutritional value. These genetically modified foods can be in anything from corn to canola oil — a pretty common ingredient in many foods found on the market today, such as snacks, cereals, and sodas.
Benefits Of Genetically Modified Foods
Genetically modified foods have several benefits, including:
- Lower food prices: Although genetically modified seeds can be expensive initially, they reduce how much pesticides and herbicides are needed to grow. There are also fewer lost plants which lead to more profits. You, the consumer, get lower costs through lower food prices.
- Increase safety for farmers: Genetically modified food allows farmers to use fewer pesticides. Pesticides are poison for animals and other organisms that would destroy the crops, which can also be harmful to humans. Genetically modified plants can be more resilient to diseases, particularly those spread through animals.
- Control some diseases: Genetically modified foods are also helpful to control specific diseases in the foods to ensure that the food we eat is healthy and safe.
- Fight world hunger: Genetically modified foods may also help fight world hunger because farmers can grow more food with fewer resources. Many authorities claim it can help feed people in developing countries.
- Grow in unfavorable climates: Genetically modified foods can still grow in places where former droughts may have made it impossible to get enough food. Genetically modified crops are also suitable for areas with unfavorable climate conditions.
- Increase nutritional value: Some changes to food increase their nutritional value. This is especially important for specific populations where a particular nutrient is lacking in the local diet.
- Longer shelf life: Some genetically modified foods may have a longer shelf life than before.
Some people even say that genetically modified foods taste better as researchers can optimize them for the perfect taste. However, this differs from person to person. So we will leave that up to you to decide.
Potential Hazards Of Genetically Modified Foods
Although there are advantages to genetically modified foods, they also have risks. All genetically modified foods currently available in the US pass several safety assessments. They run tests to see if they have adverse effects on humans based on their consumption.
When discussing genetically modified foods, here are some safety issues to consider:
- Allergic reactions: Edited genes or genetically modified food might cause allergic reactions. Some genetically modified foods may contain increased allergens, affecting the person eating them. This may lead to dangerous situations for people with severe food allergies.
- Antibiotic resistance: Genetically modified foods may be modified to withstand several pesticides or herbicides. So, people fear that there may be an increased risk of people who eat those foods being more resistant to antibiotics.
- Outcrossing: Outcrossing means there is a transfer of genes from genetically modified foods or organisms to other foods or species that were not genetically modified in the first place. Many countries develop preventative strategies that include separating genetically modified and non-genetically modified plants.
- Losing biodiversity: Potentially, genetically modified foods may cause damage to other plants and animals close to where they grow. It can lead to biodiversity loss in the environment and put other organisms at risk by creating an unstable ecosystem.
- Loss of nutritional value: Not all genetically modified foods are modified to increase their nutritional value. Instead, some foods may lose nutritional content in changing their genetic makeup.
How To Find Non-Genetically Modified Foods
There are plenty of books, shopping guides, and websites that you can use to help you 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 not to be genetically modified. You can find some products labeled as “GMO-free” or “non-GM,” which indicates that they are not genetically modified. This isn’t a guarantee since it is not a regulated label; therefore, doing some research on the food manufacturer may be helpful.
Many people avoid genetically modified products by shopping at local farmers’ markets. This gives them a chance to talk to farmers directly about whether they use any genetically modified seeds for their crops. You can also grow your food in a home garden to ensure that every food you plant is not genetically modified.
- “Genetically modified foods: safety, risks and public concerns—a review” via Journal of Food Science and Technology
- “Genetically Modified Foods and Social Concerns” via Avcienna Journal of Medical Biotechnology
- “An update and perspectives on the use of promoters in plant genetic engineering” via Journal of Biosciences
- “Genetically modified crop regulations: scope and opportunity using the CRISPR-Cas9 genome editing approach” via Molecular Biology Reports
- “Removing politics from innovations that improve food security” via Transgenic Research
- “Novel and emerging biotechnological crop protection approaches” via Plant Biotechnology Journal