GMOs: What Are They and Should I Be Concerned?

gmoGMO, do you know what it means? If you don’t, you are not alone. Research from Rutger’s University shows that over half of Americans know very little or nothing about genetically modified foods, despite wide media coverage on the topic.

Let’s start with a basic definition; a genetically modified organism (GMO) is one that has been genetically engineered. The process of genetic engineering involves removing a gene from one organism and transferring that gene to a different organism. The new gene becomes integrated into every cell of that organism and produces a desirable trait, such as resistance to pests or enhanced flavor. Scientists have been crossbreeding plants to produce desirable traits for hundreds of years. For example, did you know that carrots were originally white or purple? It was not until the 17th century that Dutch scientists started cross breeding them to become orange. Genetic engineering does go a step further than traditional breeding because any gene can be transferred to any organism, as opposed to traditional breeding where only closely related species can mate.

In the United States there are four main crops which are genetically engineered (GE). The three C’s: cotton, corn, canola, and soy. Roughly 90% of the corn grown in the U.S. is GE. However, that does not mean that the ear of corn you are eating at your BBQ is GE. Whole corn sold at American markets is not GE. Corn used to feed cattle and corn used in processed foods in the form of high fructose syrup is almost always GE. GE corn and soy are prevalent in processed foods (basically anything in a bag or box at the supermarket). The fresh fruits and vegetables on the displays are not genetically engineered. If you want to be 100% sure that something is not GE, you can always buy organic. In order for something to be certified organic, it has to undergo rigorous testing to prove it is free of GMOs.

Are you still with me? Good! On to the controversy, the anti-GMO activists list several reasons that GMOs are harmful. Reasons include no long term testing for safety, possible allergic reactions to new proteins that may be created, and antibiotic resistance. These are legitimate concerns. It is a relatively new technology (we have been eating GMO foods since 1996), and scientists have made mistakes in the past with believing new technology was safe when it really wasn’t. For example dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane, more commonly known as DDT. Big mistake. As for the allergies, there have been no reported new allergies that are specifically from GMO foods, but allergies are a tricky subject. Who is to say that there are not allergies that go unreported or misdiagnosed?

The pros of GMOs include greater crop yield, potential to help alleviate world hunger, reduced use of herbicides and pesticides, and adding beneficial nutrients to the food. For example, have you ever heard of golden rice? Golden rice is GE rice which has been altered to contain greater amounts of vitamin A. In developing countries, vitamin A deficiency is still the cause of thousands of cases of irreversible blindness and death in children and pregnant women. Rice is a staple crop in many of these countries and it could potentially help prevent many of these deaths and illnesses.

What do you think? Do the cons outweigh the pros? I will let you decide. My opinion is that we should proceed cautiously. I do think there is potential for genetic engineering to greatly benefit the world. You should definitely do your own research, but know that there are a lot of highly unreputable sources on GMOs out there. If anyone sends me an article from realfarmacy.com, I am not reading it. The Center for Science in the Public Interest is a great source for health and nutrition information.

Sources:

http://anrcatalog.ucdavis.edu/pdf/8180.pdf

http://cspinet.org/new/pdf/biotech-faq.pdf

5 thoughts on “GMOs: What Are They and Should I Be Concerned?

  1. Hi! I’m Sara’s neighbor! 🙂 thanks for sharing. I believe it’s important to spread the word on gmos so that everyone understands and is able to choose what is best for their family. I am one that avoids gmos at home and if we eat out on the weekends or at parties I know it is probably gmo. Haha moderation. However I love to cook and only eat out maybe 2-3 meals a week usually on the weekends and I try and choose the best options most of the time. And every once in a while I splurge. I just feel my best when I eat clean, minimally processed, non gmo food most of the time. I am not a fan of gmos and want to eat as close to nature as possible and I eat minimally processed food.

    Sara I would avoid Cheerios because honestly your baby doesn’t need them. It’s better to just feed real unprocessed food. My kids hve never had them. However every blue moon I will buy a box of veganic sprouted grain cereal O’s as a treat. I hve a box at home if you want to see what it looks like. They are like Cheerios except made with sprouted grains and sweetened with a tiny bit of coconut sugar. And on those crazy days I give some to nico. But it’s rare. You can get them at whole foods. I usually just do fruits, veggies, dried fruit for snacks l. I’m just a fan of minimally processed food. I do buy organic popcorn and organic corn chips tho. That’s pretty much it now. Oh and sometimes these tahini rice crackers from Wf. Everything else i usually make from scratch. I didn’t get like this overnight but after becoming a health coach and learning more and more about food I’ve become this way.

    Thanks again for sharing!

    1. Thanks for reading! Yes, I believe everyone should choose what is best for their family. As a registered dietitian with a masters degree in Nutrition Science I just want people to know the facts and not spread fear of GMOs without knowing what they are. I think we can both agree that eating NON-GMO french fries from McDonalds is much much worse than eating some GMO cheerios.

  2. Haha yeah for sure. 😉 Its great to try and get people to research it out themselves and see if they feel comfortable eating gmos. Some people have NO clue about them and it’s sad to me because without the labeling and knowledge they have no choice. That’s why I think it’s great you blogged about this topic so people are more aware. Its so important for people to know where their food comes from, where it’s made, how it’s grown etc. It’s hard because I know not everyone can afford organic everything so I always tell people who are trying to get healthy to just try and eat REAL FOOD as much as possible and try to buy some things organic if possible and try not to worry. 😉 shopping at the farmers market is always awesome! So glad we have a really good one near us! I do most of my grocery shopping there. Love it!!

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