GMOS: SAFE OR SOMETHING TO AVOID?

Please take my poll:

Are genetically modified organisms (GMOs) safe for consumption?
 

HERE'S THE THING, I DON'T KNOW.

And if you came here today looking for a specific answer, you probably won't find it unless you already have a bias and you're not letting go.

However if you want insight into both sides of the argument, read on.


FIRST THINGS FIRST, WHAT IS A GMO?

Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) occur through a laboratory process where the DNA from one species is artificially transferred into another species to create a desired affect.

Changes to genes are normal and occur frequently in nature. Most things we consume are not genetically identical to how they were hundreds of years ago. DNA traits in animals and plants change based on how useful they are for surviving.

BUT, WHY?

With the boom of the agriculture business, GMOs were adopted in order to make our food more resilient. It's what's saved the Hawaiian papaya industry from viruses, the Indian cotton industry from bollworm, made soybeans resistant to weedkiller and potatoes that don't bruise.

And beyond that, some GMOs actually add nutrients into the food.

There are bananas and sweet potatoes fortified to fight Vitamin A deficiencies, as well as rice with added iron.

BUT THE FACT IS, YOU'RE PROBABLY EATING MORE GMOS THAN YOU REALIZE.

The average person spends very little time thinking about GMOs, and even less than that researching where they are hiding and why they could be harmful.

Unless specifically labeled otherwise (organic), any product containing soy, corn, cotton seed, or canola has over a 90% chance of containing a GMO. That means things like tortilla chips, protein powders, salad dressings, infant formula, and even processed meats contain these things. If you're not scared already, see this partial list of common food products containing GMOs.


HERE'S WHAT THE OPPOSED ARE ARGUING:

  • Increased allergies
    • Food allergies are caused by eight major foods: milk, peanuts, tree nuts, soy, wheat, fish, and shellfish. Of these eight, the only one subject to modification is soy. 
  • Decreased nutritional value
  • Antibiotic resistance
    • A professor of genetics in Canada claims that the same antibiotics used in some surgeries can be found in GM modified crops. If this is true, GMOs could render antibiotics useless.
  • Heavy use of pesticide and herbicide
    • A common misconception is that the adoption of genetically modified crops have increased the use of pesticides, when just the opposite is true. Overall, pesticide applications have decreased, largely due to the adoption of insect-resistant genetically modified crops.  In fact, over the last 20 years, GMOs have reduced pesticide spraying by 8 percent. As a result the environmental impact associated with pesticide use on biotech crops has decreased by more than 18 percent.
  • Infertility
    • A study showed that mice fed GMO corn over a period of 20 weeks had greatly impaired fertility compared to the mice fed non-GMO corn.

And yet, with all these claims the other side is fighting back. Last year, the National Academies of Science, Mathematics, and Engineering compiled over 20 years of evidence to prove that GMOs have no significant difference on the health of humans when compared to non-GMO farming methods. 

DO YOUR OWN RESEARCH, BUT UNDERSTAND BIAS IS EVERYWHERE.


THE BOTTOM LINE IS THAT THE HEALTH CONSEQUENCES OF CONSUMING GMOS ARE LARGELY UNKNOWN.

EVEN STILL, Am I pro-GMO?

I'm not sure, but you won't see me eating many anyways. The unknown scares me. GMOs have been around since the mid 90s, so the we won't see any long term effects for a while. And regardless of whether you believe they are beneficial or harmful, it's usually a better choice to eat organic anyways.

Foods labeled as organic are the most regulated by the FDA and in my eyes that makes them the safest to eat. If you have the means to do so, eating organically can protect against a lot of unknowns (though not all...but more on that later.) Even better, eat locally to support small farmers, fight allergies, and help the environment.