There is a lot of controversy surrounding GMOs (genetically modified organisms). But why are GMOs bad, and how can you avoid them?
While there is a lot of controversy surrounding GMOs, or genetically modified organisms, scientists have yet to provide conclusive data as to whether or not GMO foods are safe to eat or harmful to our health.
As the world population grows, it is becoming increasingly difficult to provide food for everyone with the limited quantity of water, soil, and other resources. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, food production needs to be doubled in some parts of the world by 2050, and GMOs seem to be a viable solution to that.
However, experts have expressed concerns regarding the long-term safety and environmental effects of GMOs, although the FDA, EPA, and USDA are working together to ensure that GMOs are safe for human, plant, and animal health, as well as for the environment.
What are GMOs?
GMOs refer to any organisms whose DNA has been altered using genetic engineering technology. In the food industry, they are made by scientists who introduce new traits or characteristics to crops by adding new genes to increase their shelf life and quality. Some advantages of genetically modified (GM) crops include the fact that they:
- Grow faster
- Look better
- Taste sweeter
- Have high nutritional content
- Lower farming costs
- Survive stressful conditions (droughts) and diseases (blights)
How do GMOs affect the body?
Although there are no clinical studies on the effect of GM foods on human health, several animal studies indicate health risks associated with GM foods. These include:
- Accelerated aging
- Immune problems
- Changes in major organs and the gastrointestinal system
- Faulty insulin regulation
Moreover, another safety concern is that GM foods are engineered to be able to stand toxic substances such as herbicides, meaning they are sprayed with more of these chemicals. This could ultimately lead to these foods containing trace amounts of herbicide and pesticide chemicals.
Which foods have GMOs?
The most common GM crops in the United States include:
The 10 most common foods that contain GMOs include:
- Carbonated soft drinks (high-fructose corn syrup made from sugar beets)
- Milk (cows feed on GM soy products)
- Meat (farm animals eat GM feed containing soy products)
- Tofu (GM soybeans)
- Vegetable and canola oils (rapeseed—canola, soybean, corn, sunflower, safflower)
- Cereals (corn and soy products and non-cane sugars)
- Sweetened juices (corn- and sugar-beet-based sweeteners)
- Baby formula (GM corn, sugar beets and soy)
- Frozen foods (starch is added from GM corn, fats and oils from GM plants, citric acid from GM microorganisms)
- Canned soups (corn-based thickeners and flavoring enhancements)
How can you avoid GMOs?
Currently, most foods have genetically modified crops, and there are no regulations that mandate the labeling of GM foods. By January 2022, the USDA will require food manufacturers to label all foods containing GM ingredients.
Until then, you can follow these guidelines if you want to steer clear of GMOs in your diet:
- Purchase foods that are labeled 100% organic, as these are free of GMOs.
- Avoid processed or prepackaged foods and opt for whole foods that can be easily prepared at home.
- Beware of foods that have labels that say “bioengineered” and look for the USDA-bioengineered food symbol listed on or near the ingredients. Sometimes these foods have a code on the package with directions that tell you to scan the code for more information.
- Buy grass-fed beef.
- Shop at local markets, which are less likely to carry GM foods.
Since it may not be possible to completely avoid GM foods, however, it’s important to focus instead on eating heart-healthy foods and do your best to avoid processed and sugary foods where possible.
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Medically Reviewed on 8/4/2021