GMO stands for the genetically modified organism, and it refers to any organism whose DNA has been modified using genetic engineering technology.In the food industry, GMO crops have added genes to them for various reasons, such as improving their fertility, nutrient content, sustainability, pest resistance, and ease of cultivation.
Although it is possible to provide the desired traits naturally through selective breeding, the process takes several generations. Also, breeders may struggle to determine if genetic mutations have set a new standard.Genetic modification significantly accelerates this process by using scientific techniques that gives the plant the specific desired trait.
For example, one of the most common GMO crops is Bt corn, genetically modified to produce the pesticide Bt toxin. By making it toxic, corn can resist pests and reduces the need for pesticides.An analysis of 147 studies in 2014 found that GMO technology increased crop yields by 22% and has reduced chemical pesticide use by 37%.
Other GMO crops have been replaced by genes that help them survive stressful situations such as droughts, and resist diseases such as blights, resulting in a higher yield.Together, these factors help reduce the costs for farmers and consumers as they lead to higher crop yields and growth in harsh conditions.
It is estimated that up to 80% of the food in supermarkets contains ingredients from genetically modified crops. Although GMO crops make farming easier, there is some concern about their potential impact on the environment and their safety for human use – especially surrounding diseases and allergies.However, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the USDA, and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), maintain that GMOs are safe for human and animal use.
The Harmful effect of GMO
Because genetically engineered foods are a relatively new process, little is known about their long-term effects and safety. There are many supposed disadvantages, but the evidence differs, and the main health problems related to GMO foods are hotly debated. Research is ongoing.
Genetically engineered foods are naturally unstable. Adding each gene to the diet is equivalent to food safety “roulette,” with companies hoping that new genetic material will destabilize a safe diet and make it more effective. Each genetic addition creates the additional possibility that the first non-toxic element in the food may be toxic.
Scientists have specifically warned that genetic engineering of food results in increasing levels of naturally occurring toxins, the appearance of new, previously unrecognized toxins, and the concentration of toxins from the environment. The same FDA scientists recommended that long-term toxicity tests be required before marketing GE foods.
Loss of Nutrition
Genetic engineering can also change the nutritional value of food. In 1992, the FDA’s Division of Food Chemistry and Technology and Food Containers Chemistry reviewed nutrient loss in GE foods. The scientists involved specifically warned the agency that genetic engineering of food could result in “undesirable changes in nutrient levels” of such nutrients.
They further added that these dietary changes could escape the attention of breeders unless genetically engineered plants are specifically assessed for these changes. Yet, once again, the FDA ignored its scientists’ findings and never subject food to any kind of mandatory government testing.
Some people believe that GMO foods have a greater ability to trigger allergic reactions. This is because GMO foods contain foreign genes.
Research from the mid-1990s found that adding protein from Brazil nuts to GMO soybeans could lead to allergic reactions in Brazil nuts-sensitive people. However, when scientists discovered this, they quickly abandoned this GMO food.
Although allergy concerns are valid, there are currently no reports of allergic reactions to GMO foods on the market. According to the FDA, researchers at GMO Foods run tests to ensure that allergens are not passed from one food to another.
The World Health Organization (WHO) discourages genetic engineers from using DNA from allergens unless they can prove that the gene itself does not cause the problem.
In addition, research shows that GMO foods are no more conducive to triggering allergies than their non-GMO counterparts. For example though, if you are allergic to soy, both GMO and non-GMO soy products will cause allergic reactions.
Some researchers believe that eating GMO foods can play an important role in the development of cancer. They say that because the disease is caused by mutations in DNA, it is dangerous to introduce new genes into the body.
The American Cancer Society (ACS) says there is no evidence to link the amount of GMO food to an increased or decreased cancer risk. However, they note that further research is needed to conclude.
There are fears that genetic modification, which could increase crop resistance to disease or make it more tolerant to herbicides, could affect people’s ability to defend against the disease.
There is a small chance that the genes in the food may be transmitted to the body’s cells or bacteria in the gut. Few GMO plants include genes that give them resistance to certain antibiotics. And, this resistance can reach humans.
There is a growing global concern that people are becoming increasingly resistant to antibiotics. There is a possibility that GMO Foods could help in this crisis.
The WHO says the risk of gene transfer is low. As a precaution, however, it has developed guidelines for GMO food and beverage manufacturers.
Effects on soil health
Roundup ready-made soybeans, corn, and beets grow from genetically modified seeds to grow even when glyphosate weeds (the scientific name for a roundup) are applied to them. Although Roundup has not been tested as toxic to humans and other mammals, the longer it has been on the market, the worse its effects is on soil health and long-term plant beauty’s appearance. In addition, plants ready for roundup may not allow animals to absorb essential micronutrients in their use and can play a role even in the recent death of bees.
Tips for avoiding GMOs
Certified organic products are not allowed to contain any GMOs. Therefore, you can purchase products labeled “100% Organic”, “Organic,” or “Made from Organic Ingredients,”. Keep in mind, products labeled as “made from organic ingredients” require only 70% of the ingredients to be organic, but they must be 100% non-GE.
Look For “Non-GMO” Labels
Companies can voluntarily label products as “non-GMO.” Some labels describe “non-GMOs” while others spell “without genetically modified ingredients.”
Avoid at-risk ingredients
Avoid products made with any of the GE crops. The “Big Five” contain the most genetically engineered crops, which are soybeans, corn, beet sugar, canola, and cotton lentils used in processed foods. Here are some common genetically engineered big five ingredients found in other food ingredients to watch out for:
Corn: corn oil, corn flour, corn starch, corn gluten, corn meal, and corn syrup.
Beet Sugar: Sugar is not not typically specified as 100% cane sugar. This is likely due to GE sugar beets. Because they mix cane sugar with sugar beet’s genes.
Soy: soy lecithin, soy protein, soy flour, soy isolate, soy isoflavone, soy vegetable protein, and soy vegetable oil
Canola: Canola oil
Cotton: Cottonseed oil