The Hype Around GMOs
OMG, what is a GMO? To understand this acronym, it’s easiest to explain the meaning behind what each letter references. G stands for genetically, which refers to the genes a plant has or information where plants’ traits are stored. M stands for modified, which refers to changes made to the plants’ genes through different processes such as gene editing. To edit genes, an opening is cut and genes from another living organism are pasted in. This newly added information is incorporated into the plant’s genetic material, so the plant can express a new trait. O stands for organism, a living thing.
Technology has advanced to a point where we can genetically modify or engineer plants to improve the flavor, crop yield, and effects of insect damage and plant disease. One example is engineering plants with genes from harmless bacteria to ward off pesky insects – making the use of potentially harmful pesticides unnecessary. So, GMOs can benefit us and the environment.
Are they safe?
Crops made with genetically modified organisms are tested for safety just like non-GMO crops, and all GMO products currently on the market are considered as safe as non-GMO products. GMO crops are also tested to ensure that they are not toxic, do not cause allergies, have the same amount of nutrients and have no unintended effects. A few animal studies have suggested that GMOs cause tumor formation and poor development. However, many more animal studies suggest there are no harmful effects from eating these modified crops.
Bottom Line: Food products made with GMOs must undergo the same safety standards as non-GMO products to be sold in grocery stores. Current research has demonstrated that GMO products pose no more harm than non-GMO products. Controversy remains regarding the safety and long-term effects of GMOs. As a consumer, it’s ultimately your choice. If you would rather purchase non-GMO foods, you can find many products labeled non-GMO in your local grocery store.
Written by: Melissa Kowalski, Wellness Workdays Dietetic Intern