The Truth Behind Genetically Modified Organisms
Genetically Modified Organism (GMO), that sounds kind of scary, I know. It is believed the first GMO crop was planted about twenty years ago. As with many things in nutrition, twenty years isn’t long enough to conduct a longitudinal study and understand how GM foods affect our health. Based on current research I can try to provide a detailed look at the benefits and detractors to consuming GMO to provide you with necessary information to make an informed decision next time you go food shopping.
Let’s start by answering the question, “What is a GMO?” A GMO is a living organism whose DNA has been altered, often with the addition of a gene from a distant species, to produce a desired trait. Two of the most common foods in the United States, corn and soy, are often genetically modified. Common desired traits include pest resistance and size increase.
GMO’s benefit consumers by decreasing the price of food due to the manufacturers ability to produce more crop per acre. As corn and soy are major commodities in the U.S. keeping them inexpensive is a good thing for all our wallets! It is believed genetically modified crops can increase output by 20-30%! That is a very significant number if you think about food insecurity-As the global population continues to rise, it is a major concern for nutrition professionals that food insecurity will increase. Therefore, genetically modified crops have the potential to reduce hunger rates by producing more food and feeding more mouths. In Africa, a common nutrition deficiency is Vitamin A, which causes blindness. Food scientists have begun genetically modifying rice with vitamin A to create golden rice as an initiative to provide nutrients to populations who would otherwise be deficient. Since GMO’s are often bred to withstand weather and be more resistant, farmers can grow the crops with fewer pesticides, which could benefit safety of the farmers and the health of the soil.
The biggest setbacks to genetically modified organisms are that we don’t understand long term health effects. If today there are no observed negative ailments, we can’t confidentially say the same will be true in 50 years. In regards to the environment, when you eliminate certain pests or make a crop resistant you are effecting the ecosystem, which could potentially have negative environmental effects. The bottom line is that we just don’t know how GMO’s affect our health or the environment.
If you don’t want to support GMO’s or are a little intimidated about how they may affect you or the environment, that is totally ok and you are not alone! Look for products that have a sticker saying they are non-GMO or certified organic. If you have the means to pay a premium for these non-GMO products, go for it. If the thought of paying $5.00 for a half-pint of raspberries makes your head spin, buying conventional is a perfectly fine alternative.
Moving forward you must understand that genetically modified crops have many benefits but also several drawbacks making this a very complex issue. As a consumer, it is your responsibility to stay current with nutrition research to remain astute when making dietary decisions. It is my professional opinion that I cannot state that I am in favor or disapproval of GMO’s but I fully believe more research needs to be conducted so we as consumers can fully understand the potential health outcomes.
We are all part of a living science experiment, so strap on your safety glasses and enjoy the ride!
Until next week.