Walk down any aisle of your local grocery store, and you’re likely to spot some GMO foods on the shelves. GMOs, or genetically modified organisms, are plants or animals with DNA that has been altered in a lab by scientists. They are created to help crops resist pests and disease, enhance nutrients in food, give food a longer shelf life and help farmers grow more food. They’re found in 80 percent of packaged foods in the United States and in crops like corn, soy, zucchini and more.
Studies have shown that foods containing GMOs are generally safe and don’t cause any health problems. In fact, they’re evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and are required to meet all the same standards as traditionally grown foods.
There are, however, three controversial issues when it comes to the health of genetically modified foods: their ability to provoke an allergic reaction (allergenicity), gene transfer and outcrossing.
Transferring genes from allergenic organisms to non-allergenic organisms is generally discouraged unless the proteins in the transferred gene are not allergenic. Traditional natural foods aren’t tested by the FDA for allergenicity, and protocols for testing GMO foods show GMOs have no allergic effects.
Some are also concerned that the transfer of genes from GMO foods to the body might impact a person’s health. The specific concern is regarding antibiotic resistance genes in GMOs. However, the probability of transfer is low.
Outcrossing occurs when genes from GMO plants mix with conventional crops or species in the wild, potentially affecting food safety. To combat that occurrence, many countries have come up with ways to keep GMOs away from conventional crops, including organizing them into separate fields.
Despite these general concerns, GMOs are available worldwide, have passed safety checks and are safe to eat. If you’d still like to eliminate GMOs from your diet, simply avoid processed foods, check labels and stick to a diet of primarily fresh produce and whole foods marked as Non-GMO, Certified Organic or USDA Organic.
Consult one of our registered dietitians to learn more about how GMOs affect your diet.