GMO is short for Genetically Modified Organism. GMOs are animals or plants that have been genetically modified by the insertion of a gene from a different species. This is done to add certain characteristics to the modified plant. For example, some plants might be genetically altered for resistance against insects. For 20 years now, genetically modified plants have been a part of the American diet. Animals that are modified have not been approved for consumption in the United States.
Which Foods Contain GMOs?
More than 40 types of plants have been altered in this way around the world. Some are food crops, like corn and soybeans, and some are not, like spruce trees. Food manufacturers are not required to label their products as GMOs. If food is organic, it cannot contain any GMOs. This includes plants and even animals that have been fed GMO food.
The Pros of GMOs
1. When seeds are genetically modified, they can become more resistant to insects and bad weather. Genetic engineering also produces crops that are more healthy overall.
2. Engineering can give food a longer shelf life. This makes it easier to transport it to locations where people don’t have access to nutrition-rich foods.
3. There are several environmental benefits of GMOs. Fewer chemicals, machinery, and land are necessary to grow them. This helps reduce environmental pollution, greenhouse gas emissions, and soil erosion. Since productivity is higher, it takes less land to grow the crops. The use of insecticides is reduced because GMO plants produce their own natural insecticides.
4. The modified plants can provide better nutrition. Scientists have created plants that have a higher mineral and vitamin content. This can help food producers produce healthier food and possibly eliminate some of the malnutrition that is so prevalent around the world. For example, vitamin A-enhanced rice is helping to reduce global vitamin A deficiencies.
5. Scientists have been developing successful vaccines and other pharmaceutical goods from GMO plants.
The Cons of GMOs
1. The incidence of food allergies in children under 18 years of age has increased by almost two percent in recent times. However, there is no conclusive scientific link to GMO foods.
2. According to a Brown University study, GMOs can present a significant allergy risk. When you genetically enhance a plant, many times proteins are combined that are not contained in the original organism. This may produce allergic reactions in humans.
3. Some GMOs have antibiotic qualities that enhance immunity. However, eating them can reduce the effectiveness of actual antibiotics.
4. Genes might migrate from GMOs to other plants. This could be a problem if they pass on to other species. You can end up with weeds that are resistant to herbicides. Scientific research on this issue has proved to be inconclusive so far, however.
GMOs have been labelled “Frankenfoods” by certain alarmist groups. On the internet, one can find individuals giving stern warnings. They claim that GMOs can cause serious diseases. However, the truth is that the jury is still out with regard to the safety of GMO foods. Long-term studies must be completed before we know more.
Todd Nelson, D.Sc. trained at the International Center for Natural Health and Medicine, graduating with both a Naturopathic Doctor degree and a Doctor of Holistic Health Sciences degree. Aside from heading the Tree of Life Wellness Center in Denver, Colorado as a naturopathic doctor, Todd is also a co-author of 3 books.