By: Hiba Moiz
It is no secret that in today’s society, we have all become somewhat spoiled in terms of our needs and expectations. From what we wear to what we look like, we are obsessed with maximizing our potential. Did you know that we apply that same general concept to the food we eat, too? For example, we not only attempt to modify external aspects of our bodies through means such as plastic surgery, but we alter our dietary consumptions as well in the form of genetic modification.
Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are plants, animals, and/or microorganisms with DNA that has been unnaturally altered or tempered with (1). This form of modification happens through a technique known as gene-splicing by which selected genes are transferred from one organism to another (2). GMOs are chosen by consumers because they are less expensive and enable farmers to enhance crop protection and insect resistance (2). Now you may be thinking that all sounds wonderful, but with seemingly overwhelming benefits, why are so many people still hesitant on eating them? Rumor has it that genetically modified foods are detrimental to your health, but is this really true?
Many research studies in public health and medicine have been conducted over the years to test the authenticity of this myth and the results are in: GMOs that are currently stocked worldwide have proven to have no harmful effects on human health. In fact, the American Association for the Advancement of Science even claims that they are actually more nutritious for the human body because biotechnology has enabled farmers to magnify the dietary benefits in the food. For example, a genetically modified crop known as Golden Rice was altered to have an influx of beta-carotene which helps combat vitamin deficiencies (3).
Despite the good news, it is still important to conduct proper safety assessments on GMOs since they all possess diverse alterations of unique genes. According to the Food Additives Amendment of the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, in order for food to be acknowledged as safe to consume, it must be recognized by a vast array of experts whose agenda is based on credible scientific methods such as peer-reviewed journals (3). The World Health Organization has stated that the three main health apprehensions surrounding GMOs and food safety are allergenicity, gene transfer and outcrossing. Allergenicity refers to the risk of triggering allergic reactions since the transferring of genes poses the risk of the transferring allergens as well (1). Secondly, gene transfer revolves around the fear of introducing genetic material to a person’s immune system that could potentially have overpowering consequences such as the development of antibiotic resistance. Finally, outcrossing can occur when seeds from natural crops and GMOs mix via wind or insect pollination which can lead to adverse effects on food security (1).
Even though each round of GMOs encounters an extensive cautionary screening process, there is certainly room for improvement to be made in the future. For instance, public health officials are keen on passing legislation requiring the labeling of all GMOs so that consumers are fully informed and aware of what exactly they are eating. For now, however, consumers can breathe a sigh of relief as they rush to pick up those plump-to-perfection crops out on display in the marketplace. Bon Appétit!
1. World Health Organization. 2013. “Food Safety: Frequently Asked Questions on Genetically Modified Foods.”
2. Louise Chu. 2012. “Genetically Modified Food Labeling Through the Lens of Public Health.” University of California San Francisco.
3. Anna Medaris Miller. 2015. “Are GMOs Really That Harmful to Eat?” U.S News-Health.