Genetically Modified Foods

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Home => Health Articles => Jessica Tucker Mindell => Exploring a Controversy - Genetically Modified Foods

Exploring a Controversy - Genetically Modified Foods

provided and © by Jessica Tucker Mindell

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I've been hearing a lot about GMOs. What are they?

Jessica Answers:
Thanks for your question.

Here is a summary of what I've found in my research.

GMO stands for Genetically Modified Organism. This means that genes from unrelated species are crossed in a laboratory (species that could not cross in nature) to create species with new traits. They are also refered to as "GM" or "GE".

For instance, a well-known example is Bt corn. The DNA of corn has been crossed with an insect pathogen (Bacillus thuringiensis) that is lethal to insect larvae. This creates a corn that has its own pesticides built in, making it resistant to insects.

I've seen estimates that indicate that perhaps as much as 60% of packaged supermarket foods "test positive" for the presence of GMOs. Currently, the most common GMO products are soybeans, corn, cotton, and rapeseed (canola).

Here's a look at some of the pros and cons of GMOs.

Many people have concerns regarding GMOs because:

• Limited testing has been done on GMOs safety. It is unclear how it affects the human body. The U.S. does not yet require labeling of GMO foods (other countries like the European Union, Japan, China, Australia, New Zealand, do). Since foods do not have to be labeled, there can be no trail of its health effects. If someone experiences ill-effects from eating a GMO food, they will not be able to link it to the genetically altered food.

• There is also an increased risk for allergies. Many of the new foods may cause allergic reactions in people because foods that are common allergens may be crossed with other species creating hidden food allergies (the FDA plans to regulate if any situations arise).

• Large amounts of GMO seeds are being released into the environment and cannot be "called back." The long-term effects are unknown and it is unclear how GMOs will interact with other species and the environment.

• GMO foods could cross-pollinate with other plants creating new unintended species of plants or superbugs. Additionally GE plants may drift and cross pollinate with organic crops rendering the crop unorganic.

• Pesticides are being added to the food itself (e.g. the Bt corn) and there is concern that insects may become resistant to these crops.

The arguments for GMOs are:

• Crops may require less pesticide.

• Crops can be developed to be pest resistant (e.g. Bt Corn).

• Beneficial properites can be added to crops (e.g. make strawberries frost resistant by crossing them with fish - cold water fish naturally produce a form of antifreeze to withstand cold conditions).

• Additional nutrients or vaccines can also be added to foods (e.g. add vitamin A to rice to reduce blindness in third world countries or bananas that contain vaccines).

• All of the above are intended to grow more food to feed the world and to increase farming profits.

The good news is that you can control whether or not you consume GMOs. You can avoid by sticking to certified organic foods since they are not allowed to contain GMOs. If you'd like to learn more about the topic, a great resource is the Organic Consumers Association. Their website is

Hope this helps.



This article was first printed in Healing Garden Journal, November/December 2006

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