Genetically Modified Foods

In case you don’t live in California, Proposition 37, the mandatory labeling of genetically modified food, did not pass in the last election. This was a surprise to many of us in the nutrition/health industry because we didn’t understand why people wouldn’t want to know if their food was genetically modified. Overall, there were two issues with the election. First, there was a big ad campaign on TV that talked about how all the grocery prices would go up. In this economy, no one wants to pay more for groceries! Second, it is unclear if people understand why it’s important to know if food is genetically modified. Here are some important points on genetically modified foods (GMOs):

  • There are over 40 plant varieties in the US that are genetically modified. The US produces 68% of the GMO crops in the world.
  • GMOs have been changed in a laboratory to have certain desirable traits such as resistance to pesticides, improved nutrition, or better appearance.
  • Mostly found in processed foods in the US, most whole fruits and vegetables are not genetically modified. 54% of the soybeans grown in the US are genetically modified.
  • GMOs may cause harm to other organisms and disrupt certain ecosystems. For example, pollen from GMO corn will kill a monarch caterpillar.
  • Plant genes can transfer from one plant to another. There is a fear that the GMO plants will transfer their pesticide-resistant genes to other plants, causing weeds to become resistant, leading to the formation of “super weeds” that cannot be controlled.
  • Increasing levels and severity of allergies to peanuts and other foods in children has been linked to GMO crops.
  • GMO crops have not been tested for long-term consumption and potential effects on human health.
  • GMOs are modified so that the plants are sterile and cannot reproduce. This forces farmers to purchase new seeds yearly.

Several countries have either completely banned GMOs or have labeling requirements so that consumers can make their own decisions. Although GMOs can help solve important world-wide problems, more research needs to be done on the potential long-term effect on human and environmental health.