Are Genetically Modified Foods Bad for Your Health?
For years, humans have used traditional modification methods to breed plants and animals with more desirable traits. However, the real revolution came when genetically modified foods appeared.
This technique, which emerged in the 1970s with the discoveries of genetic engineering, has allowed foods to last longer and have better organoleptic qualities, among other benefits. Despite this, many people have concerns about how they could affect human health.
Do you want to know more about it?
What are genetically modified foods (GMO)?
The acronym GMO refers to foods that have been created through genetic engineering. In short, this is a process that involves the following steps:
- Identifying the genetic information, or “gene,” gives a desired trait to a plant, animal, or microorganism
- Copying the information from the organism that has that trait
- Inserting that information into the DNA of another organism
- Growing a new organism with other genes
Overall, the aim of this is broad. In short, it can be said that it aims to do the following:
- Improving the growth of food
- Increasing its nutritional content
- Extending its shelf life
- Improving its resistance to pests
- Increasing the ease of cultivation
In fact, a study published in the journal Missouri Medicine in 2014 details this in-depth. While genetically modified foods have had a strong impact on society, this process also occurs naturally and is a common, everyday phenomenon.
Why do people seek to modify foods?
As mentioned, manufacturers use genetic modification to give foods desirable characteristics. For example, new varieties of apples exist that have been designed to oxidize less easily when cut or bruised.
However, the main objective is to prevent diseases and pests from growing since these alter and significantly deteriorate production. In this sense, they have been made resistant to the herbicides applied to avoid this from happening.
For example, one of the most common transgenic crops is a type of corn, the modification of which produces a toxin that makes it resistant to pests. This reduces the need for pesticides, as the study “The Food and Environmental Safety of Bt Crops” explains.
This, coupled with the fact that it determines what characteristics the final product will have, reduces costs for the consumer and, in the process, ensures that more people have access to quality food.
Fears surrounding GMO consumption
Although the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) suggests that GM foods are safe and sustainable, there is some concern about their potential effect on the environment and their safety for human consumption.
The main concerns are that the genetic modifications will cause problems such as allergies or increased likelihood of cancer or that the food will contain some harmful component.
Allergies and genetically modified foods
The fear that genetically modified foods will cause allergies comes from the fact that they contain foreign genes. In fact, a study in the mid-1990s found that adding a Brazil nut protein to GM soybeans could trigger an allergic reaction in people sensitive to Brazil nuts.
However, after this discovery, the food was immediately withdrawn. Now, the concerns are valid, but so far, there are no reports of allergies that identify GM foods as the cause.
Even the researchers who develop these products do the necessary tests to ensure that allergens are not transferred from one food to another. In addition, these products are no more likely to trigger allergies than their non-GMO counterparts.
You might find this interesting: Ten Healthy Foods to Regulate Your Digestion
Cancer and genetically modified foods
Because mutations in DNA cause cancers, there’s also some fear that eating foods with added genes may play a role in cancer development. Thus, this concern may be because a study in mice linked the intake of GMOs with an increased risk of tumors and premature death.
However, this study did not respect the right research design, so several investigations showed that it was not valid. There is no accurate data in humans, so further research is needed to reach conclusions.
Pesticide poisoning and genetically modified foods
On the other hand, although GM crops are convenient for farmers, there are concerns about environmental damage. Concerning this, it can be mentioned that most of these crops are resistant to herbicides, such as Roundup.
This means that they can be used with peace of mind on food. However, weeds have developed resistance to this product over time. As a result, more and more of it needs to be used.
The problem lies in the fact that this herbicide has glyphosate as its active ingredient, which is associated with various diseases, such as cancers, respiratory problems, and congenital malformations.
Even those who live in areas close to the crops are the most affected, as they are exposed to high doses of this compound. Hence the need to regulate its use.
For all of the above, an environmental movement aims to raise awareness among people who are unaware of this problem and continue to consume genetically modified foods.
How to identify genetically modified foods?
- If a GM canola oil has more lauric acid than conventional canola oil, it should be labeled “laurate canola oil.
- Similarly, a soybean oil that has more oleic acid than traditional oil should be labeled “high oleic soybean oil.”
This allows the labeling to be different but doesn’t allow people to know that it refers to a modified food. Because of this, the new National Bioengineered Food Disclosure Standard, which will go into effect in January 2022, will ensure that all foods containing GM ingredients are labeled as “bioengineered” or “bioengineered.”
What to remember about genetically modified foods
Genetically modified foods offer distinct advantages and have proven to be safe so far. Despite this, further research is needed to evaluate their effects on human health in detail.
One thing that is certain is that they allow food to be produced in abundant quantities, but that damage to the environment is also growing in parallel.It might interest you...