What are Genetically Modified Organisms or GMOs?

By Anagha Rao


Genetically Modified Organisms or GMOs. If you haven’t heard of these, don’t worry. Many people haven’t. Genetically modified organisms are found everywhere, so you have probably seen one of them. A genetically modified organism is any plant or animal which had artificially modified genes by genetic engineering to breed certain traits.

Farmers genetically modify foods to improve crop yields. GMOs can help protect crop failure by introducing resistance from diseases to the crops. These disease and drought-resistant crops require less care, environmental resources, and pesticides. Additionally, farmers have a choice to increase desirable traits in particular crops through genetic engineering.

GMO usage varies depending on the crops, but some of the most common GMO crops are Alfalfa, Canola, Corn (except popcorn), Cotton, Papaya, Soy, Sugar beet, Zucchini/Yellow summer squash. These are likely to be GMO foods because they are all in commercial production. Animal products are very likely to be GMOs because of their contamination in feed, and they include milk, meat, eggs, and honey. There are also some foods that are likely to be GMOs because they are closely related to crops such as canola, potato, and soy.

There are a growing number of health concerns about GMOs and how they can lead to adverse consequences for our health. One example of a chemical in GMOs is glyphosate, which is an herbicide that is used to regulate specific crops and ripen specific crops. Moreover, the International Agency for research on cancer classifies glyphosate as likely carcinogenic to humans, and there are several studies linking this to endocrine disruption. Many scientists have said that GMO products are more toxic, allergic, and less nutritious than GMO-free foods. GMOs also contain a chemical called 2,4-D. This chemical was originally invented in World War II to destroy enemy food supplies, and it is an extremely toxic herbicide found in GMOs. The International Agency for Research on Cancer classified 2,4-D as possibly carcinogenic to humans based on the fact that it causes damage to human cells and has caused cancer in laboratory animals.

In 2009, a medical organization looked at what happens to animals when they eat GMOs, and they found gastrointestinal issues, immune system misfunction, reproductive problems, accelerated aging, and organ damage. This organization concluded that GMOs are a hazard and every medical doctor should advise a non-GMO diet.

However, there is no scientific consensus on the safety of GMOs and whether they are safe to use. According to the Non-GMO Project, there are no epidemiological studies that link the usage of GMOs to human health. There are just as many studies showing the safety of GMOs as there are showing the harmful effects of GMOs. More research is needed before deciding whether GMOs are safe or not.


If you are still concerned about the impacts of GMOs on your health, there are a few simple steps you can take to reduce your intake of GMO products.

  1. Know the most commonly modified crops. Soybeans, corn, cotton (for oil), canola (for oil), squash, zucchini, and papaya are all popular GMOs. Find other GM crops.

  2. Buy organic foods. Organic foods are grown from non-GMO seeds.

  3. Buy meat from animals that are grass-fed or pasture-fed. Cows, chickens, pigs, and even farmed fish are often on a diet of genetically modified corn or alfalfa. Check that your meat is from animals that are grass-fed or pasture-fed.

  4. Read the labels. The top two genetically modified crops are corn and soy. They’re also the most widely used ingredients. Avoid products that contain ingredients like corn syrup and soy lecithin.

  5. Buy brands labeled non-GM or GMO-free. Some products are labeled as non-GM or GMO-free, meaning they do not use genetically modified ingredients. GMO-free food sources are listed on the Non-GMO Project website.

  6. Shop at local farmers’ markets as much as possible. Most GM foods come from large industrial farms, whereas local farmers’ markets do not contain GMOs.



Educational Content


So are GMOs safe or not?

There is no scientific consensus on the safety of GMOs and whether they are safe to consume. According to the Non-GMO Project, there are no epidemiological studies that link the usage of GMOs to human health. There are just as many studies showing the safety of GMOs as there are showing the harmful effects of GMOs. More research is needed before deciding whether GMOs are safe or not.


Why do farmers use GMOs?

Farmers genetically modify foods to increase durability and to improve crop protection. GMOs can help protect the crops from diseases caused by insects and other plants by introducing resistance to the crops. These disease and drought-resistant crops require less care, environmental resources, and pesticides.





Sources


https://www.epa.gov/ingredients-used-pesticide-products/glyphosate


https://www.fda.gov/food/agricultural-biotechnology/gmo-crops-animal-food-and-beyond


https://www.mdanderson.org/publications/focused-on-health/gmos-cancer.h15-1589046.html


https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24069841/


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=87p49NLeI_s


https://www.nrdc.org/stories/24-d-most-dangerous-pesticide-youve-never-heard


https://www.onegreenplanet.org/environment/connection-between-meat-and-menacing-gmos/


Image Credit:

Photo by Waldemar Brandt on Unsplash


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