genetically modified foods

Genetically Modified Foods: What You Should Know

When you have arthritis, you know that what you put in your body has a huge impact on your health and well being. Maybe you’ve seen foods in grocery stores marked “Non GMO” or heard the debate over genetically modified organisms, and you may be wondering if you should avoid them. Opponents say foods with GMOs may be harmful, and a law was passed in 2016 requiring labels on them. Some manufacturers are voluntarily labeling their products. But experts say safety concerns are overblown.

“There is a lot of confusion and fear surrounding GMO ingredients in foods,” says registered dietitian Kim Larson, a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Let’s clear up the confusion.

What are GMOs?

GMOs are genetically modified plants or animals whose DNA is altered through bioengineering. For example, a gene from one plant might be inserted into another to make crops resistant to insects or increase nutritional values.

Are they dangerous?

In 2016, the National Academy of Sciences released a comprehensive report concluding GMO crops are safe for humans and livestock. Many studies over the past three decades have demonstrated their safety, says Larson, adding that they “play a valuable role in increasing worldwide food production.” 

What about food allergies?

Although some people might have allergies or sensitivities to certain foods, there’s no reason to believe GMO foods carry more risk than their non-GMO counterparts, Larson says.

Do they have more chemicals?

Some GMO crops are associated with an increased use of herbicides, which can have a damaging environmental impact. The Environmental Protection Agency regulates crops to ensure any chemical residues on foods are well within safe limits for consumers.

If research shows GMOs are harmless, why are so many people fighting to label them?

Critics say that long-term effects are uncertain, because GMOs have been on the market only a few decades; in theory, problems may not surface for several generations. Some environmental scientists have concerns that genes may move from GMO crops to wild plants in unpredictable ways. And many people say they simply have a right to know what they’re eating.

What if I still want to avoid GMOs?

Congress passed a law in 2016 that requires food companies to report whether their products contain GMO ingredients. The Department of Agriculture (USDA) was given until July 2018 to define GMOs and create labeling requirements. The deadline for compliance is unclear. Controversially, foods containing GMOs may be labeled with only a phone number, website address or QR code allowing consumers to get more information.

You can simply shop for organic products, which contain no bioengineered ingredients.


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