Are GMOs Safe For My Family? A Closer Look at the Science
It is easy to question the need for GMOs, especially if you haven’t dedicated time researching the pros and cons that surround the often controversial, media-driven topic. The great deal of misinformation circulating has led the general public to believe that GMOs should be removed from the food supply system and that they do nothing but cause harm to each of us. Here are a couple things to consider:
- Most people don’t understand what genetically modified means when it comes to crops and foods. Genetically modified crops are simply those varieties produced through the introduction of pieces of DNA to give them traits otherwise not possible. For instance, technology has been used to make crops resistant to certain insects or herbicides and/or to protect them from viral diseases. If given the option, wouldn’t you want to buy a squash for your family or ears of sweet corn that you knew were free of insects? I know I would.
- Most people don’t realize that genetically modified crops are reviewed by several governing bodies for feed and food safety prior to marketing. First the crops are reviewed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and once satisfied regarding the crop’s safety, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) approves the crop for marketing, as long as their own review reaches the same conclusion about environmental safety.
Regarding the effectiveness of GMOs, their safety and how helpful they are in feeding the world on a daily basis, here are a few of the key takeaways that I found most helpful in my discoveries:
- GMOs are safe. The USDA, FDA, and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have all confirmed the safety of food and animal feed that contain GMOs through biotechnology. In addition, the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) states that crops produced with modern biotechnology pose no novel risk.
- The GMO foods currently available on the international market have passed comprehensive risk assessments. According to World Health Organization (WHO), no effects on human health have been shown as a result of the consumption of such foods by the general population in the countries where they have been approved.
- Biotechnology allows farmers to grow more crops using the same amount of land, water and other natural resources. This is EXTREMELY important as global demands for food and energy continue to grow, with millions more people competing for the same limited resources each and every day.
When it comes to nutrition, genetically modified food has the same nutritional content as conventionally raised food. In addition, technology can be used to improve and enhance the nutrient value of important crops. An example of this would be adding vital micro-nutrients and vitamins to widely eaten crops such as rice can improve the overall diet of the poor living in third-world countries.
I came across a great video series entitled, “Best Food Facts” by the Center for Food Integrity, which looks at GMOs and nutrition, labeling, environmental harm, and safety. Please feel free to check them out for yourself!
While GMOs have become a hot topic in the media, I would strongly suggest taking a step back and looking at the science behind the issue, which can get lost in the shuffle. In this case, I feel confident that my family and I can safely consume food products that contain GMOs.
For more information on GMO safety, please visit the following websites:
Council on Biotechnology (www.whybiotech.com)
The GMO Crop (mis)Information Page (http://parrottlab.uga.edu/parrottlab/forum2.htm)
Center for Food Integrity (http://www.foodintegrity.org/)
GMOs: A Plateful of Promises. Food Technology. January 2014. www.ift.org.