Are genetically modified foods bad for your health?

Genetically modified foods have been the subject of controversy since their appearance. They’re safe? In this space we discuss it.

Last update: November 19, 2021

For years, humans have used traditional modification methods to breed plants and animals with more desirable traits. Nevertheless, the real revolution occurred when genetically modified foods appeared.

This technique, which emerged in the 70s with the discoveries of genetic engineering, has allowed foods to last longer, 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 (GMOs)?

With the acronym OGM refers to foods that have been created through genetic engineering. In summary, this is a process that involves the following steps:

  • Identify the genetic information or “gene” that gives a desired trait to a plant, animal or microorganism.
  • Copy the information of the organism that has that trait.
  • Insert that information into the DNA of another organism.
  • Achieve the growth of a new organism with other genes.

The purpose of this is broad. In summary, it can be said that it intends the following:

  • Improve food growth.
  • Expand its nutritional content.
  • Extend its useful life.
  • Increase your resistance to pests.
  • Increase the ease of cultivation.

In fact, a study published in the journal Missouri Medicine, in 2014, he detailed this in depth. Although the production of genetically modified foods has had a strong impact on society, This process also occurs naturally and is a common and everyday phenomenon.

Genetically modified foods have been genetically engineered. Therefore, they can be of better size, flavor or color.

Why do you want to modify food?

As mentioned, manufacturers use genetic modification to give foods desirable characteristics. As an example, the newer varieties of apples that have been designed rust less easily when cut or bruised.

However, the main objective is prevent diseases and pests from growing as they grow, since these alter and deteriorate production significantly. In this sense, it was achieved that they are resistant to the herbicides that are applied to prevent this from happening.

For example, one of the most common transgenic crops is a type of corn, whose modification produces a toxin that makes it resistant to pests. With this, it reduces the need for pesticides, as stated in the study “the food and environmental safety of Bt crops”.

This, added to the fact that thanks to this it is determined what characteristics the final product will have, reduces costs for the consumer and, incidentally, allows to guarantee that more people have access to quality food.

Fears Surrounding GMO Consumption

While the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) suggests that GM foods are safe and sustainable, there is some concern about their possible effect on the environment and their safety for human consumption.

The main concerns are that the genetic modifications generate problems such as allergies or a higher probability of cancer, or, that the food contains some type of harmful component.

Allergies

The fear that genetically modified foods cause allergies is given because they contain genes that are strange. In fact, a study conducted in the mid-1990s found that adding a Brazil nut protein to GMO soy could trigger an allergic reaction in people sensitive to these nuts.

However, after this discovery, this food was immediately withdrawn. Now the concerns are valid, but so far there are no reports of allergies identifying genetically modified foods as the culprit.

The researchers who develop these products even do the necessary tests to make sure that allergens are not transferred from one food to another. Furthermore, these products are no more likely to trigger allergies than their non-GMO counterparts.



Cancer

Because cancers are caused by mutations in DNA, there is some fear that eating foods with added genes could influence the development of cancer. Thus, this concern may be due to the fact that in a study in mice the ingestion of GMOs was associated with an increased risk of tumors and premature death.

However, this did not respect the correct design, which is why several investigations appeared that showed that it was not valid. For now, there is no accurate data in humans, so it is necessary to investigate the subject in greater depth to reach conclusions.

Pesticide poisoning

On the other hand, while GM crops are convenient for farmers, there are concerns about environmental damage. In relation to this, it can be mentioned that Most of these crops are resistant to herbicides, such as “Roundup”.

This means that it can be used with confidence over food. However, weeds have developed resistance to this product over time. As a consequence, more and more of it needs to be used.

The problem is that this herbicide has glyphosate as an active ingredient, that is associated with various diseases, such as cancers, respiratory problems, congenital malformations, among others.

Even those who live in areas close to the crops are the most affected, since they are exposed to high doses of this compound. Hence the need to regulate their use.

All of the above, there is an environmental movement that aims to raise awareness among people who are unaware of this problem and that they continue to consume genetically modified foods.

How to identify genetically modified foods?

To determine these foods, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has determined that they are labeled as such, if they differ from the traditional crop. For instance:
  • If a GMO canola oil has more lauric acid than traditional canola oil, It should be labeled “canola laurate oil.”
  • In a soybean oil that has more oleic acid than conventional oil, it should be labeled “high oleic soybean oil.”

This allows the labeling to be different, but not for 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 transgenic ingredients are labeled as “bioengineered” or “bioengineered.”

Studies on the safety of GM foods in human health are still ongoing. For now, they are considered safe.


What to remember about genetically modified foods?

Genetically modified foods offer noticeable benefits and have proven to be safe so far. Despite this, the development of new research is necessary to continue evaluating their effects on human health.

Something that is concrete is that they allow us to produce food in abundant quantities, but that damage to the environment also grows in parallel.

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