Hi friends! Today on the blog, we are talking about GMOs. GMOs (or genetically modified organisms), have gathered quite a clout of controversy in recent years. Depending on who you ask, GMOs are either horrific, potentially useful, unnatural, necessary, toxic, harmful, helpful, and everything in between. With all the noise surrounding GMOs, it can be hard to decipher the truth. So what are GMOs? Are GMOs bad for you? Or are GMOs safe? Are GMOs bad for the environment? And Can GMOs be useful? Read on for all the details.
What are GMOs?
There is actually no universally agreed-upon scientific definition for the phrase “GMO,” nor is there any regulation around its use for labeling in the US.
That means things that are labeled “non-GMO,” have not had to meet any specific standards or regulations. The FDA has released voluntary guidelines, but there is no formal inspection or enforcement of the phrase “Non-GMO” on food labels.
The FDA doesn’t even use the phrase “GMO,” as most crops we eat today are genetically modified in some way. The FDA does recognize some foods as “genetically engineered” (GE), which it states is a “more precise term.”
Genetic engineering refers to genetic modification practices that utilize modern biotechnology to target a plant’s genetic makeup to give the plant a desirable trait.
This brings up an important point: there are actually very few genetically modified/engineered crops allowed.
In the US, the list includes things like alfalfa, canola, cotton, maize, papaya, rice, soybeans, roses, sugarcane, wheat and a few varieties of “Arctic” potatoes and apples, as well as FLAVRSVR tomatoes, which are rarely grown these days. Besides the major crops (rice, wheat, soy, etc), it’s actually very unlikely the produce you buy at the grocery store is a ‘GMO.’
Yup, that’s right. A vast majority of what you find in the produce section of US grocery stores is not genetically modified (the exception being papayas, which are always genetically modified in the US, read on for details).
The process for a crop to get “GM” approved costs millions to billions of dollars, and the import/export taxes upon them are also steep. Thus, even if the technology exists, very few GM crops are approved to be grown, unless they are going to be utilized widely, because of the high cost barrier for approval.
Many crops may have been selectively bred to foster certain flavors or growth characteristics, but this is not the same as genetic modification. Humans have used selective breeding techniques for thousands of years to develop crops with a range of desirable features, including various sizes, shapes, and colors of crop foods.
Perhaps you did experiments with pea plants growing up that required you to cross pollinate different pea plants to get different color flowers, etc. This is sort of like what plant breeders do to create different varieties of produce.
For example: say you see an apple in the store that’s new-to-you. You read the description. It says it’s a mix of honeycrisp and another variety (Hi, Snapdragon apples!). This is not a genetically modified apple. It’s a result of plant breeding.
Are GMOs Safe?
To date, existing evidence suggests that genetically engineered crops are safe for human consumption.
The American Association for the Advancement of Science, WHO, National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, and FDA have all stated that genetically modified crops are safe for consumption, based on the plethora of available data.
In the US, the FDA holds foods from GE plants to the same food safety standards and requirements as foods derived from traditionally bred plants.…