GMOs, or genetically modified organisms, have been a hotly contested topic in recent years. Some people are firmly against them, claiming them as unnatural and unhealthy. Others view GMOs as helpful to food production in the modern world. But are GMOs actually safe to eat?
Well, it depends on how you look at it. For the most part, genetically modified plants are pretty safe for human consumption. Many plants are genetically modified simply to feed more people. Scientists have added genetic code that allows some plants to grow in more harsh environments and to have increased resistance to insects and pesticides. These scientific breakthroughs have led to feeding more people around the world. That definitely isn't a bad thing.
Additionally, there is little research pointing to any harmful health effects of these genetically modified foods. While the debate around GMOs is a recent development, we've actually been eating them for over 20 years. If there were any widespread harmful effects, we probably would have discovered them by now.
But that doesn't mean new modifications won't appear in the future that could potentially cause problems. There is a potential issue in the regulation of GMOs. The Food and Drug Administration doesn't have the authority to require approval of GMOs before they are sold in the country. That means largely untested genetic modifications could be consumed by the public before we actually know their full effects.
Another problem with GMOs is not their genetic makeup, but their economic and corporate implications. Big companies that are developing GMOs can patent the genetic material, preventing farmers from freely using seeds from season to season. Many plants have also been genetically modified to have an increased resistance to pesticides and herbicides, leading to an increased use in both chemicals. In fact, an additional 527 million pounds of herbicide were used from 1996 to 2011. Glyphosate, a major herbicide, has been detected in high concentrations on genetically modified foods.
Yet another issue people cite when discussing GMOs is product labels. There is no legal requirement to label GMO foods as such. So if consumers are looking to cut them out of their diet, it will take a lot of research before heading to the store. The only way to truly guarantee no GMOs in your food is to go fully organic. But that diet can end up being a little expensive compared to non-organic food items and is not an option for everyone.
So, genetically modified foods are generally safe, there are various side effects of their widespread use that might raise concern in consumers. To be safe, it's probably best to do research on the food products you eat and which ones might be better for your lifestyle and health.