Are genetically modified foods safe? Every year the average American eats approximately 193 pounds of genetically modified (GM) foods. Some people think GM foods are totally harmless and others believe they’re damaging not just to our own bodies, but to our agricultural system as well.
Many people don’t understand what goes into GM foods, or how they’re different from conventional or organic foods. But chances are, you eat much more GM food than you ever realized. Sugar beets, soybeans, corn, alfalfa and canola are almost entirely GM here in the United States.
Are genetically modified foods safe?
There is no scientifically proven way of knowing. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not require labeling of GM foods. What’s more, the FDA does not require that GM foods be proven safe.
What’s the difference between genetically modified, conventional and organic foods?
- GM Crops: the DNA of the seed has been altered unnaturally containing proteins that are able to withstand large doses of herbicides that kill the weeds around the growing crop, but not the crop itself. The seed is also paired with antibiotic-resistant marker genes that help scientists know if the plant is “behaving” correctly. Does it look right? Taste right?Unfortunately, many weeds are becoming resistant to the herbicide most commonly used, called glyphosate – otherwise known as RoundUp. The solution for farmers has been to use more herbicides on the crops to keep weeds at bay. This might be effective for the weeds, but the crops themselves are still absorbing glyphosate. It can’t be washed off. Last summer, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) increased allowable amounts of glyphosate in oilseed crops from 20ppm to 40ppm.
- Conventional Crops: the seeds are not genetically modified, but the crops are chemically treated with herbicides and pesticides. According to the EPA, the same organization the allowed the increase in permissible amounts of glyphosate on oilseed crops last summer, some pesticides may affect the nervous system, skin or eyes. Some may be carcinogenic (cancer-causing), and others may cause hormonal disruption to the endocrine system.
- Organic Crops: the crops are not treated with artificial fertilizers or sprayed with pesticides and herbicides. The soil is not degraded and the general nutrition of the fruit of the crop is greater.
The Big 5 Crops
95% of the US crops of sugar beets are genetically modified.
If you eat anything containing sugar, there is a strong chance it’s been genetically modified. Juices, breads, salad dressings, pasta sauces, energy drinks and deli meats are just a few places you can find added sugar.
93% of the soybean crops in the US are genetically modified.
Soybeans are in so much more beyond tofu and edamame. In fact, you might be surprised to know that byproducts of soybeans are commonly found in infant formula, cereals, protein powders, chocolate, gravies, broths and mayonnaise.
93% of the corn crops in the US are genetically modified.
Corn may be a vegetable, but it doesn’t mean that everything related to corn is even remotely healthy. Corn is a heavily consumed crop in the US for humans and cattle alike. You may not realize it, but byproducts of corn (as high fructose corn syrup) are commonly found in yogurt, soda, salad dressing, bread, apple sauce, macaroni and cheese, and a vast majority of kids lunch snacks.
the 4th largest genetically modified crop in the US.
You may not eat a lot of alfalfa, but the animals that give us meats, cheese and eggs do. When we eat a burger, slice of cheddar or hard boiled egg, there is a good chance that some of the GM alfalfa eaten by the animals we love gets passed along to us in the foods we eat.
90% of the canola crops in the US are genetically modified.
Otherwise known as rapeseed oil, canola is used in so much of the foods we eat including salad dressings, margarine, fried foods, frozen yogurts, chips, peanut butter, pie crusts, pastries, breads and infant formula, to name a few.
The right to know
At the very least, consumers should be entitled to know if the foods they’re eating contain byproducts from genetically modified crops. If you would like to let the FDA know that you want foods to be labeled, take action here.
Traci is a nationally-recognized health and fitness coach, and the current coach working with Steve Harvey's Bridal Bootcamp. Traci has also been featured on Dr. Oz, The TODAY Show, in SHAPE, SELF and local news programs. Her specialty is weight loss through clean eating and interval-style training. Traci is available for private coaching and corporate consulting. To contact Traci, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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